I am happy to welcome Aimée Hoover here today. She is a dog portrait artist working out of Southern California. Painting professionally since 1992, she is known for her commissioned portraits. She also has a blog called Dog Arteest.
I first learned about her popular Twitter portraits, in which she gives her followers a chance to win a custom portrait of their dog. What makes her Twitter portraits special is the fact that she paints all of them in less than 140 minutes. Below, you will see some of her extraordinary paintings.
Thank you Aimée for taking some time out to visit Too Kool Doggies.
How old were you when you started painting?
If finger painting doesn't count (and it should), I was drawing at a pretty young age. Maybe four?
Aimée's Early Sketches
What do you love the most about your job?
I think I am supposed to say something like "being able to paint for a living" or "working with dogs." While those are both true, what I like best is connecting with people. Like what we're doing right now. This is fun.
Sonny and Honey, her First Portrait
What is the largest size portrait you have ever done? How long did it take you to complete it?
I believe the largest commissioned painting is "Beau," a gorgeous boxer I just painted last month. His portrait was 52"(h) x 36"(w) and took about a month and a half to paint. But I have a 48" x 60" canvas rolled up somewhere of a large grey dog I did for myself years ago.
Aimee (left) with Beau's Owner
What are some ways you keep your creative juices flowing?
Office work. It sounds counterintuitive, I know. But, I paint in big bursts then go dormant for a few days. During that studio down time, I work on the business end of my business; doing office work, responding to emails, working on my blog, even twittering. Those are all things that balance my painting bursts so I don't burn out. It's kind of like when you have two re-chargeable batteries for your flashlight or drill: you use one while you charge the other. While I work on running my business, it allows me to juice up, creatively. Vacation helps too.
What is the most unusual or non-traditional pet you've painted?
They weren't commissioned pet portraits, but I've painted a walrus, a warthog, a tree frog, a prairie dog, a cow, a pig and a few fish. And a rabbit. I would love to paint someone's lizard or something prickly. It would be fun to do a big portrait of something without fur.
About how long on average does it take you to paint a portrait?
That's definitely the number one thing people want to know about what I do. On average, most portraits take about a four to six weeks to complete. I am able to do my Twitter portraits in less than two and a half hours strictly because I get to choose each winning photo. I can only pull that 140 minute time constraint off with very specific photos.
Sketches of a Twitter Portrait
What is the most challenging thing about the work you do?
There is a period of time during the painting process where I flat out become stuck in the portrait and don't know how to fix it. It happens about 75% of the way through and it happens to me with each painting. I don't know why, and I always manage to work through it, but it happens every time even after close to 100 portraits under my belt. The second most challenging thing is not watching a lot of TV during the day, naturally.
Pepe and Pancho
What are some things you like to do when you're not working?
I like taking walks with my friends around the neighborhood, reading books, working out, and playing with my two cats. Yes, I am a dog-loving, dog-painting, cat owner (for now).
What advice would you give to fellow artists?
If you want to earn a living as an artist, I feel that stellar customer service and communication are crucial. Artists have a reputation for being flaky, so I like to pleasantly surprise my clients by being as reliable as possible.
Here's my top three pieces of advice:
- Be professional.
- Be approachable and friendly.
- Help others along.
Even if you are an artist on the side, if you want to sell your work, it's a business. So act accordingly: do what you say you are going to do, treat your clients right and listen to them. You will have more work if you do.
While my prices aren't sky high, I'm not cheap either. Occasionally my clients tell me they almost went with a less expensive artist but decided to go with me in the end--simply because I was nicer! They liked my painting style, but what ended up getting me the job was actually being friendly. Seems like common sense to be polite and kind, but then again there are artists out there pushing away willing clients without knowing it.
Back when I started out, I emailed other artists for advice. One person responded. That meant a lot to me so I always respond to pet portrait artists who contact me with direct questions about what I do. Even the really sneaky ones who don't tell me they are pet portrait artists, and request I send my marketing materials to their boyfriend's email address. (Yes, I can tell.) There is plenty of work to go around and each artist has a distinct style, so there's really no competition. Share what you learn. Help others.
What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
When I sold my first painting right out of college (a landscape for $600), my dad thought that was just hilarious. He was completely supportive about my art degree and believed in me, but as a very practical, frugal man, he took great delight in knowing someone parted with a significant sum of their cold hard cash just to buy his daughter's painting. So, in a very twisted kind of way, the most rewarding thing about what I do is remind myself that my dad, who has since passed, is probably laughing uncontrollably at what I charge these days. Also, the idea that people trust me to capture the one thing many of them love most in the world. That feels good too.
Aimée, thanks again for stopping in to chat and sharing your beautiful portraits with us. As always, if any of you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave one at the bottom of this post. :)
You can learn more about Aimée by:
1. Visiting her website.
2. Checking out her blog.
3. Following her on Twitter!
* All portraits courtesy of Aimée Hoover.