The right reference photo is a girl’s best friend.

Recently I painted Leia. A pitbull with stunning markings, beautiful eyes and a face to match. Leia’s folks sent me one photo. This is it.

Leia Martinez.2015--4There was a ginormous outpouring of positive feedback for her painting on social media when I posted it. I credit the success of the painting 100% on the reference photo. Everything about this photo is perfect. It is super clear. It is  well lit (not dark, or overexposed) I can see every shadow and every highlight making for amazing contrast which highlights the wrinkles on her forehead. Even her collar is well defined and easy to make out.

I know I’ve written about good and bad photos before and I’ve explained how I’m a pleaser and I don’t want to make my clients dig for a better picture, and so sometimes I try to use what I’ve been given even if it’s not a great shot. Often, I struggle to see what’s going on in the photo, and it takes a longer time and, overall, the painting suffers. It’s true that my work improves with each portrait I do, practice does make perfect in art, but a great photo is really all a girl could ask for.


“Leia” – 9″x12″ acrylic on canvas panel