I got a wonderful surprise in the mail on Saturday: the portrait of Frankie pictured here, created by AJ Emm. I originally e-met the artist when she was AJ McDowell and blogged at PupLove.
Of course I immediately burst into tears.
Because it was a picture of Frankie. Because it captured him so wonderfully. And because it was such an amazingly nice thing for someone I barely know to do.
I never cease to be blown away at the kindness and supportiveness of the pet-lovers’ community.
Since I believe in looking a gift pet portrait in the mouth, after thanking AJ, I asked her a bunch of questions.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about your process?
When I start on a new illustration, I like to gather as many photos of the pet as possible to work from. My goal is to really try to portray each pet’s unique characteristics as much as possible, so before I even start drawing, I spend some time just looking through the photos to look for special markings, repeating expressions, or anything that feels important to that animal.
I start sketching directly in Illustrator and add in some basic shapes for shading, then I’ll send the sketch over for feedback and make edits as necessarily. Once I get approval on the sketch, I add colour layer by layer. Special requests happen at this stage – certain collars, favourite toys, specific background colours, etc. – and when everything is done, I send the finished drawing off to be printed and prepare a high-resolution digital file for online use.
Q: Was there one image of Frankie that inspired you? I can’t think of any photograph that looks quite like that.
I used a few references. I watched your “Am I Boring My Dog” video so many times that I lost count, and there was a photo of Frankie that I drew *really* heavily from because it was so perfect… He was standing in the sand outside of an RV or a bus, I think… I just remember thinking “he looks so happy, I have to use this.”
[This turned out to be a picture of Frankie with Rod and Amy Burkert of GoPetFriendly.com when they visited Tucson in May 2011, below. By strange coincidence, they just visited again — and were the first to see the image that AJ created of Frankie at my house. Cue: “Twilight Zone” music.]
Back to AJ:
Jodi, from Kol’s Notes, was really helpful, too. I kept sending her screenshots as I was working, and she’d send back things like: “Hmm… make his mouth a little wider”, or “He looks a little too dark – can you lighten up <insert spot here>, and so forth. Normally I’d get that feedback from the pet owner, but I needed a substitute in this case, and she did a great job.
What’s in it for you?
So now that you are totally awed by the awesomeness of the pet portrait and of AJ, I have some good news. AJ has agreed to offer a 20% discount on her portraits at AJ Emm if you use the promotional code FRANKIE.
There is no expiration date for using the code, but if you want a portrait in time for Christmas, you’ll have to to order by December 1.
Just so you know. AJ did not, I repeat, not, ask me to spread the word about her work. Quite the contrary. When I told her I was doing a post and asked her about using some of the answers she gave to my questions on Facebook, she wrote:
You’re absolutely welcome to use our conversation, and anything else you need – but please, I hope you don’t feel obligated to do a blog post!
You were the first person to make me feel like I was part of the “dog blogging community” after I started PupLove. Yours was the first blog that I did a guest post for. I think you’re fantastic and I just wanted to give you something during a difficult time.
I often talk about karma biting you in the butt when you behave badly, but I forget that it can work in positive ways too. You never know when something you do and don’t even remember will come back and give you a warm puppy kiss in the face.
Thanks again, AJ.