I don’t think I will ever be the kind of artist that fixes on a specific subject, who falls in love with it and persists, painting, refining and enhancing that one theme. I love to experiment with both subject matter and medium, which is why my portfolio is so diverse.
Recently I have had a few commissions to paint portraits of people’s dogs, their beloved pets. Now I love dogs, whether it be a chic Saluki or a kooky Dachshund, they make me go into a soft gooey-eyed stupor whenever I see them. So painting and capturing their character on canvas, for me, is a delight, indeed some notable artists have spent a lifetime painting animals.
The difference between painting a human portrait versus an animal portrait is that animals don’t worry about reality! You can’t upset a dog by being honest with your brush. When you capture their soul in their eyes and paint the texture of their fur so that you can almost feel it, you bring them alive and in doing so hopefully imortalise them. Humans on the other hand frequently want to be shown other than as they are. They want you to strip out their imperfections and soften them with symmetry. Both of these disciplines are equally challenging; attempting to obtain the frank likeness of a dog or adjusting the disorder to hide the truth in a face. It does feel that there is a slight prejudice towards the disparaging phrase ‘pet portrait’ artist, an air of being less of an artist because of the subject matter; this simply isn’t true both are equally valid, equally demanding.
I have always thought of animals as ‘people’, so it was understandable that when I came up with my ‘Elizabethan Animal Head Portraits’ I gave them very human characteristics. In my opinion they are as worthy to hang above the fireplace as any human portrait, the same goes for the other oil paintings I have produced of dogs, they are our babies, our family, so why not take pride of place instead of Great Aunt Fanny. On that topic has anyone entered an Elizabethan Viscount Poodle in a ruff to the Society of Portrait Painters exhibition yet?… huumm