Commissioned Paintings by Elin Thomas
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Updated 11/2/2020

Commissioned Paintings by Elin Thomas

I have done many commissioned paintings for clients looking to capture the likeness of themselves, a beloved pet, or a dignitary.  I'm finding more and more people want them.  Prices are reasonable for my work, for example, a 16 x 20 original canvas can be owned for around US $500.

You can see how I work with clients for a commission by clicking here. Clicking on the links below will take you to areas on this page that feature those commissions.



Rowdy Arrington Twomey

She may be gone from her friends and from this earth, but I know in my heart that she will be close for those who knew her and see this portrait. I'm through with it now, and it was as though in painting her, I was releasing my connection to my loss. That sounds selfish to say, but please know that to me, letting go is one of the most powerful and freeing events one can have. It's a closure.

You can see from the finished portrait that I did nothing to erase the life she lived, and it is fairly easy to see her approximate age. This was intentional--Rowdy made no bones about her life and character, and my mission as an artist is to not gussie up the people I paint by doing the "cosmetic surgery" thing with my brushes. I painted her strength, and yet I think I also captured her gentle spirit.

I'm chuckling, though, because Rowdy would have hated to be painted and I have to say I thought I could hear her yelling at me while I was doing it! This painting will be publicly displayed only once, this afternoon, at March Field Air Museum, where her memorial will be held. She worked there as a volunteer coordinator and loved the planes!

A 20 x 18" acrylic on canvas, it is in the loving hands of Ruth and Ace Atkinson in their new home in Tijeras, New Mexico, next month.

Why is it so hard to paint one's mother's face?  I am revisiting dealing with my Mom's death last April, and the only way I can cope with the wash of sadness is to paint her.  I keep finding images and even when looking at myself, I see her.  This image is her in the one bedroom apartment where she moved shortly after my dad died.  Living independently, perhaps not yet using her walker, she is a mature woman, lit from the sliding glass doorway to her small patio.  She used to put her index finger on her cheek just the way you see it here, and although odd, is a normal pose.  I find myself doing it, too.  The composition is one of strength, with the verticals framing her, objects of her life on the shelf of the china cabinet behind her, and the split-leaf philodendron almost paying homage to her spirit.  All of her houses had one of these tropical plants, some growing several feet tall.

"Spunky Darby and Friend" Original acrylic commissioned portrait, 20 x 16 inches.

"Madeleine Thomas (AKA Mom), January 1, 1908 - April 8, 2006" When one chooses to remember a loved one, it ought not be the image of the last moments spent with them, their physical frame hardly recognizable as the specter of death approaches.  Better to remember the light in their eyes, imagery of earlier times, and more.  My vigil continues with my mother, and I brought my brushes again.  Concentrating on the image of my mother as a younger, vital woman distracts me from the reality of the shell of the person I love beside me.  I'm sending this from her room, as I am staying the night, since her time is near.  I do these paintings because I love her, and I need to be here to lift her spirit to the next life.
  This amazing woman got her private pilot's license while living in Hawaii in the late 1930's, and was there for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, too.  I chose a black and white photograph of her in the flying cap and goggles, as I know her spirit will be soaring again soon, to meet up with my father who left eight years ago after 58 years of marriage.  
  Here on Earth I will have her sparkle and smile in this painting forever.  Original oil on board, 12 x 9 inches.  
"Molly and Daisy" I had mentioned on my Daily Paintings mailing group that I enjoy working on commissions, and this is the first of two that are coming off the easel because of that. A long-time collector asked me if I could do a portrait of her youngest family members without actually doing my own photography. So this is a composite of several photographs taken by someone other than myself, but I was able to design a workable composition and make a decent go of it. It is a 20 x 16 portrait, and it gives me a great deal of pleasure to do work like this. I have found that I can assemble images and make formal portraits. Perhaps you would like one? Email me.

Comment from the collector upon receiving the painting: "Molly and Daisy arrived today (shipped to Florida). Elin, you have outdone yourself! This painting is beautiful and looks just like the 2 babies of the family. (Molly is the human baby and Daisy the dog one.)

"You've Got A Friend" Not exactly a commission, as I asked to make a painting from a photograph sent by a member of the Equine Art Guild. It is much more colorful than the original photograph, now it is a 9 x 12 oil painting. I just loved the idea of the young girl going through the angst of being a teenager, and the only animal that seems to understand is her horse. Entered in the Animals in Art show at the Louisiana Veterinary College.
"John from Life"  Sometimes things happen just the way they are supposed to.  This commission resulted from a collector enjoying another painting of one of my "characters".  A quick study from life, this painting captured the likeness of John in a pensive moment.  Email Elin about a live portrait for yourself

A 9 x 12 oil, the owner of this dog was looking for me to capture the essence and vitality of Mogo's personality. Here's the finished commission painting of Mogo, done for a Canadian veterinarian, finished. Mogo is a small dog, so I tried to enhance the feel of his smallness by altering the proportions from the source material to push the feel of how tiny he is, without losing the alert look of his funny character. I added interesting details to the background as well, and coordinated the color of the shadow to the dog.

