Dog Memorial Portrait Feature: “Viva” the Lab

Dog Portrait Painting Process

The Dog Memorial Art Process

Dogs are so much a part of our lives, they leave a big hole when they go. But having a handmade art keepsake can be a wonderful reminder of good times and happy trails! That’s why pet portraits are such a popular choice for people looking for dog memorial ideas.

But what does the process look like when you buy one?

What happens between getting a photo and delivering the final painting on canvas? As a pet portrait artist who creates dog memorials, I’ve created this ongoing series to share my pet painting process.

Viva's Dog Memorial

This week I’ll be featuring this memorial portrait of a lovely Yellow Lab named Viva.

All my dog portraits start with a photo. My client emailed me the one below because it was her favourite. Viva is in the prime of life, outside and ready to play.

It will also make a great dog portrait because the picture was taken from about Viva’s eye height. This means when it goes on the wall at eye height, it will look like she’s looking right back out at her owner. This is such a nice effect, I wrote a whole post on reference photos and eye height.

Reference Photo for Viva's Dog Memorial

Before starting Viva’s painting on canvas, I sent back a digital mockup of the dog portrait composition. I do this to help clients see what the painting background and layout will look like. From this, we decided to leave out her collar because it was too distracting.

Next, I sent over a sketch on canvas.

Steps in Painting Viva's Portrait

dog sketch portrait

The sketch just gives the bones of lights and darks.

As I paint, I start filling in more colour. Some will be covered by more paint, but they all guide the final dog portrait.

Then I just paint in more details. I use a lot of layers and blending to get every dog memorial portrait looking as close as possible to the dog.

The very last thing I do is finish off the eyes and add highlights. Highlights really make a pet portrait sparkle. And getting the eyes right is the most important part!

The Final Painting

Custom Dog Portrait Painting

And there you have it: Viva’s Dog Memorial Portrait.

Each of these steps was sent to my client as I worked on creating their new art piece.  I do this so clients can give me feedback and ask for changes if something doesn’t look quite right.

In the end, we got Viva down perfectly!

If you’re looking for dog memorial ideas and you’ve been thinking that custom art might be the right choice, feel free to get in touch to learn more about the process.

I’d be happy to have a chat on the phone or over email about you and your dog.

Thanks for stopping by!


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Zann Hemphill

Zann Hemphill is a practising pet portrait artist, writer, and video producer.

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