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A Post for Terrier Lovers & Hudson and Middleton mug fans… New Katherine Tyrer Mugs for 2022!

Jack Russell Terrier illustration painting

I have some exciting news. I am about to launch some new mugs following lots of requests for the designs I made with Hudson and Middleton some years ago. I have made some fresh designs based on your old favourites and would love your feedback, starting with the Jack Russell terrier! Please let me know your favourite images! You can join my waiting list and be notified when these mugs are in stock. They will be British made and fine bone china. Please express your interest to avoid missing as there will be limited availability. I hope to make these available for pre-order very soon.

Please check or join my blog for news of my other dog mug designs very soon!

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How to Paint a Cheetah in Watercolour

  • Cheetah watercolour illustration
  • Cheetah painting

First things first, I tend to work from several photos for reference. It is important, if you are looking to paint animals accurately, to research the subject, its variations and its habits. I spend a lot of time browsing books and the internet for reference photos and read about the animal or breed of animal. I am drawn to particular poses that look attractive and capture the character. It usually takes me a long time to find a range of images that will enable me to depict the animal the way I’d like. In this case, I wanted to capture the light-footed grace of the cheetah for this commissioned piece. It is important, as an artist, to work from a range of reference photos, which ensures you do not infringe a photographer’s copyright by directly copying their composition and ideas. It is okay to use photos for reference, so long as you have permission to do so, or provided that the artwork is clearly your interpretation and there are sufficient differences from the original work. I often work from two or three different images and adapt the pose and composition accordingly.

I spend a long time checking my drawing and proportions. I think of drawing any subject as like drawing a map. Each internal shape is a county, which fits beside another county, and the water is the space around the outside. The outside spaces, or negative spaces, are useful shapes to notice. I will not begin painting until I am happy that my proportions are accurate and the different shapes lined up correctly.

I usually begin a watercolour painting with the palest colours. I think of these as the pastel colours. For this painting, I laid a thin wash of yellow and reapplied another layer once this was dry to give a stronger colour. I mixed a brown and applied it to the spots and marks. It is important with watercolour to keep the paint transparent so I use it quite wet and use a large brush to begin with, which holds more water and ensures light and even coverage. Watercolour should only stain the paper, not saturate it.

I added more blue to the brown (to make black) and added stronger black to the spots. I used purple and brown as shadow colours for the yellow and blue/ grey for the whiter areas of coat. I continued to build up the darker colours and pick out the outline of the body with mid brown and grey tones. I use a fine sable brush to do create fine lines, dots and refine details. I finished with the yellow wash of grass under the cheetah.

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Remembering Our Old Friends

  • Patterdale Terrier, watercolour illustration
  • Terrier Christmas cards
  • Acrylic Patterdale terrier portrait on canvas

This was Rosie, a Patterdale or crossbreed terrier. She was my sister’s dog. My sister took her on from a lady who had rescued her. She had apparently done film work and had a remarkable talent for balancing in a begging position or doing tricks. She had many homes and some bad habits. She would pee if you went out, or if she felt like it, on people’s beds, including those of my sister’s house mates, and was prone to the odd nip when my sister first took her on. She once went missing and my sister was distraught. She had, it seemed, followed my sister to Waitrose, but luckily a kind person found her on the road, thinking at first she was a fox, red as her coat was.

She befriended a big Mastiff called Tiddles, who one day saved her life when she fell in a swimming pool, and barked relentlessly till help came. She hated boyfriends and ensured they were carefully observed. She loved comfort and would find a human bed to sleep in, or a comfortable silk cushion to lie on.

Rosie then moved in with Mum and Dad. My Dad was never that enamoured of her, being “a Labrador and Collie man.” She barked a lot and peed on his expensive new duvet. She sometimes got hold of our poor collie’s ear fur out of jealousy. Mum waited on Rosie. When she became fussy about her food, Mum cooked her scrambled egg. “Your dinner looks nice,” I would say to her as I saw a stew boiling on the hob.” “It’s not for us, it’s for Rosie,” she would say, unaware of the irony of Rosie having freshly cooked meals worthy of a lady. Despite her humble beginnings, a lady she thought she was. Rosie took to sleeping on the silk cushions, knowing they were more luxurious than the others. She could sense if you were ill and rested up in bed in the day time. She had an uncanny instinct for a warm place to sleep and would come from the other side of the house and curl up beside you. I am sure she had a human soul. She looked into your eyes, which is unusual for a dog. She would not accept it if people did not like her and insisted on sleeping beside my Dad’s cousin when she stayed with us, who at first was wary and more of a cat person, but eventually conceded to like her.

