Sometimes life moves along at it’s weird pace of too fast and too slow and the changes that come along with it are gradual. You suddenly realize you no longer have a baby or toddler anymore, but you’re not sure when it happened. Or you realize you’re 20 lbs heavier than you were five years ago and you’re about to bust out of that favorite pair of jeans. But now and then something happens or you make a choice and BOOM, life is different. Sometimes it’s tragically different or comes with a lot of commotion, but today I’m focusing on the kind of dramatic change that’s positive, and resulted from a simple choice.
When I began painting a few months ago, I had no idea what to paint. Since I was new at it, I just picked photos as inspiration so I’d have somewhere to start. So the third or fourth attempt happened to be a pet portrait painting of our sweet Bruno, our first dog that had passed away nearly 5 years ago. It was small and simple, and I enjoyed every second of it. I loved staring into his eye and spending time with that face I miss so much, and the canvas hangs on the wall in my studio (otherwise known as the dining room). Over the passed few months of painting I often look over at him when I’m struggling and I feel a sense of hope and encouragement, like he’s saying “you got this, Mom.” Maybe it was just the confidence boost I got from capturing his spirit on canvas, but it feels like he’s watching over me as I work.
Shortly after, I was chomping at the bit to make a portrait painting of our recently adopted Kiki, the one-eyed, timid and a bit crazy French bulldog. I had a great photo of her I’d snapped for Instagram and it was the perfect lighting and pose for a dog portrait. I put her on a rainbow background and added a cute pinkish red eyepatch over her blind eye. She had the best smug face and no nonsense pose, and the whole thing came together like a charm.
Within hours of postings my first two pet portraits to Instagram, I had a few people message me asking if and how much it would be to paint their dogs. I was surprised, floored, honored, thrilled, and all kinds of emotions at the thought that anyone would pay me to paint their beloved pets! I took the opportunities, worked through the paintings and the fear, and the rest is history. Since then, I’ve painted some twenty more dogs (and a cat!), and have orders for more dogs over the next couple months! Interestingly, about half of the pet portraits have been memorial paintings of dogs that have passed away. Morbid as it sounds, these are my favorite ones. There’s something so therapeutic about channeling all the grief and love from the pets I’ve lost and pouring it into a portrait for someone else. It’s almost as if the tragedy from nearly a year ago had a greater purpose, or at least I’m allowing it to. Helping others to heal from their loss by giving the gift of memories is about as rewarding as it gets!
If you would’ve told me a year ago that I’d have a twenty painting portfolio as a pet portrait artist, I’d have laughed. Making art wasn’t even a distant thought in my mind this time last year, much less doing commissioned pet portraits for other people! To say that I am overjoyed and inspired by this new work in my life would be an understatement. And oddly, as surprising as it is that I’m doing this now, it feels like something that’s always been a part of me. Something deep inside that finally found its way to the surface. And let me tell you it feels good to breathe this fresh air!