Blog - Behind the Easel

  • How Did I Start Painting Custom Pet Portraits?

    How Did I Start Painting Custom Pet Portraits?

    The answer to “how did you start painting pet portraits?” is straightforward for me. 

    I love animals.  For as long as I can remember, I have had a passion to make every animal my friend and to nurture and care for them.

    Naturally, the 2nd oil painting that I ever completed was a self-portrait of me holding a ferret. Yup, a “cat-snake” and we were touching noses! During the painting process, I discovered 2 things.  1) I LOVE painting fur 2) I LOVE painting with bright colors

    oil painting of a woman and ferret 

    From 2008 -2022 I practiced veterinary medicine as a registered veterinary technician (think, Veterinary Nurse, the name will change soon enough).

     

    vet tech holding a puppy

     During this time, I met so many amazing dogs, cats and other pets but even more so, I met their amazing pet parents (owners/hoomans/masters of the kibble).  I met the puppies of these families when they brought them home and I held their hands as they said goodbye to them as old dogs.  Every time, I wanted to offer them something.  I wanted them to have something amazing that sparked joy and love when they remembered their pet.  For a while, I would take ink paw prints and write poems/quotes and gift this to them, but it didn’t seem like enough and I felt like it didn’t spark joyful memories as I wanted. It was a reminder of their last day instead of a reminder of the amazing life they shared together.

     

    While working as a vet tech, I was quietly painting at home. Painting monsters for my son and beginning to paint my own pets. One day, I decided I would paint a pet for a favorite client that had lost her dog, way too young, to bone cancer. It was a watercolor portrait. Very simple, and at this point, I am sure I would be embarrassed by it. During the time though, I wasn’t. I was proud to offer her something so special during such a sad time.  

    an oil painting of a blue monster work in progress In living room art studio

    This is when I realized, I KNOW animals. I know their features and personalities and I can put that into their paintings.  And with it, I can provide their families with a joyful memory, instead of a sad one of inked paw prints that were collected on the day they said goodbye.

     

    Today, hundreds of commissioned pet portraits later, I still consider it an honor to paint someone’s beloved pet.  If it is a memorial piece, I am twice as honored that they have trusted me with something so special.

     oil painted schnauzer

    If you are reading this, and you have commissioned a pet portrait painting from me, I want to say “thank you”. Thank you for allowing me to continue to help pets and their families through my art.  It is a privilege and an honor.

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  • The Practice of Sketching Daily

    The Practice of Sketching Daily

    A Daily Habit for the Soul

    If you don't have a daily s habit yet, I highly recommend it.  There is something sacred about taking intentional time out of your day to grow a skill. 

    I am a true believer that “art” is like a musical instrument or a sport.  It’s a skill to be practiced for it to grow. For some people, they have parts of being creative that come more naturally. It's important to recognize that these people aren’t truly skilled unless they practice.  A lot.

     an open sketchbook page with an ink drawing of a frog, Abigail Emmert Art's character - Filbert - , on a magnifying glass looking at a mushroom.

    My Sketchbook and Me

    In 2018, I was tired of not being good at drawing.  I had always been a creative person and at that time, I was digging deep into practicing my “oil painting skill”.  Despite my growing skills in oil painting, I still considered myself bad at drawing and, to be honest, I hated to pick up a pencil.  It felt intimidating and frustrating and just downright embarrassing.  How could I ever call myself an artist if I couldn’t even DRAW? So, I made the decision to learn to draw.  I purchased tutorials about “how to learn to draw” and began taking Skillshare classes. I committed to begin sketching every day. During this period, my sketching improved!  I was able to draw basic shapes and I felt a bit more comfortable sketching.  I didn’t keep up with it though.  For the next 2 years, I would “sketch daily” for a few days at a time and take a break for a few days.  Starting a new habit like that was so hard, especially when the drawing didn’t come naturally.

     

    In 2021, I found an illustrator on Patreon, who for $5/month – I had access to a new “how to draw ____ “ eBook each month and his video drawing tutorials.  The lessons broke everything down into simple shapes. This was a game-changer for me. This illustrator taught about building a catalog in your brain of artwork, and the only way to do this is to continue to practice drawing. The framework was simple, repetition and practice! His homework assignment was to “fill a sketchbook page daily”. At night, I would lay in bed and just try to fill a page and be exhausted by the end, it was hard.  Until one day, it wasn’t. 

     

    Forming the Habit of Sketching Daily

     

    As drawing became a bit more enjoyable, and less like torture, I began to become more consistent in sketching. Not only was I seeing results, but I was feeling them.  So, I needed to form a routine so sketching daily would become a habit.

    It was important to identify something that I did every day, no matter what. For me, this was drinking my tea in the mornings. I would put my headphones on with relaxing music, light some candles, and sketch for 10-15 minutes – sometimes even less if it was a rough morning. (I'm a mom and have a houseful of pets, I know how rough mornings can get!)  See, it’s not always about the habit. It’s often about building a ritual around it to make your new “habit” more enjoyable – you know, so it becomes a habit.

    an open sketchbook with a drawing and watercolor painting in it sitting next to a tea mug with some tea in it. 

    Sketchbook Inspiration

     

    The most challenging moment about sketching daily is sitting down and staring at a blank page.  How do I decide what to sketch? Time is already limited so staring into space for 10 minutes wasn’t feasible. Creativity is fed and nurtured.  I have found that the more I sketch, the more I see things to sketch. My imagination grows when I feed it.  And my imagination eats creativity.  I sit down one morning and sketch my tea mug, then in a week I may imagine my tea mug with a plant growing out of it, and the next week I may imagine a tea mug that is leading an army of other tea mugs to rage a war against the coffee mugs!  Creativity is fed and cultivated. When I was learning to draw, I would draw from a tutorial page each morning. This helped take away the decision process of “what to draw”.  After completing this process for months, I now have ideas that have been floating around my noggin with excitement and anticipation for my next morning to sketch. But the real question is, "Am I always inspired?"? Nope!

     an open sketchbook page with a sketch of a teakettle and teabag that have mushrooms growing out of them.

    When there is no inspiration:

     

    When it’s time to sketch, and there is no inspiration, I head over to Pinterest.  In my Pinterest, I keep boards that are titled “mushroom inspiration”, “flower inspiration” and “house inspiration”.  I know, impressive wordsmith over here, right?  If I’m not sure what to sketch, I open up one of those boards and sketch something from there.  Because no matter what, it is the act of practicing, creating that mental catalog, and teaching my brain how to communicate most effectively with my hand! And usually, while I am sketching – I think of something to sketch. 

    Check out my Pinterest boards for more inspiration: Get more inspiration A screenshot of Abigail Emmert Art's Pinerest board, "Mushroom Inspiration"

    Daily Habits

     

    Our daily habits are ours to choose from.  The time to dedicate to our daily habits is often precious. Creating routines around the daily habit can help it become and stay consistent.   Each day, I choose to sketch.  I don’t want to sketch every day, but I know the second that I let myself lapse, it will be that much easier to skip another day and another.  Did I get here overnight? No. It took me 4 years to get here. Four years of starting and stopping again.  The last year has been my most dedicated and in the last 90 days, I haven’t missed a single day to sketch.  To me, that is progress!

     

    I can’t wait to see what will happen in another 4 years!

     

    a stack of sketchbooks

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  • Artwork Size Guide

    chair with artwork over it and the words Artwork Size Guide over Abigail Emmert Art logo

    Commissioning a painting or choosing a piece of artwork is an exciting time.

    This guide is to simplify the choice so you can enjoy your experience when purchasing a piece of artwork.

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