One day my Dad returned home with a secret stash of chocolate brazil nuts. He returned to the open car to find Rosie on the seat, scoffing the last one. Mum and I heard a load of shouting and wondered what had happed. To add insult to injury, as Rosie slept beside my mum that night, she was sick on the bed and, up in their entirety, came the brazil nuts.

She would welcome customers into Mum and Dad’s shop, only to chase them away and nip at their ankles when they left. She lived to a ripe old age in great comfort. A rescue dog can have many problems, but it is very rewarding when they come to love you as much as you love them.

Rosie was a wonderful muse. It was many years ago that she was in our lives but we still miss her. I have painted her portrait on canvas and tried to capture her grandiosity. I loved to paint her in her famous pose and she adorned my Hudson and Middleton mugs and greetings cards.

Dogs are wonderful friends. Please share this story with your friends if you enjoyed it!

If you are interested in a memorial portrait, or a portrait as a lasting memory of a beloved dog, I can work from your old photos and descriptions of them.

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Commissioning a Pet Portrait – What You Need to Know

Springer Spaniel Pastel Portrait

These days, there are so many pet portrait artists in the UK and around the world. When I first began painting pet portraits over 15 years ago, there were far less pet portrait artists in existence. Now there is an ever increasing number of professional artists and hobbyists offering pet portrait commissions online. Many people have discovered hidden artistic talents during lockdown so there is an ever increasing amount of amateur and professional animal painters. I first began working for extended family and friends and became known through word of mouth, but now most of my business is from my website. We all have our own unique style, strengths and ways of working. If you have never commissioned work from an artist before, I have written this post to help you. I will advise you on how to find animal artists, how portraits are priced and what to ask the prospective artists and what to expect concerning the process. I hope this will help you to commission your perfect pet portrait!

Choosing an Artist

I would first recommend looking at as much animal art as you can in order to find out what sort of painting or drawing style appeals to you. Pinterest is especially useful for this. Most professional artists have examples of their work online on social media platforms, such as Instagram or Facebook, or on their own websites or those of galleries who represent them.

Many traditional pet portrait painters, often with pastel painting, strive for photo-realism, other artists have a more impressionist approach. You will also find artists who offer something totally unique and modern, such as pet portraits with playful backgrounds, illustrative pet portraits, or digital pet portraits.

As you look at different artists’ works, note if you tend to favour highly detailed realistic art or more painterly impressionist works? Do you prefer the look of modern or traditional portraits? Do you like bold colours and bold brush strokes? Have you considered commissioning a humorous pet portrait, perhaps in a naive style, or something illustrative?

Some artists and illustrators are especially creative and adaptable to a brief. The style and interpretation of the artist is a often a feature of the piece. The portrait will capture a piece of the artist’s personality as well as the pet’s! On the other hand, a photo-realist artist is generally concerned with reproducing exactly what they see before them, so there tend to be less stylistic differences between artists who work in this way and less creative input. It is all a matter of personal taste, but do consider, that this is a piece of art, made with great care and the wonderful thing is that it has a human touch. You are presumably commissioning a piece of art because you hope it will offer a different viewing experience from the many photographs you may already have of your pet.

TIP: If you are ordering a custom pet portrait for a gift, you will want to consider the personal taste of the recipient and the type of art they would like. Is their home modern? Would they prefer something humorous, modern or traditional? If they already have a portrait of a pet in a conventional style, perhaps you might consider a totally different take on this portrait. You could choose a different background setting, medium or scale, if you would like to keep things traditional.

When you find artists whose work you like, look at the range of their portfolio. Is their work consistent in quality, or does their style vary from piece to piece? Which of their paintings appeal to you the most? Artists often work in different styles and media but if the quality of the work is consistent throughout their portfolio, you should feel confident that your commission will be of similar quality.

Media

Pet portrait artists often work in pastel. This can be used in an impressionist style or with many blended layers of detail. Pastel is very good at describing fur. It is usually used on a coloured paper or Pastelmat.

Watercolours are bright and fresh and usually painted on white paper. This is a medium favoured by illustrators and also very “flowy” painters. It can be combined with ink and other media.

Oils on canvas are a luxurious option. They were favoured by the Old Masters as they offer great depth of colour. They are usually more costly because of time required to build the layers of paint, lengthy drying times and because of the cost of the paints and canvas.

Drawings and sketches can capture the personality of a much loved pet in a few or many lines. They are often more affordable, requiring less time of the artist, depending on the level of detail.

