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How My Dog Taylor Got Painted

By Diane Matsuura, CANIDAE Customer Service

This is the true story on how my Labrador Retriever, Taylor, got her portrait painted, but first I need give you a little bit of background information.  My very good girlfriend of 20 plus years, Trudy Soneson, is an artist.  She creates lovely paintings in oils.  I am a photographer.  I can photograph anything but I can’t paint, even walls with a roller, without making a mess.  I have always been in awe of those who can create art by drawing and painting. I digress, so let’s get back to the story. Taylor always loved to curl up in our patio chairs like a person to take a nap, and one evening she was curled up in her favorite chair in her favorite position watching us while we were eating dinner. Trudy and Eric (her husband) were our dinner guests that evening. 

Trudy, the artist she is, was inspired and said, “Take her picture and I’ll paint her.”  Jumping at the chance to have a portrait painted of my dog, I quickly snapped the photo through the patio door.  The photo didn’t turn out so well, seeing that the screen was also in the way, the glass was dirty with paw prints and it was getting dark.  However, Trudy’s finished painting of Taylor was so perfect and did justice to my beloved dog in a way that my photo never could.  Several years later Taylor passed away, and to have this perfect memory of her on that evening, preserved forever on canvas, means more to me than words can ever express.

I decided to write an article about Trudy – how and why she paints pet portraits – and share her thoughts with our readers here at the Responsible Pet Ownership blog. So here it is – her interview with me conducted at the CANIDAE office.

Question: How do you start a portrait, and do you need anything special?
Trudy: I want a clear photo of the pet with a good natural light source that emphasizes the bone structure and fur, especially around the face and eyes.  It’s very important to see the eyes because the eyes show the character of the pet more than anything else.  Multiple angles and positions are very helpful.

Q: How long does it take you to paint a portrait?
T: As a client you will need to be patient. Painting the portrait takes time. I like to have the client view the unfinished portrait during different stages. You want the client to be happy. They know their pet the best. For example, how they hold their ears, tail, etc., and it’s easier to make changes in the painting in the early stages.

Q: When choosing a portrait artist, what should one look for?
T: Different artists have different styles and techniques of painting, and you need to choose a style that you like.

Q: You mean like Realism or Impressionism?
T: Yes – How the artist interprets the subject is important.

Q: What kind of media do you use, and what else is there to choose from?
T:  I paint in oils because I like the way it feels to me when I paint and how I can express myself on canvas.  There are many other media choices such as water colors, pastels, acrylic, egg tempura, pen and ink, graphite and charcoal drawing.  Some artists also use colored Prisma pencils. The style and look of the finished product created with different media is very unique.  You need to choose the style that suits you and your price range.

Q: How much do artists charge for a portrait?
T: Depends on the artist, type of media used and the size of the portrait.

Q:  Photographic portraits are very popular now. Do you prefer oil painted portraits as opposed to photographic portraits?
T:  I like both. Photos are very realistic and when done by an expert, are gorgeous. I have had many photographic portraits taken of my dogs, but I don’t take good photos myself (laughter), so I paint.

Q: I love your paintings.
T: Thank you.

Q:  Do you ever paint live subjects?
T: No. I can’t paint that fast (laughter). Dogs can’t be expected to stay still that long unless you want a portrait of a sleeping dog. (Smile)

Q:  Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
T:  I really feel better about painting a dog that I have met and have known.  I can get a better feel of their personality and that transfers to the portrait.  It just makes for a better portrait.  

Q. Thank you for your interview.
T: You’re welcome.

A copy of Taylor’s portrait named “Taylor Sitting in Her Chair” hangs on the wall in the CANIDAE Corporate office.  (The original lives with me.) Trudy and Eric Soneson faithfully feed all their Labrador Retrievers CANIDAE products.  Please join us today at CANIDAE Pet Foods in wishing Trudy a very special HAPPY BIRTHDAY.
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