Pure Bliss: Pet Portraits By Amanda Norman

Posted: Feb 22 2010

Pure Bliss: Pet Portraits By Amanda Norman

We are so excited to share with you this gorgeous painting of one of our pets. The portrait is of our sweet curly coated retriever, Rita. Our little Rita is always smiling, so we wanted a painting of her in her natural, happy state.

This wonderful painting is by Los Angeles based fine artist Amanda Norman. She is an award-winning visual artist whose animated still lifes and seductively textured landscapes, are showcased in private collections across the country. Often sought out by interior designers, art collectors and celebrities, Norman’s work balances a whimsical stroke with traditional subjects, bringing with it a fresh and lighthearted approach to fine art. We recently met up with Amanda online to discuss her approach to pet portraits.

PL: How did you get started painting?
AN: It has always been a passion of mine (much to the chagrin of my younger sister who was forced to sit through “art lessons” for the majority of our childhood). I was also fortunate enough to have amazing, supportive parents who always told me to “follow my bliss,” and a slew of fabulous teachers along the way who helped me hone my craft and kept my love of painting constantly growing.
PL: How long have you been doing pet portraits?
AN: I didn’t do my first pet portrait until I was out of college (2004). It was per the request of a friend of a friend as a birthday gift to his fiancé. I remember feeling a huge sense of responsibility to perfectly capture their dog. In fact, I’m pretty sure I told myself that I’d never do another pet portrait again because I was so stressed-out about it being exactly right. BUT (there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there), a few more friends and friends-of-friends ended up asking me to do portraits of their pets and eventually after enough oh-my-goodness-I-love-it-‘s, I found joy and confidence in the process and decided to keep at it.
PL: Do you approach your landscapes and still life paintings differently than pet portraiture?
AN: I definitely do. It kind of ties-in to the “stress” mentioned above. My still lifes and landscapes are generally more free form and loose. When painting a still life, I’d rather let a shape have some ambiguity and look “kind of like a lemon” rather than a perfect lemon. However, when painting someone’s pet, it’s like painting a child and you want to make sure that it looks as much like that particular pet as possible, not just like “a pug” or “sort of like a yellow lab.”
PL: Your portraits have a vibrant, lighthearted style. Talk about this a bit.
AN: I think that as much as I try to perfectly capture the intricacies of each individual pet, I still try to keep them loose and whimsical to a certain extent so that the portraits never seem too stuffy or stale—I want them to have a sense of “life” to them. I try to capture each pet’s unique quirk (the curl of a lip, a droopy eye, a wiry hair with a mind of its own), and from that there’s this life-like sense of imperfection that unfolds. I think that’s my favorite thing about life and art: imperfection.
PL: How long does it usually take to do a pet portrait?
AN: I get this question all of the time and always have a hard time answering it! It really varies from one project to the next, but on average, somewhere around 2-3 days once I have the picture chosen. I like to focus on one at a time, hunker down and really devote myself to each painting; so, they generally come pretty quickly once I sit down with a paintbrush in-hand. Also, I think there’s something about painting quickly and intensely that keeps strokes fresh and color choices edgy—again, that lighthearted/whimsical/imperfection thing.
PL: You seem to have a natural affinity for pet portraiture. Are you a dog person or a cat person? Or both?
AN: The PC businesswoman in me wants to say, “Oh, I love both equally!” However, seeing as I’m allergic to cats, I think I can admit that have more of a soft spot for dogs.
PL: Do you have any favorite portraits that come to mind, besides our darling Rita of course!
AN: As much as I honestly love each and every portrait that I do (I kind of bond with the animals in a weird way—is that creepy? Probably…), I’d have to say that my fave thus far was of my family’s golden retriever, Moki. Moki passed away a year and a half ago and she was, as every owner says about their own, The Best Dog Ever. It was a special experience to try to capture the life in her eyes a little bit, even though she’s gone.
PL: If someone would like a portrait of their pet, how should they contact you?
AN: I have contact info on my website, AmandaNormanPainting.com. Or, someone can just email me directly at norman.amanda@gmail.com. From there we can get the ball rolling on a custom pet portrait or you can order a giclee print of one of the previous pups that I’ve done!
PL: Thank you for sharing with our readers!
AN: 100% my pleasure. Thank YOU!

Amanda Norman is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including Local Color Gallery’s Top Seller for 2005 and the 2004 Weston Award for excellence in Visual Art. Amanda is an honors Graduate from Brown University and has received additional training from The New School for Design in New York City and RISD’s Pont Aven School of Art in France.


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