Local artist: observation is an art

Dog keepers may hardly realise that their beloved pets’ expression takes on that of the owners. Katherine Cromwell could always notice it: “If you look into the pets’ eyes, you can see the owners’ image in them.”

Katherine knows it because she has been drawing pet portraits from photographs onto canvas for almost 6 years, not only hair by hair, colour by colour, but also bringing life and actual characters to them.

For most of the time she has not even met the pets in person until finishing the painting.

The idea came into the artist when her daughter asked for a dog and she decided to paint her some puppies on wall. “Afterwards I thought it would be better to paint them on canvas just in case of we moved” says Katherine.

Her career kicked off as friends kept asking her to paint their dogs. Her first formal portrait was a local Jack Russell and Chichuahua mixed dog named “Stitch”.

She explained that she always walked her dog together with Stitch’s owner. Stitch’s family was “very pleased” with the portrait.

“I really enjoy meeting the pet and seeing if what I have painted actually captures the pets’ character, especially if I hadn’t met the pet when I was first commissioned.”

For Katherine, animals are simpler than people in terms of character. “Human portraits are a lot harder because you only have a fraction out with a line and the person doesn’t look like the way they should.” Katherine goes on when it comes to paint from life.“It would be unfair to ask a pet to sit still for a long period of time, so it’s easier to work from a photo.”

Nor is photo an easy reference, as Katherine believes that “you need to observe what is going on in the photograph, not only in colour but in its shape, form and texture.”

“For example, if your asked to draw an apple,  you may draw a circle with a stalk coming out of it, which may look like an apple but not the apple in front of you. Very rarely are apples completely round and some don’t have a stalk.  ”

The artist has been fully booked since September as the demand from people in Poole for pet portraits as gifts for Christmas grows. Busy as she is, Katherine spares some time on weekends to make Christmas decorations—the latest one is a gecko with Santa hat out of polymer clay.

For the clients, they only need to take photos for their pets and discuss customized requirements with Katherine. After three or four weeks, they will receive their pet portraits.


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