Pets, Portraits, and Many Mediums by Lindsey Furr
Our pets play an enormous role in our lives. What better way to pay tribute to your furry best friend than with a unique piece of art?
Whether you attempt to create something on your own or reach out to a professional, many factors come into play when deciding which medium to choose. After considering these points, everyone can find the right fit. Whether it is a thoughtful gift to a loved one or just a fun project or purchase for yourself, these one-of-a-kind works of art are sure to brighten anyone’s day. Besides, who wouldn’t want the chance to look at cute animals all the time?
Photograph Your Pet: First and foremost, to create a realistic depiction of anything, it helps to have a high-resolution photo to reference. Drawing from life poses a problem because pets may not want to sit still for very long. Once a picture is taken, if it is not completely clear, has any discoloration, is faded, or a portion extends off the page, you can still use it. However, it is helpful to have multiple photos for reference. For example, when I create a pet portrait, sometimes I have a main picture that the client loves but may not be the best quality, so I might also utilize others to produce specific details that weren’t clear in the original photo. Other times, one picture may have a pet without a particular feature—like a collar or bandana—but another one does, so I work to blend these two images together within the drawing.
Pick Your Medium: When it comes to mediums, my clients can choose between several because there are many in which I specialize: graphite, watercolor and ink, colored pencils, or embroidery. If there’s a specific medium that you’re already comfortable with, I suggest starting there. Of course, if you want to learn something different, take the time to get familiar with new materials before jumping directly into a portrait.
When working with different materials, there will always be unique challenges, as well as benefits. For instance, I enjoy drawing with graphite pencils because my experience allows me to produce many intricate details within the portrait. Along with this, I think that the black and white depiction of these drawings is timeless and clean. However, the graphite pencil look may not be the best choice for someone looking for something more colorful. If choosing this method, remember to choose high-quality drawing paper and spray at the end with a permanent and protective matte finish. I recommend framing these drawings to protect them from gathering dust or fading, plus a nice black frame can really make the portrait stand out!
Now, if you prefer a work of art with a bit more color, watercolor and ink portraits can be either muted or very bright, and the ink outlines and shading can create a stylized, playful vibe. This style can be a lot of fun for anyone who may not want something super realistic but still walk away with an art piece with a personality akin to their pet. Specific watercolor paper should be used for these portraits to avoid any warping, which can happen because of layering water-based materials on paper products. The ink pens used for the outlines range in various thicknesses, creating distinct textured strokes. Thinner pens produce smaller strokes that I love to use for shading and creating depth. Thicker pens are wonderful for main outlines that contrast so well with the soft watercolor edges— the drawing really “pops” this way!
Colored pencil and acrylic portraits are additional colorful options that allow for black outlines or playing around with colors if you want a particular stylized design. Regardless of which medium you choose, make sure to do some research or look at different artist’s portfolios to get inspired about how you would like your own pet’s portrait to look.
Finally, in my opinion, the embroidered portrait is one of the most unique choices of the mediums. Your companion’s face would be hand-stitched onto a piece of fabric and then sealed onto a hoop (or even converted into an iron-on patch), then likely displayed either on a wall or a shelf. These embroidery hoops can be turned into ornaments if they are small enough. The first step is to transfer a basic outline of the pet’s face onto the fabric. Next, it’s time to stitch! I usually start with the eyes and nose as my foundation. These portraits have extra dimension and are textured through the many layers of different, brightly colored threads that are combined to produce a pet’s likeness. Varying amounts of thread will be used, depending on the color of the pet. This medium is fantastic because there is the potential to make it look like real fur! If you have never embroidered before, this medium can be tricky at first. It may help to practice something simpler than a portrait before jumping in—perhaps a flower or fun pattern. Different stitching patterns and techniques can be found relatively easily online.
Some things to keep in mind:
Avoid super busy backgrounds that can take away from the portrait’s primary focal point—your pet!
Each medium is unique and can produce beautiful results in its own way.
What medium is YOUR favorite?
What is wonderful about homemade or made-to-order artwork? It’s the ability to customize each piece to embody your specific wants and needs—your pet. There are very few limits in art; you can truly be so creative!
Lindsey Furr is an artist and the illustrator for The Biggest Yawn Ever.