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Rocky


My latest commission, this is Rocky.

This is the second piece for the same client as my most recent commission post, my painting of Sammy, the Golden Retriever.

Rocky’s portrait is a memorial piece, as he passed away some time ago. The very image of a firefighting dog, Rocky was the fire mascot in the World Police and Fire Games in Vancouver in 2009.  He even participated in the parade and opening ceremony.

I’ve never painted a Dalmatian before and this was a fun piece. It was a challenge to make sure I got all of the markings in the right place, even as I exaggerated his features in my whimsical style.

When it comes to getting it right, it’s not only about the features themselves, but also the relationships between the features, affecting how believable the likeness will be. This is especially important when painting people.

Black and white fur is tricky because I couldn’t paint pure black or pure white. The blackest black or whitest white in a colour piece will create flat dead spots that will rob the image of its life. It’s all about degrees of shading and how the light reflects in the dark and light areas. Black will often be a very dark blue, white the brightest yellow or pink.

There isn’t much fur detail in a short-haired black and white dog, so it requires restraint. Too much detail and it wouldn’t look right, especially if I painted the fur too sharp. It became about manipulating the depth of field, blurring out some areas and sharpening others. The personality and overall image were the focus and it was important not to have any one detail distract from that. He really does have that heart shaped feature above his nose, however, and I wanted to make sure it was evident.

This client was a joy to work with, for purely selfish reasons. Aside from some minor direction I was happy to accept, I had the freedom to paint these beautiful dogs my own way. For this painting, I asked if they wanted me to include the collar or not. I didn’t include one for their other dog because he had long, luxurious hair, but I was hoping they would want it for this one. They did and said they preferred it to be red.

Considering that Rocky was a firefighter dog, it added a lot, balancing out the black and white with a splash of colour. Had they given me no direction at all, I would have made the same choices.

Because I don’t know how the clients are planning to hang the canvases, I wanted them to look good on their own or together, so I made both of the backdrops blue, with Rocky’s a little darker because I liked the way it looked against the subject.
After painting whimsical wildlife and pet portrait commissions for more than ten years, I’m confident in my abilities and the skills I’ve developed. But each painting still presents unique challenges, and I would be disappointed if it were otherwise. Overcoming those obstacles makes for improved skills and better prepares me for the next piece, no matter what that may be.

As always, the most crucial part of any commission is the client’s approval and I’m happy to report that they were pleased with both finished pieces. Next up, I’ll be sending these off for printing, then shipping them to their new home in B.C.

For you tech and art people, I painted this image in Photoshop on a Wacom Cintiq 24HD display. Photos are only for reference, not used in my paintings. It’s all digital brushwork.

Cheers,
Patrick

© Patrick LaMontagne
@LaMontagneArt
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Sammy

Near the end of last year, I was contacted by a woman in BC who had seen my artwork at the ferry terminal in Victoria, on merchandise licensed through Pacific Music & Art.

Christina was complimentary of my work, which is always nice to hear, and when she saw that I did commissions, she inquired about my painting her Golden Retriever as a gift for her husband. She included a photo of the two of them.

Before taking on a commission, I usually like a little back and forth to ensure I understand the client’s expectations, and I want to see reference photos. If the images aren’t good, I can’t do a good job, and I’ll decline the opportunity. Christina supplied me with plenty of great shots and suggested I Google the pair, just in case there was press reference I might like.

You see, Sammy is a working dog, and Larry Watkinson is the Chief of the Penticton Fire Department.

Photo Credit: Mike Biden

Before long, I was reading with fascination, articles from different BC newspapers. In September of 2019, Larry and Sam were deployed to the Bahamas to help with the rescue efforts following Hurricane Dorian.

As part of a team of Burnaby Fire Fighters and their rescue dogs, they searched for cadavers in the wreckage. The USAR team must be self-sufficient in their operation, and while the goal is to get there as quickly as possible to find survivors, it’s often too late, despite their best efforts. The team had previously deployed to Nepal in 2015.

They spent eight days in 40-degree heat in the Bahamas, having to source their own accommodation, water, food and resources. These dedicated professionals are volunteers, using their own vacation time to help others in need, leaving their supportive families back home.

Following the deployment, Larry was quoted in the Penticton Western News as saying, “We have to recognize that we live in a great place and a beautiful city and to remember to look after each other. That’s something I’ve come home with and have been reflecting on every day.”

