It all started when my colleagues, as a 40th birthday gift, had a portrait of my beloved Golden Retriever Roger commissioned. I spoke with Naomi who was friendly and engaging asking questions aplenty about Roger to pick up snippets of his personality. She worked with me to determine which photograph could work best and together we chose a wonderful shot of him looking his regal best but after emerging from the lake after a swim - his absolute favourite pastime (bar begging for treats!). The final portrait arrived last week and its breathtakingly brilliant. The artistry, the detail, the likeness and the intricacy of the portrait exceeded all expectation. A bespoke service at every turn and a gift that will hang proudly and be treasured. Thank you.
From Flatties to Goldens, Retrievers are fabulous companions. Their intelligence, loyalty and eagerness to please, are wonderfully balanced by their comical goofiness and playful, care-free approach to life.
Like how he loves to spice up a walk by ambushing a fellow dog’s game of fetch. Or how she goes bonkers for water, launching herself at high speed and disappearing in a tidal wave. Maybe he goes crazy for food? No roast chicken is safe when there’s a canine counter surfer around.
Perhaps she adores people, especially children. Your walkies take forever as she greets absolutely everyone in sight. Picnickers are an especially high priority…
Knowing all about your Retriever will really help me to capture her true likeness in your portrait. Her personality will play into several key aspects of your artwork. This page will give you some valuable pointers to help you make the best choices for your Retriever portrait.
(If you’d like some more general advice about dog portraits, read through my dog portraits page).
How to select the right reference photos
Your portrait will be drawn from photographs, and so it’s important that you choose the right photos.
The three main factors you should think about are:
When you think about your Retriever, you’ll have an image in your head. It might be a particular expression she has or certain features that you adore. Maybe she’s got her big tongue lolling out, or is gazing lovingly at you with that soft gentle expression in her eyes. When you’re choosing your photos, have these things in mind, as this will help you to choose that perfect photo that characterises your dog for you.
Whether you’re choosing existing photos, or taking new ones, selecting photos taken in natural daylight is really important, especially if your Retriever is golden or liver coloured. Good lighting will make sure I can see the true colours of the fur and eyes. Photos taken outside are ideal. Interior photos can also work, provided there is enough natural daylight in the room.
Retrievers have such wonderful long wavy coats, and rich brown eyes. To really do your dog justice, I need your photos to clearly show their eyes, and the direction of their fur. This will allow me to make your portrait as realistic as possible, as I’ll be able to work a very high level of detail.
To see some examples of good reference photographs, take a look at my photo guide page.
How to choose a pose
Think back again to that mental image you have of your Retriever. What is she doing? Perhaps she’s sat looking up at you with those loving eyes. Or maybe he’s standing with dripping wet fur, a playful energetic expression on his face. She could be lying down, snuggled up next to you, head on your knee.
Try to choose a pose that really epitomises your Retrievers’ unique character.
How to choose the right size for your portrait
You may already have a size in mind, and know where your portrait is going to hang in your house. But if you’re not sure, here are a few things to think about.
Being large dogs with big personalities, there’s a lot to fit into a Retriever portrait. From the detailed reflections in her eyes, to the subtle colour changes in her coat. The texture of her nose, and big lolling tongue to the beautiful waves in her glossy fur. And especially those long fluffy ears!
The larger the size of your portrait, the more detail and realism I can work into the drawing, and the more your dog’s personality will shine through.
If you’d like a full body portrait, I’d especially recommend going for at least an 11 x 14 inch portrait or larger. Anything smaller than this will compromise on the detail and realism of your portrait.
For a full list of my size options and some example photos, please read my size guide.
This portrait of Roger the golden Retriever measures 24 x 18 inches.
How to choose a background colour
The background colour of your portrait will need to take into account the fur colour of your retriever.
If you have a Golden Retriever, then the background colour needs to be chosen very carefully to make sure the fur stands out enough. It is possible to have a warm light-coloured background, as long as there is some degree of contrast with the fur colour.
Flat-Coated Retrievers are a little easier, as both black or liver coloured variants work with a wide variety of background colours.
Your Retriever’s personality might help decide on whether you’d like a warm or a cool background. An outdoor-loving swim-a-holic might fit best with a light blue backdrop. Or you might opt for a warmer cosier feel, to bring out the warm tones in your Retriever’s soft coat.
I’ll always advise you on what I feel will work well for your portrait, and will take your preferences into account. I usually draft up some options, and send them to you to see your thoughts.