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 Artwork
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!
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.
Painting Coco on 12" x 12" Canvas
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.