Three Incredible Pet Portrait Artists

Lea Jaratz

James Ruby

I could spend hours looking at pet portraits online. I can’t help but feel like each of my dogs has a personality that would be best suited by a different artist; sometimes I sit and fantasize about what my custom commission might look like. Would they get the tilt of the ears just right? How about the freckle on the nose?

There are thousands of artists that specialize in pet portraits these days, but I wanted to feature a few of the artists I love and hope to work with one day.

James Ruby

The work of James Ruby, a Cleveland-area artist, is even more intricate in person. While he can do full body portraits, I love the way his subjects look in the close-ups. He captures the quiet, calm, loyal look that a dog sometimes gives his companion—the nose leaning in, almost as if the subject is willing you to give him a scratch on the head or share a bite of your lunch. He’s more than willing to paint several pets on one long canvas, allowing clients to own a great image of their pack at any moment in time. The details on a dog’s best features make Ruby’s subjects so endearing.

Suzanne Leonard

Commissions start at $350. Contact james@jamesrubyworks.com.

Suzanne Leonard

For a moment I almost stopped following Suzanne Leonard’s Facebook feed because I was becoming envious of all the remarkable commissions she was posting…but I decided that even if I can’t afford one right now, her work was too good to miss. She works in a variety of mediums to make her work affordable, and will feature cats, horses, and even people in addition to the stunning dog subjects. The use of shadows and brush strokes make me feel like the animal is resting in their favorite spot, so relaxed and at peace with the world.

Alexis Trice

Alexis Trice

Welcome to the Doghouse Studios, run by Alexis Trice, have successfully found a sweet spot in pet portraiture that is campy, eclectic, and tender all at the same time. Trice works with a pet parent’s description of their dog’s lifestyle, personality, quirks and favorite past-times, pulling together a portrait that encompasses all the glorious things that make that dog or cat loveable. By including Vespa scooters, Godzilla pop-art, Napoleonic costumes, and every theme imaginable, her work is not only catered to your pet but to your home. Want your pet’s image surrounded by bows, hearts, and sunflowers? Easy! Looking to showcase your Boston Terriers on a playground built with teeth and dental equipment? Done!

Portraits start at $350; Trice also offers tattoo design, drawings and more.

Do your own thing!

Social painting events are the biggest thing going right now, with new franchises from different companies popping up in cities all across the US. Many companies offer a “paint your pet” night to passionate and creative pet parents.

I went with a group of local dog lovers to such a night a few months ago. Here’s how it works:

  1. Register for a class. You may need to sign up as a part of a group, as most studios offer paint-your-pet nights to parties only.
  2. In advance of the class, you’ll send a portrait of your pet to a local artist who is serving as your teacher for the evening. He or she will sketch your pet’s image onto your canvas and have it ready for you when you walk in. Here’s my snapshot of my girl Tahlula, smiling my favorite smile:
  3. Paint your pet
  4. Go have fun! Take snacks and beverages to share with your group. (We found that wine helped us get the creative juices flowing.) Your teacher will teach you how to paint particularly tough features such as unique fur patterns, eye color, background and more. They’re there to help you with the painting through your 2- or 3- hour class. At the end of the evening, you may not have a completed piece, but most studios allow you to do follow-up sessions to finish your work. Here’s my piece after a 3-hour session (it still needs the collar to be finished).

Price: $55 at my local Painting With a Twist studio


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