Every year I agonize over what to get Jeremy, my brother and the CEO of PetYen, for his birthday. Aside from his great love for his wife and a voracious appreciation of fine foods, Jeremy’s true passion in life is quite simply put: pets. Or more specifically, his brood of furkids; Ren the Welsh Terrier, Uma the German Shepherd and Bella the Cat.
In the past I have resorted to gifting him food-related presents because the idea of finding a present that was both pet-specific and personal was too daunting. If you think about it there are very few gifts for pet lovers that are not generic, like and Best Dog Day” shirt, or not actual pet products (though I am sure Jere would be thrilled if I bought Uma a new bed or Ren a month’s supply of her favorite yak sticks). However, since I prefer to get Jeremy himself (not his dogs) a present I have always been hard-pressed to think of gifts that were both pet-related and unique to my brother.
There’s More to Find than Dogs for Adoption at Local Pet Events in NYC
But this year it came to me! I had a sudden flashback to when Jere and I attended the Second Annual Bark Ave Adoptathon in Carroll Gardens where I met Keith DuQuette, a local Brooklyn artist who was showcasing his pet portraits. Now, typically I find pet art to be overly formal or maudlin, but Keith’s drawings were anything but generic. They were simple but at the same time hyper-detailed and realistic. What’s more, not only is the accuracy of his work impressive, but Keith’s talents as a pet portraitist are highlighted by the kindness and compassion in which his subjects are portrayed.
So I wrote Keith in a state of near panic (the clock was ticking). As per instructed via his website I submitted a selection of the finest photos of Ren (Jeremy’s first child and our official PetYen mascot) that I could find. After reviewing all the options, angles and poses, Keith and I finally agreed on the best image to highlight Ren’s great beauty and award-winning personality.
Within a few weeks time Ren’s portrait was complete. Keith mailed it directly to my Brooklyn apartment and when I opened the package I must say, I nearly lost it…. He totally NAILED it! Ren’s good looks were captured accurately and she looked just as adorable, playful, and sweet as she does in real life. It was uncanny. And there you go. Just like that I had finally purchased the best, most personal, pet-oriented present for a person that I could have ever hoped for!
So What Makes Keith’s Pet Art so Special?
Because talent like Keith’s is hard to come by (he also happens to be a fantastic children’s book illustrator), I reached out to him for a mini-interview to get a little insight into his process and passion for dog and cat artwork. In Keith’s own words:
What is it that you love about pet portraiture/ what is your favorite part about the process?
With each portrait, I like to find a way into the particular animal’s spirit. It’s not always easy, but when it happens I find myself immersed into the rhythm of making a successful portrait.
Do you have a preference as to what kind of pets are your favorite subjects to draw?
Not really. What is most important is the energy I see from the photos I receive. Good and clear photographs are really key to make a strong portrait.
Do you ever incorporate some of your pet models into your children’s books?
A number of my children’s books have featured a wide variety of animals – real and imagined. This educated and positively influenced how I approach my pet portraits.
Do you currently have a pet of your own? Or what kind of pets have you parented in the past? Are they/ were they ever your subjects?
I have had a wide variety of pets throughout my life so I truly understand the bond people share with their pets. We currently have a rescue lynx point Siamese cat named, Fez (Fezzy) Luna. He is a handsome rascal. I have not done a portrait of Fez Luna yet.
What’s your favorite part about living in Brooklyn?
Two wonderful institutions make Brooklyn a great place to live: I work as a Conservation Specialist at the Brooklyn Museum. It is a place of inspiration and wonder. I also love going for walks in the magical Prospect Park especially when the dogs are off leash and running free. My wife and I always pay a visit to Dog Beach to watch the playful canine water show.
Now I am an Official Pet Art Patron
Truth be told, I was so thrilled with Keith’s work that I have already commissioned another portrait for a friend. Plus, Jeremy has two more children, so now I have two years worth of birthday presents already lined up. Not only do I feel like I discovered a gem with Keith, but as a local artist who paints dog portraits in NYC and a fellow animal lover, I couldn’t be happier to support his endeavors. As you can tell by my enthusiasm and glowing review, it’s pretty clear that I think you should too…