When dogs and children are the subject of a painting, you never know how cooperative your subjects are going to be. These two dogs, Marbles and Molly, are as sweet and easy going as can be but they weren't easy to photograph. Since that's how I start the portrait process, it took several visits to get what I wanted. Originally, my assignment was to capture the two dogs lying in front of the very large tree that was their favorite place to hang out on the property where they live. Their owner brought out treats to help the photo session along, but, instead of helping, the dogs were completely distracted by the treats and kept milling around their owner instead of sitting or lying down. Often a treat can be used as an incentive for a dog to sit or lie down but not with these two.
Luckily, their owner had to go inside at some point and I came out on my own. There they were up near the tree but not in poses that were very flattering. I took some photos anyway and gave up for the day. The next time I came back, Cheryl, their owner and I realized that I'd be better off alone with them. I always feel that animals and children will at some point get into positions that are natural and flattering and that I should be ready to take whatever poses those happen to be even if that isn't what we were aiming for. Marbles, the black lab, was getting on in years and was the harder to capture because he liked to slump a lot when sitting or lying. I was looking for a pose when he looked his best, so I kept looking for that special moment or two. With Molly, the yellow lab, I had more opportunities for lovely poses.
When one subject is easier to capture than the other, I advise the owner to pick the more difficult subject's pose she likes best. We can then find a good pose from the subject that works well with that best pose. In this case, the seated Marble's pose was very nice and I also felt that it made for a more interesting composition than one with both dogs lying down. Cheryl and her daughter who was there at the time I came back for our final selection agreed.
The final challenge was to create an overall composition that included the bottom part of the huge tree and the surrounding property. There were more interesting parts of the property but they weren't anywhere in the vicinity of the tree. Just before leaving that day, the sun had come out and was throwing long shadows. I snapped a quick photo and between simplifying the background and using those shadows to direct the eye, I felt I had what I needed to make the painting that resulted. I ended up really liking the fact that the background wasn't some picture perfect setting without any help from me.