Cherishing Our Furry Friends Creatively

Whether it’s a fish, a horse, or anything in between, a pet is a pet. They’re there for you when you’re happy or sad, through all of life’s journeys and obstacles, and they’re happy to do it. They provide us with companionship but also with emotional support, reduce our stress levels, sense of loneliness and help us to increase our social activities. Pets are part of our everyday lives and part of our families. We talk with five pet lovers who found the best way to cherish our furry friends forever: creating custom pet portraits!

Imagination Running Wild

Jade – Founder of Jade Wu Studio

Where is your love for wildlife coming from?

I’ve grown up loving animals. I didn’t get to see much wildlife growing up in Beijing, which was a huge metropolis even in the 80’s and 90’s, and we didn’t have a TV, so I had to fantasize a lot about animals based on stories my mother would read to me. And by “wildlife,” I mean we couldn’t even see squirrels or pigeons where we lived. The first time I was “paid” for my artwork, I was 9 years old–a film crew wanted to buy my drawings as props in their TV how about a kid who liked to draw–and when asked how much I wanted to get paid, I asked for a National Geographic book on animals. As a teenager, instead of putting up posters of celebrities in my room, I made an entire wall into a collage of animal photographs. This love for wildlife never left me, I always stayed close to people and places that allowed me to be near animals. In fact, I ended up marrying a marine biologist! He promised to take me to see river dolphins in the Amazon one day.

Which animals inspire you the most and why?

It’s so hard to say! I do have a deep admiration for elephants because of their vastness, wisdom, and matriarchal societies. I also could never get over the hauntingly beautiful sound of whale song. I still get choked up each time I listen. At the same time, it’s not just the huge and majestic animals that inspire me. Birds, bats, insects, amphibians, and other little forest critters also bring me joy and wonder. At the end of the day, I think it’s biodiversity–simply the huge range of what life looks and sounds like–that inspires me.

How has Chinese traditional painting influenced your work?

I grew up in China, and in school, we all had to learn a traditional art. I chose brush painting only because I thought it would be easier than Chinese harp (and it is). My teacher was extremely skilled–it was mesmerizing how he could make a single brush stroke look like a full branch, a bird, or a flower. I really fell in love with the minimalist and flowing aesthetic of Chinese brush painting. This style reflects traditional Chinese philosophical and cultural values of harmony and humility–instead of fighting against the elements, the act of brush painting really allows you to flow with them. I’ve tried to adopt this approach to painting, especially in my watercolors. Although I don’t use traditional Chinese papers and paints, I have adopted elements of the aesthetic style, such as the use of white space, use of simple brush strokes, and signing my name using a traditional red stamp.

What makes watercolor so special for you?

Watercolor is special for me because I am actually self-taught in this medium. I had always been afraid of watercolor because this medium is notoriously difficult to control, and I didn’t like the idea of not knowing exactly how each brush stroke would land. But I gave it a try during a period of living in a small space, where I couldn’t paint large oil paintings, and I fell in love with the versatility of watercolor. It was nice to go with the flow, literally, and discover what might happen with each brush stroke instead of dictating what will happen. And watercolor is the closest medium to Chinese brush painting, which allowed me to go back to my cultural roots and be influenced by the aesthetic I have always so admired. I’ve been watercolor painting for about 2 and a half years now, and I’m always discovering new things about this medium.


A Golden Niche Skill

Som – Founder of PeonyPeacock

Tell us about your passion for pets.

I’ve always been a very passionate animal and nature lover since childhood. My love for painting and art began at the age of 6 when I would engage myself in painting and crafts for hours at a stretch. It was my favorite pastime! My mom noticed my talent and encouraged me to learn and improvise via private tutoring.

I’ve painted a variety of nature subjects to date but very recently embarked on the pet portrait line. Miniature art and jewelry is one of my specialties. In the fall of 2015, it all started as a one-off custom request by a local client for a portrait necklace of her German Shepherd. With hesitation, I accepted her request as I had never painted pets before. I took it as a fun challenge and stayed up late in the night working on it and much to my surprise, I had nailed it! Happy tears rolled down my cheeks as I uncovered another niche skill I didn’t even know I had.

Since that day, there has been no looking back and I’ve painted hundreds of pet breeds, big and small, in miniature and regular sizes. Pets make their families so happy and creating a piece of art that adds to that joy is what makes me love what I do. It warms my heart to hear how happy my clients are at the portraits they receive and how some of them bring tears to their eyes as they fondly cherish a passed pet. Making these memorable pieces is what my art is all about!

What pushed you towards the creation pet portrait Jewelry?

I started making miniature art jewelry in 2010 when I had first opened my etsy shop. I mainly focused on nature themes and a few other quirky ones as well. My art pendants sold well and I saw a promising future. Soon after, I took a hiatus from art owing to few cross-country moves, followed by a maternity break. I got back into creating again and chanced upon the amazing opportunity for a custom GSD portrait necklace request and that pretty much set the pace for an exclusive pet portrait jewelry line. I’ve come across many distinguished pet portrait artists but very few who do miniature work. I knew this would be a unique area for me to focus on and it truly has been a blessing! I’ve had my busiest holiday season to date and feel honored to be chosen for the creation of many sentimental and touching pet gifts!


All About the Details

Caitlin – Founder of The Lovely Details

Where did you learn to draw like this?

I’ve always loved drawing since a young age (started with drawing my guinea pigs and pup when I was a kid!) I’m self-taught and was always drawing people, later receiving requests for animals. As I got older, I took a few figure drawing classes and found it put me in a meditative state and flow; I loved getting lost in the moment and absorbed by the shadows and form.

