Do You Really Love Your Pet? A Guide to Portraiture for Dogs, Cats…Even Lizards

A Guide to Portraiture for Dogs, Cats

No artist sets out on a career with the idea of painting homeowners’ pets. But some who come to it embrace it, to say the least.

Kate Hyland of Windsor, Ill. said it started with a friend who “knew she liked to draw.” The friend asked her for a drawing of her horse. “Everyone went crazy over it,” Hyland said. “Then, someone who had a dog asked me to draw his dog, and people liked that, too. Then, everyone who had a dog asked me to draw it.”

Hyland had studied art a little bit in college but, at the time, was working at a factory. “My husband and I sat down one day and realized I could make money from this.” And so she quit the factory and began her career as a pet portraitist, busiest just before Christmas but with work to do throughout the year.

Many other artists have also tapped into this niche area of the art world, due to the seemingly insatiable desire of pet owners to honor or memorialize pets with a drawing, painting or sculpture.

“Their animals are their children, and there are millions of people who feel that way,” said Ellen Silverberg, an East Hampton, N.Y. transplant to Oakland Park, Fla., who has been painting dogs (“I’ve also done guinea pigs, birds, cats, I did one horse”) for decades. “I never … wonder why people spend so much on a pet. It just seems so obvious and natural to the people I deal with.”

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