Dog portrait drawing of Sparky the playful Australian Shepherd-Border Collie mix

Sparky artwork mockup

I got a nice surprise when Meredith reached out to me to see if I’d like to work on a portrait of her dad’s dog. She loved the one her husband had commissioned me to do of their own dog, Ross, and wanted to give her dad the portrait for his upcoming birthday.

Sparky is a playful Australian Shepherd-Border Collie mix who knows lots of tricks that his dad taught him. Meredith wanted to explore a Western cowboy theme, which I thought sounded like a lot of fun! I provided a few concepts for her to choose from, and she selected the one with a classic red rancher bandana, a rope lasso in his mouth, and wheat for the botanical frame.

His fur looked so soft in the reference photos she sent, so I concentrated on making it capture that feel in his portrait. And I like the way he looks like he’s ready to go play — as if he’s saying “Ok, I grabbed the lasso…let’s go!”

It always means so much to me when people trust me to create a special gift for their loved ones. I hope Meredith’s dad was thrilled with the portrait of his best friend.

hand drawn mixed media portrait of Sparky the playful Australian Shepherd-Border Collie mix

If you’re interested in having me draw a portrait of your dog, just reach out with the form below.

Tribute to our special cat

Last July, not long after moving to North Carolina, a stylist from Country Living Magazine reached out to me on Etsy. She was looking for unique items for a special pet feature they were creating for the October 2018 issue and was interested in working with me to secure one of my hand drawn custom pet portraits.

Best in Show Pet Portraits Country Living Magazine Oct 2018
“Best in Show” Pet Awards featuring custom pet portraits in Country Living Magazine, October 2018 issue

hand drawn mixed media portrait of our cat big guy

The deadline was tight, but I was able to make it work — I was over the moon at the opportunity to be featured in a magazine! And I thought it was particularly nice that it was Country Living, given I had just moved to the country myself. When I asked the stylist if she had a particular direction in mind, she said she’d love to see a ginger tomcat.

Well, that could not have been a more perfect idea for me since I used to have two cats that fit that description. My husband and I adopted Big Guy and Little Guy, a pair of litter mates from a farm near our hometown in Iowa pretty much the second after we moved in together. They were with us for about 16 years and even when it was challenging (through naughtiness, illnesses, and general messes) we loved every day we had with them. They were truly special cats.

I brainstormed some ideas and settled on doing a portrait of Big Guy. He was stoic, gentle, and very sweet. I gave him a buffalo plaid scarf because he reminded me of  a lumberjack — the strong, silent type. His favorite toy was a feather on a wand and when he played with it his eyes got super intense and focused. For his botanical frame, I chose oak branches, which remind me of farms in Iowa.

Working on a product that gets featured in a magazine has always been a dream of mine. When I was a full-time graphic designer, I imagined it happening for one of my clients. But never really for my own work! This was such a fantastic experience and I’m grateful for the team at Country Living for giving me the opportunity to participate in the feature.

Oil portrait of my favorite Morkie

As an owner of a handmade business, connecting with loyal customers fills me with appreciation and gratitude. People have so many options when it comes to trusting another with their time, money, and of course, their pet’s happiness and well-being. I was lucky to meet someone a few years ago with a little Morkie named Maks, and she has been an incredibly loyal and gracious customer — and friend!

When the holidays came near I knew I wanted to give Missy something special to celebrate and show my appreciation. As I brainstormed ideas with my husband, he suggested painting a portrait of Maks. Which was totally perfect, as this aligns with where I’m taking Oxford Dogma.

I’ve been working with oil paints for several months and took a course in the fine art of painting dog portraits, but hadn’t actually painted a dog. This was the perfect opportunity! Luckily Maks’ mom sends me lots of adorable photos of him so I was able to pick one and keep it a surprise.

5x7 oil painting portrait of Maks the Morkie
5×7 original oil painting of Maks the Morkie

maks portrait reference

How cute is this little guy?! Capturing his big, brown eyes was my top priority. And I also wanted to convey his sense of curiosity and intelligence (he’s the smartest dog I’ve ever met — no offense to my little Pipsqueak).

I wrapped the portrait up for Christmas and included it in Missy’s most recent order. She was delighted with it and framed it almost immediately.

