Celebrate Your Pet With a Unique Portrait in Oil


At work on a clients portrait When it comes to pet portraiture, the choice of artist can have a big influence on the final piece, their painting style often adding (or subtracting) to the way your pet is portrayed on the canvas.

Rob Tyrrell is a UK based pet portrait artist using the traditional techniques of the Old Masters to create portraits in oil that jump off the canvas. The majority of his work comes from dog owners however, cats can also be very characterful and property can also benefit from his more traditional painting technique. This technique uses a series of glaze that are laid over an 'under painting' to build up colour and depth. The accumulation of which helps create a painting that has warmth and a 'presence' that reflects life and activity.

Rob uses the photos taken by the pet owner as references and, whilst in some cases these are sourced from previous collections, it's much better to have those photos taken specifically for the purpose. This allows the owner to make sure important character details are included. In addition, other considerations such as location and toys can also be included in the final painitng, all adding to the final effect.

Rob has been painting for over 35 years and, in that time, has developed his technique which is based on that of the great masters of oil painting. Masters, including Jan van Eyck who first developed the process of using coloured glazes. The process can be 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.

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

Included in Rob's painting portfolio the 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 your portrait is created

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. However, the composition can be adapted by changing the background, adding or subtracting elements or combining different photos to create the final image. Often, it is useful to have a selection of photos, ideally showing the subject from different angles. Your photos can be sent by using the contact form below or attaching them to an email. On receipt of your photos, you'll be adviced on what will work best and how the images can be used to create your finished portrait. When the composition is decided, a drawing of the image is transferred to the support using the "squaring-up" technique, which acts as a guide for the lights and darks in the picture.

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). When completed, you'll be sent a photo 'proof' of the painting for approval.

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. Rob has many frame styles to choose from and 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 portrait greetings Cards
Pet portraits greetings card with caption

Personal greeting cards

Use your pet portrait on the front of a greetings card or as a logo on stationery! This is a superb way of creating very personal cards for birthdays, thank you's or anything else. You can use an oil portrait though, for something much simpler, Rob can also create illustrations using ink and watercolour. These can be combined with messages that can be printed on the front or inside of the cards. If you're interested in ordering some greeting cards or stationery pack, use the contact form to send reference photos and a short description of your pets character.

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
  • You can also send me a text message on: