Making a nice piece of art is great, unless the photography is lacking. Lighting is everything. Flash is out of the question. Harsh lighting, like flash, is unflattering when used on people and even more unkind when used on artwork. Natural lighting is the way to go. Here are two examples.
The first lion was taken using natural lighting, but it was strong sunlight streaming through a large open window. It's very harsh and the shadows hide some of the details.
Here is the same lion. I took him outside on a bright sunny morning, but the photo was taken in the shade behind a big white building. I also positioned the shot slightly higher. It makes the lion look more vulnerable, and cuter. Big difference, huh?