Far from simply photoshopping an animal head on a human body, the pet portraits of Valerie Leonard reflect a level of care and personality that's peerless in the field. Inspired by the Old Masters, as well as film and family portraits, her images balance a level of whimsy with a stateliness befitting their regal subjects.
Based in Connecticut, the artist devotes days to each portrait. The process varies for each pet, but usually involves studying images of the particular animal, as well as researching the characteristics of the breed in general. She then researches classic artists for the most fitting painting, using the client's direction as a guide. Once chosen, she morphs the animal image into the human form. In the final product, the animal features and background are often cobbled together from a composite of different images. Our introduction to Valerie Leonard came when our friend Josh Spear surprised us with a portrait of CH mascots Otis and Logan titled The Royal Twins (below). Of course, we were impressed and delighted. Leonard was good enough to share a bit about her process and some samples from along the way which you can see after the jump .
The first pass used Ferdinand of Wherever but that was too cutesy.
Thomas Gainsborough's Blue Boy proved a worthy pairing for Otis.
Logan was attached to William of Orange by Van Dyke, the painting which also offered up a background for The Royal Twins.
A detail of Otis as Blue Boy.