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Fine portraiture is throughly ingrained in our history. Before photography became a widely popular medium, the only way to record a moment was through a brush and canvas. Sadly, we are seeing fewer and fewer artists that specialize with such physical artistry. We have become acclimated to the instant gratification of taking a photo with our phone. However, there is a lot to be said for a piece of work that an individual has poured dozens of hours into. While they are not “picture perfect” – they are not meant to be. These Canadian Pet Portrait artists aims to capture the emotions and essence behind their subject. Each brush stroke, pencil line, charcoal imprint, is intentional and direct.
As with all of our lists, the following collection of Canadian Pet Portrait Artists is in no particular order. Unlike traditional portrait creators, these individuals focus exclusively on helping your dog become a work of art! Whether you want to recognize the impact your current dog has on your life, or commemorate a lost loved one, these portrait artists are a perfect match. While these artists may be far from where you currently live, they are able to ship their fine work to you! So please, get in touch. If you are looking for photorealistic art for your dog, check out our previous post on Canadian Dog Photographers!
1) Barclay Brown Artistry – Richmond, BC
Our first artist is Barclay Brown, a local from Southwestern Ontario. Becoming an artist for Barclay has been an interesting journey. As a child, Barclay drew no more than any of the children, using the tools that were available to everyone; pencils, crayons, markers, etc. Brown never studied art in secondary school, nor was it his first career. In his twenties, Barclay’s main focus was around building a solid educational base that would help lead him to “a sustainable way to pay the bills and survive.” The passion to create art developed only later in life. The motivation, simply put, was curiosity. “How was it possible for someone, with only their hands and imagination, create works of art and sculpture – it looked like magic.” This curiosity led to copious self-study, and eventually to the front doors of Emily Carr University.
Barclay is a firm believer in showcasing ones work to the public. “It is a process that every artist should participate in. . To create something and not show it puts the artist at a disadvantage. The essence of creativity is about sharing.” When asked about his work, Barclay described is as half about the client, and half an adventure of self-exploration. When you take something that the client loves, for example, their pet, and turn it into a work of art, they are always are struck to see the finished piece. It’s a truly rewarding experience for both parties.
Brown never started with pet portraiture. Initially, Barclay wanted to see how far he could take the idea. There is a strong connection between a pet and their owner; creating a piece of art around it felt like capturing that bond. Currently, Barclay has been continuing his artistic journey into the world of abstracts, both of pets and beyond. In his words, “…I think we’re all artists in a sense; we’re all capable of creativity. There’s never that point where you reach the end; you’re always learning, always moving forward onto the next project.“
2) Savvy Studios – Langley, BC
Our second artist is Christine Savella, who is based out of the lower mainland, and specializes in creative custom pet portraits. Since 2004, Christine has been a local & international vendor of such pet portraits. These portraits are one-of-a-kind, tangible memories that last a life time, and help preserve the love story between the pet and the pet owner. Savella’s motivation to start down this career path were her American Bulldogs Diesel & Bianca. “Everything is intriguing about them, from the wrinkles on their foreheads, their mindlessly happy tails and their silly quirks.” Her passion behind painting her own dogs was a strong jumping point into offering his expertise to other dog owners.
As you can see from her work, each piece takes a significant amount of time to create. What keeps Christine going is personal investment – she recently lost her dog of 14 years, and the resulting heartbreak was, and still is, tremendous. “…Your not just losing a pet but a family. Many of my paintings are made in honour of a lossed pet. I feel that my artwork can contribute to helping the overcome or deal with the loss.” The goal has always been to be able to create a painting that allows that special connection, between pet and owner, to shine through. The reward is meeting a client, and hearing that she as nailed it.
Savella is a commissioned based artist, but she is currently working on some personal pieces, and painting on larger canvases. Her hope for the near future is to build a fine collection of art pet paintings to display at galleries and shows. In the meanwhile, Christine continues to reach out to those “pet lovers all over the world who want to adorn their walls with a custom pet portrait.” Her work has been featured on The Express, Shaw TV, and are regularly showcased in several pet establishments throughout the Lower Mainland. Additionally, Christine donates proceeds from the sale of her artwork to various charities including LAPS (Langley Animal Protection Society).
3) Pet Portraits – Sudbury, ON
Our third artist is Astrid Colton, who has been creating portraiture for over 40 years, and devoting herself to the field full-time since 2004. For Astrid, she creates these pieces of work “…for the love the animal. I never get tired or bored doing them.” Her passion was found early on, even from the first grade in elementary. Colton always loved animals, but the two never fully clicked together until her early twenties. The humble origins began with a friend asking for a few drawings, and the lifelong passion began. “Now I don’t think a day goes by without my observing and drawing the amazing world outside my front door. The need to share the beauty of nature, and animals in particular, is an intrinsic part of my life.“
Over the years, Astrid has been a graphic designer, illustrator, and a cartoonist. However, wherever her career has taken her, Colton always feels drawn back to her first love. Animals, nature, and that special connection between pet and owner. “It’s not just drawing the portrait, but connecting with the client. Hearing the about the good times and the sad times. Each story is unique, each animal is unique.” The most consistent element in her work is the love shared between people and animals. This is what makes Astrid’s work so rewarding, and why she has been doing this for more than four decades. The resulting piece “seems like more than just a drawing or painting, [it is] a memory.“
When Colton is not working on pet portraiture, she works on the freelance aspect of her business. Her repeat clients include the Canadian Wildlife Federation, Environment Canada, Scholastic Canada, Okanagan Science Centre, Assiniboine Park Zoo, Forest Communications, Science North, Health Sciences North, and the City of Greater Sudbury.
