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Sitting Pretty
Immortalizing your dog on canvas

Our founding dog, Nellie, looks down upon me, her toothy grin reminding me of the great times we shared. Her distinctive black and white markings contrast with a color field of yellow and green in a painting by Mark Ulriksen, famed for his many New Yorker covers. Some may recognize the painting from the cover of our book Dog Is My Co-Pilot—it hangs in our office now, a tribute to the little dog who inspired The Bark.

As a dog lover and an art aficionado, what better way to combine these two passions then to consign a portrait of my favorite four-legged companion? These days there is a great variety of talented artists plying their trade in pet portraiture. What a delight to take in the styles and mediums—traditional realism, folk art-inspired, pop à la Andy Warhol, narrative—in everything from paint to wood to collage.

And nowadays, most pet portraitists work from photographs, so location isn’t an issue, nor are good sitting skills! The internet has made it easy to view artists’ portfolios and shop for a style that suits your taste and budget. Portrait commissions can start as low as $150, then jump into the thousands with artists of renown. The artist will consult with you on selecting one or more photos on which to base the portrait. Some artists will incorporate special details into the composition that provide a personal touch—including a favorite toy or location. Depending on the artist’s schedule, a painting usually takes 2-4 weeks to complete. In the end, you’ll have a memento that will last a lifetime, not to mention a great conversation piece.

The very best portraits capture the dog’s likeness and spirit. After all, if you want an exact likeness of your dog, you might be better off consigning a photograph. Painted portraits capture the essence of its subject in a way that goes beyond a mere representation, and offers a glimpse of a dog’s unique personality. I guess that’s why they call it art!

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Cameron Woo is The Bark's co-founder and publisher. thebark.com

Images from:
Cynthia Kagen, Tiffany Beane, Clarity Art & Design, Lynn Culp, Stephen Morrell - Dog & Horse Fine Art, Stray Dog Arts.
Mark Ulriksen, Good Dog Fine Art, Gabriele Bungardt, Pet Picassos, Carol Diane Heslin.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Judith | November 20 2009 |

Here are two artists who belong on this list:

Sheila Wedegis at http://savingalabaday.blogspot.com/

and

Sandra Spencer at http://shop.ebay.com/mybunnies3/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=25

Both do wonderful work and both will take commissions. Also, they are both reasonable.

Submitted by Dianne | February 5 2010 |

I recently commissioned Sandra Spencer to paint a portrait of one of our dogs. The result is outstanding! Her vibrant use of color combined with her artistic talent captured the spirit of our "crazy" Daisy. we could not be happier with the artwork! Thanks for the suggestion! We are ready to commission a second piece

Submitted by Dianne | December 1 2009 |

I have a magnificent portrait of my dog painted by Aimee Hoover, AKA Zee DogArteest, of Pet Portraits by Aimee. The portrait, painted from a photo, is gorgeous beyond words, and truly captures the essence of my 4 legged friend.

Submitted by RachaelRossman | December 2 2009 |

From another pet portrait artist, thanks again for the May 2009 article about me by Lisa Wogan!

http://www.thebark.com/content/painting-dogs-and-tweeting

Submitted by Michelle O'Neil | December 9 2009 |

Those paintings are so cool!

Submitted by Anne Watkins | January 21 2010 |

Art can be fiction, or truth, or something between. But portraiture relies on truth to capture both the likeness and spirit of the subject. To affect likeness through photographs is not at all impossible, and many artists are highly skilled at that. Some capture the spirit, too. Only the person who knows and loves the creature can tell if the artist has succeeded at both. I am so glad that Mark got Nellie for you and Claudia. He has an intimate understanding of dog spirit.

I find being with the animal as necessary to describing his or her essence as light. Animals express themselves directly in gaze, movement, voice, demeanor. Most animals respond with surprisingly keen interest to being painted or drawn. They relax and unfold in the quiet focus and attention it requires, and the communication between subject and artist becomes a tender collaboration. That's when the spirit is revealed - and it is thrilling when that happens. To document that trusting communication is a deeply engaging way to be with someone, and to make art, and I would not trade it for the ability to work in my pajamas in front of a computer or with a stack of photos of someone I had never met - no way!

Submitted by Aaron | February 3 2010 |

I came across this pet portrait artist by chance on Flickr and went to check her out online. I was immediately blown away by the realness and pop in her art. My first portrait that I purchased of my labs was incredible, I am currently having a second one done for my second home. She's very affordable and for the quality of the work is superb, I am beyond pleased. It's amazing how so much can be captured in a picture.....it spoke to me the second I saw it. I recognized my Angel instantly. I love my piece, and hope this makes another pet parent out there as happy as it made me.

Submitted by nolen clark | June 16 2010 |

Lynn Culp has done a several custom orders for me, and all were super. Excellent gifts-- though one for me is next.

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