Combining Photos for a Portrait

Though my website, I was contacted by a lady who asked if I could do a portrait of her daughter along with her daughter's pets. She has 3 dogs and a beloved turtle and wanted to have them all included in the portrait. We discussed sizes and agreed that a 22 x 16 would be large enough to incorporate all the subjects and include enough detail to make each recognizable. Also, with a 4" mat, the fnished portrait would easily fit into a 30x24 standard sized frame. We discussed pastel and colored pencil as the preferred mediums for completing the portrait. When I learned that they wanted to carry the portrait with them on a plane where they would travel to visit the final recipient, I suggested colored pencil as the more portable of the two. The client was already leaning toward the colored pencil from reviewing portraits on my website. We discussed the setting for the portrait and a natural, outdoor setting seemed well suited for the inclusion of the pets. The client lives in a beautiful, wooded area and requested including the trees in the background. I agreed to travel to their home to take photographs of each of the dogs, the turtle, and most importantly, the little girl.

Realizing it would be extremely difficult to pose them all at the same time, I focused on trying to capture each of them separately and made notes regarding personal characteristics and expressions. It was rather sunny and warm and I knew that the shadows would be harsh and I would have to soften the shading when doing the final artwork. After returning home, I went through the photographs and emailed samples for the client to select and also rough images of various poses for the group. Using Photoshop, I cut and pasted various poses of the little girl and each of her pets. I emailed the rough compositions to the client to solicit her preferences. The first two images below were sent as the intial suggestions for a composition incorporating all the elements.
The client responded that she preferred the vertical format, but requested that the dogs be facing forward. The third composition above was the result of those revisions.

The facial expression in this photo was selected as best representative of Holly. To have her incorporated with the 3 dogs, I turned her body more forward and changed the arms to hold the turtle more centered. Bob was cooperative and easy to photograph. I think he likes posing.

Max wasn't especially interested in having his portrait done. The client noted that his usual facial expression included his tongue hanging out on his left side. She also asked that he be looking up or forward instead of to the side.

Unfortunately, Dusty was not looking forward in any of the photographs I had taken. I wanted to be sure to capture his unique markings, so I consulted the photos that I had taken and referred to a photo I found online of a black and tan dachshund facing forward for a reference in drawing the shape of his head from a face-forward position.

I was fortunate to get a shot of Bea that did not require modifications. I eliminated the leash attached to her collar, but otherwise, she was good-to-go.
The final portrait: Holly & Friends, colored pencil, 22x16

The client expressed her satisfaction with the final portrait and I had the pleasure of knowing that special memories had been captured and recorded. Hopefully, the good times will live on through my artwork.


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