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:

A look at the Custom Pet Portrait creation process

sketching process for custom pet portrait of Archie the Chi mix


This post is a part of Custom Pet Portrait series, where I share an in-depth look and answer questions. The rest of the posts are linked at the end of this post.


Each Oxford Dogma Pet Portrait is custom made to order, meaning I have a process that I use to fulfill the order but each one is treated individually, with care. And I know it’s totally worth the care that goes into them when I get a response like this:

“I am obsessed with these. You nailed their expressions perfectly. I am amazed at how much personality you can see in these!”

—Danette, dog mom to Watson and Angie

Step 1: Gather the source images

Because I really want each illustration to reflect the unique personality of each pet, the project begins with you answering questions about your pet and sending me photos for visual reference. The photos show me things like the way your pet sits or stands, their facial expressions, coat and coloring, and even a special accessory or toy.

Step 2: Getting to know your pet

I start by spending some time looking over each photo and making notes about the key things the pet parent wants to incorporate. For example, some of the requests that people have made include:

  • the look their dog gives people when they walk by
  • their dog’s favorite chew toy
  • a signature collar
  • strawberries, to reference the way a dog likes to watch her parents garden

I also make note of key characteristics that the breed might have. My portraits are a clean and simple style, so picking up on iconic features allows me to simplify while still communicating the important traits.

Step 3: Sketching it out

Then I begin making pencil sketches of the pet. Even though the final artwork is a digital illustration, the sketching step helps me gain a deeper understanding of the lines of the pet and their physical character.

After I have enough sketches to draw from (usually 3-5), I snap pictures of the sketches and bring them into Adobe Illustrator.

Step 4: Digitizing the illustration

Here’s where I turn it into a clean, vector illustration. (Vector just means that it’s infinitely scalable without losing quality. As opposed to “raster” which is what you’d get if you had a .jpg or .png, and if you stretch them up in size they look grainy and uneven.) I love the powerful drawing tools in Illustrator and the flexibility of resizing the image without worry.

While drawing the illustration on the computer, I personalize it with colors picked up from the photos and add in the additional elements such as a collar or pillow. Since I have so much experience using this software (more than twenty years!) I’m able to express those little details that help make each portrait unique to the particular pet. For one dog, she had a collar with a particularly detailed pattern on it, and my familiarity with the software made it a piece of cake to create.

Step 5: Taking a final look

Once I’m happy with the illustration, I create a framed mockup image of it so you can see how it might actually look hung on a wall with a mat and frame. It can be really hard to mentally make that jump from computer screen to final printed product, so this step helps you see it in context rather than just a plain image on your screen.

This framed mockup is sent to the customer before creating the final art print. Because of my graphic design background, I tend to see a project like this as the intersection between art and design. So I like to give customers the opportunity to have a look at the artwork before making the final art print. Pet parents know their fur babies so well, and I would hate to accidentally miss one of those key characteristics they see in them! Typically there’s either no change needed, or something minor like a change to a color or an adjustment to a feature on the pet.

Step 6: The art print

Currently I use Society6 for printing the 8×10 art print. Their quality is fantastic and they use archival inks and papers. I place the order for the print and it’s delivered straight to whatever U.S. mailing address you provide.

Update: I’m excited to say that I’m now able to print these in-house! You’ll still get the archival inks and paper, but some time will be shaved off. And I’ll be able to sign each one, so you’ll get a print signed by the artist which adds to the art quality of them.

And if you choose to purchase the digital artwork file as a part of your order, you can use your choice of printing service to order accessories with your pet’s image.

The process I use to get to the final portrait has been very effective — the response is overwhelmingly positive, which is immensely satisfying as a creator! I’m so happy that people love their portraits. And one thing I wasn’t expecting when I added this item to my shop is how much people like giving them as gifts to family, friends, and clients. Being able to help them say “I know how much you love your pet!” is really special.

“This is SO cute! You really captured her perfectly. I love the blanket, the bully stick, the collar…it’s so Izzy!”

— Shaina, dog aunt to Izzy

Ordering your own Custom Pet Portrait

Do you know someone who’d love to receive a custom-illustrated art print of their pet? (Or is that someone you??) Send me a note with the form on my contact page and I’ll follow up with next steps.

And if you have any questions, please let me know! You can email me at amy@oxforddogma.com or fill out my contact form.


Want to read more about the Custom Pet Portrait? The other posts in this series can be found here:

Mutt Love leashes in progress

mutt leash in greys with pink stitching

It drives me crazy when things are wasted. Whether it’s food or materials in my workshop, making the most out of what I have feels so much better. It’s one of the reasons I like using reclaimed materials for my products.

I also like to encourage adoption of pets over going to breeders. And what do you usually find at the shelters? Mutts! For a new batch of Mutt Love leashes, I’m piecing together bits and scraps left over from other projects that came from wool and cotton jackets and trousers. Together they make something unique and interesting, just like those mystery fur babies that need rescuing and fill our lives with so much love.

 

A batch of small and large Pocket Critters in the works

The first step of producing each item in the Oxford Dogma workshop starts with planning: what fabrics in what colors will come together in harmony to result in something classic, with subtle details and timeless qualities.

Next comes the cutting! Not my favorite part (it’s tough on my scissors-holding hand) but when everything is all lined up, ready for the next step, it gives me a little thrill. Soon, these pieces will be a thing that will make a pet feel loved, and someone feel like a caring pet parent.

Currently, I’m working on a batch of Pocket Critters (as a part of my preparation push for an upcoming handmade market event in Phoenix) in two sizes: large for dogs, and small for cats.

pocket critters on the cutting table
A short stack of Pocket Critters, all of the pieces cut out and ready to start putting together
pocket critter ears
After the ears are sewn and turned right-side-out, they make a delightful little pillow-like shape
assembling pocket critters
Mise en place isn’t just for the kitchen: the fronts and backs are pinned together, with ears and labels sandwiched in place

Canvas pet toy bins with classic boat-tote styling

Pipsqueak picking out a toy from the canvas bin

I have a love for tote bags. I’d say especially tote bags made with canvas. And I wanted to translate this affection for a utilitarian, elegantly-simple, classic staple into something for pets and the home.

Being a fan of classic design, classic boat-tote styling is a big inspiration to me, and I incorporated this aesthetic into the canvas pet toy bin design. This foldover bin stores several (smaller-scaled) pet toys right on the floor, so pets can reach in and pull them out. The goal is to provide some flexible, pet-friendly organization in a simple, unobtrusive way.

The contrasting base comes up from the bottom enough to add interest, and the exposed corner flaps stitched in place at the sides have a directness and honesty of form that I strive for.

canvas bin with grey canvas and reclaimed houndstooth wool

I initially made a batch of just three bins, to see what people would think. There was enough interest to encourage me to add another small batch to my maker schedule, and that’s what I’m making in the workshop this week.

Each of these new bins is made with sturdy canvas, soft cotton lining, and a fold-down accent made from reclaimed wool. I focus on choosing color groupings that work well in living spaces, as well as those that fit with the Oxford Dogma style.

To take a look at the available bins, visit my Etsy shop.

And if you’d like to be notified by when new pet toy bins are available, just fill in your email address below.