How does someone make the transition from a full-time engineering job to fulfilling self-employment as a pet portrait painter?
It’s not as crazy as it sounds!
A lifelong love of animals
I grew up on farmland in upstate New York, surrounded by animals and nature. Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt more connected to animals than I have to people. (Kidding …. kind of.)
When I grew up and became a responsible adult, I decided to start fostering—and sometimes adopting—shelter dogs and strays who needed safe, loving homes. I adopted my first dog in 2003 and never looked back.
I’m still dedicated to helping rescue animals in any way I can—10% of every penny I earn is donated to pet rescue organizations.
One day, I was shopping at a big box store and saw a framed print of a dog in the home goods section. But not just any dog; this was an old-world print of a dog’s head on a general’s body (Major-General Woof by Massy, to be precise).
This print made me laugh so hard that I’m sure my fellow shoppers thought I was nuts. But the whimsy of the painting completely captured me. Which made me think: I want to try that!
I went home and painted my own rescue dog’s head onto a human body. To this day, I get so much joy out of this painting.
My friends started asking me to paint portraits of their dogs, too. From there, things took off!
Painting fed my soul in a way that my tedious desk job didn’t, so I started painting as a side hustle. I built my own website from scratch by downloading guides on web design and learning how it worked, from the ground up.
A few years later, I had enough steady work as a painter to quit my office job and paint pet portraits full time! I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Dogs and cats are my favorite animals to paint because they have so much personality in their facial expressions—particularly their eyes. At first, it was tough to capture this personality on canvas, but I love an artistic challenge. Now I’ve got 16 years of practice under my belt, and I still love the process.
My true calling: hand-painted pet portraits
I started painting pets because I loved to do it. But I kept doing it because of the difference it makes in people’s lives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from a customer that one of my paintings helped them through the process of grieving for a lost pet.
This feedback means the world to me, and there’s nothing else I’d rather do.
The best part of my work is getting someone’s reaction to the final painting. I sit on the edge of my seat, waiting for their email or text to approve the final piece before I ship it. It warms my heart more than I can say when I hear personal stories or even receive videos of someone receiving one of my portraits as a gift. There are tears on all sides!
And, as a bonus, animal lovers like you are the best people in the world to work with. I love what I do, and I’m excited every day to continue to grow as an artist and an animal lover.
Ready to memorialize your pet in a custom work of art? Click here to get started.