Tis the Season! A Wedding Portrait


A dear friend got married over the weekend. It was a lovely ceremony and reception, followed by an excellent field party…with a METEOR SHOWER!! Pretty perfect!

Of course, when I met Sarah and Brent’s dog Amelia, my first thought for their wedding gift was a portrait of their dog. She looks like a little black bear, with big brown eyes, and has the sweetest personality.  For Sarah and Brent’s wedding, I did a fair amount of crafting as well, of course in tandem with the portrait painting. I made a couple of framed signs, for gifts and cards, painted on wallpaper. And I made a garland with recycled harlequin novel pages. Since we were playing around with different prints with the wedding decorations, I liked the idea of doing a “printed” background in the painting. See below a bit of the progression of the work, as well as the partially completed paper garland in the box:

mstarkweather_ameliaprocess1 mstarkweather_ameliaweddingcrafting mstarkweather_ameliaprocess2

I enjoyed the combination of decorative and portrait painting. The background was loosely copied from an old wallpaper pattern, and the portrait painted from a photo. I liked the juxtaposition of Amelia’s little black bear face and the fussy floral wallpaper. It was fun to do!

I have another painted portrait of a dog coming up, as well as a little drawing of a brother, sister and kitty. I’m just finishing up a painting of a cat. Aaaaannd, I’m hoping to finish up a little side project tomorrow, too – a small series of black and white paintings of my hometown, Perth, Ontario, to be sold exclusively at Groundwaves, in Codes Mill, in Perth.  Busy, busy, busy!

Oh yeah – and here is the finished painting of Amelia!


Thanks for reading.

xo melody


A drawing of a very special lab

My Cutest Photo Ever Contest that I held in June brought in a lot of really sweet photos. But the story behind the runner-up winning picture was hard to beat:

This is Cody, he was a therapy dog and worked in seniors homes and the children’s hospitals, and he was my Dad’s best friend until he passed away last year. We all miss him, but dad still hasn’t shaken the depression over losing him. I’d love to win this contest for my dad and have Melody create something beautiful to Cody’s memory!

Unbeatable, right?! My aunt said to me, “I just read the caption under Cody’s picture. GEEESH. How can anyone compete with that! I’d even cast my vote for Cody. How can you control those poignant and heartrending stories? I feel like paying you to draw him, just for the dad.” So, thank goodness he was one of the winners! Something would have been seriously amiss if he hadn’t won.

Arlene approached me after the contest to discuss the possibility of also drawing Pal, her Dad’s new puppy, so that the two drawings could be framed as a diptych. Apparently Pal looks a lot like Cody did as a pup.  What cuties they both were to draw! And how well the two portraits work, side by side (if I do say so myself…)

mstarkweather_cody mstarkweather_pal

The photo of Pal was pretty straight-forward to draw. the peeling paint on the decking was time-consuming, but Arlene provided me with really nice photographs from which to work. However, the photo of Cody that won my contest was cropped fairly close to the face, and the plan was to make it work with the corresponding picture of the puppy – a full-body shot. Arlene had sent me a few photos of Cody to work with, that were all taken the same day, and some of which showed more of his chest and lower body. This drawing actually ended up being a combination of two photos. I drew his body from one picture, and his face from another. Thankfully, with identical lighting and location, I was able to simply transpose the face from one image to the other.

I’m happy with the results, and so is Arlene. As a total aside, she is a lovely woman and so very deserving of the prize, especially since she is giving both drawings to her Dad. (If you know him, please do not mention the drawings until after Christmas!) Arlene’s very heartfelt words about the drawings are on my Testimonials Page.

I’m also updating my Etsy Page (here) with each new piece as I create them. Please do have a peek and feel free to add my shop as a favourite!

Another portrait as wedding gift coming up, which I will be posting after next weekend…

Thanks for reading. :)

xo melody

A couple of very darling paintings…

I just finished the prize for my Cutest Photo Ever! Contest, a very sweet portrait of Daddy and his Boy, for Robynn of Hamilton, Ontario. Although it is a smaller portrait, measuring 9″x12″, it packs quite  bit of detail in…there’s a dad, there’s a baby, and then the portrait of the bunny toy. It’s pretty freaking adorable, and was voted as such in my contest back in June!!