I asked Christina if she wanted Sammy painted in his rescue vest, and she declined, saying, “He is first a family pet.”

When people hire me for commissions, they either want a traditional portrait or my whimsical signature style, the same way I paint my wildlife portraits. While I’m happy to paint both, I do prefer the ones where I get to add more personality, and was thrilled when Christina said she wanted my style. They’re just so much more fun to paint.

Later in our correspondence, she wanted to make sure Larry liked the idea, and thankfully he did. No longer a surprise, I didn’t have a firm deadline on this, and they hired me to paint another family dog since passed away, which I’m working on now. Rocky was a traditional firefighter’s dog, a beautiful Dalmatian and I’m also painting him in the whimsical style.
Sammy was a joy to paint, and I had so many great reference pics to work from, which allowed me to create the likeness from more than one source. While Sammy’s nose has lightened with age, Larry had requested I paint it dark, as it was when he was younger, which I was happy to do, while still reflecting the light. My work is all about artistic license, especially the whimsical style.

Christina and Larry were both pleased with the result, which is always the nail-biting part of any commission, waiting to hear if the client is happy with the work I deliver.

Once I finish the second painting, I’ll have them both printed and stretched on 12”X16” canvas, ready to hang, and shipped to Penticton.

I get to meet and talk with a lot of great people in my work, but this is one of the stories and commissions I’ve enjoyed most.

Cheers,
Patrick

© Patrick LaMontagne
@LaMontagneArt
If you’d like to receive my newsletter which features blog posts, new paintings and editorial cartoons, follow this link to the sign up form.

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Sonora

This past weekend, I finished another memorial commission for a little dog named Sonora. She passed away at the end of May this year.
Not the first time I’ve been commissioned by Donna, a freelance photographer in Connecticut. You can check out her work here. I painted her horse Mocha five years ago in my more whimsical style. It’s one of my favorite commission pieces and I’d love to paint more horses. She also made some horse reference available to me and I painted another of her horses, but not as detailed.
Donna was on vacation in Texas thirteen years ago and found this little pup at a rest stop in Sonora, nearly lifeless. She was only 4 or 5 weeks old. They couldn’t leave her and were going to find a rescue organization to take her.

Not hard to guess what actually happened, as often does in these cases. Sonora had already found her home.
When Donna commissioned me to paint her, she was having a hard time finding reference of her without the cataracts Sonora had developed in her senior years, but she wanted me to try and paint her with more youthful eyes. I agreed with her and we’re both pleased with the result. My goal is not to just recreate what I see in the reference, but to find the personality in these paintings, even when I’m not painting them with a caricature look like my whimsical wildlife paintings.
This painting will go to print soon, but it isn’t yet known on what surface. I had suggested the new acrylic print, but Donna said it doesn’t really go with her house, which is an important consideration when choosing the type of print. With plenty of options available, I’m sure we’ll come up with something that will be appropriate for Sonora’s portrait.

It’s always a privilege to be trusted with one of these memorial paintings, knowing that this will be part of how somebody remembers their furry family member for years to come.

Thanks for reading,
Patrick

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Commission – Cows

CowsFinalPostMy commission work to date has been dogs and cats (and one beautiful horse), but a friend of ours recently tasked me with painting this gift for his wife.  As she loves cows and is now pregnant with twins, he wanted a painting of a mother and two calves to hang in the nursery.  I cautioned him that comparing his pregnant wife to a cow at a time when most women’s sensibilities are heightened, might be a recipe for disaster, but he assured me more than once that it would be fine.  The canvas is still in the proofing stage, but he showed her the digital image of the piece this past weekend and she loved it.  Apparently there were happy tears.  So, with his permission, I’m able to share it now.

This was one of my most challenging paintings to date.  The hairs on a cow are very small and short and the features aren’t as malleable as I’d first imagined.  When painting one animal, I can usually find reference that will allow me to see all sides of the subject to decide which will lend itself best to my Totem style of painting.  First, I had to find multiple reference photos of the right breed of cow (Holstein Friesian), which was not an easy task.  I bought twice as many photos than I used as I couldn’t play around with the composition without the full resolution files.  There ended up being three different comps and thankfully my wife helped me decide which was best for the painting. With three subjects in the image, it became a juggling act to try and show the best sides of all of them, in the correct proportions with the right lighting.   Then I had to make them look cozy, cute and comfortable, but not crushed together.  Finally, I had to lay down all of the right conditions to allow all three personalities to show up after many hours of painting, something I’ve often said never seems to be quite my doing, or under my control.  When it comes to the life in these paintings, I’m often surprised (and grateful) when it arrives.

