Custom Pet Portraits in Oil
by Artist Zann Hemphill

Dog Memorials: Art to Celebrate Lost Pets

Lexie Memorial by Zann Hemphill

The only downside to having pets is that they leave us too soon.
Art can be a great way to celebrate life’s greatest companions and keep happy memories close. And the best pet portrait artists are the ones who can work with you to capture what your best friend really looked like.

In the examples below, I worked with my clients to produce an original painting of their pet that was more than photos could offer. Whether it was adding mementos, fixing the lighting, or creating something completely new from a composite of photos, these pet memorials took something that was already special–the bond between dogs and their owners– and turned it into art.

Adding Mementos

Sometimes pets have favourite toys, collars or other objects that would make the memorial a stronger piece. When composing a painting, it’s really easy to add these in! 

Cat portrait by Zann

Lots of pets have special collars, but they’re not always showing in your favourite pictures of them. It’s ok if you can’t take a new photo–they can still be added in.

In this case we didn’t have any photos of Roxy with her collar (or naturally-lit photos) to work from, but this one image had just the expression she made when she was attentive and excited (and just a little bit begging).

We used the “expression” photo as a primary reference, and her special collar was added in no problem.

Using Many Photos for One Painting

Sometimes you don’t have the perfect photo to work from when making a memorial. That’s ok!

In this portrait, it was important to capture Tag’s quirky sit. But we also wanted to have her facing the viewer, and of course she needed some feet. The final image made it all come together!

Tag Dog Portrait Painting

Here we wanted to put three pets together in one portrait, but one of them had passed, so we needed to improvise. I can combine images into one portrait, so if you have a few pets you’d like in one place just get in touch and I can go through the process with you.

These were the best reference photos available, so when painting, I needed to correct for perspective and lighting to make sure they looked more like they were in the same space together.

Fixing Colour and Lighting

Lighting is a big deal in getting a portrait right, and I’m often asked if I can adjust it. While it’s best to work from an image that’s close to what the final portrait should look like, with pet memorials that’s not always possible, so it’s important to choose an artist who can be flexible.

For example, the reference photo for this portrait was taken in black and white, but through lots of back and forth with the client we were able to sort out which areas were brown and which areas were just shiny no problem.

Backlighting is also sometimes a concern, but backlit photos don’t have to turn into backlit paintings!

You can do a lot with lighting and paint to make sure your dog’s memorial comes out looking like him or herself.

Memorials are all about keeping the happy times visible in your home, and I’m here to help make that happen.

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate a past pet of yours or someone you know, get in touch using the form below or send me an email at [email protected].

To see more Pet Portrait Art, visit the Gallery here.
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Pet Portrait art of a dog and kitten by Zann Hemphill

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