Starting a portrait of Mini, a beautiful black cat with gold eyes, for Emily Moren, DVM. Emily wants the portrait to include hellebore, a flower that was planted in memory of Mini. Hellebore is a black flower with a gold “eye”.
I start every portrait by having my client gather photos of their loved one for me. Emily sent 25 photos. I already had hellebore photos she sent when her hellebores were blooming last spring.
The first thing I do is study my client's photos and arrange them in the order I think best for a portrait --- the best for capturing the essence of that individual, and the best visually. These are the ten pics I think are the most promising. I focused on the first 4 and sent Emily suggestions about a full-body portrait, and a head-study portrait.
A crude suggestion of Mini sitting in front of a flowerbed of hellebores. I told Emily this could have a background scene behind the hellebores with more flowers, grass, trees....or it could have a plain color background as shown here - just Mini and flowers on a plain color. That could be any color. I used light grey because that's the least distracting for me to work on when I start.
When I was putting together the first layout, one of the photos of the hellebores had Emily’s Doberman in the background. So I kept it in there and sent Emily this version to give an idea of a background scene that includes a lawn, fence, and trees. With or without the Dobe. I said the dog takes attention away from Mini, but it’s an interesting idea to also include her Dobe in the portrait. Emily agreed it was an interesting idea, but that yes, it would take away from Mini.
I used this photo of Mini crouched down because I love the soft expression on her face, to show Emily how a head study portrait could look. But I said we could use any of the other head shots if Emily liked another one better instead.
Emily liked both the full-body and head-study ideas, but she focused on the head study. She wrote,
“This is hard. I love both layouts but I think the face on layout #3 is more consistent with how I remember Mini. Part of it is that she always sat like that, more so than how she is in the first picture. I like how her hind legs floof out behind her in a sort of lopsided way. She died seven years ago in December, but I feel like it was just a few months ago. I still think that I see her every so often, slipping around a corner in the house.”
I hadn’t realized it when I first began talking to Emily about a portrait of Mini with hellebores, that black flowers with gold “eyes” surrounding a black cat with gold eyes, makes a really striking portrait. Something I will need to be extremely careful about, is not letting all those gold “eyes” in the flowers distract from Mini’s soul shining from her beautiful gold eyes.