Luckily, here in Somerville we have Pawblo Picasso, a pet portrait artist (real name Melissa King) who has spent the last five years putting our furry, feathered and even scaly friends on canvas. King got her start a few years ago when she painted a portrait of her sister’s dog, the Instagram famous Peter the Schnauzer, as a birthday present. When her sister obsessed over the portrait, she realized that there were probably a lot of pet lovers out there who would want to see their four-legged companions immortalized in paint.
“I made a post of Facebook asking if anyone would be interested,” King recalls. “The response was overwhelming. Everybody wanted one.”
King’s friends threw out a pawful of punny suggestions for the name of her new venture – Clawed Monet, Vincent Van Dogh – but Pawblo Picasso was the one that she thought best suited her. She had been to Pablo’s home in Malaga during her art history studies in college and had a soft spot for the revolutionary Spanish artist. “I thought that [name] applied to all animals,” King adds, “and I don’t want to corner myself as just a dog artist.”
That turned out to be a prescient move on her part; in the years since Pawblo’s birth, King has painted a rooster, a chinchilla, several reptiles, birds and even a velociraptor. She also hasn’t limited herself to the Greater Boston Area. While she calls Joy Street Studios her home and often sets up her French easel to paint in dog parks around the city, her whimsical paintings have been shipped as far away as Japan, the U.K. and Australia.
Getting to paint pets for a career might seem like it’s all fetch and games, but King also uses her portraiture prowess for good – most recently, she’s teamed up with the Animal Rescue League of Boston for a promotion called Pawblo Picasso and the Calendar Factory. Here’s how it works: order a calendar from the Pawblo site, and you could find a golden ticket with your purchase that entitles you to prizes like a custom portrait, a pit sitting gift card from Rover.com or a dog goodie bag from the ARL of Boston. (The promotion runs through the end of 2014 or until all tickets are found, so you’ll have to hurry!)
While the success of King’s pet portraiture business is relatively new, it seems like King has been destined to do this work since she was a child.
“One of my oldest friends just sent me some photos of some cards that I made her when I was little, and all of them were drawings of dogs,” she says. “I didn’t even realize, but come to think of it, I’ve always asked people to name an animal and I’d draw the animal… I just love drawing animals, they’re my favorite.”
To learn more about Pawblo, or to commission a portrait of your own pup, head to King’s website. For more photos of grinning pooches posing with their likenesses, check out our slideshow below.
*This probably isn’t true in, like, an art history sense. I’m a dog lover, not an artist.