Sian de N burst into my life when she turned up for a head and shoulders sitting, bringing her devoted border terrier, Dolly, along for the ride. Sian is one of the most fun and energetic women I have met in years and we hit it off famously and felt like old friends within minutes.
She wanted to commission a portrait of herself for her husband Roddy’s birthday in November. We had provisionally planned to do an oil head and shoulders but when Dolly turned up with her it seemed far more appropriate to do a painting of the two of them together. Altogether much more fun.
Proving the maxim ‘never work with animals or children’ absolutely wrong, Dolly was a most obliging sitter. She hopped up onto Sian’s lap, snuggled up and patiently went with the flow while we endlessly changed room, moved furniture, changed the pose until we had the composition and light that reflected Sian’s nature and her relationship with the wonderful Dolly.
I wanted the painting to be loose, vibrant and energetic to reflect Sian’s incredible vitality. The colours are repeated throughout the composition to emphasise the unity and closeness between Sian and her dog. And glints of jewellery lead the eye around the composition. Rather than just a portrait of a lady, this is a painting about her relationship with her much-loved dog. And I am very pleased with the result.
Although the challenge more than doubles when doing a portrait of someone with their dog (or cat) as you need good likenesses of both within a composition that makes sense, it is one of my favourite types of portrait commission.