Backgrounds are the bane of my existence.

So, you may have noticed that it’s rare that I do a “setting background” in my canvas art. What do I mean? Well, like Mr. Jingles under the Christmas tree, or Mr. Jingles in the Pumpkin patch. There’s a reason for my madness. Usually, it’s because when a person commissions a pet portrait, I believe that what they are really wanting is to capture that special something that makes them melt, the eyes (or the smile, or the tilt of the head), or whatever it is that made them fall in love with their special furry friend. I don’t want anything to distract the eye from what that pet has to give. I want to capture that and that alone because ultimately, it is what the client is really looking for. The special “something” that their pet conveys to them.

I tend to use color instead to highlight the coloring of the subject. To make the face really pop. Sometimes, people like to color coordinate their paintings to their decor and I will try to accommodate that request as long as it works, but if their dog is tan, and their couch is tan, that can lead to a painfully tan painting. No good. So I discuss with the client to ascertain just what background color I can apply that will work for both their “style” and mine. Usually this works out great.

A few years ago I painted Heidi. A gorgeous girl. Just sweet as the day is long. Yes, I did fall in love with her.


So when her mama reached out to me to paint her again, I was thrilled! So was her mama because look at this photo.

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Stunning right? Heidi herself – great smile, great color, great pose. And then the bomb – Heidi “in the cotton field”. Oh God. I didn’t let on at the time, but I was a little, let’s just say, nervous. Because a cotton field in itself is a beautiful thing, and you look at it in the sunlight and with the green in the leaves, it was all just a little to much for me at that very moment. But I persevered, because frankly I love Heidi and I so badly wanted to paint this photo.

I also remembered another painting from a few years back that I did for a good friend. Because she’s a GOOD friend and  she didn’t ask me to paint her horse Luar, I felt it was okay for me to experiment. So I painted the background in the photo. We both liked how it came out.


But, this was different somehow. I agonized about the background for a couple of long nights lying in bed before I attempted it. I knew Heidi’s mom wanted me to make the most of this picture and I didn’t want to let her down. (What can I say, I’m a pleaser). But, after a full day working on the background and muting it just enough to tell what it is, but not overpower Heidi’s beauty – I have to say, I think I nailed this one.

Still and all, I think I’m going to stick with my tried and true, for a while at least, unless someone else sends me a photo of a dog in a cotton field. – m