4) C. Shannon – Norwich, ON
Our fourth artist is Crystal Shannon, who has been creating portraiture for over eight years now. Hundreds of finished pieces later, Crystal feels blessed and fortunate to have found her career. Drawing and painting is something Shannon has practiced and loved since as far back as she can remember. Growing up in a large farm, most of Crystal’s time was spent amongst her furry friends. Her mother encouraged the passion, always carrying with er a pad of paper and a box of crayons in her purse whenever they went out. Always ready to doodle, wherever the day took the duo.
For Crystal, drawing pet portraits, especially of animals that have passed away, is still an emotional process. “It hits close to home for me as I have my own dogs and cats [that] I love myself – very much. So it gives me drive to draw each customer’s unique pet as realistic and almost ‘petable’ as possible” Over the years, Shannon has made great friends of her customers. as many return for more portraits as their own furry family grows. Shannon recognizes that there are quite a few talented artists out there, and remains humble about her own work. “ I always feel touched when I am chosen to be someone’s pet artist.“
Over the coming years, Crystal is committed to providing more pet parents with high quality pet art, and continue to grow her reputation amongst other Canadian pet portrait artists.
5) Kim Hunter – Vancouver, BC
Our fifth artist is Kim Hunter, who is local British Columbian. Like Astrid, Hunter’s appetite for the arts came as soon as she was able to clutch her first crayon. Kim has been winning awards and gaining notoriety since her first juried art show at the young age of seven. From when she was nine, Kim lived in Churchill, Manitoba. The tiny isolated community & awesome, relentless arctic wilderness continued to inspire the visual talent. By the time Hunter was 14, she began selling her work, and by 18, Hunter started traveling and freelancing throughout Canada.
The consistent and diligent pursuit behind artistry lead Kim back to her original home in Vancouver, and has been based out of the city since 1990. When asked about her work, Kim described it as “…truly refined and unique in it’s clean lines and forms. A warmth and richness graces all aspects of [my] work. The balance and boldness of [my] work is a perfect unique blend of traditions, culture and our modern times.” Recently, Hunter’s focus has been been on paintings, murals, portraits, commercial art, instruction and conservation through art efforts. Kim is versed in oils, watercolor, tempura, and acrylic paintings, clay & bronze, polymer sculpture, papier mache’, Plaster of Paris, as well as web and commercial design, branding, animation, crafts and instruction.
6) State of Art Portraits – Vancouver, BC
Our sixth artist is Tracy Costescu, who specializes in hand-drawn graphite and charcoal portraits. Like many in the post, Tracy’s love for creating art began as a child, and has since been obsessively honing her skills. For Tracy, one of the original challenges was simply finding the time. “It is not so much a matter of what motivates me to keep creating art but more a matter of how do I find time for all the art that I want to create. I did not set out to pursue a career in art, I just have always created art and over the years people would ask me to do portraits of their pets. Eventually it just made sense to create art full time so that I could pursue portraiture as a profession rather than trying to find time after a full days work.” Through this effort, Tracy was able to make her passion, her work, and vice versa.
For Costescu, transforming an empty piece of paper into a captivating expression is almost like magic. It is about rendering the character and essence of the subject not merely creating a likeness. When asked about her process, Tracy reflected, saying even though she “work[s] quite deliberately, consciously employing traditional and non-traditional techniques, [her] subconscious is the undisputed leader in the process.” Throughout her career, and to this day, portraiture has continued to offer Tracy a sense of completion and contentment. Creating artwork has proven to be the most natural state for translating inner vision to reality.
In the future, Tracy hopes to do more pet portraits that incorporate sentimental objects of the subject and their families. Creating portraits that tell a story, as well as capture the character of the subject, is the path in her artist journey. “The greatest satisfaction – as an artist – is to know that my drawing or painting can become a treasured family heirloom in someone’s life.”
7) Julie’s Illustrations – Milton. ON
Our seventh and last artist today is Julie Deans, and has been creating works of art for, well, even Julie can’t remember how long. As she put it, “the old memory just doesn’t go back as far as it used to.” Art; drawing and painting, has always been a staple in Dean’s life. It was something Julie enjoyed, used as an outlet, and even as a relaxation technique. “My imagination runs wild … always. That’s why I don’t watch horror movies. But my imagination allows me to create unique pieces for my clients that exude feeling, style and emotion.“
Julie is a lifelong animal lover, and they are usually the focal point for the majority of her pieces. Dog however, are the mainstay. Being a dog trainer herself, and seeing people work with their dogs every day, makes it that much more enjoyable to create portraits of someone’s best friend. “I am passionate about my art and enjoy capturing a moment in time for my clients, be it a forest on a winters day or a recently passed pet whom touched the heart of their owner. I also enjoy making people laugh, smile and think … thinking might be a bit over-rated but laughing and smiling aren’t … they keep you healthy!“
Looking forward, Julie’s next goal is to move towards acrylic paintings, and more expressive work. SHe is currently building a larger acrylic portfolio, and is looking forward to this new chapter in her work! Dean also dabbles in some natural pieces that lay more on the abstract side, some including motivational words. “I love to help people, and get to do that daily in my dog training business, however, I also want to expand my motivational work to my art.”
There you have it – our collection of some truly talented Canadian Pet Portrait Artists. Hopefully we got you thinking about your own pet and their impact on your life. Perhaps you might even have a portrait commissioned. Regardless, we hope you have enjoyed looking at these artists’ work! Much love,
– The GoFetch Team