We talk to pet portrait artist Sarah Leigh
Sarah Leigh tells us all about how she became a successful pet portrait artist...
"Always painting and drawing from childhood I attended art college for a year but it wasn’t for me. For a while I plodded along in various office-based jobs for much of my early working life.
Then, 13 years ago the tedium became too much, and I reinvented my life starting with handing in my notice to a rather unpleasant boss to boot. This happened at a time when friends had seen a watercolour portrait that I had painted of our lovely mongrel ‘Whipsation’ (a Whippet/Alsation cross we thought!). They started asking if I would paint their respective dogs too and when I found they all liked my work my confidence began to grow. They urged me to go professional and through their support I established Sarah’s Pet Portraits.
Business quickly grew through word of mouth and before long Sarah’s Pet Portraits went online with my own website and gallery to display my work which also includes a range of other pets ranging from cats to horses. I have never looked back and today my website features top, or top five, in a Google search of 'pet portraits' with clients from across the UK and overseas commissioning me.
Initially I worked in oils, acrylics and water colours and then gradually moved over to pastels which really suited my style and is the medium most requested by my clients. Pastels provide a real richness to my portraits and enable me to bring out the detail of the dog from even poor quality photographs. You can see a few of my favourite dog portraits here but I also paint other domestic and wild animals which I post on ‘Sarah Leigh Fine Art’ website.
In 2016 I altered course again. I had been brewing up some ideas in my head for a new range of watercolours so I invested in a set of quality paints. The result is my new ‘Rainbow Watercolour’ range of wild and domestic animals. However, I am delighted that I have now been commissioned for my first dog portrait in this new style which I will post on my pet portrait website when completed.
There are two main sides to my day. During normal working-hours I’ll be working on one or two dog portraits at a time – my order book is primarily for dogs. Switching between commissions ensures I keep my mind fresh and focussed.
Then in the evening I’ll relax with my Rainbow Watercolours which has really helped me develop new ways and ideas for working with colour which I apply to my pastel pet portrait work.
Around now is the beginning of my busiest period as believe it or not I have, as usual, started receiving commissions for Christmas gifts. I’ll begin work on the first one soon as I normally have to close my Christmas order book by the end of September to ensure I can complete them all in time to meet the couriers’ Christmas delivery deadlines.
High points of day – 1. My kids coming home from school for obvious reasons and also for making me take a short break.
2. Receiving nice testimonials from satisfied customers and, of course, seeing payments appear in my account.
Low points of the day – 1. Telling a customer that I cannot work from the pictures they have sent me, especially if their beloved dog is no longer with us.
2. Preparing orders for delivery – a laborious task of stuffing and parcel taping huge boxes before driving them to the Post Office!
But all-in-all it’s a wonderful life spending my working day painting a wide variety of beautiful dogs - and the office-based period of my life wasn’t wasted as I picked up valuable business skills which have served me well over the years."
You will find a wide range of Sarah’s dog and other pet portraits on Sarah's Pet Portraits website, and Facebook page, as well as her other work at her Sarah Leigh Fine Art website. You can also follow Sarah on Instagram. If you’d like to contact Sarah, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org.