My experience of being a pet portrait artist

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Cavalier face close up pastel pet portrait

I loved drawing in school but didn’t get a good grade in my ‘O’ levels and was SO disappointed. I believed that I wasn’t any good at art so I didn’t keep at it. I began to dabble again when my boys were small but still didn’t think I was any good. It wasn’t until 2016 that, after studying the work of other artists in a local art and crafts group, I attempted to draw one of our own dogs. I was amazed and over the moon at the result and so I slowly started to paint again.

In August 2018 I took the opportunity to become a full time artist. Things have gone really well, I always have lots of commissions booked in but I am also able to make time for my own work in between which is very important to me. To be able to choose what to draw, what medium to use and to be able to get lost in the work is what I truly love. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore drawing peoples pets, I feel so lucky to hear their stories and to get to know them as I’m drawing them, to get feedback from my clients as the work progresses is wonderful but its also so nice to be able to choose the subject I’m going to be spending numerous hours with.

Squirrel on fence coloured pencil drawing

I’ve had the most amazing clients and it’s lovely to keep in touch with some of them after I’ve completed their pet portrait. I’m also lucky to have returning clients, it means so much to me that they are really happy with the first portrait that they come back with a second, third or even more times for me to do another for them. It’s an honour to be trusted to draw a pet portrait for someone, our pets are so special to us, they’re part of our family, so to be given that trust means such a lot to me.

The things I’ve struggled with in the past are mainly my own thoughts, maybe other artists would be in agreement with me on this. To begin with I had a constant voice in my head saying ‘you’re not good enough, you can’t do this’, ‘there are better artists than you’, why would anyone ask you to draw their beloved pets?’ It was, and sometimes still is, difficult to overcome these voices, to not let them be the loudest one I hear. I’ve found that reading a self help books has helped me with my positive thinking. One of them is SUMO (Shut up, move on) by Paul McGee and the other is ‘The Art of Creativity by Susie Pearl. I now think of the positive things I like about my work and focus on those. I take note of anything I’m not happy with but I just think about how I may be able to improve next time. I’m very hard on myself, much harder than anyone else could be, but I’m learning not to dwell on things I’m not happy with and it’s becoming much easier to take joy in the work that I’m achieving.

One more struggle I have, and still struggle with, is social media. I’ve always been a very quiet and reserved person and I have never posted on my personal Facebook page, it’s just not something that I felt comfortable doing even though it would have just been family that saw my posts. Now that I have a business, I feel that it is really important that I build a social media following but I really struggle with it. I have tried different things, even posting several times a day to try to get over my difficulty with it, but I soon stop posting and before I know it several months have gone by. I’ve tried scheduling posts, having a calendar with what I could post and when and also just posting when I think about it but I haven’t found a way that works for me yet, I’ll keep on trying as I feel that it’s very important for my business.

Donkey close up coloured pencil drawing

I find that I can easily get caught up in social media, looking at other artists work and what they’re achieving, but I’ve found that this doesn’t help me at all. Looking too much at what other artists are doing pushes me down instead of lifting me up and so I have stopped doing it. I still follow lots of artist as I do love to see their work, I just don’t look too often.

I love seeing friends and family but I also enjoy spending time on my own, so being an artist, working from home with my dogs and cats around me is my perfect life. Having said that it is a struggle sometimes to get into the routine of being in my art room early in the day and getting that full days work in. I’m the sort of person that likes to have everything in order before I can settle fully into work. Recently my son came home from university and there were boxes and bags everywhere (it felt like that anyway)! I couldn’t settle into work until I had put them away and the space was clear. I also have to tidy away all my pencils from a finished portrait, clean down the surfaces and have everything in order before I can start on a new piece. It’s difficult sometimes but it’s the way I am, and I’m not going to change now 🙂