Finding and selecting a pet artist
by By NICOLE SOURS LARSON | San Diego Pets
09:38 PM, Wednesday, March 23
You’ve decided you want to commission a professional portrait of your pet. But how and where do you find the right painter who can capture your pet’s essential qualities?

Many pet portraitists exhibit at local pet-related festivals and art shows, such as the twice-yearly ArtWalk (in Little Italy and on the Embarcadero), La Jolla Festival of the Arts, San Diego County Fair and other shows throughout the region. Others show their work at art galleries and local pet-related businesses. Several exhibit at animal rescue organizations, including the San Diego Humane Society & SPCA, or work with rescue organizations such as the Feral Cat Coalition, Rescue House, Helen Woodward Animal Center and breed-specific rescue groups, which may be able to make a recommendation.

One of your first decisions is the medium–oil, acrylic, watercolor, pen and ink, mixed media?

Many pet artists have galleries posted on their websites, along with instructions on how to photograph your pet to get the best results from a photo-based portrait. Other pet artists take their own photographs or occasionally work from life.

For most artists who take commissions, the price of the portrait depends primarily upon the canvas size, but also upon the number of animals and the complexity of the background. Pricing for pet portraits starts around $125 for a small, simple portrait of a single pet and ranges upward into the thousands for large canvases with multiple pets and detailed backdrops, with mounting and framing extra.

San Diego artist Ronda Ahrens, who has a local, national and international clientele, is a former graphic designer and gallery owner and now a full-time artist. For the last year she has focused primarily on pet portraits, done in an affectionate, whimsical style, and has long supported animal welfare and rescue groups.

“I’m all about rescuing an animal before getting one from a breeder,” she explains. She currently lives with a Chihuahua-corgi mix and a Boston terrier, both rescues, and used to have a tuxedo rescue cat.

Many of Ahrens’ clients find her at art shows, including ArtWalk and the La Jolla Festival of the Arts, through the Leaping Lotus Gallery in Solana Beach or through her website, www.rondaahrens.com.

She works from clients’ photos of their pets — cats, dogs, birds, horses and others — and does a sketch first, giving clients the opportunity to approve background details.

“I’m working on a large painting for a client in Paris showing their bulldogs dressed as a French admiral and Marie Antoinette,” she says.

She has designed and donated poster and T-shirt artwork to the May 16 La Jolla Pet Parade & Festival, which benefits SNAP and the Feral Cat Coalition’s permanent spay and neuter clinic. She can be reached at ahrensart@mac.com.

Mission Beach artist Marcia Wigdahl paints “mostly dogs, but occasionally a cat sneaks in.” Also a dog trainer, she admits dogs are her biggest love. She does occasional commissions, but normally works from her imagination and life experience, which influence her whimsical style.

“When I do a commission, it’s because I’m intrigued by the animal. Mostly I get an idea and it evolves into a story about an animal, usually about some sort of behavior or relationship. I tend to do something that makes people happy,” she explains.

Wigdahl’s work is on display at Noah’s Natural Pet Market, 4431 Cass St., Pacific Beach, and on the Global Dog website, www.theglobaldog.com. She plans her own website soon. Her work is usually at the San Diego County Fair. Contact her via e-mail at mwigdog@sbcglobal.net.

Other San Diego pet artists to check out include veterinarian/artist Dr. Christy Berg, who has a gallery of her work online at www.sunsetcliffsanimalhospital.com, Gloria Lee, who’s work can be viewed at www.popdogs.com, painters Yvonne Gillengerten at www.portraitpetpaintings.com and Marna Schindler at www.DoggonitArt.com; and watercolorist Sinclair Stratton at www.sinclairstratton.com.
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