It’s all Relative
Occasionally a client will ask me to paint a portrait of a special family member, and they’re usually really hairy with bad breath and four-legs. Luckily, some of my best friends fit that description!
As it happens, I’m working on pet portrait commissions for two different clients right now.
My sister Pia Ledy, also a lifelong creative professional, is an accomplished oil painter too. Pet portraits are one of her specialties.
Though we didn’t start out doing art together, she and I have each been painting for years, and we came to pet portraiture completely independently of one another. It must be in our blood. (You didn’t know there was a gene for painting dogs?)
Look how two artists with very different styles can paint the same subject matter with wildly divergent results!
The black Lab on the left is Arrow, painted by me.
The Lab on the right is Genny, painted by Pia.
My style is quick and loose, with visible brush strokes.
Her style is photo-realist, precise, and rich in detail.
One of my favorite things about art is that the artist brings a part of herself to everything she makes. Just like people (and dogs), no two paintings are ever the same.
I have another Lab portrait in the works, which will also be very different. This one is for a long time client and will be a birthday gift for her husband. Their chocolate Lab, Hunter, playing in a field of nasturtiums.
I’ve primed my canvas with black gesso and begun to sketch out the composition.
My other client has commissioned three pet portraits from me in the past, and now I’m painting two more.
The one above will be Arrow once again, with his best buddy
Bailey, a little mixed shepherd recently passed into doggie heaven.
Below you see Bailey by himself.
I’ve started the sketches on canvas, which will soon have backgrounds and color blocked in.
When these two are finished they will join the original three I’ve already done for this family, all to be grouped together on one wall.
The prior three:
And to show more of the contrast between us two sisters, can you believe this Rhodesian ridgeback (below) is the very first oil painting Pia ever did?!
She’s an absolute natural, and has only increased her skills since then.
Here are a few of Pia's incredible animal portraits, and descriptions in her own words.
|Kinga I • oil on canvas • 20 x 16 inches • © 2002 Pia Ledy|
"This was my first oil painting ever, after I decided to leave the Interior Design world I had occupied for 18 years. 9/11 was a major game changer for me, and that’s when I decided that life was too short not to do something that felt better. Thank God I found out I could paint! This guy was my dog soulmate."
|Genny • oil on canvas • 14 x 10 inches • ©2003 Pia Ledy|
"Genny was my first commissioned piece, and my first black dog. Black dogs are not black! They are whatever color is reflecting off of their shiny coats. I painted this ten ways from Sunday until I realized that fact!! That was early in my painting career.
In this, and most cases, I met the client and Genny in Central Park for a photo shoot. This is a big part of my process. I work from photos, but I like to photograph the dogs myself and get a chance to play with them and get to know them. That way, I get a sense of their personality so that I can bring out that unique spark in the portrait. I want the client to look at the painting and see THEIR dog, not just any dog."
|Eddie • oil on canvas • 20 x 30 inches • ©2003 Pia Ledy|
"Eddie was another commission in the beginning. I loved painting him because he has such a sweet face. But what I really liked was that you can see the sky and building tops in the reflection of his eyes.
I’ve backed off of the hyperrealism more as I’ve become a more experienced painter and don’t feel I have to rely on exactness all the time.
I LOVE painting ears of all kinds--cats, dogs, humans! So many twists and turns!"
|Bailey • oil on wood panel • 8 x 8 inches • ©2015 Pia Ledy|
"This one is a newer piece. This dog had passed already, so I never got to meet her. The owner had to send me a photo from her phone! I did the best I could with the teeny image, and she was thrilled to have it. I love the jeweled collar and that little bit of attitude!"
|Cartagena Callejero • oil on Belgian linen • 16 x 20 inches • ©2011 Pia Ledy|
"This was a little stray that I saw in Cartagena, Columbia. She was so brave—kind of leery
"With regard to working with Denise. I have always been in awe of her talent and never felt that I was an artist, compared to her! That has changed since I actually began to paint, and I feel we are both very supportive of one another’s work. Yes, we have different styles, for sure, but I do study her work to see ways that I can loosen up in areas. That said, I’m a *realist through and through (with an asterisk because I can slip into some very loose work when I’m in the mood for that, or right after I’ve done something very detailed and need an 'eyeball massage.')
I also LOVE digital art on my iPad & drawing, though I never make enough time to just draw!"
Is my sister the greatest or what!?
I promise I did not make her say those things. But she's right, we have so much to learn from each other. She's always been nothing but supportive of whatever I'm working on, and I know that any creative advice she gives, is advice worth taking.
Please go look at the other incredible paintings on her website.
She inspires me to no end, and I'm so proud to be her sister.