Pet portraits for charity

When I started doing commissioned artwork some 6 months ago, I felt a little bit guilty. Why should I take money for doing something that comes easy to me and I thoroughly enjoy doing? I have a healthy salary at my day job and don’t need more money (said no one ever, haha!). Not that I’ve been charging much – I definitely have a ways to go in pricing before I’m charging professional artist prices, much less getting rich from my artwork. But despite my enjoyment, painting takes from my free time, and I believe unique, hand painted art is worth something. It pays for my material costs and allows me to invest in this website and experiment with other marketing, and of course support my hiking obsession.

But I’ve always wanted to find more ways to positively impact the world, so using the gift of my art seemed like an opportunity. I decided to donate at least 10% of my profits to a charity or cause that’s important to me each quarter. I haven’t decided yet where my donation for this quarter will go yet, but I’ve got one more month to figure that out. In the meantime, I wanted to share the artwork for charity that came out of last quarter. This wasn’t a matter of me deciding after the fact to donate to these organizations – the opportunities landed in my lap and were a perfect fit.

The first was a painting for a fundraiser auction benefitting Furry Kids Refuge, the Kansas City animal rescue organization from which we adopted our two French Bulldogs. I offered a 20” x 20” custom pet portrait to the highest bidder. The painting ended up going to a sweet couple in Raymore, whose fur babies Milo and Yoshi I got to capture on the canvas. I even got to meet these two when I delivered the painting, which was such a nice treat to close out the project.

“Milo and Yoshi” dog portrait

The second painting for charity arose from a more somber situation. My friend’s brother-in-law is a police K-9 handler in Fishers, Indiana and in November, his K-9 partner Harlej, a Belgian Malinois, was shot and killed in the line of duty while they were in pursuit of a violent criminal suspect. Harlej obediently followed orders to track the suspect through the woods, but when he caught the suspect, the suspect shot him and fled. No other officers were injured in the pursuit, and the suspect and accomplices were eventually apprehended. Though heartbroken, his handler Jarred was able to return home safely to his family that evening.

When my friend reached out to me to do this painting for Jarred and his family, I struggled with whether or not to charge anything for it. But I was incredibly busy working through Christmas orders already, and since I’m new at the business side of this, I didn’t want to set a precedent of selling myself short by giving away my work. It would be easy to give every painting away and I could easily talk myself into it. I named a price, she accepted, and I went to work.

I poured over photos of Harlej – there were so many amazing images of him; his energy and intensity were alive in every photo. I watched the video montage from his funeral, and bawled like a baby. This wasn’t going to be a straightforward project. Most of the dog paintings I do are vibrant, whimsical colors, which wouldn’t be appropriate for a memorial portrait of a police officer. But I also had to find a way to use color meaningfully, as that’s my thing and part of what motivates my creativity.

I cried a lot during this portrait. Each pet portrait has been emotional in some way for me, and the pet memorial paintings in particular are deeply touching for me to do. But the pressure of the gravity of the situation was more than I had dealt with yet. In the end, this was one of my favorite dog portraits to do, for so many reasons. When all was said and done, it only made sense to donate the payment for the painting back to the Fishers Police Foundation.

Harlej - police K9 - Belgian malinois painting

“Harlej” – Fishers police memorial portrait

If you have an organization and would like to partner by raising money with art, please contact me !

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