Standing on the shoulders of giants

At work on a clients portrait I've enjoyed painting for over 35 years and, in that time, I've been able to develop my technique based on the great masters of oil painting. Masters, including Jan van Eyck who developed the technique of using coloured glazes over an monochromatic underpainting, have had a great influence on the way I use oil paint today. The process is a long one, requiring up to 20 glazes to be added to each painting with each glaze needing 12hrs to dry before the next can be applied. However, this all adds to the final effect, the colours glow and have a richness that is not achieved in any other way. My art has been exhibited at the Mall Galleries in London, for notable societies including Royal Society of Marine Artists and the Royal Society of British Artists.

Choosing your photo

To get the best possible result, your photos need to be clear and in focus. Choose an image that shows off the manorism of your pet best, or one that has them in a place that they love and will always be remembered for. If you have several pictures that show different characteristics, send them all through and I can advice on what will work best in your painting. If you are thinking of taking a photo specifically as a reference for a portrait, avoid a flash and use natural light. Whether this is a well lit room or outside space, it's best to also avoid strong directional light, as this will cast dark shadows that will hide important detail. For a better composition, use photos that show your pet slightly askew, not looking straight into the camera. In addition, get in as close to your pet as possible to avoid uneccessary background.

Stars in their eyes

I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to paint portraits of three adhorable Jack Russells owned by antiques expert Tim Wonnacott. Tim, who features on well known BBC TV shows including Antiques Roadshow and Bargain Hunt, commented his painting:

Tim Wonnacott“...I have no hesitation in recommending Rob Tyrrell as a pet portrait painter. From a very ordinary amateur lined-up photograph of our three Jack Russell terriers, Grandmother Midge, Mother Lottie and Granddaughter Coco, he has created not only a lasting work of art in oils on canvas but brought a great source of amusement and pleasure into our family because they look so sweet. Well done!”

Tim Wonnacott's group pet portrait

How I create your portrait

1. Sketch and underpainting

The painting process starts with your photos. Usually, one particular photo is used which shows the subject in a very familiar pose or setting. I can adapt the composition by changing the background, adding or subtracting elements in the photo or combining different pictures to create the final composition. Often, it is useful to have a selection of photos, ideally showing the subject from different angles. At this stage, I will advice what will work best based on the photos you send me. When the composition is decided, a drawing of the image is transferred to the support using the "squaring-up" technique.

The early stages of an oil painting

2. Oil painting

Once the composition is established and the preliminary underpainting has been completed, glazes are required to build up the colour in the picture. Each glaze is a mixture of Liquin oil medium and pigment and allows the lower layers to show through. This is continued over many layers whilst restablishing the light and shade where necessary until the final effect is achieved. Most paintings take on average 7 weeks to complete, however much is dependant on the complexity of the underpainting as well as the tone of the picture(darker pictures usually require more layers than lighter ones). Once I am satisfied, I'll send you a photo of the completed painting.

3. Have your painting framed

Although optional, having your painting framed will add the finishing touch, and really show your picture off to it's best. Every portrait is unique and requires a sympathetic frame to compliment it, I can advice on what frame will best suit your portrait. There are many styles to choose from and I can offer frames in plain or coloured wood, with or without mounts plus bespoke ornate guilt swept frames. Use the contact form to get advice and prices.

Portrait finished with a custom guilt swept frame

Different strokes..

Pet Illustrations

For those who prefer something a little more quirky, I also offer portraits in ink and watercolour with a line and wash technique. These portraits are a little more like illustrations and are intended to exaggerate the character elements in the portrait, often combining other elements to enhance the message. If you're interested in having a portrait in line and wash, use the contact form to send me a few photos and a short description of your pets character, I'll have a look and get back to you with suggestions on possible options.

Contact Details

The best way to get in touch is to use the contact form.

Give me as much detail as you can and if possible attach photos that might be useful as references.

I look forward to hearing from you. ♥

  • Rob Tyrrell. Pet Portraits.
    44 Matlock Rd Caversham
    Reading, RG4 7BS, UK
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