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

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