It was a perfect outlet for me, as I naturally gravitate to zero in on details, and figure drawing has taught me to look at the overall form and structure as well. Combining this experience with a love of details has helped me grow as an artist, and I look forward to expanding technique-wise.

Why do you specially love drawing pet portraits?

As a kid, I felt drawn to animals and loved learning about different species and breeds. Any time spent in nature or interacting with animals filled me with joy, and as a sensitive child I felt almost as close to animals as I did to my human best friends.

I love drawing pet portraits as I find it to be a way to be of service and bring joy to people. I aim to capture the animal’s personality, and feel honored to connect with other animal lovers and provide a gift showing a fond memory with their pet. My favorite portraits to do are those of the pet and owner together.

The relationship between people and pets is a special one and I also love seeing how people (temporarily) ease their boundaries and lower their walls to connect with other animal lovers. It’s especially fun witnessing this with busy New Yorkers connecting on the street or subway, breaking some of the isolation in day-to-day routines. I’ve seen many people connect with their emotional side and get excited when receiving a portrait of their pet.

What is the process when ordering portraits?

If someone is interested in a portrait I first discuss with them what they are looking for and offer advice on the sizing and photo. If there is a specific memory or sentimental photo I will work to recreate it, but I always ask for clear and high resolution photos so I can capture as much detail as possible! As I work I send update photos, and make adjustments as requested, to make sure the final portrait is what they envision.

Capturing a Soul

Lisa – Founder of Curious Portrait

How did you develop this Victorian touch that characterizes your portraits?

There are so many influences on my work that it is difficult to pinpoint the most important. For example, I have a real fondness for vintage photographs: the need for a model to sit still for a long exposure lent a formality to the early photo portraits that always appealed to me. There is something so intriguing about a close-up portrait without a background story that engages me with the subject’s soul. I feel the same about the Italian and Flemish “psychological portraits” of the Renaissance, particularly those of Bronzino and Holbein. Their portraits almost demand attention and that is how I imagine an animal that does not have the gift of language communicates with humans.

I can’t ignore the influence of my dogs either. I did my first animal portrait of my dog Toby then went on to paint my second (and present) dog Bingo every Halloween in a spooky themed portrait which now includes my third dog Astro. I have a real fascination for Victorian spiritualism and these portraits give me an opportunity to express that each year!

We feel some kind of childhood nostalgia in your artwork. What brings you back to this period of your life and how does it inspire your work?

My work is definitely nostalgic and inspired by my childhood memories. For example, I always preferred stuffed animals to dolls. I used to sew clothes for them on my toy sewing machine and just loved imagining them interacting with humans the way, for instance, Babar the elephant did. My Green Bunny portrait expresses my love for my first toy which belonged to my brother and then my sister and which was lost during a move. Years later when I found him packed in a box of curtains it was as if he had miraculously returned from the dark beyond. That portrait and in fact Green Bunny himself remains a symbol of hope and rebirth.

What are your preferred techniques and subjects for your portraits?

I paint in oil, usually on a gessoed wood panel. Often to save time I paint a solid underpainting in sepia toned acrylic and then go in with oil for color and detail. In my opinion, nothing brings luminosity and depth to a painting like oil color.

If you were an animal, which one would you be? 🙂

As much as I’d like to say I am really a dog, given my love of my canine companions, I am probably more of a squirrel at heart. I admire how energetic and resourceful they can be. They are amazing problem solvers who never give up and always manage to forge ahead with a jolly and positive countenance. Since my first squirrel Daisy (see portrait) I have fed and photographed generations of squirrels on courtyard my fire escape and always find them to be trusting, friendly and up-lifting to the spirit!

Color Your Own Pet

Lisa Marie – Founder of Artistry by Lisa Marie

How did you shift from Art History to customized Art Prints and Coloring Pages? Can you tell us more about your story?

In high school I often went to a professional artist’s studio after school and studied her drawing techniques. She used the same methods as the Renaissance masters. It nurtured both my passions – creating art and learning art history. After I earned my MA in Art History in Florence Italy, I wanted to share what I had learned with others. That’s when I decided to offer custom portraits, prints and coloring pages. That way I can share my art and encourage others to pursue their own creative talent.

How long does it take you to complete a pet portrait?

Custom handmade portraits are in high demand and the studio queue usually books months ahead. Once I start a portrait, it can take one to three weeks to finish – depending on how large the drawing is and how many subjects are in it. I encourage my customers to order well in advance to make sure their personalized art is completed before they need it, especially if it’s a gift.

 Why do you like drawing animals?

Animals are wonderful models. They have so much honesty in their expressions and bring great joy to others. I create many portraits for weddings, births, family gatherings and I love drawing them all. But animals are never self-conscious or care about their physical idiosyncrasies – that’s very refreshing.

What inspired you to create your first coloring page?

I was speaking with an older woman who really wanted a portrait of her cat but couldn’t afford a custom portrait. I found a drawing I had made a while ago that was similar to her feline companion and turned it into a coloring page that she could order online and print at home. It’s affordable, she can color it herself to perfectly match her cat, and put a bit of herself in the image. She was so happy I decided to make more coloring pages.

Coloring is therapeutic, just like petting an animal. Was your intention mixing two absolute relaxing factors?

Art can trigger many responses in people, just like animals. I wanted to further explore the potential of art and animals, how they can make my customers happy, relaxed, and creative. My coloring pages give people what they most need at that time.

Looking to make your passion come to life? Join Keenobby’s community of makers in just a few clicks.

Give the gift of a Keenobby experience. From a cooking class to weaving workshops, we have an experience your loved one will enjoy.

Written by Keenobby

Photo credit: Animalove