I have been thinking a lot recently about why I decided to become a freelance artist and why I particularly love to paint pets. There are lots of reasons that have played their part in why I went down this road, although some are deeper than others.
I painted my first Pawtrait around 3 and a half years ago. It was my good friends birthday and I wanted to give her something meaningful but I had very little money at the time (living in London is so expensive!) I had a long hard think about what she liked best in the world and the answer was simple. She is obsessed with her pet, a cat named Ernest - who she affectionately calls The Little Freak. When I gave it to her, her lovely face lit up and she proudly showed it off to everyone at the table. I think that was the moment I realised this is what I wanted to do - it was an amazing feeling knowing something that I created made someone so happy. From that moment on I painted more of my friends pets and slowly built up a portfolio of work. With each painting my skill improved and more commissions came in.
A photo of 'The Little Freak' with his Pawtrait. The painting that started it all! It is CRAZY how much I have improved in 3 years! I really should paint her an updated version!
I worry about my place in the art world sometimes as I think my work won't ever be taken seriously as my subject matter happens to be Pets. That it won't be classed as 'Fine Art' as it doesn't come with a theoretical concept or a political stance and although my style is quite illustrative, it doesn't exactly class as illustration either. But then, not all art has to come with a convoluted meaning. I think my paintings and drawings effect people on a more personal level. Our pets have such a meaningful impact on our lives - they are funny, affectionate, loving, persistent and sometimes maddening! They all have such different and definite characters without even needing the power of speech. My aim is to capture their quiet little personalities and that certain spark that makes them unique.
My own pets have made a huge impact on my life - mainly two Black Dogs. The first of which was a Black Labrador named Cotton. I had always wanted a dog and my parents promised me one when we moved to a bigger house. I remember going to collect her when I was 6 and she cried all the way home in the car. She was the gentlest and most patient dog you could ever hope to meet - my sisters and I used to plonk our hamsters on her head and she wouldn't flinch. Even though she has been gone for quite a few years now, I often think about her. She was my best friend for 13 years and she had been a massive comfort to me during some very tough times.
Cotton in my Childhood Home.
Tovah, my Shihtzu x Jack Russell, on the other hand could not be more different to Cotton. She's feisty, hilariously weird, sassy and at times a little difficult but I wouldn't change her....well, maybe I would change the way she always tries to start a fight with the biggest dog in the park! We share a very close bond that I'm very proud of and I spoil her rotten. She sleeps at the end of our bed then in the middle of the night sneaks under the covers between us, and most mornings I wake up with her next to me on Ollie's pillow.
Evidence of spoiling Tovah
There is also a much deeper reason why my artwork is so important to me. I've have always been artistic and always knew that I wanted to do something creative. My Mum and Dad were always very encouraging when it came to my art and always told me it is important to do a job that you love. My Dad wanted to be a mechanic when he was young (he was a massive petrol-head) but my Granddad wouldn't let him. He had lots of jobs throughout his life but he finally ended up as a computer systems salesman (I know, sounds exciting right!) He was very successful at it until for reasons beyond his control he lost his job and everything fell apart. This played a big part in his death and I'm sure if he had originally followed his dream of being a mechanic, he would of had a much happier life and maybe he would even still be alive today.
My Dad in his Sunbeam Mk III 'Dexter'.
I'm not sure what the future holds and I often wonder whether I am doing the right thing. I don't know whether I will ever be a big success and maybe painting will never make me my fortune. But ultimately, I think it's important to do something you love as life is too short to be unhappy.