Maks is a lucky guy who’s loved to pieces and I only hope this portrait helps support the bond he shares with his family.

Changes to Oxford Dogma

Pivot: embracing growth, adaptation, and change

In 2015 when I created Oxford Dogma, I was focused on designing and sewing accessories for dogs rooted in classic style and that solved problems for dog parents. It has been a remarkable experience for me! Getting to know people through a mutual love of our dogs is wonderful and knowing I’m helping them fulfill their desire to be good pet parents is so rewarding.

As I worked on building the business, I quite naturally added in some portrait projects. First as gifts for friends who supported me in tremendous ways, and then as products available in my shop. My portrait style is ever-evolving and currently the portraits are available as mixed-media drawings with a quirky yet classic style. (If you’re interested in ordering a portrait of your dog or a gift for your favorite pet parent you can reach me through my contact page.)

What’s next

Over the last year I’ve had the intention to put more time into my art development and offer more artwork for pet lovers and other fine art projects. But the reality of the accessories I started Oxford Dogma with made this near-impossible. Sewing takes a LONG time!! Or at least it does when you’re as particular as I am about the finished product. There’s no such thing as quick-and-dirty in my studio ;)

So as of December 31, 2018, I took my final custom order and intend to shift away from sewing and toward artwork. For the time being, the items I had already completed are still available in my Etsy shop, along with custom pet portraits I’d like to do more of.

I’m excited to work toward my goals this year and I hope the new year brings you lots of energy to work on your own goals as well as oodles of snuggles with your fur babies!

Dog portrait drawing of Ross the Husky/German Shepherd mix

Final drawing of Ross the Husky-German Shepherd mix

Zach reached out to me about making a portrait of his rescue dog, Ross, as a gift for his wife. It’s always so touching to me that people trust me with making special gifts for their loved ones! And when he explained the concept he had in mind I was super excited to sketch it out.

Reference photo of Ross with his sister
Ross, pictured with his sister, Cici. What a great smile!

Ross is an adventurous Husky/German Shepherd mix, so Zach wanted to see him with a Daniel Boone-inspired look. He suggested a coon skin hat and straw hanging out of his mouth — which also connected to their home state of Kentucky. That hat sounded particularly fun to draw.

They also have big maple trees in their yard, so we decided on a fall-colored maple leaf border.

Sketch of Ross with a Daniel Boone-style adventure concept

Ross was so much fun to draw. I love how his eyes, paired with that smile, have a curious sparkle to them. The leaves are done in watercolor, which I experimented with until I got the gradient effect of the changing colors that I was after.

That coon skin hat is such a great touch! I’m so glad he suggested it — it makes this portrait super unique and personal.

Final drawing of Ross the adventurous Husky-German Shepherd mix

Happy birthday to Zach’s wife! I hope she was surprised and thrilled with the portrait of her fur kid.

If you’re interested in having me draw a portrait of your dog, just reach out with the form below.

 

Dog portrait drawings of Mabel and Abby

custom hand drawn dog portraits of Mabel and Abby-detail

OK, I fully admit I have a soft spot in my heart for small dogs in particular…but this pair of larger dogs totally captured my heart, too.

This was another portrait commission that came out of the  r/AccidentalWesAnderson subreddit post my husband made. Mabel’s and Abby’s dad, Wayne, emailed me to see if I could draw his dogs as a surprise for his wife. He describes Mabel as a big clumsy dog that’s scared of the world and Abby as an angsty teenager.

Wayne left it up to me to create concepts to tell the stories of their personalities. For Mabel, since she’s scared of the world, I combined a scared expression with a butterfly on her nose to represent something non-threatening that she’d be unnecessarily afraid of. The floral border is inspired by lilies, which is a flower that symbolizes humility and devotion. To me this suggests an innocence that resonates with the description of her being big and clumsy + scared of the world, as well as the devotion of a dog. Her size in relation to the frame and name banner suggests that idea of being big and awkward.

