pet portraits and animal paintings

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I have a ridiculously great life, playing with paint in the studio and flexing my time around the needs of my family. Took me a while to work out the balance, but I figured it all out and am loving every second. You can see my artwork at and I'm on twitter (ksantini) and facebook (Kimberly Santini), and the FB studio is Kimberly Kelly Santini.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"A Distinguished Gentleman (Harley)," 14" x 24", commissioned harlequine great dane dog portrait, in acrylic on gallery stretched canvas. The above image is the painting almost completed.

Harley has inspired several paintings already (see "The Red Collar" at He is delightful and handsome and one of the most engaging models I've worked with to date.

I am certain that I will paint him again.

But meanwhile I need to put the finishing touches on the above piece. I see a few tweaks I want to make, and more will crop up in the days to come. I like to live with a painting for a little before I deliver it to the client, and make certain I haven't missed a single detail.

Now it's onto the next portrait - a big red dog. I bet Amos (a de Bordeaux Mastiff) could give Clifford a solid run for his money!

Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings
come. sit. stay.
enjoy the art.

Founding member of the Canine Art Guild
the gateway to canine art on the web

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Things have been so busy with the Painting a Dog a Day project, that I've had to slow down on the lifesize and larger portraiture quite a bit this last year. That was a tough decision to make, as I thoroughly enjoy painting at this scale, but I think it was a good one. It's allowed me to focus more so on my skills growth.

Which is a huge plus, because I find when I return to the larger scale, I do so with more and more confidance. This particular piece, one of the most recent to come from the easel, showcases a lot of the newer ideas I've been working on: color harmony, the bounce of light, modelling with color temperature changes instead of just value shifts, and balancing saturation with grays.

This is a gallery stretched canvas, 38" x 20," built on 3" deep stretchers. The empty canvas alone had quite a serious presence, as it sat heavily on the wall in my studio, waiting for the first layers of paint.

My clients supplied me with a number of strong photographs, with the composition being pulled mainly from one photo. But there was tweaking to do in order to allow equal "space" to all three horses. Lighting was adjusted, shoulders and bodies were shifted, and I took a few creative liberties (can you find them?!).

They are pleased with the painting, as am I.

Hope you enjoy it as well.
Now I get to tackle a mastiff's head and shoulders. Not quite at this scale, but it promises to be a good workout nonetheless.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Train your email to Fetch!

You read it right! Train your email to fetch my dog a day paintings. Every day, a few hours before the Painting a Dog a Day blog gets updated, I send an email out containing a sneak preview of the day's dog painting.

Training your email is as easy as typing it into the box below, and hitting the Subscribe button.

Type your email here:

Hmm.... maybe I should change that "Subscribe" box to "Fetch!"

Now I've got to return to a couple of holiday commissioned portraits.

Thanks, as always for looking!!


Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Dog a Day Project

Was blindsided by a new idea earlier this week.

There's been so much press lately about artists committing to do a finished piece every day for a set amount of time. There's websites and blogs attributing to their productions, and it really is quite enviable that they are able to rise to the occasion every single day. I was awed, especially by one of my favs, Elin Pendleton, who recently completed an entire year of a painting each day.

Then I realized that I had the same sort of discipline all these "piece-a-day" artists had, too - it's just that I was chipping away at a larger canvas who's production could stretch over months.

But I often did little pieces to loosen up, or use up residual paint on my palette, or to experiment with color.

So why not commit to doing one of those every day?

Yeah, why not?

Think I might have had too much coffee, because I got all excited about the idea and real quick registered a new blog to highlight this project.

Call me a lemming, but here goes. Painting a dog a day.

It's been fun so far!

Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings

founding member of the
Canine Art Guild
the gateway to canine art on the web

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nibble or Stretch - My Latest Thoroughbred Painting

ARTIST'S NOTE February 1th, 2008: This one was a long time in the making. I didn't rush things, as I did not want to compromise my inner vision. I waited to gain an understanding of certain techniques before tackling them on this painting, and I believe that my patience paid out. The painting is done, and currently on display at Margot's Gallery. "Stretch," 42" x 16," gallery stretched acrylic on canvas, thoroughbred portrait, available for purchase: inquiries to .

