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How to Select a Pet Portrait Artist

Our pets are family, so it’s natural to think about painting a portrait of one or all of them. Who wouldn’t want to capture their best friend with a beautiful piece of art? Pet portraits can be expensive, so choosing the right portrait artist for you is key to ending up with a piece of art that you will enjoy and cherish forever. Luckily for us the internet has made it easier than ever to find amazing portrait artists around the world. Artists create pet portraits in all mediums, styles, and budgets. This article will help you understand the ins and outs of the pet portrait business, give you some key things to consider while looking for the right pet portrait artist, and answer some questions you may have.

1. Find an artist – Pet portrait artists are not as common as one might think. Many artists are completely intimidated by the idea of ​​representing a loved one, even if it’s “just a dog.” Portraiture, whether human, dog, or horse, is a specialized field and most artists will not attempt it. So, your first step in finding a portrait artist is to narrow your search specifically to artists who position themselves as pet portrait artists. Don’t ask Aunt Mary to paint your dog if you haven’t seen examples of Mary’s attempts at dogs, or you might be stuck with a painting you hate that Aunt Mary expects to see in the place of honor when she comes for a visit. It doesn’t really matter if the artist of your choice lives nearby or even in the same country. Most professional pet portrait artists work with clients from all over the world, so don’t let the artist’s location worry you too much. We will talk about international shipping later.

2. Looking at their portfolio – an artist’s portfolio is a collection of examples of their work. As you find artists online, their websites should have images of previous work. When considering a portfolio of work, you want to keep a few things in mind:

  • Do you like their style? Can you imagine their work in your home?
  • Do they have many examples of portraits? 2 is not enough…20 and up is a good start.
  • Are they consistently good across their portfolio? Or are some works great and others so-so?
  • Do they use colors you like? Many artists stick to a certain “palette”, so if you like bold colors and the artist only uses browns and grays and blues, keep looking.
  • How well do animal eyes work? (eyes are the windows to the soul…bad eye, bad portrait!)
  • Do they have testimonials? That’s nice to have, but it helps to know that other patrons, like you, were happy with their overall pet portrait experience.
  • They work in a medium you like, e.g. watercolor, oil or charcoal?

SUGGESTION: If you like an artist’s work, but not the medium they work in, you can ask if they work in your medium of choice, but if they don’t, I wouldn’t suggest commissioning them unless you’ve seen examples of their work them in this medium. Getting good at a medium takes practice and time. If the artist has never worked in this medium, keep looking.

3. How much does it cost? – A good pet portrait can go for anywhere between $200 and $1000, depending on the size and medium. Oils usually cost more due to the extensive process and cost of materials. Pencil and charcoal are often the least expensive, with acrylic and watercolors rounding out the middle. Larger works of art are, of course, more expensive.

4. The Commission’s procedure – every pet portrait artist runs their business differently, but usually, there are several things that will be the same:

  • Your budget: Commissioning a piece of art from a pet artist can feel intimidating at first, but it can actually be quite simple. Pet portrait artists are professionals who work with people just like you every day – people who love their dog or cat and who love art. But, at the end of the day, you have to pay for this work of art. Determine how much you can afford to spend on your pet portrait either before or as you start looking for artists. Many artists will have their price lists easily accessible on their websites. In some cases, you should contact the artist and ask them about their price.
  • Initial contact: when you find a pet portrait artist whose work you love (and can afford), the first thing you should do is contact them to discuss your work. Email is usually a good place to start. Some artists may prefer the phone. Either way, it depends you to make the first move. Tell them about your pet, even include a digital photo if you like.
  • Reference photo: I don’t know of any pet portrait artist who asks your pet to “sit, stay!” while they paint! Everything works from photo references. A pet portrait will only be as good as the reference photo, so this is a key part of the process. You will need to provide some very good shots of your pet to the artist for consideration. You can take the pictures yourself if you are good with a camera or have a friend do it. Some people even hire a local professional photographer to take the pictures. However you do it, high-resolution digital images are required. If a pet has passed away and all you have are printed photos, ask your artist if they can work from it.
  • Deposit: Since this will be a custom piece of art for you of your dog, cat, horse or hamster, most artists require a deposit to begin work. This will put you on their calendar, especially during the busy pre-holiday season, and it will be a commitment on your part that you are going to purchase that portrait when it is done. Expect a deposit to range from 20% to 50% or more. Most artists accept credit cards, PayPal and money orders. When contacting your artist, ask them what kind of payment methods they accept.
  • Production: This is where the painter produces your work. Expect the good artists to have a backlog of work and put you in their queue. It may take a few weeks or longer to get your portrait taken, so keep that in mind. The artist will usually email you a photo of your portrait when they have completed it for your approval.
  • Approval: Every artist I know wants you to be happy with your portrait more than anything, so be sure to ask the artist about the approval process. If you are not happy with the project, you should not buy it. Some artists may ask you to forfeit your deposit, but most artists will work with you until you are happy with the end result.
  • Payment and Shipping: Most artists wait to be paid in full before sending you your portrait. Packaging and shipping costs are usually paid by you, so talk to your artist before you assign a project. Overseas shipping and customs fees can make it prohibitive, depending on your budget, so consider it before you say yes. Large projects will often be rolled in a tube to save on shipping costs, but this adds a bit of work on your end. If the work is on canvas, you will need to take it to your local framers to “re-stretch” it, and then frame it if desired.
  • Receiving your Art: Most artists will ensure that your portrait is “ready to hang” when you remove it from the shipping container. If your portrait is on canvas, it should be pre-strung with a wire for your convenience. Be sure to ask if your art will be “ready to hang” when you receive it. Art that can’t be hung easily and immediately is like a battery operated Christmas toy without batteries!

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