I worked on this piece in tandem with a commission – a portrait of two standard poodles. This second piece will be a wedding gift for (yet again!) the couple who has everything (except a painting of their pets!)

Working on the two pieces together was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to see if my productivity would increase if I worked on a couple of things at once, allowing myself time to digest each piece between painting sessions. I can’t say it sped me up at all. I diligently document my time for each painting and drawing, and these both came in pretty-much on par with the rest. However, it was a lot more fun to switch back and forth between a couple of paintings over a few weeks, rather than chaining myself to one canvas the whole time.

This is what they looked like in the beginning:


I continued to go back and forth between the two. The dogs got here:


Then Logan (the baby) here:


At that point, due to time constraints, I had to put all of my energy into the poodles for a few days, to get them done in time for the wedding! I worked at length on the grass lawn, and then built up their curly fur until it looked soft enough to pet. (I may flatter myself here, right?) Here they are, close to the end of the process, and then completed:

mstarkweather_alfietalie_almost mstarkweather_alfietalie

Now, back to Logan and Adrian, those adorable guys! Believe it or not, Adrian’s white shirt was rather challenging, that and the smooth, smooth skin of the baby. (If you have ever wondered, babies are actually really hard! They don’t have the wrinkles and imperfections in their skin that grown-ups do, meaning everything must be very blended and perfectly shaded…quite tough!) I left the bunny until the end. I like to get the harder stuff out of the way first, and finish up with something easier. This is a good approach to life, too, I think.  So, I smoothed little Logan out quite a bit, and worked on Dad’s mug. And voila! An homage to cuteness:


To see my other pet paintings and drawings, please go here. Coming up, I have two lab portrait drawings for the runner-up of my Cutest Photo Ever Contest, Arelene in Enfield, NS, a wiley cat for Liz in Peterborough, ON, and a dog with crazy eyes for Mandy in Dundas.

Hope that everyone is having an amazing summer so far! I’m doing a lot of lake swimming…and painting!

xo melody

Fantastical Portrait Painting

So I recently received an inquiry from a gentleman in the GTA, who was looking to commission a “custom portrait”. Of course, all of my portrait drawings and paintings are custom. Each is hand-made by me and one-of-a-kind. But what he really meant was “super custom.”

Wayne’s inspiration for the painting was a moment on a trip to Mexico, when he looked over to his girlfriend in their rental Jeep, with the wind blowing through her hair, and saw her as a celestial goddess. He wanted to make his vacation dream a reality: “I want to have a painting done with my vision of her driving a chariot, pulled by two winged stallions, white and black through a starry night with Orion in the background.  Her gown should be made of gold, her hair blowing in the wind.  She should be aiming the trident of Poseidon at something with a fierce look of determination on her face, her muscles taut.  It should be powerful.”

After some deliberation, I decided I absolutely couldn’t pass up the opportunity to paint this! I worked on an initial sketch over the first few days to determine the composition of the piece.  In sketching it all out, I realized that the winged horses might make the piece look crowded. I had never spent so much time looking at chariots, harnesses and horses before. What I realized was that chariots require a lot of gear to strap the horses in. Not only would the wings make it feel claustrophobic, but they just wouldn’t have fit! Those stallions could never fly like that! Wayne agreed to nix the wings, and it was time to get painting!

mstarkweather_annasketch  mstarkweather_annasketch2

This painting was hard. I normally draw and paint from photographs, where I’m duplicating an image. Of course, there is tweaking that happens. I might edit out unnecessary background noise, or change a colour here and there…but this was from my imagination! (Or Wayne’s imagination, via mine, or vice versa, or something like that.)  I spent a lot of time looking through photos of chariots, horses, night skies, full moons, constellations, yellow dresses, backlit dresses, clouds, gold, moonlight, and so on.  I just cleaned out the image folder on my computer of some 50 or 60 images I was working from (and then there were all of the pictures of the lovely Anna!)

