Stray Dog Arts, Pet Portraiture by Jessie Marianiello

My Story

I began my artistic career doing portraits of people, focusing primarily on those colorful individuals that I met in my travels abroad. What I found most fascinating was how each person, mostly strangers, emerged on the canvas as I painted them. During those long hours spent in the studio, the people I painted slowly came to life and grew to be my friends—each with a personality and unique story all their own.

It should not have surprised me that the same thing would happen in doing pet portraits. The thing I love most about painting is the way a relationship develops between my self and the interesting characters who reveal themselves through the end of my paintbrush. Each time, it is a wonderful surprise—and dogs are no exception. If anything, they exemplify what it is that I love most about painting. I cannot help it, a bond is formed. Whether it is my own dog or those that I’ve only met through the creative act of painting, I feel as though I come to know each of these beautiful beings on a very deep and genuine level—and I cannot fathom anything more satisfying that this.

One day I was outside shoveling snow when, seemingly out of no where, I asked myself an innocent question: “What makes me happiest?” The answer came easily: "Dogs and Art." At that very moment, I felt something shift inside of me and my life has not been the same since. From this question Stray Dog Arts was born.

There is a Zen story about an old monk who practiced for over forty years in a monastery and then became disgusted—I’m getting nowhere he thought—and decided to leave. As he walked down the path to the gate, with his few belongings on his back, he noticed that the walkway looked a bit messy. He went to get a rake to smooth it out. As he raked the dirt, one pebble flew out, hit some bamboo standing nearby, and made a sharp sound. The instant the monk heard that sound he became fully and completely enlightened.

I do not know what the old monk was thinking at that exact moment. Nor do I know the color for the sound of a single pebble. But I do know that I paint because it gives me the feeling that something real is happening.

I paint pet portraits because I have more love for animals than I know what to do. I paint because there is something beautiful to be captured in those transitory moments we share with the pets who have stolen our hearts for good. I paint to tell a story. I paint dogs (and cats and horses) because now I cannot stop.

For me, it is not just about getting a painting to look like a specific pet; it’s about capturing his or her personality. I believe that an animal’s spirit is conveyed through its eyes, a particular expression, and even the subtlest of gestures. My goal as an artist and animal lover is to create artwork that honors the beautiful and unique life-force within each of us. I find pet portraits particularly rewarding because, in short, they make me happy. I have wanted to work with animals ever since I was a little girl and am grateful beyond words that I am able to do this through my art.

I pour my heart and soul into every painting that I do and if there is one gift I would like to give the world, it would be happiness. Often, our pets are the ones who give us the greatest happiness of all. My paintings, well, they are but a heartfelt gesture in celebration of the unconditional love and infinite happiness that our four-legged friends have brought to us.