This is Willow. She left this earth roughly a year ago. Almost completely blind when the reference photos were taken, her family wanted to show some of the detail of the blindness in her eyes since it was a part of who she was in their lives. From her perch on a window sill where this pose was taken, you can see she was acutely aware of her surroundings, and a beauty to boot.
When I paint an animal portrait, I like to know the details of their lives - their personality quirks, their afflictions (if any) and their story/history. Anecdotes are a wonderful part of the process, since I usually don't get the opportunity to meet the pet I'm painting and so much of what has to come through depends on the character beneath the surface. I like to see that spirit come through in their eyes. This portrait focuses on Willow's 'gaze' - guided mostly by senses other than sight. At peace, yet alert. Her ears perked, her whiskers curved forward. She was in her groove.
Creating portraits require certain guidelines to turn out well. Photographic references are key, especially when the subject lives far away. The best references are taken in natural light, either outside (watch out for dramatic shadows that mask the details of the face and eyes) or inside near a window or source of diffused sunlight. Unnatural light - flash, for instance - will compromise eye detail and fur color. High resolution photos help when I need to zoom in for detail, in the case of long distance shots. When taking a photo of your pet, try for indoor setting with lots of natural light coming in from a window or door, or take your pet outdoors. Lots of photos will show full body detail, but little face information. For me, the face is the focus - where the character I seek to paint is in full view. Aiming for a variety of shots that include close ups of your pet's face is best, making sure the eyes are in sharp focus and clear of shadow. I want to see that eye color! I can and do often tweak photos on Photoshop to suss out details in under-exposed shots. You pet shows so much through their eyes, let that be the focal point for your photos and for your portrait!