I started the painting by blocking in colours, and then painting the moon and clouds. I’ve discovered that I really like painting clouds! Here is the first version of the sky. The second image shows her with more work done on her dress, face and body.

mstarkweather_annablog1 mstarkweather_annablog2

I worked on the painting bit by bit. Normally I try to progress all areas of the painting as much at the same time as possible, however in this case, since I wasn’t working from a photo, that approach didn’t work. The next big project within the bigger project was the chariot, then the stars and trident, and then the horses. I lightened up the background around the black horse a bit to help it stand out against the clouds. Finally, I worked on the harnesses and reins, and then…the goddess! Funny how quickly I can list off what I did, because it took a really long time…like, 2 weeks of non-stop working when I wasn’t at my part-time day job. Ask my friends – no one saw me!!


The finished portrait is in Toronto with my fiancee, waiting to be connected to the buyer, so that he can frame it in time for Anna’s birthday. I hope she likes it!!!


For more portrait paintings, please see my portrait gallery, or head on over to visit the critters in my pet gallery. Details on ordering are found here.

Stay tuned for some good ones coming up…I’ve started working on painting the winning photograph from my Cutest Photo Ever Contest! It has a Daddy, a baby and a stuffed bunny. It’s gonna be adorable! Also coming up is a larger painting of two standard poodles, and the runner-up from my contest, a very handsome lab.

Thanks for reading!

xo melody

My Top Ten

So, since there were so many great entries in my Cutest Photo EVER Contest, I wanted to pay homage to some of the contenders that may not have garnered as many votes, but that I would have been really excited to paint. Here are my top ten. (Please keep in mind there were some other seriously cute pictures that I didn’t include…it was really hard to narrow them down to just ten. I was initially going to show my top five..can you imagine?! Impossible!)


Lee – Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

“Where is Nova”

10lee-dartmouth sm


Silja – Minden, Ontario

“Easiest Way to Bathe A Baby”

9silja-minden sm


Rachel – Kanata, Ontario

“This is my daughter Kyra @2 years old visiting the deer park at Marineland. This has always been my favorite shot, I love how she and the deer seem to have the same expression on their faces. I’ve always wanted to get this shot framed and put it up somewhere for everyone to see, it’s too cute not to.”



Lise – Calgary, Alberta

“Hello Ladies!”

7seth-calgary sm


Sandy – Sedgewick, Alberta


6sandy-sedgewick sm


Woody – Danville, Vermont


5woody-danville sm


Sloane – Calgary, Alberta

“Leighton the teaser! As if he’s gonna give up his chocolate bunny!”

4leighton-calgary sm


Mandy – Dundas, Ontario

“Hey Crazy eyes!”

3mandy-dundas sm


Cedar – Lanark, Ontario

“Jack and Maggie in the laundry basket”

2cedar-lanark sm


Vanya – Salmo, British Columbia

“Kissing ‘furry’ brother!”

1vanya-salmo sm

Thank you again to everyone who participated. It was just a delight to see all of the entries roll in every day. I do hope I get to paint some of the beautiful creatures that made it into my top ten.

And stay tuned to see the completed portraits of the winning photographs. Coming soon!

And the Winners Are…

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in my Cutest Photo Ever Contest! There were such amazing entries and the competition truly was very very stiff! Winners were determined by the number of votes, with most-voted-for images winning.


Robynn – Hamilton, ON

166 votes

robynn-hamilton sm


Arlene – Enfield, NS

122 votes

arlene-enfieldns sm

Robynn has won a 9″x12″ painting of her photo (valued at $350, having 2 figures), and Arlene has won an 8″x10″ drawing (valued at $125) of hers. Congratulations, ladies! I’m really looking forward to getting started on your prizes!!

Stay tuned for my other favourites from the contest. There really were some goodies in there, that I would have been thrilled to see win, as well. I’ll share my faves in the next few days.

