Follow Elena Parashko step by step as she takes you through the painting of a portrait of two dogs


A couple from Germany asked me to paint a portrait of their two much-loved dogs, El-Babu and Ricco. As I am based in Australia, I had to think about the best way to ship the completed painting to them.  Boxing and shipping a wrap-around or framed canvas internationally is quite expensive and risky, with the danger of punctures to the package, so I decided to do the painting on loose primed canvas that could be rolled into a tube.

As it was not possible for me to see the dogs in person, my clients supplied me with a photo (below), which I used as my sole reference for the painting. The tricky part about doing a commission from a photo is that the artist is completely reliant on the information in the photo. Working from a good quality
reference photo, therefore, is essential.

The reference photo taken by the owner of El-Babu and Ricco

My clients requested an image size of 17x21in. (45x54cm) and I added an extra 10cm of blank canvas around the edges to give their framer some excess
canvas to work with. If you would like to try the following demonstration painting in a similar size, just use a standard 16x20in. canvas.

The supplied reference photo had a pretty good composition so I only simplified the wood pile in the background and deleted the reflective window. The dogs were in a good pose, but their eyes were not visible at all. To make a connection with the viewer it was essential to have at least part of their eyes visible so I removed the excess fur. I drew the revised composition to scale on sketch paper using a graphite pencil. Once satisfied with the composition, I placed the drawing on top of the coloured canvas, slipped white transfer paper face down between the drawing and canvas, and traced the drawing using a pen.