This is the second installment in a series documenting Ollie’s portrait process.
I did it. I finally pulled the trigger and commissioned a portrait of my oldest dog, Ollie. I am so excited to see the process each week and am even more excited to get the final product.
As I documented, I selected artist Todd Belcher to paint Ollie’s portrait. Here’s a little more about Todd:
What is your art background?
When I was in the first grade, early in the school year, my class had a contest to see who could draw and color the best gingerbread man, which I won. Later in elementary school, I would help the teacher with bulletin boards by drawing maps of the states and countries we were studying. I junior high and high school I took art classes and began winning awards in the public school system’s county-wide art contests. I then went to Appalachian State University where I earned a BS and Master’s in Art Education. After graduate school, I taught art in public schools, community colleges and universities before becoming a full-time artist in 2003.
Have you always drawn animals?
Until my mid-twenties the subject matter of my art was usually inanimate objects or people. When I was around 25, I did several paintings of penquins, giraffes, elephants and cows. It was not until I was around 40 tha I began painting dogs and cats. My first paintings were of our dog Jimmy in 2002 and I have been drawing and painting dogs and cats ever since.
How would you describe your style?
My style is primarily representational, i.e., realistic when it comes to paintings for clients. Clients provide me with photographs of their pets they feel best capture their likeness and the paintings are based on these images. I often make changes the the photos if requested: sometimes I will combine two separate photos of the pets into one scene or substitute a completely different background.
Do you have any rituals when you begin a painting?
Before beginning the painting I do a small sketch to give the client an idea as to how the painting will be structured. The final painting will be a larger, colored version of the sketch. I want the client ordering the portrait to know exactly how their painting will look and I’m happy to make changes at any step in the process.
I stay inspired because every portrait I do is different and represents a new challenge. Capturing the likenesses of the pets I paint is always a rewarding experience and having people love my work is always satisfying. To be entrusted to capture a moment with someone’s treasured companion is so special and I want each one to be as special and unique as the pet I’m painting. .
Another source of constant inspiration are my dogs and constant companions, Freddie and Joey. They are always near by when I work and bring light and joy to me every day.
What is the most important element to capture when drawing someone’s pet?
By depicting an animal’s likeness, its personality is captured as well. After I have drawn the subject I usually paint the eyes and work out from there. An animal’s facial expression and posture are often indicative of its inner state and, if all the physical elements are correctly represented, then the overall disposition of the animal is represented as well.
What causes do you support? Why?
My wife Stephanie and I are very involved in doing volunteer work for the Forsyth Humane Society. I have donated paintings and prints for various fundraising auctions. In 2006 and 2008, I painted three-dimensional dog forms for Art Unleashed!, an auction event to raise money for the local shelter. My whole life seems to be centered around my love of pets, whether it is painting them or helping raise money for them.
Next Week: More on the portrait progress and we list reasons you will want to have a portrait made of your own pet!
Win a pet portrait! Dog Living and Jimmydog Pet Portraits are teaming up to give two lucky winners custom portraits of their pets by renowned artist Todd Belcher. To enter, “Like” Jimmydog’s Facebook page and post a favorite photo of your pet, along with why you’d like to win a portrait. Visitors to Jimmydog’s page will vote on which photo they like best. The winner will receive an 11”x14” Grand Prize portrait. The runner-up will receive an 8”x10” portrait. Submit your photo by May 16. Winners will be announced May 21. Enter now! (The portrait prizes includes the image of one pet; additional pets can be included for $75 each.)