“Ask the artist” – a chance to get your questions answered

Is there such a thing as a perfect pose for a pet portrait?

Good question! The answer is straightforward, no, there is not. But there are a few requirements to make your pet portrait painting the best it can be. I will write a complete blog post on the topic of reference photos soon. So I won’t get into the whole photography tips subject right now. Let’s get back to the question of posing.

The best pose for your pet portrait painting is the pose you love or know the best for YOUR pet. Take a minute and just think of your pet. What do you “see” in front of you? If your pet is an older animal, it might be that he/she sleeps a lot and you have that picture of him or her snoozing in their bed in your mind. Or on your couch lol If you got a young and energetic puppy and you picture your pet, you might imagine him bouncing towards you. Or if nine times out of ten you find your cat looking down at you from the top of the cat tree, well that’s what you will probably picture when you think of your cat right now.


A little story about a dog called Boo

You see, we all think differently when we think of our furry friends. I remember my first time drawing Boo, the German shepherd mix. Aisling, her owner, send me the photo she wanted me to draw and all I could think of was “Why?” All the typical “tips and advice” posts on the internet tell you to take a photo from head-on, on the same level as the pet and so on. Boo’s photo was neither and I couldn’t figure out why would anyone want this particular pose as a drawing. Let’s just say, I was very new to the whole commission business and this had thrown me a bit. So I did what I knew best, I asked my client. “Aisling, why did you pick this particular photo?” I knew Aisling was a talented photographer and I had seen lots of gorgeous photos of Boo, much more standard pet portrait material. So why this one?

Her answer was so simple. Every time they were together, Boo would sit or stand beside Aisling and look up at her, expectantly. The tilt of the head and the eye contact, that was what Aisling thought of every time she thought of Boo. So, of course, it made perfect sense to draw her pet portrait that way too!


I learned so much from this simple question I asked back in 2008.  You know your pet better than anyone. Imagine your dog loves nothing more than playing with a tennis ball and everytime you think of him you see him with a tennis ball in his mouth. Chances are you will either have already a ton of photos of him with his ball or at least it will be easy to get one. A pet portrait with his tennis ball will feel like the most natural thing in the world to you. On the contrary, if your cat hates to sit on the purple sequin cushion in your living room and avoids it like the devil lives in it, you probably won’t want your cat’s portrait to include the purple sequin cushion! Your mind can’t see the connection.

So as a simple guide to posing your pet ….. don’t do it. Try and capture what your pet loves doing best and what you love about your pet best. You will both have a better time taking photos and the resulting photos and of course the resulting pet portrait will have a much deeper meaning for you.