Oil portrait of my favorite Morkie

5x7 oil painting portrait of Maks the Morkie
5×7 original oil painting of Maks the Morkie

Sometimes when I really want to do a good job with something, I can put off starting it to avoid potential failure. This is something I’ve been actively working through on this blog and with the assignments I give myself. I am aware mentally that failure is a perfectly OK outcome — especially with something like making art, where the consequences are purely psychological — but that doesn’t magically remove the block for me.

So when I do venture into something new and it goes well, my general reaction is “Why did I delay this for so long?!” This was basically the case with the oil portrait I made of Maks.

Maks is the Morkie that I have done a lot of sewing for with my handmade business Oxford Dogma. His mom, Missy, has been a delight to work with on a variety of custom projects. And in November I decided to transition my business away from making hand sewn accessories toward artwork. As a way to thank her for all of the work she’s allowed me to do for her and Maks I painted her this portrait as a Christmas gift.

The project started out in acrylic, with a different reference photo. It was a really cute photo where he had a super happy expression with his tongue out, but the painting just was not going well. I initially thought it would be easier and quicker to make it in acrylic, but struggled against it the entire time. The next day, I set it aside and switched to oils — which made a world of difference! I was able to stop fighting the media and sink into the enjoyment of putting down brush strokes.

I used a limited palette of terra rosa, yellow ochre light, ivory black, and titanium white. Plus a tiny bit of cobalt turquoise light for highlights. This is the palette Johanne Mangi uses in her video course The Fine Art of Painting Dog Portraits and it worked beautifully for my painting of Maks.

I followed a process of blocking in the darks, then an average color for the lights. Once I was happy with the placement of these shapes, I worked on details. I wish I had taken progress shots as reference, to help me remember the process that got me to the finished painting! I’m deep into my 100 Starts project, which is all about getting simple shapes and flat colors blocked in — not detail. So it was a treat to work with the oil paints in a way that takes advantage of their slow drying qualities and with brush strokes that highlight the fur texture.

maks portrait reference

How cute is this little guy?! Capturing his big, brown eyes was my top priority. And I also wanted to convey his sense of curiosity and intelligence (he’s the smartest dog I’ve ever met — no offense to my little Pipsqueak).

I wrapped the portrait up for Christmas and included it in Missy’s most recent order. She was delighted with it and framed it almost immediately.

Maks is a lucky guy who’s loved to pieces and I only hope this portrait helps support the bond he shares with his family.