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  • Writer's pictureKevin Roeckl

Carly portrait in progress 1

January 6

I’ve started a Head Study of Carly, beloved Service Dog of Phyllis Zaretzky.

After discussing the photos Phyllis has, we decided to use this one as the main reference photo for the portrait:

Client's photograph of Golden Retriever Service Dog

The problem

with many of my clients’ photos of their pets is that the camera lens distorts. The dog’s nose looks much bigger than in real life because it’s closer to the lens….their body looks smaller than real life because it’s farther away. That looks “normal” to us because we are used to looking at distorted photos. (Phone cameras distort even worse than regular cameras.) With my trained artist’s eye I see that distortion. Notice how the right eye looks like it could fit inside the right nostril. I really don’t think Carly’s nostrils were that big! And looks like her head is wider than her shoulders. Which is not likely.

Using Photoshop,

I reduced the size of Carly’s nose and made her neck bigger, so she looks as she did in real life, then I fit her into the 12 x 16 portrait shape/size the client wants. (Below). That will be my reference “sketch” that I look at as I’m working on the portrait.


I make some recommendations to the client about background color. That’s a very important decision in how the finished portrait will look. This picture shows the 4 colors I suggested that work best, so the client can get an idea of how it will look (Photoshop version). I’m limited to the colors of the Canson paper, the art paper I work on…but Canson makes many beautiful paper colors.

Which background color do you think Phyllis will choose?
Four layouts for a Head Study portrait of  Golden Retriever Service Dog

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