pet portraits in watercolor

First, an Introduction to Jack

Before we dive into painting watercolor portraits of pets, let me introduce you to our model, Jack. He chews flowers. Even if you’ve given him little pots of grass, and put your flowers up high, out of reach, he will find a way to get to them.

I’ve witnessed Jack launching down a hallway to liftoff towards a fireplace mantle bedecked with a bouquet. The mantle was too narrow to land on, so he swiped – mid-air, spider man style – at the vase of flowers. He brought the vase and most of the decorative arrangements on the mantle down with him as he fell back to earth.

The vase and figurines broke, and the flowers and water vaulted across the floors in a splatter pattern. Jack dodged the humans to grab one daisy, and exited the scene for some clandestine chewing. The poor flower was rescued, and Jack had a 15 minute time out in the laundry room while the glass was swept up.

Jack is smart, handsome and willful, and he stares right into your eyes when he sees empty vases, as if to ask: “Where are the flowers? Why do you torture me so?”.

Jack is an expert sprawler. He’s not my cat, but I love him dearly. (His people are my kids and grandkids.)

Links to help you Paint Portraits of your Pets in Watercolor

  • As you might guess, Pinterest has an ocean of pet portraits in watercolor to inspire, instruct and admire. Brew a cuppa, and peruse some of the portraits here.
  • On YouTube, Matt Fussell’s channel is The Virtual Instructor. He has a 15 minute step by step video tutorial on painting your dog in watercolor. Check it out here.
  • If time is too squeezed, but you still want/need a watercolor portrait of your pet, you can always commission one from another artist. Natalia Checkotova does a beautiful job with watercolor pet portraits – see them here.
Previous animal portraits in watercolor
a watercolor portrait in process of a striped tabby cat on a window sill
Jack didn’t realize that he posed for a pet portrait (watercolor in process).
He was just looking for flowers to chew.

Using Watercolor Glazing in Pet Portraits

Working on shading in the process shot above; Jack is half in shadow with a rim of bright sunlight along the left side of his outline.

His white fur has all sorts of value gradations and form shadows, so it was a good place for watercolor glazing. Do you use this method in your paintings? Watercolor Glazing is layers of soft, transparent washes, one on top of the other (letting them dry in between), like colored cellophane.

You can see beginnings of the layering on his bib above, and more of it when you compare this image with the final painting at the top of this post. There’s also lots of layers and glazing in the portrait of him below.

a pet portrait in watercolor, featuring the same model, Jack, the tabby cat who chews flowers
Another portrait of Jack.
Stealthy Mischief, watercolor
He acts like he’s disinterested, but we know better.

What’s Your Favorite Media for Pet Portraits?

It’s been a few years since I made portraits of our pets, but it’s a lot of fun. You can use printmaking methods like monotype and linocut and collagraph, or you can keep it simple by sketching your pet in pencil, or pen and ink from a photo. Maybe you’ve already painted an entire series on your dog, or cat? Leave us a link in the comments so we can see.

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post!


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edgar degas self portrait in black chalk when he was a young art student
Not a pet, but a portrait just the same. Edgar did this when he was about 22. Self Portrait – 6 3/16 x7 1/4 inches- Black Chalk on paper, by Edgar Degas

P.P.S. Here is a shot of inspiration for you: the Morgan Library & Museum in New York has Edgar Degas’ sketchbooks and drawings online for your perusal. Zoom in close on each image to see mark-making, layers and brush strokes.

Art Quote

Degas showed no reluctance to use himself as a model and painted fifteen self-portraits, all with the same detached, doubt-ridden expression, the same unrelieved anxiety.

He was not yet twenty when he painted one that is seen as his first masterpiece, and a memento of his brief stint at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

He copied the pose Ingres struck for his famous self-portrait in the Musée Condé at Chantilly.

H. Loyrette
Spend More Time with your Art Supplies
Click to puppster to see about taking a free class….

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4 thoughts on “Watercolor Portraits of Pets”


    Jack should have,been included in Old Possum’s Guide, or was he under a different name?

  2. My lil’ man, Hiram, must be Jack’s brother from another mother! He not only looks like him, but is his twin in personality and antics…I raised him from the bottle and he is my heart!

    1. Hi Paula! I’ll let Jack know he has a twin, in looks and temperament. We share your feelings about our furry kids taking up the whole space of our hearts too. Thanks for visiting!

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