Commission of a Jack Russell terrier for a client back east. I was given some free rein to do what I like with it. The dog is gone, and it always touches a place of sadness when I am asking my abilities to give the gift of a memory to someone. But I cannot NOT do it, because I have been so touched by the love of dogs and cats myself, and their memories are precious to me, too.
I drew the dog, compositing her from many other dog images, a background from one of the submitted images, and also from having a terrier myself. Nothing like rubbing a hand over a dog to give you ideas on muscles and structure.
The finished 12 x 16 oil portrait of "Meg", and the individual who requested this commission is just thrilled. I'm really pleased with it as well, since it not only allows me to do something meaningful for someone, but it also allows me to think through the puzzle of solving the issues unique to the task.


Jake, the Beagle mix commission for my friend in Georgia, and have received the approval for it. I bet you didn't notice the halo suggested in the space above his mischieveious head, eh? He was truly a character, and it was my hope that I could paint him to life for the viewer.

Original oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches.

Ah, beloved pets. Is there anything more comforting than to see them as they are today, knowing their short lives are going to become part of your personal history down the road? The black and tan is my beloved, aged Q, or "little biting dog"--LBD, who is 17 years old this year. Still spry, but with growths, totally deaf and cataracts are taking her once sharp eyesight.

Sparky is the "accidental" dog--I almost didn't get him, but at the last minute decided that Onslow needed a playmate. Dogs, true to their own needs, disrupted my best-laid plans. Onslow cares for and stays with Q, and Sparky has become my constant companion.

This is an original oil, 11 x 14, but not for sale. I like to keep some of my memories.

Oil portrait of two dogs, 16 x 20 inches, and the collector loved it! I delivered it still wet in places, and he said I captured the personalities of the pooches with perfection of paintbrush. The dog on the right is reserved in nature, and the one on the left is constantly happy and a bit goofy.

Getting that inherent personality is very essential to doing commissions, and I try my best to get it. The location is important for the client, too--the front porch is where they spend time and the positions are also characteristic, down to the twist in the front paws on the shy dog.

Oil commission, quite large at 30 x 50 inches.
"Dots and Spots" You all know how much I love dogs, and today's painting is full of the joy of this Dalmatian joyfully running through the snow. The source material for this painting, done during today's demonstration time, was a photo taken of "Patch", the farm dog, on an overcast day after a snowfall. Hard material to make into a decent painting, but acrylics are magical this way. I dropped all the grays out of the plan, and used blues and violets instead! The repetition of the coloration on the dog and the background fencing creates a unity for good design. Putting the dog with enough "room" to run forward is also a conscious decision for good design. This 12 x 16 acrylic painting is already in the hands of collectors Melissa and Bill Brown of Lexington, Kentucky...

Gift to the Patchy Brown family of Lexington

Well, here's Roper, finished and hopefully pleasing the Wood family. If one chooses to do commissioned work, as I do oftentimes, one always has the knowledge that as an artist, you are painting to a memory. That can be really difficult, because  you in your artist-mode look at the imagery supplied see the possibilities based upon your training and experience. Yet in the head of the people asking you to do this is a complex idea of what was, or what they remember, having changed what was to "fit" their own perceptions.   

I enjoy doing commissions, because I believe my abilities lie in being able to get inside the source material, to find the real "life" in the animal (or person). So far, I've been either lucky, or people are too afraid of my reputation to come back and say, "Um, Elin, I hate to say this, but our beloved Pookie's eyes weren't crossed." But they'll always be a first time.

Maybe I get away with a lot because I'm such a loose painter.  Artists whose work is needle tight tend to attract the jobs that we artists like to call "commissions from Hell", because the people like to see every freckle and hair in place. I'd never make it in those circles!..

to the Wood family in Saskatoon, Canada

I knew I'd have to make changes to the dog to get the right "look", and boy! There were some major ones.  I ended up scraping out the entire nose and eye area, and repainting much of the structure of the head. I'm just happier with it. Below are both paintings, before and after, so you can see the changes wrought. They look like two different dogs! But that's the way of a commission for me. I tend to paint the majority of it in the first pass--OH OH!!! Major teaching moment ahead!

Hesitancy in painting limits your choices. I am reminded of cleaning a closet--the first thing that has to be done is to get everything OUT of the closet. So when I paint like this, I'm putting a lot of paint out there, and doing a lot of things on the canvas so I have something to work with later. Imagine if you will a restaurant with only two items on the menu. You'd stop going there, wouldn't you, after tasting just those two items every time? Your canvas can be a menu. The more you have OUT on it, the more choices you are likely to make. For example, say I put some blue in the lower left corner. That blue is out there where I can see it, and I can make additional choices in my work based upon seeing it. Had I not put the blue there, options and choices related to that blue wouldn't be possible! 

