Recently, I commissioned the highly respected artist Wendy Jane Sheppard to undertake a drawing of Whippet Boy and Moggy Girl to celebrate Whippet Boy's fourth birthday and Moggy Girl's first year. Yes, I know birthdays are a human thing, but this pet mum, also enjoys celebrating her animals and the portrait's unveiling will provide a good excuse for a human gathering of friends and family who enjoy their animals, as much as I do mine!
This morning Wendy-Jane, who specialises in pet portraiture, travelled from her home in Melbourne's North Eastern, leafy suburbs, to our home in Ballarat, to commence the process, with an extended photoshoot with my pets, as well as lovely chats over morning tea and a deliicious vegan lunch. This initial meeting proved as delightful as a number of preliminary phone conversations.
As well as her incredible work as an artist, Wendy-Jane also volunteers upwards of a morning a week with the Animal Aid rescue organisation, grooming and preparing ex racing greyhounds and other abandoned pets seeking forever homes. Wendy- Jane is a proud animal mum of two gorgeous nine year old ex racing greyhounds from this wonderful organisation. But Wendy-Jane's love of animals extends beyond greyhounds, to all dog breeds, cats, horses, cows and sheep, reflecting her early experience of being raised as "a country girl", in South Australia.
She is also a note worthy humanitarian and is equally adept at capturing the intricacies and personalities of her human subjects. Her passion for portraiture, as a vibrant artistic form as current today as in previous centuries, is reflected in her doctorial research along those lines, through The University of Melbourne.
I first came across Wendy- Jane's wonderful portraits on the Animal Aid website, where I was researching rescued greyhounds. So well executed were her renderings of these magnificent animals that it soon led me to investigate her own professional website and facebook pages. I contemplated just how wonderful it would be to have an original portrait of my beloved animals and found myself calling Wendy- Jane to make enquiries the very next day.
Wendy-Jane was fabulous in striking up an instant rapport with Whippet Boy and Moggy Girl and they soon learned to pretty much ignore her as they went about their usual interactions. She captured shots of them at rest, play and even sharing a bowl of food together, in a couple of areas of our home.
I am looking forward to seeing the portrait of my darling animals evolve from her camera, through many stages towards completion and finally hanging in our home, where all three of us can gain pleasure from it daily.
I cannot help but think back to the inspiring dog portrait exhibition I saw in 1994 at the Art Gallery of Birmingham in England, held to coincide with Crofts Dog Show at The Birmingham Exhibition Centre, which I also attended. The experience was one that filled my senses with awe and inspiration, with rooms filled with the most enchanting portraits of dogs, many from the Queen's personal collection, as well as three versions of the famous His Master's Voice portraits of a dog sitting beside the earpiece of an early record player, listening to the sounds emminating from it. There were works from Flemish art traditions, pieces dating back to the renaissance and Medieval times, as well as more contemporary portraits. The impact of this exhibition has stayed with me to this day, so it is little wonder, I, Like the Queen herself, have chosen to commission an art work based on some of the most precious things in my life; the animals that are my constant companions!
If pet portraits are good enough for royalty, then, personally, I think they are good enough for the rest of us too!
I found, much to my surprise, that prices for an original portrait of my animals were not prohibitively expensive. Yes, it fits the luxury spend category, as a non essential item in life, but I have been known to spend as much on a good winter coat, at well under a thousand dollars for a drawing. Stretching my budget to an oil painting was another matter, but luckily, I absolutely love drawings. From Da Vinci to Picasso, I have relished every pencil stroke, the fabulous renderring and clear anatomical knowledge of the animal that is apparent via the work of a highly skilled and passionate artist!
Then there is the aspect of supporting a living artist, both financially with, even the most modest of commissions, as well as your commision making up part of their overall body of work and history of its development. By commissioning a portrait of your animals, you are following in the tradition of being a "patron of the Arts", and a specific artist, even on a modest scale. This links me historically to the best traditions of the Renaissance, the patronage of The Church, even to the increasingly affluent middle class art patrons in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who wished to demonstrate their taste and wealth, via commissioning original works to adorn their homes. Today, thankfully, millions of ordinary citizens like myself, though not great artists ourselves, appreciate the value the Arts have as a window on the broader society. Arts are a mirror into our culture and part of the culture I live, is a life lived with animals. What better way to celebrate this than via one of Wendy- Jane's portraits of my own animals?
To commission an animal portrait, you are commiting both the animal(s) you love and the artist themselves to history. A portrait will have a life beyond the too short life span of our pets. It captures a moment in time. Perhaps one that will live on well beyond even my own life time, as a family heirloom, collection of a local gallery, or even occasionally requested to be part of a broader exhibition of an artist's body of work, or genre example, such as the exhibition of dog portraits I found so much pleasure in at the Birmingham Art Gallery.
As for Wendy Jane Sheppard, her work hangs not only in homes of animal lovers throughout Australia, but also, increasingly, in homes and galleries across the world. Take a little time to explore her own website www.wendyjanesheppard.com/, or explore the process as she brings animals to life, from initial drawings to completed pieces on her facebook pages, such as 'drawing Ollie's Portrait' (www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010461932763&sk=photos&collection_token=100010461932763%3A2305272732%3A69&set=a.287150811643648.1073741855.100010461932763&type=3) and similar explorations via her facebook photo albums.
I also love Wendy- Jane's horse portraits and think how wondeful a gift a horse portrait of a beloved horse could make, for anyone, like myself who is an equestrian or shares the love of a particular animal!
We all love our animals, so consider treating yourselves and them to an original pet portrait!
Contact Wendy-Jane Sheppard directly via this link.
All Wendy- Jane's work republished in the slideshow below is done so with her expressed support and kind permission, which I gratefully acknowledge here!
Please note, this is not a paid advertisement by Wendy-Jane Sheppard. I am not recieving any cuts in price or freebies for this entry on my blog. Rather, it is a clear endorsement and respect for the work of an artist I thought was worthy of acknowledging and publicly promoting for my readers. I hope you enjoy her work, as much as I do, regardless of whether you opt to have portraits done of your pets!