Every now and then I'm asked to do a pet portrait to be given as a surprise gift to someone. It always adds another dimension to the basic challenge.
How do you see your dog (or cat)? Serious or silly? Funky or fastidious? Do you have a favorite pose or facial expression? Well, in dealing one step removed, I don't get to ask those questions. Sometimes the result is a happy accident in which I manage to catch that "oh, yes, that's MY dog," feeling. Other times, well not so much.
Such is the story of Mollie and Sadie. Both of these darling girls are rescues that share a home with friends of mine. When I was asked by the husband to paint the girls for his wife's birthday, I was thrilled. When I went to meet them, I learned that each human has "their" dog. Mollie, the darker dog, belongs to the husband; and Sadie belongs to the wife.
I got a bunch of photos by email. This was the basic pose wanted, just more forward facing. I also got a bunch of close ups of Mollie and one or two of Sadie. That should have been a clue. Note how white and fluffy Sadie is in the photo. She had just had a bath and was sitting in full sun. I learned later this is not her normal look, and it's not mom's favorite look. Oops.
So, in blissful ignorance, I went to work. Pretty soon Molly and Sadie appeared, and frankly it was one of my favorites. I love the two of them together.
I delivered the painting to dad, who was quite happy, showed all his buddies and hid it away for mom's birthday. I waited, anxious to hear that mom loved it too.
Well, the day after her birthday, I got a text from mom. Could I, would I add more color into Sadie; it just didn't look like her. Of course, but where did I got wrong? Mom sent me several photos of "her" Sadie, who is a bit of a ruffian, has much more color in her face and ears and always has a bit of shaggy hair hanging down over the socket of her missing eye.
Of course I could, and of course I would.
This time I got to send mom a proof by text and got back "Yes, that's my girl!!!" And that is the response I want. The lesson for me: Make sure I know what I'm doing! Ask more questions. Be certain the person answering knows the answers. If not, perhaps suggest the gift be a certificate for the painting, so the owner can provide their favorite photo(s) and in put. Yep. Lesson learned.