Standing in her kitchen, Lafayette resident Katie Miller stands in front of an easel surrounded by photos. On the canvas, a brown, white and black dog is taking shape. The dog’s name is Gus, and the portrait will be going to Miller’saunt.
“This one has probably taken me the longest,” Miller said. “I’ve probably spent about 40 hours on that one.”
Since May, Miller has been painting portraits of people’s pets as a side job and passion, but she hopes to make it a full-time job one day.
“My friend and her boyfriend adopted this Boston Terrier and I thought it would be fun to paint him,” Miller said. “I painted him and posted it on Facebook and people started asking if they could have one of their pet.”
Miller said she never went to school for art, but it’s always been a passion.
“I’ve enjoyed painting since I was a kid,” Miller said. “I never really like to give myself enough credit. All my friends and people in high school did. But I never thought I was great, but now that I’m getting older, maybe I’ll start believing everyone.”
To date, Miller said she has painted about 20 pet portraits for people.
“It makes me happy,” Miller said. “ A lot of people who have asked for them are people that have lost their pet. People will send me the videos of their reactions, or I’ll get to see them when I deliver the portraits and they start crying. It makes me feel good even though it’s a sad reason to be painting them.”
Tracy Griffin is one of Miller’s neighbors and she said she asked her to paint a portrait of her son’s dog, Milo.
“Milo died several years ago and my son has missed him very much,” Griffin said. “I was amazed at how perfect the likeness was. In fact, I gave it to my son on his birthday, he took a look at that portrait and cried. It was beautiful.”
Griffin said she also asked Miller to paint a portrait of her parent’s cats for Christmas.
“They are very special, as one is a three-legged cat and the other was a feral,” Griffin said. “My parents adore them to pieces.”
Griffin asked for the portrait of the cats, Nelson and Nigel, to include their entire bodies, rather than just their faces.
“Katie was concerned as she hadn’t done full bodies before,” Griffin said. “But, once again, she created a stunning portrait. When I gave the painting to my parents, they both looked at each other and cried. It was so heartwarming.”
Miller said her favorite part of the process is painting the animals’ eyes.
“They hold all the personality and meaning,” Miller said. “I’ve heard from a lot of people that the eyes are really realistic.”
Miller’s cousin, Jennifer Boswell, said she asked for a portrait of her border collie, Sky, after she died.
“Sky was our first family dog and was intended to be our special needs daughter’s service/companion dog,” Boswell said. “Losing our dog was a very difficult time for our family. She brightened everyone’s mood and loved our family very much.”
Boswell said Miller kept them updated through the process.
“The amount of thought, attention to detail and creativity to capture just the right moment is what was the most amazing,” Boswell said. “Opening the painting was like seeing a real photo of our dog. Katie was able to capture our girl Sky in the perfect light. It is amazing how every detail from her eyes, her ears and even her fur are all breathtaking. Katie’s ability to show Sky’s charm and playfulness created a more beautiful portrait than we could ever photograph.”
The portrait hangs in the Boswell family’s living room and makes the family happy.
Miller’s portraits range in size and prices and are done with acrylic paint on a canvas.
For more information, or to request a portrait, visit wherethewildthingsart.com.