How to Commission a Pet Portrait
If you have ever wondered about getting a piece of artwork created to remember your pet by, you might be wondering about the process of commissioning a pet portrait. It is not something that you will do every day, and if you are not familiar with the process, it may be a little intimidating. I have pages on the specific process of commissioning a portrait with me, however, I thought it would be useful to give you a little information on the general process, which will be applicable for whoever you decide to commission a portrait from. Whether you are wanting a portrait of your horse, a portrait of your dog, or another animal such as a cat or even a gerbil the information here will apply.
Step 1- The Brief
There are a few things to consider when thinking about your brief. You need to think about cost, how much are you wanting to spend on a portrait. Different things will affect the price of a portrait, from size, subject, medium and completion date. Remember that any artist will want to earn a reasonable price for creating something that takes a lot of time, skill and expensive materials.
What kind of medium you want your pet portrait to be created in is another thing to consider. In narrowing down your preferred medium of art it will help you in choosing an artist, the choice may feel less overwhelming if you only have artists working in one medium to choose from. Some artists may work in more than one medium, I for example complete work in both pastel pencil and coloured pencils.
If you don't have any strong preference on medium already, it can be good to head over to google, or Pinterest for completed pieces of artwork of dogs, to see if that there are any that you particularly like. Typing in something like "Border collie dog portrait" "tabby cat portrait" or if you have already decided on a pastel portrait "Border collie pastel portrait" , "tabby cat pastel portrait" you will be able to see other pieces of artwork that you like.
Seeing other pieces of artwork can also help in choosing a composition. Most artist will use one main photo to make a "copy" of. If you see a piece that you particularly like do not be afraid to show it to your chosen artist. They may then be able to help you in making sure you get the best- composed photos of your dog, in order to get a portrait that you like. It is very important when commissioning a pet portrait from a photo to take the time to ensure you have a high quality photograph for your artist to work from.
Step 2- Choosing a Pet Portrait Artist
Pet portrait artists will work in a very wide variety of styles, it is integral in getting a final piece of artwork that you truly love is making sure you commission something in a style you like. Some people will want a realistic portrait, and others may want something that is more abstract. Search the web to find artists you like the look of in styles and mediums that you like. Depending on the breed of dog you own it may vary in how many examples of artwork artists will have to show you of past commissions. They may have painted many black labradors, but not so many Mexican hairless dogs. However, this isn't a reason to be worried, every pet is different in some aspects and the same in others. If you like the style and can see they have talent, trust that they can do your dog justice.
Don't be afraid to get in touch with a few different artists, as any portrait artist will be happy to have a chat about any questions you may have, whether it is about what reference photos you need, or how long you would have to wait for your finished commission.
If you have a short deadline you will need to mention it, as many artists will have a waitlist. If you are needing a portrait for a gift imminently, it may be a good idea to ask if you can have a gift voucher instead, that way you have a gift which can then be booked in the recipients own time. I produce a card, either with a photo of the recipients dog on, or a piece of my artwork on. This creates something more personal to be opened on their special day. The pet portrait can then not only be created after the event, but the recipient can choose what they would like in a painting, which photo to work from and what composition they would like best.
You will probably find that location is not a massive factor in commissioning a portrait of your dog. Most artists will be happy to work from photos you have taken (providing they are of a high enough quality), and then finished artwork can be shipped worldwide. However, if you would prefer someone who is local to you, a quick google search of "pet portrait artist near me" or "pet portrait artist Derbyshire" will help find artists that are near you. If you do this, it may be possible that the artist can visit to take photos of your pets themselves, especially if you are struggling to get a high quality photograph. Artists often advertise them selves offline, placing adverts in shops or in local magazines, so don't forget to check out other locations, you might find an artist you like there.
Step 3-The Agreement
Once you have decided on an artist you want to paint your pets portrait you will have to form some sort of agreement. In discussing with your chosen artist, you will have decided on things such as the size of the artwork, medium, waiting times. This in itself, is a process. You will need to discuss reference photos and their suitability, and whether your ideas can become reality. Most artists will take a deposit before the artwork is started, and then the rest on completion before the work is sent out. Many artists will have some kind of agreement for you to look through, which will help with managing expectations and help avoid any misunderstandings.
Step 4- The "Sitting"
Historically, portraits would be completed with sittings, where the subject would physically sit for the artist. Now for pet portraits, the vast majority of artists work from photographs. Artists will tell you what they need in a photograph, but every single one of them will thank you profusely for providing a high-quality reference photo for them to work from. Every single artist at some point in their career will have had clients provide substandard photographs, this does make their job harder.
Remember that the artist will probably have not met your pet, you need to provide enough information from photographs so that they feel like they know them. The general rule is- the better the reference photograph, the better the finished portrait. This is not a question of an artists skill, the simple fact is the more detail that can be seen in the photograph, the more detail that can be put into the portrait. It is the small details that transform an average pet portrait into an amazing pet portrait.
If you are struggling to get decent photographs yourself, consider hiring a photographer to take some for you. If you are willing to invest in getting a portrait of your pet commissioned, spending a little extra to get excellent reference photos would be a very wise idea. If you do not want to do this, ask friends or relatives that may be able to help out. You do not have to have an expensive DSLR camera, but using a newer smartphone and taking the time to work on getting the best composition, will pay dividends when it comes to the final product. I have a range of pages on my website about taking photographs specifically for commissioning a pet portrait, including this one, where I go through the process of taking suitable photos of my dog Monty.
Step 5- Framing a Commissioned Pet Portrait
In general, framing will not be included in the commission. Personally, I provide a high-quality picture mount, to ensure that unsuitable mounts do not get used with my artwork. (Poor quality mounts can cause yellowing to the paper). However, some artists may not do this, and you will also need a frame.
Choosing a frame that complements both your finished artwork and your home decor, is very important. Whether a framing service is offered by an artist will vary, this is something you will have to ask them. Some do not offer this, as it does mean that artwork can be more expensive and delicate to ship. Artists will however, be more than happy to give you opinions on what they think will suit the artwork. For example, I do not like white picture mounts round portraits that are completed on white paper, I prefer an off white or cream. As for materials for the frame this can also be dependent on your artwork.
Artists will often provide you with a care guide, that will if you have unframed artwork, give guidance on framing. There are rules that must be adhered to, like not using a frame that is glazed with plexiglass if your portrait is in pastel. Any good artist will be very keen to help you with sourcing a suitable frame, whether it be so it can be provided with your portrait, or to make sure you know what to buy when you receive the finished piece. After all, the artist is likely to have put a lot of time and effort into creating a piece of artwork you love, they will want it to be framed properly for it to look its best, and so it will last a lifetime.
I hope this post has helped you in learning more about the process of commissioning a portrait of your pet, and I hope you take the time to check out some of my work or contact me about any questions you may have.
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My name is Amy and I am a coloured pencil and pastel pencil pet portrait artist based in Derbyshire, I work entirely from photos either taken by me or provided by my clients. Contact me for a no obligation chat on commissioning your own pet portrait.