I finished this doggie drawing back in March, but I thought it might be fun to show the photo from which the drawing was created. The custom portrait was created for very dear friends of mine in Toronto. It all started with a super fun dinner and ensuing photo shoot with Timber in our living room. The lighting was terrible in the room (it just takes a couple of glasses of wine to lose sight of the details!) As you can see, most of the pictures weren’t so great:

mstarkweather_timber1 mstarkweather_timber2 mstarkweather_timber3

That’s part of the beauty of having a portrait created from a photo. The photo may be a regular old snapshot that you wouldn’t look at twice. But, when drawing from a photo, I can edit out all of the “noise” in the background, and put the focus where it should be! When ordering a portrait, please specify if you want the background simplified, or kept as-is. We can also discuss the options. I typically would recommend a simpler background. This is how Timber turned out, with the couch, table,etc. edited from the final image. The spotlight in this sketch is really on her sweet little mug.


I’ve recently moved from Toronto to Perth, Ontario, in the Ottawa area. However, I can send pieces virtually anywhere, so it doesn’t change much, business-wise. I charge Canada Post’s rates to ship within Canada. And of course, if you’re local, we can arrange a meeting. Rates can be found here, and if you have any questions, please contact me! I’d love to hear from you!

For more art, please visit my pet and people galleries!

Happy Moms’ Day and a General Update

Hello! I’m baaa-aack!

After a rather strenuous move 4 hours from Toronto, my fiancee and I (and our two wonderful cats and many corals and fishes) have moved to the Ottawa Valley, to a sweet little town called Perth. This was a move home for me, and an adventure for my partner (he seems to like it so far!) I spent ten years in downtown Toronto, so this change so far feels like vacation. Let’s hope it stays that way, although my gut tells me vacation is over once the snow hits. I’ve been a tad spoiled in the more temperate Toronto climate. ;) So, this is where I’ve been hiding quietly for the last couple of weeks. My apologies for the delay in updating; we just recently got back online. I will still be painting and drawing your cats, dogs, children and loved ones…just with a much more scenic view!!! And fresher air.

On that note, I’m working on a special secret project, which I will divulge a little bit down the road. It’s a secret! It’s going to be pretty great! And I’m officially allowed now to show you this, as it was a Mother’s Day gift, and has been gifted. (I’ve been sitting tight, waiting to show it, for a couple of weeks now). Meet Henry, a very sweet little boy, with the most beautiful, intense steely blue eyes.


And on the Mother’s Day tip, I just wanted to say Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Moms, Grandmothers and Moms-to-be. Thank you ladies, for making the world turn. None of us would be here without you.

xo melody

Portrait of brothers

Hello! It’s been a little while since I posted on this blog, but I have been very hard at work on a custom portrait painting of three children…none other than the adorable boys of one of my very oldest friends. I’ve literally known Jenna since we ourselves were babies! In fact, she had an early habit of carrying me around the babysitter’s house referring to me as her “baby”. But I digress…

What a fun project! I always get a kick out of drawing and painting child portraits, but this painting was particularly interesting, as Jenna wanted me to combine on one canvas three portraits of her kids at around the same age, somewhere in the 2-3 range. First, she sent me a bunch of pictures, and we together whittled these down to pick the photos I would paint from:

mstarkweather_adleyblog mstarkweather_liamblog mstarkweather_flynnblog

The second step was the map out how the three boys would fit together onto a canvas. This involved some printing, cutting, pasting, gridding, collaging, and sketching!


I spent quite a bit of time working with the digital photos to bring the hues, brightness, saturation and contrast as close together as possible. The three figures all have different sources of light, so it was important to at least get the amount of light on each figure reasonably close to the same. Adley, the boy on the left, was particularly challenging, as his face is entirely in shadow. Although in the final portrait the light still hits the side of his face, partially shading his features, I’ve lightened it up considerably. For me, painting from photos is not just copying a picture, but transforming the photo into a real portrait, with life and love and light.

And (many, many hours later) ta-da! The boys!


How charming are these little boys?! I can’t wait to meet Adley and Flynn this summer, and see Liam again! Not to mention seeing Jenna and her hubby; looking forward to that too! 

For more portraits of kids, please visit my gallery! I have also recently begun to post testimonials on my site; please have a read. I will be adding more custom portraits to my pet and people galleries, and adding testimonials to my page regularly.

xo melody

Mommas and Babies

I recently completed this drawing of baby Asher for a new Mom here in Toronto. I love doing baby and child portraits, especially when they capture a moment such as this. This handsome litte guy is about 6 weeks now, and I believe was 3 or 4 weeks at the time the photo was taken. He’s just starting to make prolonged eye contact, and in this drawing, looks up at his Mom. He looks so fresh and new and inquisitive. You can almost feel him learning. I wonder what she’s saying!


If anyone is interested in ordering a portrait in time for Mother’s Day, I’m booking up fast, so do get it in as soon as possible, and no later that April 13 to ensure delivery on time. A portrait of a child makes a great Mother’s Day gift that she’ll really cherish for years.

