Choose a perfect photo – get a perfect pet portrait!

posted in: How to | 0

I haven’t met anybody who would ask you to sit your pet still while they are painting them 🙂 – majority of us paint/draw from photo. There are two parts of success with commissioned pet portraits – artist’s talent and a photo you provide. Some will say it’s 50:50 ration, some will say 70:30, but even if the good photo is only 30% of success, do you really want to get 70% good portrait? no, I want a solid 100, please. Yes, of course! you have every right to!

There are a few things to think about choosing a photo:

1. Quality.

I’m not going to bore you with resolution math. Think about it this way – less detailed photo means artist has to guess all the details: eyes, eye lashes, nostrils, whiskers – I mean isn’t the essence of cuteness? Strict guidance is this – NO MOBILE PHONE PICTURES. Grab a digital camera, doesn’t have to be fancy professional gear, just not the phone. Yes, I’m aware of some great mobile phone cameras, that’s why there is less strict guidance – if you blow your photo up to fit your 15′ computer screen and you are still able to see all the eyelashes and whiskers as lines (not little chains of squares), you are probably good.

2. Pose.

I know how adorable they can be all rolled up in a fluffy ball or stretched out on a loan on a sunny day – it’s very moving. Very cute. But portrait is a classy thing, don’t you agree? So think about a human portrait pose – HEAD AND CHEST is your strict guideline. But again if you want to be less classy, suggest a few photos, discuss with the artist  – we are always open to ideas! just make sure both eyes are visible and looking at the cameraman. And that head occupies more then 1/3 of the whole picture.

Here are some good examples:

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3. Lighting.

Lighting will affect your pet’s fur colour. Electric light or outdoor light on a sunny day will make it warmer, luminescent light will make it cooler, flash is pure evil and will change the colour dramatically! Strict guideline – take the picture outside in a natural light on a cloudy day. It will give us most realistic colours and make our life so much easier! you can’t imagine!

If for some reason the above is not possible (sometimes they are no longer around, for a sad example), send what you have but include DIFFERENT LIGHTING situations – indoors, outdoors, on sunny days and not so sunny.

This is the same cat, but pictures taken in different light:

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Notice how different she looks! fur colour, eyes, contrast… If I have never met your pet and had to guess based on a photo, there can be two very different results here.


I do my best to accommodate every client and work with what we have. I had positive outcome working from very bad low resolution photos, combining a few photos (colour from one, pose – from another) etc. It is possible! But there is a risk that likeness will be compromised. So if you are stuck with not so great photos choose your artist carefully, ask their opinion and be prepared to pay a little more for all their hard work putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to go ahead and do it. In my experience portrait usually exceeds the expectations anyway and if it’s a gift, they will be head over hills in love with it!


Penny, 11*14, pastel on paper
Penny, 11*14, pastel on paper
Kensie, 11*14, pastel on paper
Kensie, 11*14, pastel on paper




First Plein air – great painting outside experience!

posted in: Creative process | 0

It took me 6 years to do it though 🙂 I was terrified! But I’m a big fan of French impressionists (and they invented “plein air”) so I had to di it! Here is a little glimpse:

Before Claude Monet artists were painting in their studios, but I guess that guy saw the summer outside – all sunny and warm – and while he had work to do, he decided to fudge the smelly studio, get out there and do his work in the garden. Here is his garden:


so you know why 🙂

Slowly it developed into a trend, fashion and just a way to make art. A lot of artists like to emphasise that they paint “plein air”.

It involves quite a bit oh headache though – to find a beautiful spot, drag all the materials out there, set up… what if it rains… where I can wash my hands… . but even if you take care of all the technicalities, there is whole bunch of painting challenges too- composition (you gotta squeeze all the beauty into small canvas! I mean, how am I suppose to do it?!!), colours that are changing if light changes (say if there is a cloud). So, it was overwhelming. But!

When I saw my friend Kim’s garden on a sunny afternoon, I knew I have to be there with my easel! Oh, what a wonderful place! I will take a proper camera next time and show you, just believe me for now. So I thought I will just relax, look at all the beauty and if I end up with a painting – great, if not – it will be my outdoor time. I think it’s the best way to do a “plein air”!

And so I did it! No instructor, no friend-artists, just me and the garden… had a wonderful time and surprisingly enough the painting came out quite nice. Here, see for yourself:


Peonies are about to blossom and that means I WILL BE BACK!


The first painting I have ever sold

posted in: My art journey | 0

It was 5th drawing I have ever produced!  I’m serious.

