Planet Dog Series: Femie Interviews Pet Portrait Artist Karen Maley

Apr 15, 2020

Interviews & Inspiration | Lauranne Heres

Planet Dog is your new series about everything canine-related. Meet breeders and rescuers, walkers and many more people who help make your pups happy!

Karen Maley is a part-time artist who specialises in pet portraits. Her drawings are incredibly lifelike and leap of the screen whenever a new design pops up on my phone! You can find her on Facebook, Instagram or via her website.

When did you start to draw/paint?

For as long as I can remember, I always had a passion for art. During my childhood I always joined the school art clubs and when not at school I always picked up the pencils and drew, rather than going out with friends. My passion for portraiture developed during my time at secondary school. I was bullied heavily during my time there, and as a result I never wanted to go in. I was depressed (although at the time, I didn't know that it was called that) and I isolated myself at home, finding peace and control over what I could draw. Portraiture interested me, and I developed my eye for details and colours - making sure that what I was drawing actually looked like who they were meant to look like.

Did you take any courses to improve your art?

I am completely self-taught and haven't taken any courses. Back then, you didn’t have Internet in your home like you do now, so I could only self-criticise and grow that way. Once Internet in homes and YouTube came along there was a huge amount of resources available to me, and I kept on working and developing myself as an artist. This has always stayed with me - the need for knowledge and recognising the tricks of colour.

Why animals and not people/landscapes?

I adore animals, and it only seemed a natural step to create portraits of pets. I've been doing it professionally now for about 12 years and I’ve watched my online following grow over time. It's lovely that something beautiful and strong can come from such dark times, it's a lesson I do not forget.

How long do you take to finish a commission based on a photo?

It takes me approximately 25 hours to create an A4 piece, but times do vary depending on the size and medium. In the last year I’ve really developed my painting skills, I use acrylics, and my knowledge on colour theory. I love seeing the vibrancy of the portraits - they really pop out from the canvas! I have also recently drawn a lot of memorial portraits for people whose fur-babies have left them, which I'm always honoured to do. The thought of people wanting me to create such an important piece for them, something they will treasure forever, will love forever; It just warms my heart. It's this feeling of love that keeps me going, creating and growing.

Do you ever draw from memory or have pets sit for you?

I don't draw from memory or have pets sit for me. Animals just don't like to sit still, and the level of detail I like to include requires hours upon hours of work. I'd love to meet all the pets I have painted though, might be difficult for some as I’ve painted pets in the USA and even Australia!

How/when did you know this something you wanted to do professionally?

It’s very difficult to make money from creating pet portraits, which is why I only do this part-time. Prices are competitive and there are many wonderful artists to choose from. My advice is, if your only goal is to make a lot of money then I would find a different career. But if you have the passion for pets, art, learning the whole process, learning what different tools are for what and testing different mediums; putting the hours in is a doddle and its more enjoyable.