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Like their human counterparts, animals have distinctive personalities. So it’s no surprise that artists would try to capture that on paper.
Mary Margaret Fish of Searcy, owner of Mary Margaret Made, specializes in watercolor pet portraits. She began her business about a year ago as a way to express herself and provide a little extra support to her family financially.
“I have so loved getting to see many different types of pets and getting to hear the touching stories of people receiving my portraits as gifts,” she says. “On many occasions, customers who’ve purchased a portrait have told me of giving it to a friend or loved one who had lost a pet, and the reaction was so sweet and tearful. I love getting to touch lives in this small and simple way.”
Ideally, when a painting is commissioned, she likes to receive two to four pictures so she can get a feel for the pet’s personality and identify markings that make that pet unique. She prefers a photo of the pet facing the camera, as opposed to tilted to the side. Many of her portraits are just of the face and torso, so it helps to have a clean, clear picture of the animal’s head and face so she can get the details.
“I love for pet owners to tell me the things they love best about their pet,” she says. “It might be the scruff around a dog’s neck or the way the pup always has her tongue hanging out, or a cat’s special way of sitting. I love surprising the pet owner by finding the animal’s quirks or special markings myself though, too, and hiding it in the picture to be found.”
Regarding her favorite pets to paint, Fish says, “Oh, I love them all. I think the ones that I like the best are the ones that are fluffy. The natural fluff of the fur just goes so well with the flow of watercolor, and I love the way the textures turn out. I also love it when there’s a good story behind the pet. For example, I painted one dog whose owner had passed away. This faithful dog stayed by her owner’s side for days before he was found. It really moved me that she was so dedicated.”
The stay-at-home mother of two young boys says she has always loved to create. “I believe I was made by a creative God, and by creating, I – in a very small way – strive to be more like Him. Professionally, I have no experience as an artist. I’ve never been to school for it, aside from a watercolor class when I was about 11 years old, and we touched on watercolor some in high school art class. But I’m constantly trying out new media, and sometimes I find one that sticks. I also crochet, draw, knit, and paint with gouache and acrylic.”
When she was a teenager, Fish’s family had four little dogs – a Miniature Pinscher, a Dachshund, a Pomeranian and a Chihuahua. “I didn’t draw them a lot, but I used construction paper and tore pieces to make portraits of them that way. I also painted a few pictures of them in acrylic.”
Her own family just got a pet of its own – Astrid. “We haven’t had a pet for a very long time, but we just got an adorable white kitten.”
Her options range in sizes from 4×6 to 11×16, and she will also incorporate additional pets.
“I’m slowly growing this business and getting my name out there,” she says. “It is such a delight to get to do a job that incorporates so many things I love: creating, animals and bringing people joy.”
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