So the dog commission was done in the first pass to give me something to work with later. I had the head painted, it just wasn't RIGHT. I had the dog painted, and a lot of it IS right. A headless dog is a dog with nothing to work with. So my advice to you all is, "Do something, ANYthing, so you have something to work with."

"Fritz" I had the pleasure of meeting Fritz in his later years, the dog of a long-time friend. Fritz is gone now, having done his service in raising a young boy and taking care of his family. This commission is an opportunity to bring his spirit back for a small moment to light up the dark place of sadness we all have when we lose one of these very special animals. Fritz' portrait is a 12 x 9 commission, and will be delivered to the Bay Area in a couple of weeks.

Commission, will yours be next?

Comment from Collector: "I just saw Fritz & can hardly type because I'm crying. You did a wonderful job in capturing him & the setting is perfect. Michael is going to love it. Thank you so much!"

"Wolfy" A commissioned 16 x 20 painting, Wolfy was a challenge for me, as the source material was an assemblage of indoor photographs, outdoor sunshine and flash photography. Whew. Solving a lot of those problems occurs when you put the dog in a formal background, and having looked thousands of times at dogs in general. Wolfy's owner came to me after seeing the other dog and cat portraits on this page. Original Oil.

Comments about this commission:

"Pez - Beloved Friend (Deceased)" This painting and the story behind it spoke deeply to me, as we just recently had to say farewell to one of our own beloved dogs. The owners' love for the memory of Pez prompted them to write about a commission. It was an honor to create this painting in his memory. Original oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches. See how the commission process works here.
From Pez' Owners: "I love it! I love the colors, Pez looks wonderful, and I like all the decisions you made on the composition...I just saw it this morning. I can't wait to see it live! Thanks for sharing your talent with me. We are really going to enjoy this painting." From another artist: " is a winner. I sent the link to my daughter who loves her dogs. A few years ago someone stole her Great Dane and she wishes she had a painting.....and she mentioned a neighbor of hers that would to see the (painting).
From a professional portrait painter: "That's a great painting, Elin. From the thumbnail I thought it was going to be a bit less impressionistic than many of your other things, but when I saw the larger version all that lovely fur and texture popped out. The dog's terrific and the background really adds a lot to it." From another artist: "Gorgeous. All the same sensitivity and luscious fur as with the horses."
"Spunky" Darby Commission - Sometimes it is hard to say "no", when someone asks in just the right way... and Kim asked, and I couldn't say no to painting her beloved Spunky. Although I've never seen him in "person", I think his personality came through in the images Kim provided. Original oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. Click here if you're interested in how a commission comes about.

From the collector: "Yes - we got and LOVE it! I may have some more customers for you too. You out did yourself! It is him without a doubt - I can see his cute little personality too!

"Tiny Roberts" My last two shelter paintings brought to me a very sad story about this five pound rescue who was much loved by his adopted family until a tragic accident took him away. One of their other dogs got out and the owner, went to find her. Tiny Roberts was with him. He put Tiny down for a minute to put a leash on the other dog and Tiny stepped back into the path of an oncoming car. The owner (who is a large man 6'7") cried for over an hour carrying home the lifeless body of poor little Tiny Roberts.

I am delighted to bring his spirit back through this small image. Original oil on board-backed canvas, 10 x 8 inches.

"Qso Sleeping" Here is an example of a portrait done from life of my current pet, a rare German Pinscher.  These little dogs are tenacious and fearless.  "Qso" is named after my ham radio communications where "QSO" represents communication. This painting is not for sale, but is shown for your benefit so you can see that I enjoy painting animal studies from life.  9 x 12 inches.
"Starfire's Fear No Evil"   My beloved female Doberman, called "Evoe", was my constant companion at work and play from seven weeks to the day she passed away.  Original oil painting, 12 x 9 inches.  Email me about a dog commission from your source material! Visit my other dog paintings by clicking here


The last commission for 2008, and it is so far along that I showed it to the collector for her approval. I still have some more work to do on it, though.

I really enjoyed painting in the fencing behind the horse and will share with you how it was done. The first lines were horizontal, done with white and ultramarine blue. Then the sunlit portions were painted on top of that with just white and a whisper of cadmium orange. The posts were done with that same white/blue mix, and then their sunlit areas were put in with that same white.

Now, even though there is a signature on the work, I will still go in and work on some of the areas before I can truly call it finished. The distant tree needs more limbs, and there are some "issues" that artists have with their work that need resolving before it "reads right" to the originator. Sure was fun to get it to this point though! Can you Boot Camp Graduates tell what time of day it is? (Remember that the time of year also affects your decision!)