After a week of dealing with fevers and flu and laundry, I finally got to load the kids on the school bus this morning. It felt like coming home after a long torturous vacation when I stepped into the studio this morning.

My goal for today was to continue work on a couple of pet portraits that were already in process, but also to lay the ground work for a painting demonstration I’m doing this evening at the Orion Art Center.

I had already chosen my image, one taken of a chestnut thoroughbred stallion during this summer’s visit to Lexington. I cropped and made some basic modifications in photoshop, trying to reduce the contrast and pull more detail into the shadowed areas. Essentially trying to turn my reference photo into a closer approximation of what my eyes saw for themselves.

Then I stretched a 42” x 16” canvas. That’s right, this guy will be lifesize.

I worked slowly, taking notes as I progressed, so that I could talk coherently to the group tonight about the beginning stages of the painting process. I would like to illustrate and eventually publish these notes on my website, as I think a fully detailed work in process would be interesting for some.

This time I switched out my titanium white for titan buff. I had read about some tinted whites that were commercially available for oil paints, and how they achieved a warmer tone when mixed, so thought I would give it a try. So far, I’m liking the warmth that the lighter, sun-kissed values have in my piece, but I’ll keep you posted on how it works in the long run.

So I’m off to make a hearty pot of chili for dinner, then will brave the cold rain and head over to the art center for continued work on this painting. I promise to update this entry with an image when the sun shines here in MI again (don’t hold your breath, though, as we may not see any sunshine until spring now!) and I can get better lighting.

Thanks, as always, for your time!

Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Zoe's Portrait (an Airedale Terrier)

Here’s a new commissioned dog portrait, starring Zoe, an airedale. She’s patiently been in my pet portrait queue, and I’ve been very excited to start her for quite a long time. Every so often a subject comes along like Zoe, a character with enough substance to pull off a larger than life painting with substantial artistic integrity.

Of course, I think the integrity bit is helped by solid reference photos. Having evenly lit non-flash photographs taken from the dog’s eye level make a world of difference, even at the conceptual stage.

The palette for this one is a little different. I cleaned off my taboret completely this morning, and set it up with only cad red dark, cad yellow dark, ultra blue, quinacridone red, hansa yellow, pthalo blue red and Prussian blue. I am tinting with titanium white.

Another thing I’ve noticed that I am embracing more easily is tinting. In the past, I used glaze and lots of yellows, thinning my paints and layering them to attain a lighter value. While that resulted in some nice saturation, I think my overall value range might have suffered a little bit. And all that yellow sometimes made color harmony a bigger struggle.

Now (not just in Zoe’s painting) I am using lots of titanium white, still with glaze. But I’m getting some nice luminosity happening, too.

So the image here is how Zoe looks after a day of layering intial wet glazes onto the canvas. I’ll keep an updated version on my website.

As always, thanks for looking.

Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
and 4-legged paintings

Thursday, September 28, 2006


In an effort to get the creative juices flowing, and to play with a smaller value range (similar to what I struggled with in Lou, see his blog below), I started a new piece today.

Untitled at this point, it features a row of sleeping vizsla puppies. These pups are from a litter belonging to Thyme, who I’ve had the honor of painting before. She inspired me to learn more about this breed, with coats of liquid gold. I just adore painting them.

I’ve got a very nice pattern happening here – the stripes created by the puppies’ bodies, the (eventual) stripes on the blanket, and their precious little rick-rack collars.

I worked this one in the same palette I’ve used on the last couple paintings: cadmium red and yellow, with pthalo blue red, and lots of titanium white.

I’ve started with a generic blocking in of color – first I laid down some basic orange shapes, and placed a wash of blue around them. After that dried, I went back and drew in the puppies, concentrating on their bone structure – getting the heads and spines aligned properly. Then I put in three basic oranges, and have started to model the puppies a bit more.

This is the stage where sometimes I'll halt for a week or two, and study the piece to determine if any substantial changes need to be made. I enjoy looking at the bare bones of the painting, too - it's easier to appreciate it's abstract qualities at this point, and I have yet to mess anything up. :)

I’m planning on entering this in the juried 2007 Art Show at the Dog Show. I’m also considering making prints of the finished painting. If you are interested in purchasing either this painting or a print, please drop me a line (

Thanks again for taking the time to stop by!

Kimberly Kelly Santini
Distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings