Woman captures essence of man’s best friend
While out on the town not so long ago, artist Sara Smith saw a dog she knew she had to paint.
The dog, Chelsea, belonged to a Truckee business owner, and when Smith asked if she could paint the dog’s portrait, the owner agreed.
“She is just the spunkiest little dog,” said Smith, who included a leopard print couch and purple pillow in Chelsea’s portrait. “She’s this tiny white fluffy dog.”
Chelsea was ecstatic when she saw the portrait, according to Smith.
“She was excited, she was barking at it,” she said.
Smith teaches life drawing classes in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe, and within the last year she decided to become a full-time artist. She works out of her small, two-story house in Kings Beach, surrounded by her art, an easel, paintbrushes in mason jars and numerous houseplants.
Resting on her staircase is a framed portrait of a dog with a sheepish grin and seductive eyes. Smith describes the dog, which she knows, as a “lady killer.”
“Two legs, four legs, he takes them all,” she said.
Although Smith takes other commissions, she has begun to advertise her pet portraits more aggressively.
“I seriously considered [being a veterinarian],” Smith said. “I just loved art more. To me it’s a perfect marriage of what I love.”
Smith’s enthusiasm for painting and working with animals is reflected in her life philosophy: “The beings that we love are paramount, they’re the most important part of our lives.”
She believes pets are not much different than their human owners, bringing something invaluable to people’s lives.
When someone commissions a pet portrait, Smith likes to get to know the animal, but if she can’t, a chat with the owner about his furry friend’s likes, dislikes and habits will do.
Smith’s pet portraits are stylized or realistic, big or small, and she always tries to keep the price low so anyone can get a portrait of their pet.
“People love it, it makes them happy,” she said.
“One of the things I love about animals is they’re so purely responsive to the world,” Smith said. “They’re so good at reminding us how good it is to roll in a clump of green grass.”
Although Smith admits she’s not getting rich with her work, she says it feels good to be able to do what she loves full time.
“I’ve always been doing other things to get a paycheck,” Smith said. “So far, I’ve been able to do it. It’s nice because it feels like people like my work well enough that it’s working.”
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