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Animal Art 

Pets creep into creative outlets in high art and pop culture alike. Feline celebrities including Indiana's own Lil Bub are publishing books. Dogs play poker in cheap art on bar and den walls throughout the nation. From poems by T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Walt Whitman to paintings and prints at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, animals are the subject of some powerful, creative products.

But, for many pet owners, the most important animal art can be found hanging on their own walls - in depictions of their own beloved furballs. If you want to combine support of local art with an ardent affection for your pooch, cat, hamster or horse, several local artists create custom commissioned works featuring animals - including the four artists interviewed below and a number of additional painters, illustrators and photographers that we pulled together in our Pinterest pet art round-up.

MaryAnne Thanh Tam Nguyen

click to enlarge Portrait of MaryAnne Nguyen’s own cat, Marley.
  • Portrait of MaryAnne Nguyen’s own cat, Marley.

MaryAnne Nguyen is a painter and jewelry designer whose work regularly includes animals and their anatomy including two-headed goldfinches, a bow-tied seal and a horse-hooved woman. She also works on commission, creating portraits of people and animals. MaryAnne works from photographs, painting portraits on either wood or canvas and often provides framing advice. Paintings begin at $300 for a 6" by 8" headshot portrait with one-color background and goes up in price as size and detail increases.

MaryAnne on why she enjoys pet portraiture:
I like creating work focused on animals because they are worth the focus and attention. Animal portraits are especially gratifying because people are so appreciative of and in love with their pets, and I get to see this and share in it in a small way.

Contact: MaryAnne can be reached through her website.

Jerry Lee Atwood

click to enlarge Chain stitch Portrait of Patty, Atwood’s Chihuahua.
  • Chain stitch Portrait of Patty, Atwood’s Chihuahua.

Jerry Lee Atwood is a First Hand in the costume shop at Indiana Repertory Theatre, but he also applies his skills to custom embroidery pieces created on his vintage chain stich embroidery machines. Modern embroidery machines rely on digitization of images. According to Jerry Lee, with vintage machines like his 1890's French-made Cornely K, "The operator carefully guides each stitch, essentially painting with thread." Recently, in addition to motorcycle patches and Western-wear details, he added custom pet pillows to his shop, available for $75 each. In addition to an embroidered images of a pet, Jerry Lee's pillows each include a favorite flower or element - even fire hydrants - in the wreath that surround the animal's likeness.

Jerry Lee on one special detail in his pet portraits:

I never feel that a portrait is complete until I have embroidered the reflection in a pet's eyes. These simple little white dots breathe life into the portraits, and they're often the last thing I work on when finishing a piece.

Contact: Jerry Lee Atwood's work is available through his etsy shop.

Ellen Jackson

click to enlarge Ellen Jackson’s silver gelatin prints are created in the darkroom.
  • Ellen Jackson’s silver gelatin prints are created in the darkroom.

Ellen Jackson offers both a throw-back level of service and an old-timey photographic process. While many photographers work in digital images and editing software, Ellen uses celluloid film, prints with silver gelatin in the darkroom, and finishes images with painting and drawing before placing them in a vintage or custom frame. She's focused on creating heirloom works, an effort that matches as nicely with the horses and family pets that she occasionally photographs as it does with her usual human subjects. Costs start around $1,200.

Ellen on the impact of animals:

Really, I need animals, and have always felt this way. My parents indulged my brother and I by allowing us to be surrounded by animals of all kinds. My best friend ever was the horse I grew up with.

Contact: Ellen loves talking on the phone - and returning voicemail messages. She can be reached at 317-590-5071.

Candice Hartsough McDonald

click to enlarge Candice started out drawing animals, before people, and loves drawing their “interesting” body shapes.
  • Candice started out drawing animals, before people, and loves drawing their “interesting” body shapes.

Working as Cordial Kitten, Candice is a freelance illustrator, jewelry designer and stuffed animal creator. Working in watercolor, graphite, and sometimes colored pencil, she also creates custom portraits, often including family pets in her sweet images. With an open approach to creating interesting images, her custom pieces have depicted a special dream, wedding day memories, family trips and even a whole family in disguise as bears. Her portraits start at $100 for a basic 5" by 7" of only people with no background.

Candice on incorporating pets into family portraits:

Animals are part of the family, so we can't leave them out of the portraits. I've even drawn animals that have passed away - one, a dog with angel wings, and another with a cat floating over in the corner. It's a sweet way to remember them as part of the family.

Contact: Candice can be reached via e-mail.

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About The Author

Kirsten Eamon-Shine

Kirsten Eamon-Shine

Kirsten has written for a number of online outlets, a handful of nonprofits and a mighty little food truck. She was raised by a writer-photographer-editor and an engineer, both lovers of museums and books. In her spare time, she dances to vinyl records with her husband, son and two cats.

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