Artist Rachel Perls captures the canine soul in brilliant color by Angie McKaig
More and more puppy owners are looking for art to grace their walls, and are finding the perfect subject right under their feet (literally). Custom pet portraits are a booming business, with everything from copied masters to multicolored modern art available.
Rachel Perls is a New York artist who specializes in custom gouache (opaque watercolor) portraits of your pet(s). Her breathtaking use of color makes these custom pieces a vibrant addition to any living room or hallway.
We recently spoke to Rachel about her art and her business.
pp: What made you decide to start this business?
rp: Women talk about how their biological clocks are ticking; well, my dog clock is ticking. It's the dogs that I will crane my neck to see walking down the street, passing in cars, playing in the park. I have a real affinity for animals; so it seemed only natural that I should incorporate pets into my career. It's become a bit of an addiction, really. I get a kick out of listening to people gush about his or her beloved pet; they are thrilled to share with someone the magnificent nature of their pooch. I found myself spending more and more time on my pet portraits, and the rest of the time, looking forward to when I could paint again. So, I reasoned that if I felt such passion and dedication for what I did, that I should take the plunge and commit full-time.
pp: What is your artistic background?
rp: At the University of California at Davis I earning my BA in art studio; studying painting, graphic design and scenic design. I also attended the Academy of Arts College in San Francisco, and the California College of Arts and Crafts. I'm also an actively involved member in the Graphic Artists Guild and attend design seminars and meetings whenever I can.
pp:How many years have you been doing pet portraits?
rp: While I have been drawing animals since I was a child, and painting pets for friends and family for years, I made the commitment to pursue it professionally in June, 2002.
pp: Have you ever done any shows? Are there other places where people can see your work?
rp: I have relationships with several upscale pet boutiques and salons in New York and California, and look forward to expanding into other states in the near future. In addition, you can see all of my paintings on my website.
pp: What's the most rewarding part of doing pet portraits?
rp: I really love choosing colors. As I learn about each pet's personality, I form ideas about how to best represent them. Once my palette is determined, I can leap into the painting.
pp: Why did you choose to use such stylistic renderings instead of more traditionally colored paintings?
rp: If you had to assign colors to personalities, browns, blacks, and grays just wouldn't be enough. You'd need tangerine, and fuchsia, and lime green to capture an essence. The way I see it, if someone wants to record an image exactly the way it appears, they should take a photograph. Painting allows me the flexibility of interpretation and a medium for revealing the true character of our treasured pets.
pp: How long does it take to create a custom pet portrait?
rp: From my client's first email or phone call to the arrival of their finished painting, it can take anywhere from 1-2 months. The first thing we do is discuss their pet's special characteristics and personality. From the photos they have submitted, I chose the picture(s) I think will work best for my painting. Working with the pet's description and the photos, I create several different compositions and color scheme mock-ups in the computer. My client gets to pick the image that speaks to him/her the most, and I create the final piece from that choice. It's a very interactive process.
pp: Of all your paintings, which was your favorite and why?
rp: I really love “Snow dog”, a recent painting of a lab licking snow off of his nose. The graphic quality of the flame-orange snow on his deep purple coat is striking — I felt it was a very successful piece. This painting was a pleasure to work on, namely because the quality of the photograph provided was exceptional... active, intimately close-up, detailed, dramatically lit... When I have that much information with which to work, it makes my job that much easier and enjoyable.
pp: What influences your choice of color?
rp: My choice of colors come primarily from intuition. If I were to assign myself a color palette, I would have to say I'd be a range of turquoises. The psychology of color is important in my decisions-I find it fascinating. When I learn about an animal's characteristics, funny habits and moods, I associate different colors with those attributes. A moody, calm dog might work best in blues and greens, while a rambunctious, spunky dog might best be portrayed in orange.
pp: Why do you think there has been such an increase in demand for luxury dog products and services over the last ten years?
rp: Changing lifestyles and demographic shifts have had a significant impact upon the pet industry. In this mobile society of internet, cell phones, video conferencing, etc., people lose touch with community, family, friends... and draw closer to their pets. There are more couples waiting longer before having children. Baby boomers are going through empty nest syndrome. As society gains an appreciation for the therapeutic benefits of pet ownership, the unconditional love they provide, pets are gaining prominent status in households. People are humanizing their pets; many refer to themselves as their pet's mommy or daddy. Owners want to show their pets how much they care.
pp: What plans do you have for the future of Rachel Perls Pet Portraits?
rp: Giving back to animals is important to me; I've donated commissions to fundraisers for Stray from the Heart and Animal Protective Foundation, and plan to expand to other animal charities. To increase the public's appreciation and awareness of the value of service dogs, I'd like to develop a series of paintings honoring these incredibly important working dogs. On a career development level, I'd love to get my work up in some galleries and exhibits. Ultimately, I'd like to expand my market to reach more pet owners in cities across the country.
pp: Tell us a little about your dog(s).
rp: My family has 2 beagles-Jeremy and Oliver. Oliver is the quintessential teenager and enjoys barking at clouds. Jeremy is his tolerant older sibling who will grunt with pleasure when you massage his ears. I also have an extended family of friend's dogs. Hudson is an extremely vocal Australian Shepherd, and Zoe, a retriever/chow/collie mix with liquid amber eyes, is obsessed with ducks, when available for chasing.
Rachel Perls Pet Portraits will create a custom opaque watercolor of your treasured family pet. For more information, visit her web site at www.rperls.com.