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Critiques of Dog Portraits

January 15, 2022
By Richard Robinson
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Bamsi 15x15" oil on board by Richard Robinson.

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Painting a Dog Portrait

Some of my earliest paintings were of friends dogs and cats, as I'm sure many artists can attest to. It's an honour to be given the job of capturing their loved one on canvas, and so very rewarding to see the response (sometimes tearful) from a happy client, letting you know you've done a good job and that your care and attention to detail paid off.

I've done a few people portraits in my time too, but they are a lot trickier to get just right, because of course we all pay much more attention to the nuances of human faces. In that respect I prefer painting pet portraits where you can be a little more free with your drawing and brushwork. With furry animals, if you're careful and get the eyes and the nose right, the rest is much easier.



Student Critiques


My standard poodle Zoey by Martha Waardenburg

Hi Martha, great painting. I like how you've kept it mainly greys except for the pink collar which really pops. Good painterly brushwork with lots of energy and enough detail in the eyes, nose and collar to hold the whole painting together.

I'd only recommend that you darken the light area just above the nose making it blend more gradually into the lighter grey and also run a darker glaze over the left side of the collar to shade it a little, and perhaps add a few curls of light on the right shoulder as well to avoid flatness. Good job!


Doggi, oil, canvas, 35 cm x 35 cm by Elena Sokolova

Beautiful work Elena, as usual. The only little thing I'd change is the colouring of the top half of the left ear which seems conspicuously more yellow than any other part of the face, so it needs a little more orangey brown.


Bamsie by Denis King

Hey Denis, great work here. The drawing is sound enough, colouring is good and there's a good variety of brushwork and lost and found edges. The darks of the eyes look a little too light, but perhaps that's glare off the paint. Overall, nice!


"Lady" by Fay Thomson

Beautiful done, Fay. I'd just suggest darkening the darks in the eyes a little more because they look a little glazed at the moment.


Puppy by Barbara Magor

Good effort Barbara. I'm loving the bold brushwork. I'd like you to take another look at how the colour gets darker in the shadows of the muzzle and mouth, and also the chest beneath the chin. You need that to stop the face looking flat. Also, look at the light strips in the eyes, and note that the glints in the eyes should not be the same. Keep at it!


Bamsi by Lynne Walley

Gidday Lynne, thanks for your painting. I'm loving the energy of your brushstrokes and the contrast between that and the fine detailed work in the eyes and nose. Nicely done! You've made the eyes a little smaller which has aged Bamsi a few years, but basically it's still Bamsi. Great!


Puppy by Nancy Newton

Great job Nancy, you've made Bamsi look even younger than the photo by lowering the eyes a little and making the nose smaller. Not intentional I guess but, hey, he looks as cute as a button.

Really nice colouring and brushwork and some great soft edges there. If you glaze a little grey over the white on the left of his neck that'll help that area sit back in the shadow a bit and stop competing with the white of the muzzle.

While you're at it, using that same grey glaze across the base of the muzzle and mouth can give that a better sense of roundness.


Paint a portrait of a beautiful puppy.

Learn how to draw a dog more accurately, how to sculpt the form with large planes, how to create an elegantly subdued colour scheme using a simple palette, how to use just a few sharp details to bring your dog to life, and a lot more.

Paint along step by step or paint your own dog using these techniques. (Also makes a great present for a pet lover you know). Enjoy!



Learn About

  • Starting with an abstract ground
  • Sculpting with large planes
  • Using a limited palette
  • The importance of edge control
  • Critical finishing details
  • and LOTS more!

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