Earlier this week I dropped off a commissioned painting with its new owner, and I was asked how I came to specialize in portraits of animals. Since I love to tell the story, I made that today's blog topic.
My mother was an artist, working in oils. She had taken classes at art colleges in Minneapolis when she was working for the airlines. Art in all forms was very important to my Mom, and she passed her wealth of information on painting, music, novels, dance, etc, to my brother and I. She started me painting when I was old enough to hold a paint brush. Most of my early paintings were paint-by-number tigers and giraffes.
I was never allowed to touch my parent's camera. Film was cheap back then, but they would send the whole role in to be developed and printed, and they didn't want to pay for a child's careless images of an out-of-focus rock or a blurred photo of the clouds. I was about 7 when we were visiting my aunt's farm in Wisconsin. I noticed a pony standing under a big walnut tree. The sun, rising in the morning sky, silhouetted the scene and bathed it in golden light. "What a wonderful picture that would be," I thought to myself. I sneaked my mom's camera outside while she was having breakfast with the family. I captured one image of the scene and promptly returned the camera to where I had found it. What a surprise for the family when that pretty photo of the pony was found in amongst the other travel photos! I was given a camera immediately after that.
We also lived on a farm so my favorite subjects became the many different animals that lived there. I enjoyed posing our dog Queenie with glasses and a book. The cats were photographed on piano keys, nestled with the teddy bears, and hanging from tree limbs. Ducks, geese and turkeys were captured in front of soft colorful sunsets. Never did anyone think that this was my early training for a career in photographing animals later in my life.
When I studied art in college, I planned for a future of advertising design, illustration and photography. I even worked in that field for a number of years. But, fate brought me back to what I was born to do. I find purpose and meaning in creating images that depict the bond between people and their pets. It gives me so much pleasure to see the excitement in a client's eyes when they receive their portrait. Yes, I have a good job.
(All the images in this blog post were taken by Deborah Ann Klenzman before she was 14 years old.)