Someone asked me not long ago, “How did you get started painting pet portraits?” I tried to remember, and what it seems like is that someone who had bought art from me asked, “Can you do pet portraits?” I replied, “Sure.” Of course, I had never done a pet portrait before. But that didn’t stop me. I worked and worked on the first one, experimenting with techniques, figuring out what worked for the effect I wanted, and generally taking a lot longer than it should have.
In the end, my client loved the portrait. They told others, who told others, and so on. I started getting the commissions regularly, and continued to experiment, study, and learn until I felt like I really had figured it out. Now I have pet portraits all over the United States, and some in Canada. Tennessee Cross Roads did a segment on the pet portraits a couple of years ago, so maybe they are working out well.
Of course, the portraits wouldn’t work at all if I did not have a true love of pets. I’ve had many cats, including the one we just took in as a re-home for a friend. Cats are unique creatures, and the new one is no different. I love painting cats, but don’t get as many commissions for them as I do the dogs.
I had two wonderful rescue dogs, Buddy and Sweetie, who were the best friends one could have. Buddy was a big, hairy Border Collie/Great Pyrenees mix, and Sweetie was what we refer to as a “Tennessee brown dog.” In other words, on any given day you could find about 10 different breeds in her. Nevertheless, they were my constant companions, until I lost them both to old age. I was finally able to bring myself to do their portraits, and realized that having their portraits hanging in the house was a great comfort to me. I see them everyday, and now, while I miss them, I feel like they're still with me.