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Many of my paintings have an interesting back story, but not this one.

A friend posted a picture of her daughter’s dog on Instagram, and because she’s already kind of a caricature…the dog, not the friend, or her daughter…amazing how quickly this went off the rails. Anyway, I realized I wanted to paint her…the dog, not the…never mind. Before I knew it, we were exchanging emails with photos and I was painting a dorky little Corgi named Daisy.

As this wasn’t a commission, this will eventually end up as a print and I’ll be uploading it for licensing. There’s a market for Corgi images, right? I mean, other than Buckingham Palace?

Seems a lot of people are dealing with boredom right now in our self-isolation, but I’ve actually been working longer hours than before. Drawing editorial cartoons, communicating with clients, investigating and preparing images for new revenue streams, writing and painting, it’s all keeping me busy. I’m still getting up at 5 every day, trying to keep to the same routine.

I mentioned in a recent post that I was having a hard time finding my painting groove in all of this, but I seem to be over that hurdle. Finishing this painting was easier and more enjoyable than the middle part. I’m pleased with the result, and I’m already thinking about the next one.



© Patrick LaMontagne
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Trudeau Update – A Cartoon Video

I recorded a high speed video of a cartoon I sent out this morning, some bonus content for my newspaper clients.

The type of cartoon in this video would normally take me about three or four hours since detailed caricatures are a lot more work. Add in camera setup, periodic recording throughout the process, sourcing and buying music, and editing, and I spent about nine hours on this yesterday, which is why I can’t do these as often as I’d like.

Because of the way I’ve set up my office, having a camera on a tripod over my left shoulder while recording is kind of clumsy. I can’t have it on the right, where there is a lot more room, because my hand would obscure the drawing. With a tripod leg right behind me, I have to be careful not to move my chair back and bump it. So there’s really no way to get into the groove of drawing while recording, at least not one that I’ve found.

I’ve tried recording with my phone or iPad on a goose-neck, since that setup is much more user friendly, but the problem is that even if you manually adjust the brightness, the cameras on portable devices just aren’t designed for recording the backlit display of another screen. I’ve even tried a GoPro camera, but none of them have worked as well as the DSLR camera you see here.

In the photo, you can see my second monitor, where I’ll often put the images I’m using for reference.

The display I’m drawing on is a Wacom Cintiq 24HD and the software is Photoshop, which is the most widely used professional illustration and digital drawing/painting software on the planet. There have been plenty of times I’ve wished it were called something else, because for many years, people assumed that if you were using Photoshop, you must simply be manipulating photos.

Thankfully, anybody younger than me has grown up with this technology, so I don’t have to explain it as often as I used to.

If you like the video below, feel free to share it from YouTube.


© Patrick LaMontagne
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Remembering Ralph

This week will see a lot of tributes to former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, who passed away on Friday, March 29th.  He’d been a television reporter and radio personality for a good chunk of his career, the Mayor of Calgary from 1980-89, and in provincial politics from 1989-2006, the large majority of that time as the Premier.  Many Albertans just called him Ralph, a testament to his ‘man of the people’ persona.  He was loved and despised, depending on who you were talking to.

As an editorial cartoonist, I liked Ralph a lot.  He was fun to draw, was never boring, and I knew I’d miss him when he retired in 2006.  One thing about Ralph, you always knew where he stood.  Unlike so many politicians who will waffle on their ideals depending on the latest public opinion polls, you knew what you were getting with Ralph, even if you didn’t always like it.  He was human and he made unpopular decisions sometimes.  He also screwed up.  But the difference with Ralph was that when you called him on it, he’d either argue his point, tell you to get over it, or in some cases, even apologize.  There wasn’t a lot of bullshit with Ralph.

Like many Albertans, I have fond memories of Ralph Klein.  He did a lot for this province.  If you want specifics, just do a Google search.  You’ll find no shortage of anecdotes and stories about King Ralph this week.  One of my favorite personal stories took place right around his retirement.  Knowing his resignation was coming and having already thought about the cartoon I’d do, this is what I came up with.


Under the guise of the ‘official portrait’ I tried to include as many of the controversies and noteworthy events from Ralph’s career as I could.  There were his days socializing at the St. Louis Hotel in Calgary (written on the glass in his hand), the famous “shoot, shovel and shut-up” comment as well as the one about eastern “bums and creeps” straining Calgary resources.  In his pocket, the $400 Prosperity Bonus cheques he gave to every Albertan after the provincial debt had been paid off.

The cartoon appeared in the Calgary Herald and a number of other newspapers.  Shortly after, I received an email from someone who wanted a framed print of it, minus the ‘official portrait’ post-it note.  I had removed that feature from the image when I’d added it to my portfolio.  Two more print orders followed.  Sometime the next month, Klein was honored at Mount Royal College in Calgary and a day later, I opened the Calgary Herald to see the photo below.  Much to my surprise, one of the framed prints had been a retirement gift for Ralph.  I ordered a copy of the photo for my office.  Forgive me that I no longer remember the name of the Herald photographer who captured the scanned image below.


I look at the caricature now and I see all of the flaws.  As I am a better artist today than I was then, there are a lot of things I would have changed and done better with this image, but every artist looking back on anything they’ve done could say the same thing of prior work.  So, I try to look past that.  It’s a good memory of moments in my career, both the time spent painting the caricature and knowing that Ralph was given a copy while he was still in good health.  This is how I’d like to remember him and I’m glad I ordered the photo.

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How much is that doggie in the painting?