Thanks again everybody, and congrats to the winners! You are awesome!

<3 melody

Lucky I and Lucky II

Back in the summer of 2011, before I launched this site, I drew a picture of my friend’s Toy Poodle, Lucky for her birthday. She had recently moved back out on her own, and was going to be sharing custody of Little Lucky. I was experimenting with paper…nay, using whatever I had around…and did my drawing on a pastel/charcoal paper. Still a nice quality paper, but much more textural than the thick, smooth paper I use these days for my pencil portraits. This is what I gave her:


You can see the texture of the paper in the image scan. Also, you can see that HE IS ADORABLE!  Little Lucky is a heartbreaker!

So when Kat asked me to draw the dog for her parents’ anniversary, well, of course I obliged! If she wins  (ending June 18th), she’ll get another one free. And this little guy is so cute, one could not possibly have too many portraits of him kicking around. I believe Lucky might be a hair older in this second image. I’m pretty sure he was still a puppy in the first photo I drew from. At the very least, he had a different hair cut! You can actually see his eyes in the second portrait!

mstarkweather_luckyphoto mstarkweather_luckyblog

So a bit different! My experimentation in paper has told me I can get a lot more detail drawing in pencil on the heavier, smoother paper.  The result is a drawing from a photo that looks much more…like a photo!

For more drawings of dogs and cats (and I’d really like to get horses into the mix!), head on over to my online gallery of pet portraits. You will find paintings there too. People here.

xo melody

The Cutest Photo EVER Contest!


Hello! As of today, I’m running a contest for the Cutest Photo EVER through my Facebook Page. It’s going to super fun and SUPER CUTE! I’ve already had a few entries and am really enjoying watching them roll in! They are very…CUTE.

Winners will be determined by the number of votes cast for each photo. First place gets a free 9″x12″ custom painting of the winning photograph. Second place gets an 8″x10″ custom drawing of their photo. (These are valued at $250 and $125 respectively.) Third place gets a high-five! Once you submit your photo, you are able to share it with your friends to get more votes.

To enter,. Photos may be submitted until June 12 at midnight, and votes will be collected until June 18 at midnight. Voting has already begun. I will announce the winner June 19 on my Blog and on Facebook.

Good luck!! xo melody

Simon, Norman and Barnaby

What do you give the couple getting married who have lived together forever and have beautiful things and great taste and the three most amazing cats? A painting of said cats, of course!

After some extensive research, creeping the beautiful bride Michele’s photos on Facebook, I found a few gems…

mstarkweather_simonbarney mstarkweather_norman mstarkweather_barney

As you can see, Norman is the only one who actually wears a bowtie. (I’m not sure why! You will see below, they all look very handsome in evening wear.) Michele likes to dress him up for the cable guy, plumber, and other special guests. Despite her attempts to gussy Norman up, she has still been asked “what is that?!”. Poor guy. He may resemble a raccoon in size, colour and weight, but come on! A tuxedo cat in a bowtie?! It’s only natural.

As with the painting of Walter, the background really took a long time to complete. But this was a wedding gift for dear friends and such, an elegant background and fancy bowties were in order! I think I will try more paintings with patterned backgrounds; it’s a nice way to keep the focus on the portrait but jazz it up a little. And hey, maybe I’ll pick up the speed on those backgrounds with practise.

Here is the final product, as photographed in the lovely bride and groom’s home. (I’m pretty sure they will find another spot for it.) Three very handsome kitties in their finest. I imagine if they were allowed to attend the wedding, this is what they would have looked like:


But, despite Toronto Public Health banning animals from the venue, Michele and Chris made their cats’ presence strong at the wedding, still. Man, I love a fellow cat person! How cute is that?! And those cocktails were DELICIOUS, to boot! Congrats to the newlyweds on a beautiful wedding and union and all of the best for an amazing future together. Love you guys!


Please see my pet gallery for more, and visit my people gallery too! I’ve recently added a testimonials section on the site; have a read! And of course, contact me for any further info.