November 07, 2022

How Did I Start Painting Custom Pet Portraits?

By Abigail Emmert
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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