For Abby, I used the description of being an angsty teenager to incorporate elements associated with an angsty teen: headphones so they can tune out the world that doesn’t understand them, and dried up roses that suggest sensitivity while being a bit edgy. Her expression is a cross between pained and apathetic. Anyone else thinking of the movie Say Anything right now??

sketches of dog portraits for Mabel and Abby

I knew that for Abby I wanted to go with darker colors to fit with her angsty disposition. So to contrast with that and be in keeping with the butterfly and lilies, Mabel’s color palette is more soft and innocent.

custom hand drawn dog portraits of Mabel and Abby

One of my favorite parts of making these portraits is working with the eyes and eyebrows to capture the right expression. There’s so much potential there! And that moment when I add the white highlights in the eyes is just the icing on the cake.

After a few weeks of shipping the portraits to Wayne, I asked if he’d given them to his wife yet. I didn’t want to post about them and accidentally spoil the surprise. But he said he couldn’t wait until her birthday to give them to her — which is what happened when Libbie ordered portraits of her dogs Scout and Tuck. I think that’s about the best compliment. Thank you to Wayne for allowing me to create portraits of these special girls!

Drawing of Buster the French Bulldog

 

portrait of Buster the French Bulldog

How cute is Buster?! This was another portrait commission that came out of the  r/AccidentalWesAnderson subreddit post my husband made. This French Bulldog’s dad, John, emailed me after he saw the portrait of Scout. He wanted to capture a few things in the portrait:

  1. a beret (after all, il est francais!)
  2. Buster’s favorite toy, which John and his wife call Olympic man

The photo he provided was absolutely fantastic, and since he described his little guy as alert but not overly hyper, I thought it was the perfect reference angle. The slight head cock and expression lent themselves well to capturing his alertness — he looks very curious, like he’s absorbing everything he hears.

I asked John if he had any other words to describe Buster, and he said “sleepy and hungry. It’s all he does.” lol!

The toy they call Olympic Man was apparently part of a BarkBox at some point…I mentioned it to my friend Niki (dog mom to Fiona) and she remembered getting it herself. I thought that was so cute.

Buster the French Bulldog reference photos

To get around Buster’s ears, I sketched the beret in a shrunk-down size so it nestles down between them. I envisioned it in a classic dark blue because that would coordinate well with the decor I saw in the photo.

John suggested we portray Olympic Man like an Olympic medal, hanging around his neck, which was exactly what I had been imagining when he first mentioned the toy. I love it when that happens!

Since we had this Olympic theme going, I chose olive branches for the botanical element along the sides because it’s what they used to crown winning athletes with.

sketch of Buster the French Bulldog

Since Buster’s coloring is white, charcoal grey, and soft pink, I wanted to keep his color palette rather muted. The olive branches fit perfectly with this, and don’t overpower the blue and gold medal.

I took an in-progress photo every so often so I look back and see how it developed.

 

 

I’m super happy with how this portrait came out, especially when I look into his eyes. The soft grey-blue shines like he’s going to pop off the paper and start walking around.

mixed media custom portrait drawing of Buster the French Bulldog

If you’re interested in having me draw a portrait of your dog, just reach out with the form below.

 

Drawing of Cooper, the fearless rescue dog

Cooper in progress detail-sq

I’ve had an awesome month, art-wise. Well, lots of other ways, too! But anyway, a month ago my husband discovered the r/AccidentalWesAnderson subreddit (we’re both Wes Anderson fans). Since it ended up having a vibe appropriate for this thread, he shared my portrait of Scout on it. The next morning we discovered tons of comments and enthusiasm about the piece and several people reached out to see how they could get a drawing of their dog as well.

One of these fellow Wes Anderson fans who messaged me was Cooper’s dad, Zachary. He loved the human expression captured in Scout’s face and had a fantastic concept in mind for his dog’s portrait. Cooper had been rescued from the top of a mountain, is a fearless jumper, and has a habit of squinting in an unamused way when it’s windy.

Zachary combined these elements (and Cooper’s trademark giant ears!) and imagined him as an old-school bi-plane pilot with a scarf, toothpick, and mountains in the background. Very creative concept, and I was excited to be able to work on it.

Cooper reference photos for custom drawing

The first sketch I created with these elements was looking good to me. But when I got Zachary’s feedback he helped make it even better by suggesting the mountains get taller and skinnier, and moving the bi-plane into the distance. It pushed the whimsical nature of the drawing, and helped create a sense of depth.

sketches of Cooper

It’s always so cool when a collaboration like this helps take a project to a new level! It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of creating for me.