Artists’ Techniques & Methods

Most animal portrait artists work from photographs, but there are exceptions. This is usually because animals do not sit still for long enough to be painted in sufficient detail! This also ensures that the process is more affordable and practical, because the artist does not have to travel for sittings! If you choose a local artist, they may offer to travel to meet your pet (usually at additional cost) and take their own reference photos and get to know the animal.

Some artists use tracing, a projector or grid up the drawing and composition. Others draw entirely from observation, which is my preference. Some artists create works digitally, building up the detail in the same way they would have painted it in oils or watercolour, but using a computer programme and a stylus. Others create digital paintings simply by manipulating the source photo with computer software, which is another thing altogether, and should not be sold as hand drawn paintings. Whoever you choose to paint your pet, I would recommend finding an artist that draws and paints by hand, whether or not they are an artist who uses traditional painting materials or digital devices.

The Brief

Once you have found an artist whose style you like, and have discussed costs, ask them about their availability and what their turnaround times are if you have a deadline. Many pet portrait artists have waiting lists and are particularly busy at Christmas time. You may need to pay a deposit in advance of work being carried out or be asked pay for the full portrait cost up front. This is to protect the artist from potentially wasted time and materials, carrying out projects which are cancelled. Obviously, you will first want to assure yourself that that the artist and website is reputable.

Many artists will provide terms and conditions, explaining if they include postage costs, whether they allow returns or alterations (please note that this is not a legal requirement for bespoke items and many pet portrait artists do not offer refunds for completed paintings) and what charges may apply should you require changes to the agreed brief. The artist should send a contract or written confirmation or invoice confirming the commission price, detailing the agreed brief and deadline before work has commenced.

Understanding Pricing

Prices vary with the artist. You may be surprised at the range of prices you come across. This will usually be determined by the artist’s notoriety, training/ qualifications and experience. There are many talented amateur and semi-professional artists who will work below the minimum wage, but a good professional artist often has years of knowledge, training and experience under their belt to justify the extra investment. Professional artists are very aware of conservation and should use professional quality materials and the correct techniques to ensure the longevity of the work. They will need to cover the costs of their business but they will offer a consistently professional service so you will more likely be happy with the result than if you went to a less experienced artist.

Some artists offer fixed prices, others price by quotation only. Most artists will price their pet portrait commissions based on the size of the piece, the complexity, the number of animals included and the medium. Some may charge more to paint a whole body than a portrait head. Oil paintings can be very time consuming and more expensive to produce, whilst a sketch or line drawing may be very quick to execute and is usually more affordable. If you require a detailed background you can expect to pay more to cover the artist’s time. A pet portrait can take weeks, even months, to complete and will be priced accordingly.

Sending the Artist Reference Photos

Be kind to your artist and give them the best opportunity to succeed! Send them the best quality reference photographs you can (if required to send your own photographs). Use a digital camera instead of a mobile phone or iPad if possible. Choose photos, without distortions, which capture the character of the animal. Ensure that the images are in focus, taken in good natural light and without flash photography or severe sunlight. The images should ideally be high enough resolution that the artist can enlarge the picture to the size of the portrait and the photograph does not pixelate. Consider sending separate photos of information missing from the main reference photograph (such as feet hidden in grass).

The artist may ask for more photographs to cross reference or they may refuse to work from your preferred photo if they are concerned about the image quality. Don’t be offended if this is the case, they simply want to give you their best work and may suggest a different reference photo. Ask the artist for their guidelines on photographs.

Framing

Some artists offer framing at additional cost, many do not. Be sure to budget for this and allow time for your picture to be framed if the portrait is to be a gift. Like artists, framers get very busy near Christmas time. Framing can be a very personal matter. Ready made frames are more affordable but do not always show the picture at its best or offer suitable conservation. Framing can be expensive but a professional framer will know how to present the picture at its very best and help preserve it. Works on canvas do not always require framing, so this may be a consideration when choosing a medium for your pet portrait.

The Process

How much input will I have? This will depend on the artist and the nature of the brief. If you have chosen an artist who consistently works in a very particular way, you will probably find they offer less choices of styles and materials. They may specialise in what they do best so there is usually less possibility of client input. Other artists offer lots of choice and you may be invited to choose a background colour or medium. Some artists are outstanding at replicating a photograph, but less confident inventing a composition, which may be something you require. Others are practised at landscape painting, should you want a scenic background.

If you have (hopefully!) chosen an artist whose you have confidence in, you may want to leave the painting entirely in their safe hands. Of course, if you have particular requirements, outside the artist’s normal range, such as a bright pink background, or detailed landscape background, you can discuss with the artist if they feel this is achievable or practical given their abilities, stylistic tendencies and work load.

