• Olly Jordan

Chapter 87 - Commission - Pet Portrait - Maxie and Archie - 2020

Updated: Jun 18, 2020


Maxie and Archie - A2 425gsm bockington Watercolour Paper

Maxie and Archie was a commission from friend as a birthday present for their mum. I am really happy with how this painting turned out, it was my first double portrait and I was worried that one may look better than the other, but I think I have managed to do a good job of getting both Maxie (left) and Archie (right) looking good. I think the main thing that makes this pair look so good is the soft velvet like fur, the strong pops of light on their faces and bodies has worked really nicely. They are probably my favourite pet portrait commission so far because of the way their fur has turned out looking so soft and shiny.

As with other commissions, I started the process by helping pick the best photo reference from a bunch that were sent to me via email, then I mocked up a background behind the dogs so my client could see what the final artwork would look. My client wanted the colours of the dogs' collars to be the same as the background colours, red around Maxie and blue around Archie, I was not sure if having a divide of colour would work well to be honest, but I was pleasantly surprised when I actually started the painting.


My client initially wanted the rest of the dogs bodies in the portrait, but I wasn't sure if that would look good in this style to be honest. Adding the rest of the body like that would look better if there were a shadow around the dogs' arms to help give them a placement, rather than floating around on the paper. I ended up making some mock ups without the body and then just played around with landscape or portrait orientation. A landscape orientation would allow for the dogs to be bigger but the coloured mark making would have to be more subtle. Whereas a portrait orientation would mean that the dogs would be slightly smaller but they have more room to breathe on the paper and the coloured mark making can fill a bit more space on the artwork.


My client ended up following my advice and suggestions by going with a portrait orientated painting that is just the head and shoulders of the dogs. This back and forth of conversation is important as you want the artwork to be the best it can be, and also stay true to what the client wants, but sometimes showing the client different variants like this can make them see something they didn't know they wanted.

Once the photo reference, colour combinations and composition was decided, the next step was to actually create the final painting. Although this was a photo taken from a phone, this was actually pretty good to work from. There weren't really any issues with the development of the painting at all, they were great to work with. The background surprised me as it actually worked out really nicely having the red and blue divide, there were times when I was unsure of it, but as always I just have to trust the process. I always forget that that the splats and dribbles that come from the subject over the top of the background really help tie everything together, so in this case, the black splash work going over the top of the red and black background from the colour of the dogs bodies. There are also a few smaller splats of the brown of the dogs' shoulders that really help with the finishing of the painting, although it maybe around 10 splats or something, it really helps tie the whole thing together.

This is one of my favourite pet portraits so far and is one I would happily put in my main portfolio of work, the colours and likeness has turned out really well. Thankfully my friend/client really liked the painting and he actually sent me a video of his mum opening her present. It is always so nice to see people's reaction to my work and it is great to see just how much this meant to the family, not saying that it is great to make people cry, but it is a good feeling when you get that reaction to your work.



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