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December 21, 2016 3 min read

The process of painting involves the artist having to make some subjective judgements as to how do best represent your favourite dog, horse, cat or goldfish! Instead of a mere faithful representation from the photograph, there are normally a few affectations or compromises to be made by the artist to make the painting the most beautiful it can be, the odd line drawn as a curve, the ugly parts beautified and the light made a shade prettier.

Keeping the balance between beauty and reality is the key skill of any fine artist, too much beauty and you end up transforming Quasimodo into the Mona Lisa, too much reality and you end up with a photo! So retaining the harmonious elements of any picture is an art by any form. When you commission your pet portraits it is easiest for you to send us your beloved pet in photo format and then we will work our magic on it! So you don’t really have to worry about what we do in terms of artistic licence, generally speaking the better the photo the less artistic licence we need to use.

We will take a look at the most obvious elements of artistic licence in this series of articles, starting off with colour, known by artists as hue.


Colour or Hue

We will use the term colour rather than the snobby term hue. So we don’t immediately alienate you, and bore you with technical terms!

In pet portraits and paintings and drawings colours play a very important role. Colours communicate a true emotion in a photo. The first surprising thing to learn is that the colours in a photograph may not the real colours the eye would see in nature, the biggest differences occur when the following occur:-

Not using natural sunlight - In some cases, the result of not using natural light (and not making necessary adjustments) is that photographs have the wrong colours. In some cases, your colours may be tinted towards a certain colour often it is blue or grey, resulting from photos being taken indoors.


Exposure time- Another possible reason for skewed colours is exposure. If the exposure is too long, the photo is too bright, so the colours are washed out. On the other hand, if the exposure is too short, of course the colours are too dark, but at a certain setting colours can be too saturated.


Different laptop/tablet etc etc- "When an image is reproduced on a laptop, a magazine page or a photographic print, each of the outputs is slightly different, and the colours may shift or alter a bit.
Professional photographers set their monitor colours to the same calibration, which allows them to get very close with colour accuracy in postproduction. But the same standard doesn't apply to other devices. Most people don’t have the time or energy to look at things on a calibrated monitor.


So you can now see how the artist has to make some changes to the colours to your pet portrait, to make it look real. The next step is that the artist may make some additional colour changes if he thinks the painting will look more beautiful, however it is our experience at pet portraits that most horse portraits and dog portraits don’t need colour changes beyond what is needed to represent the true colour in nature versus the camera, this is because all animals are intrinsically beautiful and humans are very comfortable with their imperfections, so the standards of beauty that a human might impose on say a female supermodel are never imposed upon a beloved pet. This is because the deep bond and relationship one has with your pet, so normally any colour changes for “artistic licence” are normally quite small and subtle are typically just to correct deficiencies in the photographic image.

Finally, don’t confuse colour changes with lighting and shading changes, whereas colour changes will normally be quite small, the lighting and shading changes may be quite large in comparison, this is because lighting effects in pet oil paintings can be quite substantial, this is due to the fact that lighting changes really bring a painting to life, they need to be more emphatic than normal lighting conditions to draw the viewer in and really add a three dimensional effect.