Portraiture of our Four Legged Companions by Beth de Loiselle

Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet”  – Colette

Cairn Terrier by Beth de Loiselle

Cairn Terrier by Beth de Loiselle

I have always loved animals. There has never been a point in my life without them; however,  knowing I could never be around blood or immersed in sick and suffering animals, becoming a vet was out. After receiving a scholarship to The Schuler School of Fine Arts’ Summer Program and through my later enrollment into their full program, I had the privilege of learning from Ann Didusch Schuler. Mrs. Schuler’s career was built on portraits, but I was inspired by her paintings of pets often included in their compositions or the paintings of family pets that adorn the walls at the Schuler School. Following in her footsteps, I looked to depict the loyal companions of my clients interpreting Ann Schuler’s soft, flowing brushstrokes in my own voice (technique).

loyalle Waiting by Beth de Loiselle - Oil 9X12

Loyally Waiting by Beth de Loiselle – Oil 9X12

A lot of times with commissioned pieces my client will want me to capture a particular expression, the pet’s certain tilt to the head with eyes expressing a familiarity and compassion to its owner. However, I don’t usually have the liberty to work from just one photo. I may have to use multiple references whether with my own photos, (highly preferred) or the owner’s. To put it all together and create a composition for the client to critique, I will work out a true to size charcoal or pencil sketch to work out any drawing issues.  Once approved I can transfer my drawing onto the canvas.
Furb by Beth de Loiselle- Oil on panel- 12X24

Furb by Beth de Loiselle- Oil on panel- 12X24

From there, I like to begin to paint in the transferred drawing with an underpainting in raw umber. It allows me to work out any drawing issues without worrying about the color mixtures. Once dry I can paint expressively and wipe back to the accurate drawing underneath if I don’t like it. I will then begin to build up the colors and values working out the subtle forms within the body before getting into the fun filled detail stages of fur and facial expressions. It is in the final stages I make a conscious effort to pay attention to the details within the eyes of the animal. This is where we have the most connection with them on a day to day basis in the color, the glisten and the tilts of the brow.

I like to help my students through these same steps when I teach my workshops on animal portraiture. In addition to the brush on canvas techniques, I talk to participants on how to take good references, how to research and how to build solid compositions to tell a story or lead the viewer in first with design and contrast. These time tested methods enable my students to get that particular, unconditional loving expression into their animal subject.
Piper, Tuck, Chip & Caddie by Beth de Loiselle

Piper, Tuck, Chip & Caddie by Beth de Loiselle


Beth has received several recognitions for her paintings of pets and animals. She was a Finalist in the Artist’s Magazine 27th Annual Art Competition in Animal/Wildlife and she was recently featured in the International Artist Magazine as “Master Painter’s of the World.” Her workshops in the Baltimore area are a great way to learn how to approach animal portraits using a classical technique of underpainting and application of color. As a matter of fact, Beth has an Animal Portraiture Workshop starting on July 29, 2013.

For further information on her animal paintings or workshops Email: bdgfineart@yahoo.com

or go to her website: http://www.bethdeloiselle.com


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