Once the brief had been agreed and the commission is underway, try to give the artist breathing space and trust in their ability and expertise. The artist will should contact you ahead of your specific deadline or guide time. For longer projects, it is okay to enquire about progress and to make sure things are on track from time to time, but do not pester or rush the artist unnecessarily, e.g. if you have agreed a deadline you are both comfortable with and there is still ample time. If you need to change the brief or deadline, notify the artist as soon as possible to see if they can accomodate this, but do be reasonable and be aware that you have an agreement in place.

The artist may be working on other projects simultaneously and will produce their best work if granted the full time agreed to dedicate to your commission. Some artists will send photos of their progress to assure clients, others prefer to reach a final stage of completion before consulting the client. I personally fall into the latter camp because the finished picture can look very different! Do respect the way the artist likes to work, this will show that you have trust and confidence in their professional abilities and they will be confident to produce their best work.

Avoiding Problems

Copyright of the Work

Whilst you have paid for the art work, and the portrait itself is yours to love and cherish, do note that the copyright of the work still belongs to the artist. Unless you have purchased or been granted the rights to the work by separate contractual agreement, you cannot reproduce the artwork for either personal or professional gain without consulting the artist or you will be breaking copyright law. The artist will probably want to use the image to promote their work (on their website portfolio etc) so you should discuss any concerns you may have in this regard with the artist.

If you looked at the breadth of the artist’s work, when choosing them, you hopefully won’t be disappointed in the overall style and quality of the finished piece. If you feel a small detail is wrong, and the artist permits alterations, write to or speak to the artist promptly and tactfully. Enquire if they would be able to alter the work easily (before it is posted!). Most artists are happy to make minor alterations to achieve a better likeness, but extensive reworkings may not be fair or practical.

Receiving a pet portrait can be a very emotional experience. Once you receive your portrait, please do tell the artist that you are happy with it! Nothing makes me happier than hearing that a portrait has hit the right note. I love it when people send me a photograph of the pet next to its portrait or write to tell me that the recipient shed happy tears over it!

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Don’t Forget I do black and white drawings!

Drawings in pen or pencil in black and white. These are sketches that are affordable, expressive and offer something unique for the pet owner who already has a traditional portrait. We can work together to include the drawings on stationary, letterheads, websites, etc. (license and design fee will apply).

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Happy New Year!

Wishing all my clients and friends a very Happy New Year. 2020 has been a tough year for everyone, myself included. I hope 2021 will be full of happy things and easier times. I plan to paint lots more pictures and to make more things in the coming year. I will keep you informed in my newsletter and blog and I will still be taking orders for pet portraits. Thank you for your support last year, it means a such a lot to me to be able to draw and paint and practice what I love.

Watercolour illustration of a Miniature Schnauzer
Watercolour illustration of a Miniature Schnauzer
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Covid-19

What a troubling time. I hope you are all safe and well. I will be continuing to work from home, taking on commissions, including pet portraits, and my online shop will still be running.

I would be extremely grateful for your continued support and worry about all the small businesses at this challenging time. Please think about how you can support local businesses if you are in a position to do so, as there is very limited government support at present for those who are self-employed.

I hope to create drawing and painting and craft tutorials, available in my newsletters to keep you entertained whilst we are in confinement so please join my mailing list for this and tell your friends who may be looking to take up a new hobby or a seeking nice project to keep children occupied.

Art is such a good therapy and I truly believe anyone can learn to draw with practice!

Much love,

Katherine

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Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas. Thank you to all of you who supported me in 2019.

It was a busy Christmas for me painting lots of dogs of different breeds, but I did manage to have a bit of a rest after completing them all! Here is a selection of this year’s Christmas portraits to show you, along with some other examples from 2019.

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The Colours & Sounds of Autumn

tawny owl illustration
Tawny Owl, watercolour

Somehow, the year has already progressed to Autumn. Whilst I always feel sad about the nights drawing in and the cold damp weather, there are so many wonderful things about this time of year. The light is particularly beautiful, as are the misty mornings, and there is plenty of foraging to be done. One of the highlights for me is hearing the screeching of tawny owls. I am a little bit obsessed with owls! I understand that this is the time of year that the young owls try to establish their own territories. The screech (think “ke-wick!”) that you hear is that of a female owl and the sustained hooting, or “hoo hoo hoo,” is the response of a male tawny (https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/birds-prey/tawny-owl.

I live in rural Kent surrounded by trees so these wonderful birds tend to wake me in the night! They often roost in the hollows of trees as I have tried to describe in this little watercolour. We tend to forget that these nocturnal creatures exist until they surprise us at night.