Leah Davies’ love of animals is clearly evident in her charming pet portraits. Please visit Leah’s website to see more of her art.
In the past nine years, I have painted seven portraits of my French Bulldog – with more on the horizon, I’m sure! As someone who has a deep connection with her own pets and a love and appreciation for art, becoming a professional pet portrait artist was natural and inevitable.
My pet portrait endeavors began after college. I had intended to create a business for myself as a portrait artist (of humans). However, I had painted a portrait of my dog Henry in 2007, and upon sharing it with others, I was continually hired to paint or draw pets. I was rarely receiving commissions to paint people. I was thrilled, realizing I could combine two of my greatest passions.
Most people have intensely meaningful relationships with the animals they share their lives with. In my portraits, I want to make the animal’s personality shine and bring out their very best aspects. I pride myself in capturing the animal’s spirit and life force within my paintings or drawings.
I studied printmaking in college. Once I was finished with school and no longer had access to a printing press, painting was the easiest and quickest way to express myself. I began painting in gouache, and worked in that medium for many years. However, once I started working in oils, I fell in love with the process.
Maybe it’s my printmaking background, but I love to think in layers. I love the slow method of bringing the work from an underpainting to a finely detailed work of art. In my oil paintings I use traditional methods and techniques, but I like to juxtapose them with bright and fun background colors and eye-catching compositions.
I also have a passion for working in graphite and colored pencils. Regardless of the medium, I thoroughly enjoy the challenges presented by each and rendering textures and fine details. I always believe the intense level of detail in my work is what separates “just any dog” from a specific dog and his specific attributes.
Social media and sharing sites have served as a huge source of my inspiration. I can find reference photos on Flickr or Deviant Art and I can get to know someone’s pet on Instagram or Facebook. A good portion of my customers come from across the country and beyond, making it impossible for me to meet or get to know their pets. Social media and sharing sites help me bridge that gap.
My inspiration also comes from my immediate surroundings. Henry, my French Bulldog, has been my muse from day one as well as meeting dogs and their owners at the dog park or out on a walk.
In addition, there are the photos and the stories of the relationships they have with their pets that my customers share with me. I am presented with a new challenge to conquer and another reason to do my absolute best.
Each time I create a portrait, it is a lesson learned and an opportunity to grow as an artist.