Interview with Nancy Schutt of
Custom Fine Art Pet Portraits
“Every dog deserves good art.”
Nancy is an artist who says: “Cici is gorgeous, she is embodied cuteness. Cici is endearing. How is it people think animals don’t feel love? it is so obvious in Cici’s face. And trust too. You can see by her body language and eyes that she is relaxed and confident of being a treasured being. Some day, truly, all beings will be treasured…
“I am a painter. I have a Master of Fine Arts degree – for what it’s worth. Being an artist is frequently not a very remunerative occupation, no matter one’s education. Being an artist requires tenacity and a willingness to make a crappy living, do other work for money, or just keep at it for years in hopes of a payoff someday. I’ve done all of the above for about 25 years, fifteen of them specializing in dogart.
My advice to other artists is to just keep on keeping on. There is something spiritually gratifying about the activity of making art that makes it worth the dedication and persistence required.
It also requires multiple skills. As Andy Warhol said “If you are an artist you must also be a businessman, otherwise no one will ever see your work.” It’s a tough match, business and art. Running columns of numbers generally doesn’t come easy to artists. The computer is a nice mesh of left and right brain activities though, and I spend about half of my work time sitting at my Mac. It is a jump-around, scrambling between the studio, appointments, managing the website and internet store, marketing, meetings, dog walks. And I don’t even have kids! How the heck do Moms manage it? Maybe a high maintenance Chihuahua counts though.
I started painting dogs after I did a small watercolor of my sister’s dogs and my Mother said, “Honey, you could make money doing that.” The magic words! And how great is that? To actually pull in some income depicting one of my favorite subjects. Dogs have such close personal relationships with us and have been a favorite subject since I was a kid. A painting of a dog is a portrait of a family member.
Fifteen years ago I exhibited a show of paintings of friend’s dogs in a gallery. I received some calls from people who saw the show and wanted paintings of their own dogs. I started exhibiting my work in coffee shops in order to get more commissions. That provided some income for several years and the motivation to continue. Thankfully I no longer lug around paintings and set up coffee house exhibits as, for me, that part is a downside to being an artist.
Now I primarily get work through the website or referrals rather than working with a gallery, (although I have done that as well and may again in the future). The Internet has made it much more possible to be an artist without dependency upon a gallery or schlepping one’s work from venue to venue.
Dogs themselves are lovely, humorous, expressive, fun creatures who contribute enormously to our lives. They are masters of being fully present in the moment, and they model that for us daily. They cause us to re-evaluate those things we hold dear: wealth, status, fashion, morality, politics, success of a composition- none are of interest to them. But the remains of a pizza are of utmost concern. It gives me pause when taking myself too seriously.
Dogs have been an answer to many problems about being an artist. They offer resolution to the question of what to do art about. They provide design elements of variety in shape and color, they provide emotional and intellectual interest, they can add humor or profundity to the painting, and they attract a client base.
A painting could be figurative, landscape, still life, abstract- it doesn’t matter because all good paintings must work with the same basic elements: composition/color/ technique/ form- and must be successful with all of those elements to be a good painting. And then there is content. If it’s about dogs, it’s about love.