On other news, I had one of my bigger paintings accepted into the Saks Gallery Show in Denver, and we've just received the invitations. They are gorgeous! If you are in Denver during this time, please come to the opening and see some truly spectacular art. As you can see from the e-vite, there are some truly outstanding artists represented. I'm honored to be among them!
"Yvonne's Gang" I reached for a new challenge to paint not one, two or even three horses, but SIX horses in this commission piece for Missouri Foxtrotter owner Yvonne DeForest.  The painting brought tears to her eyes when it was delivered, because Yvonne no longer has all six of these horses.  (Epilogue: I now own the horse in the lead--my Raindance mare) However, they will continue to run free on the wall of her new home.  24 x 36 Oil  Email me about an equine commission from your source material!

Yvonne receiving her commissioned painting- tears everywhere!

"Shiner - 1969-1999" A commission Christmas present for my long-time friend from high school.  Rhonda bought Shiner as a two-year old, and this horse was more than just a friend and riding companion for her.  When Shiner passed away in the pasture earlier this year, Rhonda called me, and we cried together.  A memorial painting is now in her hands, showing this kind horse's temperment.  Oval oil, 14" in diameter to fit the wreath Rhonda made to honor her companion. Email me if an equine commission interests you.
"Arab Commission"   This head portrait of an Arab mare is one of two commissions as raffle prizes showing my work at booth venues. Oil on board, 12 x 16 inches  Email me about an equine commission from your source material, photographs or from life!
"Arab Commission #2"    This is the second of the two head portraits of  Arabs  from that show. Oil on board, 12 x 16 inches  Email about an equine commission from your source material!
"Black Mare"    This is another of the horse portraits I have done for collectors and owners of  Arabs. Oil on canvas,  12 x 16 inches  Email me about an equine commission from your source material!


"Bear Commission" One of many Internet commissions that I've done for far away clients.  This painting originated from a black and white photograph sent by the owner, who lives in Indiana.  I was able to paint this full-color image for a very reasonable price.  Original oil on board, 16 x 12 inches.  Email for inquiries about a wildlife commission from your source material!


"Yes, I'm Warm, Thank You (Scout)" The source material for this was so good, I changed hardly anything--perhaps the expression a bit, making the cat a teenager.  When I have to do details like this, I prefer my acrylics, as the layering of colors allows for infinite details and corrections.  This is a 5 x 7 acrylic on gallery wrap.

"Sebastian Merrill" My cat paintings generated this commission from the family of one of my collectors. Combining several reference photographs, this portrait of a beloved pet comes off the easel at 8 x 10 inches. I love doing combination compositions.

"Pesto Posing" This painting is 6 x 8 oil, showing my studio cat Pesto as an example of the kind of painting I can do of your pets. Available through Paypal for $195.

..or Email me if a cat commission interests you.

"Dee's Pal"    This painting depicts a beloved companion of one of my artist friends.  At age 18, this cat was slowing down, enjoying the golden years.  Shortly after this painting was completed, Maxie passed away.  Acrylic collage, 9 x 12 inches.  Email me if you are ineterested in a commission of your own cat.  And please visit my other cat paintings by clicking here


This is a commission that was raffled off last September to raise funds for the transportation of the third graders who visit the Plateau and learn about California's habitats and animals. This program changes children's lives. Thousands of kids hike the plateau on guided tours and receive lessons at the Visitor's Center. The bus transportation is provided with help from the Foundation, as districts are strapped for money, and there are always more third graders.
The hike in and out was four miles, and I pulled my golf cart easel over rocks and along narrow trails to get to this viewpoint. Well worth it, because I know you'll be able to get the "feel" for what this place means to me, and to the docents in looking at this vista. Now, the lower right section is finished, as they asked me to add eight people (six grand children and themselves) in the lower right. But this 15 x 30 canvas was a pure pleasure to paint in the afternoon light!

Three days of work on this one (mostly) and I can comfortably say it is 99 percent finished. I really am pleased with the way this slight fantasy/mostly real painting came out. The work has an interesting balance of values and division of space. Squint your eyes and look at the interesting light/dark that shows up! 

Putting visuals to the words of people who so much want to have a memory made into something tangible is truly rewarding. I do hope the individual who has commissioned this painting will be pleased with the way it has turned out. 

I also worked on yesterday's commission of the dog, completely wiping out and scraping much of his face off, repainting it in with an accuracy that was missing on the first go. AS artists, we cannot have fear about correcting our images, because if it has been painted once, it can be done again. Our brushes continue to move over new canvases, and each mark making is building on those that went before. Retracing our steps to correct is similar to practicing what we are learning--it can only contribute to growth. So I have a great deal of certainty that any corrections I make will only make me a better artist in my journey.