Every time I post a new commission piece, as I did last week, people ask me what I charge for custom work.  For some reason, there used to be this grey area among artists about whether or not to post your prices.  I’ve read some compelling opinions on both sides of the argument, but one thing I’ve learned lately is that eventually you have to pick a side and stick to it.  That, and everybody has an opinion.

When it comes to editorial cartoons, illustration work and commercial painting gigs, each one is negotiated individually, because every client, usage, and situation is different.  Commissions for the animal paintings, however, are pretty straightforward, as long as the client is looking for the same style of image that can be seen in my portfolio.  An animal portrait painting, whimsical Totem style or not, is a lot of work, but it’s straightforward and there are usually no surprises.   In the interest of pulling back the curtain, I thought I’d just post the standard commission information.  This will also enable me to link to this post in the future whenever the inquiries come in.  There are always little differences in each inquiry, but consider this the foundation on which all of my painting commissions are built.  These are the current prices and details.  While they’re unlikely to change in the very near future, prices will go up over time, and with demand.

Whether it’s the Totem or realistic style, the price is the same.  For 1 (one) animal, commissions start at $600.00 (CDN), which includes a 16″X20″ signed matted print, with free shipping anywhere in Canada or the Continental U.S.  There are additional costs for other printing options as there is a significant difference between an 8″X10″ paper print and an 18″X24″ framed canvas print, both in production and shipping fees.  The time to complete a commission will vary, depending on my workload, but usually it’s around 4-6 weeks from the time I receive the reference photos.  If you live in Canada, there is GST or HST added to that price, depending on the region.  You can blame the government for that.  I require a 50 percent non-refundable deposit on all commissions once an agreement has been reached, the remainder due upon completion.

One request I’m getting more and more of these days is for the full-resolution digital file.  While I used to be on the fence about this, as many artists and photographers are when it comes to their images,  I now give the digital file to every client.  I still retain the copyright, but these days, clients want to be able to post something like this on a website and social media and maybe print a few extra copies for themselves. As long as they aren’t trying to pass it off as their own work, or sell copies of the images, I feel that’s fair.  They paid for the work, just as if a company might have paid me for an ad illustration.  That way, if they want to put the painting of Fido on their Christmas card that year, they’re free to do so.

While no photos are ever part of the paintings, I can’t very well paint those little freckles you love so much on your cat’s nose if I don’t know what they look like, so I need good photos to work from  Some of my clients have been photographers.  As a result, many of the reference photos I’ve had to work with have been great.  Since not everybody can be a photographer, it’s often a challenge to find the right photos.  The better the photos I have, the better the painting will be.  In a perfect world, the photos should be sharp, good lighting, fairly close up of the face of the animal, a straight on or 3/4 pose, at eye level, and looking at the camera.  The more photos to choose from, the better.  Problems that occur with some animal photos is that their eyes are highly reflective, and a flash can completely wash out the detail.  If your dog or cat looks sad in all of the photos provided, it can be tough to make him or her look happy, without the risk of losing the likeness.

Let’s use fictitious Fido as an example.  Fido is a shaggy dog that is dirty and in desperate need of a haircut.  Can’t see his eyes, he’s looking elsewhere, it’s dusk, the photo was taken from far away, and the only copy available  is a 4″X6″ low resolution image on Facebook.  The client’s instructions are, “his hair is usually a lot shorter than that, he has big brown eyes.  When we go to our cottage in the woods, he always likes to put his paws up on the window and look out, so I’d like to see him like that.”

Based on this, I’m going to ask for more photos and negotiate that pose.  If this were all I had to go on, I would decline the opportunity, because the client wouldn’t be happy with the finished work, anyway.  Having done a number of these commissions of people and animals over the years, I can usually tell quite quickly if it’s going to work out or not.

Suppose, however, that the client has given me fantastic photos of Fido to work from, great lighting, sharp detail and is flexible on the pose, but then adds, “I’d like him to be wearing his collar with his name tag on it.  He also likes to sit with his favorite fifteen stuffed animals and toys.”

The collar would be no problem and would not affect the cost.  The same would apply to maybe sticking a bow-tie on Fido, or even a comical pair of glasses if that’s what the client wanted.  Some of that I can make up, and  I would consider that part of the foundation.  All of those toys, however, very specific toys, well, that’s going to definitely be an added cost, as would any other additional specific details that the client would like to include.  Any additional animals would also affect the cost.  While a few have asked, I decline the opportunity to paint a person and an animal in the same portrait.  My styles for both are very different, and they just don’t go together.

Painting these animals is a joy most of the time and I find that I like hearing the ‘back story’, too.  We sure do love our animals, and hearing folks talk about the personality of their furry, hairy, or feathered friend is something I enjoy very much.  I’ve no doubt that it helps me paint a better likeness and hopefully capture some of that personality in the painting.  One of my favorites was Chase, the happy German Shepherd with his titanium tooth.


I’ve been hired to paint a couple of memorial portraits of furry loved ones, too,  and the importance of that isn’t lost on me.  Titus the cat, who lived to the very ripe old age of 24, sitting in the scrap paper bin he apparently enjoyed so much at their printing business.  I’m told the painting now hangs above the bin.  Then there’s Gilly the Pomeranian who passed away last year.  The client told me his wife cried when they got the painting home, but they were tears for happy memories.  I guess I like the stories after the paintings are done, too.

I enjoy these commissions, and will continue to do them as long as folks keep asking me to.  If you’ve been thinking about a commission, or just have any questions that weren’t addressed here, please do drop me a line, either on Facebook or by email, and I’ll be happy to answer.