Home > Shellie Lewis' Art, Uncategorized > I Don’t Want to Paint Your Dog. Ever.

I Don’t Want to Paint Your Dog. Ever.

September 14, 2010

“I Don’t Want to Paint Your Dog” by Shellie Lewis, acrylics, glitter, beads, sequins, 36” x 36”

I just heard of an artist that is hard up for cash and painting pet portraits for $30.00 a pop.  I went there myself once, and it was a disaster.  The snippy moneyed wench that hired me was rude and ridiculous; I painted her fluffy Himalayan cats three times in a row, and none of of the paintings I made pleased her.  The photos she gave me were terrible, the camera was across the room from the cats and they were tiny in the photo.  I could barely see what they looked like, and I asked for better photos; and she kept telling me my paintings were terrible.  She said the paintings did not look “just like them”.

After the third rejected painting, I fired her as a client.  I told her if she wanted something that looked “just like” the cats, she should just take a picture of the cats, I’m making a painting.  I’m never touching another pet portrait again; I will do my own critter art for personal reasons, but “pet portrait” is pretty much scraping the bottom of the art market barrel.

It is hard to get a commission.  At least I was using gouache on Paris paper, so I did not lose much money on supplies on el gatos.  People do not realize the skills that go into making a painting because they’ve never made one.  People have some delusion that you want to work for free or cheap, not thinking about the supplies and materials that you use, because they think this is your hobby and you have so much darn fun doing it, you’ll be delighted to do what they want.

I have no idea why “pet portrait” is such a common request; maybe it shows the level where most Americans can appreciate art, immortalizing Rover and Fluffy is easy to understand.  If someone came to me and asked for my interpretation of an early period Abstract Expressionist painting, I’d feel pretty certain I’m being Punked.

If you take a commission, get half to the whole amount up front.  If you get all of the money up front, consider having a clearly defined written contract for the work, so the buyer does not waste a few weeks or months of your time and then yank their money back, deciding to spend it at a department store shoe sale after they hired you.  Americans are impulse buyers and shop for entertainment, and this has bitten me more than once.   Do the work you want to do.  If you try to pander to people’s requests too far outside of your comfort zone, or because you are trying to sell art to people with no appreciation for your work, you’re going to wind up selling the result to your yoga instructor for $30.00 like I did.

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