I’m also currently offering a 20% discount to my Facebook Fans only, which expires May 1, 2012. You must like my page on Facebook in order to receive this deal.  I will periodically post updates and promos on my Facebook Page, but will not ever spam you. So sign ‘er up!

For more pictures of babies, please visit my online gallery.

My Minnoe


When I first thought about launching this site, many moons ago, my only real vision was a giant homage to my cat on the landing page. That cat is Minnoe, the most beautiful cat in the world! Minnoe was my first pet on my own (if you don’t count a couple of fish that preceded her.) I really wanted a cat, for a long time, but was in a basement apartment, and it just didn’t seem right. Almost immediately upon moving into a second-floor apartment with windows that looked on to the outside world, I went searching for my new buddy. I found her at the Humane Society on River Street, in Toronto, Ontario. One of the lovely staff pointed her out to me and she was a wonder. Such a pretty girl, and so well-behaved. So, drawing this portrait of Minnoe was important to me. She’s the Queen Bee of this website! (And, um, my whole life.)

I started by sketching out the basic shapes of her face and body. Then I started shading. Drawing with pencils is really not that different from painting. It still involves a lot of layers, which build upon one another to create a more seemingly three-dimensional image. Check out the process:

mstarkweather_minnoesketch1 mstarkweather_minnoesketch2 mstarkweather_minnoesketchfinal

And to rescue a pet that needs you, take a shop around the Toronto Humane Society website. Cats are the best! Get one!For more portraits of pets, please see my gallery.

Waltatron, before and after…

So, Walter’s done!  Check out the photo vs. painting below:


I completely underestimated the floor.  The floor took about two times as long as the cat. Although the floor is an integral part of Walter’s mystique…

Walter was rescued as a kitten from snowy rural Ontario and brought to Toronto to live in a typical Toronto dwelling – an old semi-detached Victorian, divided into apartments, one on each floor. These places, in my experience, always have a lot of “character.” This one is no exception! That 1970s elaborately patterned mustard/cream/brown tile floor, believe it or not, is one of Walter’s favourite toys in the house. Still, after 4 or 5 years in the same place, Walt regularly stalks and attacks the pattern in that floor. That’s right, the static floor he’s lived with/on for all of his adult life. What a strange cat…a perfect subject for a portrait, if you ask me! There’s mischief in those eyes.

The Dobermans

Oh, Dobermans. The best dogs ever. They are good-looking, goofy and sweet, and everybody’s afraid of them, so no one messes with you or your stuff! Perfection in a pet. These particular Dobermans were my Mom’s dogs (nay, my “siblings”) and I promised the portraits to her as a very belated birthday gift. But, they were tough…I only had very small, old family photos. And prints, nonetheless! Remember life before digital cameras, when pictures came on paper and not disk drives?

This is what I had to work with:


Karma’s not so bad, but Schatzie’s nose is cut off and Juba is a tiny, pitch black shadow of a dog. Ay yi yi – what did I get myself into?! But a promise is a promise, and this one was a promise to my Mom. There was no turning back. With some supplementary images and a scanner and some fiddling with the brightness and contrast of the images, I was able to work it out. Working with grainy dark photos, the painting ends up a little bit more impressionistic and painterly, whereas with a sharper photo I can include a lot more detail.

I start by creating a sketch on paper from the original photo, roughly the size I was to transpose onto canvas.


Next, I rough that out on the actual canvas and block in the base colours. These colours really just need to be a loose approximation of the overall tone I want to achieve. A lot of layers of colour will happen on top of these initial ones.

mstarkweather_karma1  mstarkweather_karma2

Now, these fields of colour need to be articulated with some highlights and shadows. This is a guideline for myself, so I know where I need to flesh out the form with layers of colour. I work with acrylic paint, usually on canvas. Acrylic can be tricky because it dries very quickly. In order to attain rich, deep tones, I build up many very thin layers of paint. It is time-consuming, but the end result is 100% worth it! In the first photo below, I have painted some highlights and shadows; in the second, I’ve started to build up the colour.

mstarkweather_karma3  mstarkweather_karma4

And, voila! A dog is re-born! Karma-lita-loo, I love you! To see the other two paintings in this series, please visit my Pet Gallery. Enjoy!


Entering the Wild Wooly World of the Interweb

Hello there!

Welcome to my new website! So here I am, sorting years worth of work into a tidy little package. What a process! I realize that my attention to detail may be my best weapon and worst enemy here. This is taking FOR-EV-ER!

Have a look around! How do you like my new digs?

In the meantime, back to work for me! I have a Dobermann painting to complete and then on to the next one…Walter. I’m debating between these two images. In one, he’s cooking up a plan for world domination and in the other, he’s relaxing post-domination (notice my own cat’s hair hanging out of his mouth! They used to be roommates, and I’ll tell you, she doesn’t miss him at all.) He’s a bad boy, but so cute! They always are, right?!