CowsClosePostWhile I don’t consider this part of my Totem series, it is definitely painted in that style.  Even though it was a commission piece, I will be offering prints of this image in the store in the coming weeks as well.  The commission piece will be printed at 18″ X 24″ as a giclée on canvas with a black shadowbox frame.  I’m hoping to be able to deliver it next week.

I honestly have no idea how long this took to paint as I worked on it during a very busy time, while juggling other deadlines.  There was at least one session where I worked through the night on it.  I’ll admit to being very frustrated with this piece at times when things weren’t going as well as I wanted them to, but to be honest, that happens a lot and it always turns around.  I learned a lot from this painting and had to experiment and adjust brushes and technique to get the look I needed in places.  So there was artistic growth here, too, which is always welcome.

Click on either image to see a larger version.  This piece was painted in Photoshop CC on my Wacom Cintiq 24HD.

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Commission – Duke

DukeMy latest commission, this is Duke, painted in my Totem style.  While I often like to post work-in-progress shots online with paintings I’m working on, the first look at this one is the final image.  As it was a birthday gift for the client’s wife, and the client is also a friend, there was a slim chance that she might see it online and recognize it as her dog.  Let’s face it, ruining a surprise is just bad for business.  This was completed at the end of last month then sent off to my printer in Calgary.  The final print was a giclée on canvas, 18″X24″ with a shadowbox frame.  Shipped to Dallas, it arrived yesterday and thanks to the magic of online video, I was able to see the reaction when it was opened.  That’s just icing on the cake.

I know I say this a lot about paintings, but this was  a lot of fun.  I had a number of reference photos to work from and the client chose my exaggerated caricature Totem style of painting over my portrait style and I really enjoyed painting Duke with his happy goof expression.  It’s true that I enjoy both painting styles in which I work and I allow clients to choose which one they prefer for their image, but the Totem style is my favorite.  I laughed out loud a few times while painting this image and am glad I finally get to share it.

For those who like the tech details, I painted this digitally in Photoshop CC using both a Wacom Cintiq 13HD and a Wacom Cintiq 24HD display.

DukeClose

 

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Pet Portrait – Odin

Odin

My latest painting, this is a memorial portrait for a purebred yellow lab named Odin.  Odin passed away at the age of 12 and a half in December and while the clients like both my Totem and portrait work, they felt a portrait was the best fit for the memory of their dog and I’m inclined to agree.  As a result, there is no whimsical grin or exaggerated expression.  He is painted as he was, a senior gentleman with his own character.  While the size hasn’t been decided yet, the final print will be on canvas, which is how I feel my work is best represented in print.  As I’m a sucker for furry faces and cold wet noses, memorial paintings are sometimes a little tough, because I know what this kind of loss feels like.  As such, I tend to spend a lot more time making sure it’s as good as I can possibly make it given my current painting skills.  I enjoyed painting this portrait a great deal and it might just be my best work to date.  Most importantly, however, the client is happy and said that I captured Odin’s likeness and personality.

Without fail, whenever I finish a pet portrait, I get a number of commission inquiries.  Here’s  a link to a blog entry I wrote recently with current pricing and details.  I painted this with Photoshop CC on a Wacom Cintiq 24HD display.  No photos were used in this painting, except for reference.  It was entirely done with brush work.

Finally, here’s a closeup of Odin.

CloseupSample

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Miss Moneypenny

This was my last commission painting of this year, a little lady named Moneypenny.  She’s a young pup with a great personality and I was given the option of painting her in a realistic portrait style or Totem style, artist’s choice.  Believe it or not, there is no exaggeration in this portrait.  She was really smiling like this in the reference photo, so I didn’t see the point of painting her in the Totem style.

Moneypenny’s portrait was finished earlier this month, but I wasn’t able to show it ’til now, just in case the recipient happened to see it online.  Since I know both the client and the recipient, there was a chance somebody would let it slip, so it was best to hold off.  It was printed and stretched on canvas at 12″ x 16″ and framed.

I found out last night that the gift has been given and while her owner loved it, Moneypenny herself was a little freaked out, thinking there was another dog in the house.  Apparently she barked at it.  Either that was a harsh critique or a wonderful compliment.

Here’s a closeup of the details.