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Black Long Haired Cat Portrait

Artist's Statement

"When I study a photograph of a dog or cat that I am to paint, I feel excitement but also some trepidation and the weight of responsibility. I know how much this dear animal means to its family and I feel deeply in my heart that I have to get it right. For each commissioned portrait represents a real being, an individual pet cherished by its owners. Many are posthumous images which preserve the memory of a beloved family pet.  My pet portraits tend to be small and intimate representations of a specific, recognizable dog or cat set against a fanciful abstract background. These are never generic images. I pay great attention to detail in order to depict with great accuracy an animal’s face. I start with the most characteristic and challenging parts of the face, namely the eyes and the nose.  Ears are very distinctive especially in dogs and fur grows in certain directions. The markings on animals are specific and I try to be as faithful as I can in reproducing the lines, patterns and overall coloration that makes a dog or cat special.  That is where realism ends and whimsy begins. My patterned backgrounds are more freely rendered than the portrait itself. I love to be playful and creative. Sometimes I get inspired by something I spotted in the photograph. I love using rich colours and creating designs that I invent. But, if a client prefers a more neutral uniform colour, that’s okay too. Although I clearly strive for a lifelike representation, I believe that that my pet portraits speak to more than just the way a dog or cat looks. They also express the reciprocity of enduring, unconditional love between us and our pets."

-Monique Westra

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