I love myself for keeping such a detailed record of my art journey, I have to say. Back when I just started I used to take pictures of all my paintings and drawings (excluding sketches) and number them chronologically. That’s how I know that the FIFTH drawing I produced was the FIRST artwork I have sold. Isn’t it cool?! Now that I think about it 🙂

It was at school, of course. I saw this black horse and couldn’t get it out of my head. I didn’t have the skills to draw a horse (I thought), but I just had to do it. So I showed the photo to my teacher: “Do you think I can do it?” He said: “Why not?” So I started. Surprisingly, 3 hours later I had this baby:

drawing5 KAOGI

This is pastel on paper. People still disagree whether pastel is a painting or a drawing, it doesn’t matter to me, I love it whatever it is.

So, closer to the sale, please! Another student saw it and apparently loved it. She didn’t say anything to me, because she thought I will never sell it – she thought it was too beautiful to sell.  So everybody went home that night…

On the way out the lady who liked my work told another student: “If it was for sale, I would buy it now”.

– “Why don’t you ask her?”

– “Oh, I don’t think she is going to sell it. I wouldn’t”

– “Well, you should still ask! I will ask for you!”

Next class she asked me. I said, “yes, of course, I will sell it”. I didn’t think for a second! Working in sales for 5 years trains your reflexes, I guess 🙂 I didn’t think about keeping it, whether I will be able to do another one like this, researching price – nothing! negotiation was 5 minutes and I sold it for about $50. It’s about 12*12′. Now I’d think “dirt cheap”, but for someone who started painting 3 weeks back, it was an event, a landmark… and such a good story?

Drawing pet portraits – inside view

posted in: Creative process | 0

First things first – I LOVE ANIMALS. I was painting and drawing them ever since I started my art journey. New turn on that road – pet portraits. I thought, I’ll try, see if I like it. I did. I liked it. And so as Claire (the owner of Mungo – the first fluff ball I drew). Double joy! Second one – I liked even more. By third one – absolutely love it!

It’s not just drawing. It’s experience like no other. Imagine you have met someone, liked them, got excited and wanted to tell someone else about them. But you can’t. Saaay…., you are not allowed to use words. That’s quite a task, isn’t it? Well, that’s how I feel when I’m drawing pets. Pets are special, they live with humans so in some ways they become alike – they have character, habits, moods… and after a few portraits I have drawn, I noticed that you can guess it. Well, I’m not a pro just yet, but I think I can somewhat describe them. And I do, except not with words, that’s all 🙂

Ok, since I swore to myself that I will keep the posts short, I will now illustrate the process I go through with each portrait. First, I request a lot of photos, different ones. And I stare at them. For a while. I carry them in my purse and look at them on the subway sometimes. Thinking about the animal, their character, habits. It doesn’t matter if I’m accurate in my guesses, it’s just my way of connecting with them.


Next I do a colour study – mostly for the eyes, eyes are important. And I try different pastels and select ones that work.


And then it’s a full blown fun – colours, shapes, values… everything I know about drawing and painting. I just WORK.


After I laid down the most important things, I leave it for a day or two lying on the floor in my room. I do my stuff, but I constantly glance at the work trying to spot things – what to add, correct, emphasize.


After I had long enough break, I go back with “fresh eyes” and finish it. Sometimes I leave work a few times to let my eyes and my mind rest before I actually finish it. Only a week later – Voila!



Things that inspire my art and my life

posted in: Inspirational | 0

Sometimes artists are quite DESPERATE for inspiration. That’s a fact. And what can come as a surprise that things that used to inspire you, well, don’t. The longer you live uninspired the more you fear that it’s going to become a “creative dry spell”. You need to get out of that state of the soul. Right now.

I believe that ALL PEOPLE SHOULD BE INSPIRED, not only artists. What gets you out of bed every day? What makes you cook a fancy delicious dinner instead of spaghetti with canned sauce? What makes you decorate your house? Inspiration! motivation! enthusiasm! Yeah, I need some of that right now!

So here is my always changing list of things that inspire:

1. Reading what inspires other people. When someone writes about inspiration, they do it IN THAT STATE. You feel it. You sense it. Exactly that feeling gets me inspired as well.

2. Art of TOTALLY DIFFERENT kind other then what I do. I don’t think about how they did it, what they used, how can I learn this technique. it’s just pure WOW, I LOVE IT. Period. No planning, researching, thinking – just emotion that gets you going.

3. Touching paper in an art store. Ok, that’s a little weird, but it works. For me. I also touch a lot of other things in art stores, in fact, almost everything. hm, I hope it’s ok.

4. Meeting two of my super cool friends – Kate and Lesley. Other friends “work” too, but these two gals… Well, they took me out of a year long “creative dry spell” once and they didn’t know that they did it, we were just having lunch or something.

I can continue this forever – this is not my point here. Why don’t we think what inspires us and bring more of it into our lives? It’s not a rhetorical question, I mean, let’s think about it right now. How great would it be if our lives were FILLED WITH ENTHUSIASM all the time?! We wouldn’t need to make ourselves do stuff. Instead we would always be ON FIRE creating, achieving, LIVING!

This inspired me today:

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