I took an in-progress photo every so often so I look back and see how it developed.

I really like how alive the eyes are — the combination of squint and raised eyebrows has that human look Zachary was looking for. When I sent him the image to check out before shipping the final artwork, he said it was just how he had imagined. Which totally made my day.

Final mixed media drawing of Cooper the fearless rescue dog

Portrait of a Corgi with his signature smile

After I had the pleasure of drawing portraits of a friend’s dogs last fall, another friend saw them and asked if I would create a portrait of her business partner’s dog, Gumby.

Rebekah wanted to give the portrait to her partner and his wife as a Christmas present, and I was so happy that she trusted me with the project. She sent a few photos of Gumby with different expressions. And she wanted to include elements of his favorite blanket (that went with him on a very special beach vacation) and the fern in their back yard that he likes to…”visit” several times a day ;)

To get started, I made sure we were on the same page with approach by creating initial sketches based on her concepts and photos.

Sketched concepts for portrait artwork of Gumby the Corgi

Rebekah picked the sketch on the left, saying that the goofy smile definitely feels like signature Gumby. 

I only took one in-progress picture of this one. It’s so fascinating to me to see how the drawings begin as flat contour sketches, and bit by bit develop into something so expressive.

in progress drawing of Gumby the Corgi

The final portrait really captures Gumby’s big smile and happy personality. And the sparkle in his eyes! I just want to give him a big bear hug. His blanket design is incorporated into the name banner, and his favorite fern frames him on the sides.

portrait of Gumby the Corgi

Rebekah had the portrait framed for gifting. I wasn’t there when she gave it to her partner and his wife, but she said they got tears in their eyes when they saw it. And they got it out again during dinner to look at it again. When she told me this story I teared up myself! It was so touching and I absolutely love that I was able to help them have a merry Christmas.

I’m so happy to be making these portraits for dog lovers! It’s something I’d like to be doing more of, so if you’d like to chat about a custom portrait of your dog, you can fill out this form:

Quirky dog portraits of a pair of beloved hounds

Last fall my friend, Libbie, saw one of my Instagram posts of Dachshund illustrations and asked if I could draw portraits of her two dogs as a Christmas gift to her wife, Lindsay.

Yes, please!

She wanted capture them in a quirky way and had fantastic concepts in mind. For Scout, their black and white hound mix with adorable spots, she wanted to reflect his aloofness by portraying him as a Frenchman with a beret and cigarette hanging out of his mouth. And for Tuck, their dark brown hound with sweet eyes, she wanted to feature a bib around his neck to reflect his food-motivated personality.

She was also hoping to include floral edging around the dogs with their names below, to frame them nicely on the paper. And with the quirky approach she was after, I recommended using hand-drawn techniques, with evidence of the imperfections and personality of the materials showing through rather than the digital look (which is more smooth and polished).

I hadn’t met her dogs before, so I loved seeing the photos she sent! I also asked if she had any favorite plants or flowers that I could consider for the frame.

 

To get started, I made sure we were on the same page with approach by creating initial sketches based on her concepts and photos.

Concept sketches of the illustration artwork for Scout and Tuck
Before moving on to the final paper and materials, I created these sketches to make sure the direction was approved.

Libbie loved the sketches and requested that I make the floral frame in a style like one of my watercolor wreaths that she spotted on my Instagram feed:

watercolor wreath

I remembered to take a few progress photos…that’s something I really want to do more of, but it’s so hard to remember!

 

I’m so happy with how the final portraits turned out. They’re made with colored pencil (all of the little fur details drawn stroke by stroke), with watercolor and gouache for the floral frame and banner. I used accent colors that would coordinate with the area of the house she wanted to hang them.

Colored pencil dog portraits of Scout and Tuck

And the best part: she was thrilled with them and couldn’t wait until Christmas to give them to her wife. Who picked right up on all of the details that we had worked so hard to include. It was an amazing project and I hope to do a lot more artwork like this!

“I love them so so much!! Gah. I’m literally so in love with these. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Oh, and the best, best part! Lindsay pointed out an influence of Wes Anderson in them, whose classic-yet-quirky style I find so inspiring.

If you’d like to chat about a custom portrait of your dog, you can fill out this form: