oil paintings and photography by Amber Honour

Completed Dog Portrait Commission “Trigger”

Completed Dog Portrait Commission “Trigger”
8×10 oil on canvas “Trigger”


I mentioned a while back that I had three portraits in progress that I needed to finish. I finished one! This is a commission I did for my mother-in-law. I had given her a portrait of her dog Dopey last Christmas and she soon after requested portraits of her other dogs. When she saw this painting of  Trigger, she loved it and said that I even managed to make him look like an asshole.

Nailed it! He is a bit of an asshole. 😉

I really like painting dog portraits. For whatever reason, it’s easier to get a good likeness than it is with people portraits. Is it that dogs have slightly more generic faces? I can definitely pick my dog out of a lineup, but for the most part all dogs within the same breed look the same to me. Is it just that people are face-blind to animals because we’re wired to read human faces? Is it that particular type of face-blindness that makes portraits of animals easier? Maybe my likeness is off and no one can see it because we just don’t pick up on those subtle variations. Or, maybe it is a perfect likeness and dogs do have generic faces.

The weird things I think about.

I’m not saying this was the easiest painting for me. I struggled with it a bit. It was more of a mental struggle than actual painting, but I struggled with that too. For whatever reason, I was afraid to work on it out of fear of messing it up. Sometimes you just have to mess it up to move on though, which is what I did. Several times. I had to keep reminding myself that I’m at a point (finally) where I’m capable of identifying and fixing the mistakes I make. The real miracle would be to not make mistakes in the first place. I’m not entirely sure that is an achievable goal, but I’m giving it a go.



Anyway, the initial sketch (which I loved) wasn’t super accurate which led me to struggle with the right eye and move the right ear to the right towards the end. Painting the muzzle was just a pain. No matter how much I tried, it just looked wrong. I didn’t want to paint fur outright, but found myself doing just that over and over, and blending it out over and over. It continued to look wrong right up until the very end when I finally decided to call it and stepped back. It was done! Not done because I gave up in frustration, but actually done. The vision in my head and the painting finally matched up. Weird how that happens sometimes.

Photos of this painting and many others in progress are available on my Instagram account.

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