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  • Writer's pictureKevin Roeckl

Cooper, Addie, and Rio portrait in progress 1

I’m working on a new portrait for Karen M. who has had 3 trained Search-and-Rescue dogs: Cooper, Addie, and Rio…all gone to the Bridge now. Cooper and Rio were AKC Champions.

Karen sent me 76 photos

of the three dogs to get me started. Head shots, full body shots, the dogs in SAR training and living a good life as beloved companions. When I narrowed them down to the ones that would work the best in a portrait, I asked Karen which of those were her personal favorites. That gave me 18 photos to work with.

I bring those photos into a Photoshop document

(see below), cut them out crudely, and move them around and resize them until I find a pleasing arrangement. As I move them around and try different photos in different arrangements, I discard the ones that just don’t seem to be working with the others. Finally I have narrowed it down to this. Now I have my basic composition.

Karen didn’t ask me to use the mountain photo as a backdrop,

but I knew from our conversations that location had special meaning to her. So I stuck that photo behind the figures just to give a temporary backdrop for now. It worked so well I kept it. It’s simple, so the dogs stand out, but gives depth and life to the portrait. The backdrop of the Oregon landscape where Karen and her SAR dogs worked. Karen wants this portrait to be “about Search and Rescue” that was such an important part of her and her dogs’ lives.

Photoshop layout for a portrait of 3 Search-and-Rescue Dobermans

Karen wrote:

“These three were my Search and Rescue and Human Remains Dogs. “Baddie Addie” unfortunately washed [did not pass her SAR certification], but she was still very loved. She would wait for hours for a lizard to emerge from a hole. Cooper had no fear with incredible drive. And Rio did anything I asked just because he loved me.”

(The hugging photo is Rio. He was a hugger.)

In the finished portrait

Cooper will be wearing his official SAR vest with Sheriff’s logo on it. The vest in this photo is a training vest.

This is the basic layout

but there is still design-work to be done, so their necks and Rio’s torso are not “chopped off”, and the background scene fills the whole artwork. Karen wants a pine tree on the left.


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