ethyl's portrait

With all the questions I’ve been receiving lately regarding how I do my pet portraits, I thought that a great way to describe about my thoughts and process would be to share about the precious furry faces that I have been entrusted to paint! With this in mind, I hope you’ll enjoy this new series, a behind look at each of my custom portraits.

. One of the best rewards for me as an artist when it comes to creating custom portraits is the opportunity to bring healing to a family with a portrait of a beloved pet that has passed on. Being a pet owner myself, I know the joy that my dog, Finn, brings to me and my husband each day. 

Ethyl was the first memorial portrait that I had the honor to paint this year. When Carrie came to me to request a portrait of her husband’s beloved pet as a birthday present, I couldn’t help but cherish the opportunity to create such a sweet and memorable gift. 

Etyhl Marie .JPG

One of the most important goals for me when it comes to creating portraits is to make sure I get the details, as well as the coloring, of the subject as accurate as possible. It’s funny how well we know our own pet down to his or her coloring and features. So as a pet owner and artist, I know how important it is to get it just right. Now, this isn’t always easy when it comes to memorial pieces. Often times, I am limited to a certain amount of photos to work from. In Ethyl’s case, Carrie had a favorite photo that she wanted Ethyl’s portrait to be created from. 

The photo on the right was the chosen one for her portrait. My biggest challenge here was to recreate the feature of her jaw that is slightly covered. Also, the lighting wasn’t the best condition to display her nature color. Faced with these challenges, I was lucky enough that Carrie had more photos for me to reference.

Using the extra photos, the first challenge I had to tackle was to sketch out Ethyl’s portrait to include the left jaw. Without these extra photos, this would have been left to the mercy of my imagination. Though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing with it comes creating art, it does not aid in creating an accurate portrayal of a beloved pet.  This is why I never mind when clients ask if they should send in multiple photos. 


Once the sketch was complete, the painting could begin. I always start with a first layer in the basic color of the subject. This first layer is always important, because it is the foundation of the watercolor piece. Again, the extra photos helped me to get the different colors and spots on Ethyl accurately. When all the layers were complete, the fun for me begins, adding the detail! 

With all of my work, it is adding the detail that really captures my excitement. I love adding details that aren’t always so noticeable at first glance, but when examined closely they give the viewer more things to discover and enjoy. In Ethyl’s case, it’s the few white strokes above her eyes and in her ears that I really loved. 

Etyhl Marie2 .JPG



When she was finally all complete, the most exciting and anxious part of any custom piece is the reveal. When it comes to custom art, nothing brings me more pleasure than knowing that my client loves their piece. I can’t tell you how touched I was to see Carrie’s teary reaction when I presented her with Ethyl’s portraits. 

It’s never easy to part with a dear pet that brings your family so much joy, and as a portrait artist, I couldn’t be more honored with such a special piece! Thank you, Carrie! 

I hope you enjoyed reading about Ethyl’s portrait! In the next blog, I’ll be sharing with you a sweet lab named, Snacks! Until then, thank you for reading along! 


Tram ColwinComment