Last holiday season my mother offered me an incredible gift. She wanted to get me a painting of Charlie and Eliot. She decided to involve me in the process knowing I would be specific about what I wanted. When I set out to find the right artist I had one thing in mind. Over 30 years ago my paternal grandmother, a gifted artist, painted a beautiful portrait of my maternal grandfather with his bernese mountain dog. This portrait hangs on the wall of our home and is my favorite piece that we own. The piece combines the sentimental value of both sides of the family with a stately looking pup in a classic portrait style. Looking at it feels like home. It was this piece that I sought to compliment.
I sought classical pet portrait artists across the internet. After days of searching and not feeling quite right about any artist I found, I came across https://www.pet-portraitartist.com. Melanie and Nicholas are a husband and wife team based in Wales and offering realistic pencil drawings and paintings of pets. I was so impressed with their realism and classic style that I reached out to see if we could work together on a portrait of Charlie and Eliot. I sent them a picture of my grandfather’s portrait and asked if they would be able to replicate the style. They thought they could.
I sent them some favorite shots of Charlie and Eliot and they gave me feedback on lighting and posing. I wanted to make sure that the portrait captured each dog’s individual personality and they wanted to make sure that the lighting and angles were optimal for portraiture as they promised to reflect our images directly in their painting. I ended up taking some new shots specifically for the painting to make sure we had ideal images. I kept the lights off indoors and took some photos in portrait mode on my iphone during the day in front of a window. After seeing an initial mockup from Nicholas I realized I was not happy with how Charlie looked. I couldn’t get a picture where I was happy with both dogs simultaneously so Melanie and Nicholas said I could choose my favorite of each dog from separate shots and they would combine the pair.
I found shots that I felt were formal enough for a portrait but still showed the pups’ personalities and Melanie and Nicholas began working on a mock up.
I asked them to replicate the background of my grandfather’s portrait so that it would match stylistically. They replicated the background and sent a few examples with alternative colors. I decided I preferred brown to mirror the look of the family portrait.
The mock up looked great. Once all parties agreed they gave me a realistic timeline to set my expectations of when they could begin work on the painting. They are careful artists and in high demand so they let me know I could expect that them to begin work on my piece in late June 2018. I could keep track of what they were working on through their website and they told me which piece would come immediately before mine so that I could check in on timing on my own.
In July 2018 the artists let me know that they were beginning work on my piece. They sent periodic photo updates to keep me appraised on their progress and to seek my input along the way. I was happy with how things looked so did not end up giving any feedback regarding changes during this time. It was exciting to see the step by step progress and view detailed close ups.
At last the final product was ready and photos were sent of the work. The result was beautiful and I couldn’t wait to see the piece in person. I sent my address and awaited the paintings arrival. It arrived in late August carefully packaged. I received info to track the package to my door. I couldn’t have been happier when I unwrapped the final product. The portrait is beautiful.. a stunning rendition of our beautiful girls. The theme matches my grandfather’s portrait perfectly. We could not be happier with Melanie and Nicholas’ work.
Going into this process felt a bit overwhelming. Starting from scratch and trying to find someone who could give us what we wanted seemed like an impossible task at first. I saw so many portraits online that were a little too impressionistic, or seemed to not accurately represent the animal they portrayed. I dreaded sending off pictures to an artist and getting back an expensive painting that looked nothing like my dogters. The reality of the process with Melanie and Nicholas was a dream. They were so careful, thoughtful, and responsive along the way. They worked hard to make sure that we knew what we were getting and were going to be happy with it. They collaborated with us on the source material and allowed us to track each step of the creation once it began. There was no opportunity for unwelcome surprises given the diligence of their process. We are so happy with our choice. We wanted the best and that’s what we got with this team.