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The Ordering Process

Step one: The Reference Image

The starting point for every portrait is the reference photograph. You already may have a favourite photo of your animal to use, in which case, this section isn't for you! The best photo is always the one that shows the nature of your companion most accurately, but I have some tips for choosing or taking the ideal reference image that will best transition to a painted portrait. While I can use some creative licence to make an image work, for the most part I can only paint what I can see, so the crisper the photograph is, the more detailed my portrait will be.

Choosing a photo

Unfortunately, not every cute photo of your horse translates well into a portrait. The ideal photograph has soft but clear natural lighting that highlights their facial structure and gives a glossy appearance to their coats. Photos taken in the barn or an indoor arena often have dimmer lighting, or lights that make their coat colour inaccurate, and therefor are not ideal. 

The ideal image is taken from the level of the subject (not looking down at a dog, or up at a horse) this prevents awkward long faces or body distortion that we don't notice in photos, but are glaring when painted. 

If possible, provide me with a professional level photograph (must have purchased the image, or have permission from the photographer) or a photo taken with a quality camera. If you only have phone camera photos, they will often be enough, so long as the image is close-up and I dont have to "zoom in," loosing a lot of detail in the process. 

Choose a photo that shows the qualities that are unique to your companion. If your horse is a striking blue roan colour, but the photos make him look grey, your painting will be inaccurate. If she has a beautiful blue eye on one side that you love, send me a photo that shows it! 

For a more personalized painting, show me your horse doing the job they love! Photos over fences, or in their discipline-specific tack will show off not only their beautiful character, but also the hard work you have put in together.

When in doubt, provide lots of photos! I can find the perfect photo in pretty unlikely places! 

Taking a photo

When you don't already have the perfect photo ready to go, its time to pull out that rarely-used camera and take a new one! A smartphone will do in a pinch, so long as the lighting is good, the subject is up close, and you don't zoom in! Do your best to find a good digital camera to use. Most modern ones have loads of those lovely, clarity-giving megapixels that give me all the details I

need to see. Ask around to your friends if you dont have one, someone will! 

Get outside! Soft sunlight is ideal. If it is too bright, your subject will squint, which isn't flattering at all. The sun will cast lovely shadows that help define their features, and will give a beautiful gloss to their coats! Just make sure you arent photographing directly into the sunlight, which will cause a silhouette effect. 

 

Take the photo from the level of the subject! Get on your knees to photograph your dog, or have them stand on a raised platform. Stand a few feet back when photographing a horse so you're not looking up at the underside of their jaw, or their cheekbone is taking up 3/4th of the picture! 

Make sure they are comfortable and showing a pleasant, alert expression, even when active. If the photo is an action shot, take multiple images and choose one with minimal tension. When possible, have someone shake a tub of oats or hold their favourite treat in the direction you want them to look. This will get ears pricked and eyes bright! When an animal is tense, it will show, and the final product will be less than ideal. 

Dress to impress! I can do a certain level of tack removal, but it can be time consuming and frustrating. If you want your animal au naturale with no halter, please take the photo with no halter. You can have someone stand behind them or off to the side with a rope around their neck to hold them if they wont stand on their own. 

That being said, a clean, attractive halter or bridle can really add a touch of class to a portrait. Buy or borrow a well fitted leather halter, or put them in their best bridle. 

If you want an under-saddle image, have the rider dressed tidily and in a way that doesnt distract. They don't need to be in show clothes, but solid, classic colours will make the horse stand out. 

Use their unique traits to your advantage! If they have a particularly pretty dished face or roman nose, take the photo directly from the side. If they have a to-die-for mane, take the photo while they are playing in the field with hair flying everywhere! Equally, if they have a plain or hard to photograph head, but a stunning floaty trot or perfect conformation  opt for a full body or action photo to focus on their positive traits. 

Angle! Left hand photo is taken from several yard back to avoid distortion. Photo on the right has "disappearing neck syndrome" and a large muzzle caused by too steep of an angle. (ill fitting bridle doesnt help either!)

Lighting! The arena lights on the left photo flatten this mares pretty head and dont give me much to paint. The photo on the right has crisp sunshine that bounces off of her thoroughbred angles and gives me lots of detail!

Expression is everything! On the right, this expressive paint looks dopey and dozy. Yes hes happy and relaxed, but a bit too much so! On the left, I called his name and snapped quickly, so he's alert and sharp. 

Step Two: Choosing a Medium

The materials that an artist uses to create their work is called their "medium." For my portrait work, I offer three different mediums; watercolour, gallery-wrapped watercolour, and oil paint. They each have a different look and their own qualities. The medium that you choose will have a huge impact on the overall look of your portrait. None are "better" than any other, they just suit different purposes.

Watercolours

Watercolours are synonymous with quaintness. I use high-quality cotton watercolour paper which is very sturdy and will not disintegrate with moisture. I apply the concentrated paint, thinned with water, to the paper. When the water evaporates, the pigment is deposited inside the paper, leaving a matte, smooth print-like surface. Through many layers and different brush sizes, I can create a very crisp but soft likeness of your animal. Because of the simplicity of materials and ease of shipping, watercolours are the lowest price point I offer, however I recommend clients considering the cost of framing before ordering (Which you can do yourself, or I can provide at an added cost) 

Gallery Wrapped Watercolour

Gallery-Wrapped watercolours are a unique option that has become somewhat of a signature for me. I stretch heavy duty watercolour paper over a canvas frame. This allows the painting to hang framelessly on the wall for a modern look. These can be square, rectangular, round, or oval.

Oil Paint

Oil paint has been the choice of portrait painters for centuries. The oil base gives a rich luster from the inside out, and its natural pigments are unparalleled when it comes to browns, reds and other natural colours.  The paint is very thick and dries with a lot of texture. Between that, and its easily-blended nature, it is my favourite for painting horses. Oils are painted on canvas, which can be hung as is, or framed. Because of its very long production and drying period, and the cost of materials, oils are my highest price point. 

Step Three: Choosing a Size

Pick a size, any size! In watercolours, I offer sizes from 5x7" to 24"x36". In oils, I can do 8x10" to 10'x10' ft, with different ratios, from the standard 1:1.25, to square, to long rectangles, for an unlimited number of variations.

 

The first thing to consider is your budget. The price obviously increases with the surface area of the painting. After that has been decided, Contact me and lt me know what you'd like me to stay within, and I will tell you your maximum size options

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The next factor is where you would display your painting and how much attention you want it to draw. Do you want it to be a cozy piece sitting on your work desk, do you want it to coordinate with other paintings in the room, or do you want a centerpiece for above a fireplace, couch, or bed? If the painting is a centerpiece, the rule of thumb is to ensure that it is at least 2/3rds of the length of the furniture it is above, or 2/3rds the width of the wall.

 

What is the painting of? A single classic headshot can be perfect in the 8x10-11x14" range. Two to three animals on one canvas shouldn't be smaller than 11x14" to prevent crowding, same goes for shots with a person or rider. If it is a portrait of your prize stud that you want to use to advertise and start conversations, why skimp and go smaller than 3'x4'? 

This sweetie was gifted early so it’s sa

Ask for help!

If you're unsure about what options are right for you, don't worry! I'm here to help every step of the way. Just send me a message with your ideas and questions and we'll work from there!

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