Labrador Retriever Paintings in Oil — by Zann Hemphill

Pet art in oil - lab dog in sunlight realistic

Labrador Retriever Wall Art over 5 Years

I’ve been painting pet portraits professionally since 2017, and over that time there have been a LOT of labs! And there are a couple things I love about painting them. For one thing, having a dog that’s all one colour means I get to focus a lot more on lighting, form, shadow, and reflection. They’re a painter’s best friend. And for another, their characteristically close, dense coat follows the contours of their bodies, so you get all these beautiful round shapes, anatomy, and musculature. Oh, and they’re happy dogs. It’s nice painting those big smiles 🙂

Below, I’ve broken this post up into chocolate, yellow, and black lab art. Enjoy!

  Chocolate Lab Art

  Black Lab Art

  Yellow Lab Art

  Abstract Lab Paintings

Chocolate Lab Artwork

Zann and Dog Oil Painting Chocolate Lab

Let’s start with this 24″ x 30″ portrait of Coco. She’s lit from the side with warm evening light, which creates a really nice effect in the painting. Below, I’ve drawn a line around the cooler shadows so you can really see the effect of those warm and cool tones!

Light and Dark Oil Painting

Perlie's Full-Body Chocolate Lab Painting

This was an early piece from 2018. Perlie’s glossy fur shows up beautifully in the painting because I was working from a reference shot in natural light. Natural light is great to work with because it’s true to colour, and while you get all these rich chocolatey browns throughout her coat, the highlights are the cool grey of the sky, which helps differentiate them from, say, lighter patches of fur.

chocolate lab custom dog painting large dog art

Painting Coco on 12" x 12" Canvas

chocolate lab oil painting sketch process
Custom Chocolate Lab Oil Painting Process
Coco Custom Chocolate Lab Oil Painting Portrait

Another Coco! To be fair, Coco is a very natural name for a dog with chocolate already in their breed. I wanted to share the process I go through when painting dark-furred dogs.

By starting with the sketch and then layering in the dark values, I can get the “true” colours of a chocolate lab’s fur down before I have to worry about the complexities of gloss and reflection. This means I’m more likely to get the values right. Values are very important because they show the shape of her head with light and shadow. More important than showing how shiny she is!

Yellow Lab Paintings

Yellow labs make an amazing, warm, lively canvas for light to play around on. Uisce, below, is sauntering along during golden hour – that beautiful time just before dusk when sunset paints the whole world in teal and gold.

Early morning and late afternoon exaggerate the effect of cool shadows and warm highlights. With Uisce, the white parts of her “yellow lab” coat are almost blue in the shade, and almost orange in the sun.She practically glows.

Yellow Lab Painting - Golden Hour

Sunny Dog painting fur

Yellow Lab Art - Bright Daylight

To contrast the painting above, the shadows in this piece are razor-sharp, and provide most of the drama. You almost want to squint. Here, Lucy’s coat is very true-to-colour in the sunlight, and almost black in the shade.

Pet art in oil - lab dog in sunlight realistic

Bailey and a Lab's Favourite: Water!

For this piece, my client wanted to put their yellow lab, Bailey, on an oceanscape background. They didn’t have a reference photo of her in front of the ocean, but that was no problem.

As with Lucy, above, Bailey’s fur colours are true-to-life because their light colour isn’t changed that much by the reflection of light. Shiny spots are more subtle than with chocolate labs.

Testimonial yellow lab pet paintings from photos

Black Lab Paintings

To contrast completely from yellow labs, black lab art is a chance to play entirely with reflection! Without reflected light, a black lab would just be a sort of dark blob with eyes. Instead, they’re a beautifully contoured surface, where even individual hairs can catch the light and show up against the contrasting darkness. There are a couple here under this black lab’s chin and cheek.

Black Lab Painting by Zann Hemphill

Black on Black Dog Art

To really pump up the emphasis on reflection, I used a black background for this black lab  portrait. Black backgrounds make any subject appear to be made of light, and edges stand out in sharp contrast in this painting.

Black Lab on Black Background Oil Painting

Abstract Labs

Lastly, I wanted to share a small abstract piece I made, of no particular dog, and he turned out quite a lot like a yellow lab. In between portraits, while my brushes are still covered in colours, I like doing loose experiments to see what comes out. This one seems like a sleepy boy, trying to figure out whether whatever’s over there is worth standing up for.

It wasn’t a commission, so this piece is for sale in my gallery of oil originals.

Top get a painting of your own dog, check out my page for custom pet portraits! I’d love to hear from you.

Picture of Zann Hemphill

Zann Hemphill

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

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