FEATURED ARTIST INTERVIEW
Before he was recognized for his uplifting and colourful pet portraits, Sean O’Daniels was a professional concept artist and art director. He visually developed the backstories for characters in games and film, creating the look and feel of characters and the environments in which they appear.
The inspiration behind the addition of pet portraits was Sean’s rescue dog, Rocky. Until Sean created his series of paintings with Rocky as his subject, he had never considered pursuing his own art.
If you own or used to own a dog, you understand how much they impact our lives. The silent bonds and stories we share with them inspire us to be better people
In between work projects, Sean would paint Rocky. He was determined to capture not only Rocky’s likeness but also, the personality of his beloved dog and everything he felt Rocky represented: Loyalty (Rocky carried everything, including Sean’s wife’s purse.) Confidence (his short legs and stature never limited him). Most of all, Rocky taught his people to trust, to believe in themselves and never doubt or give up on their dreams.
The last lesson was the most difficult, painfully realized upon Rocky’s passing in 2016.
The night Rocky died I began to paint the stories and personalities of other pups, giving those silent bonds and stories a voice. Other than writers, I don’t know of many others who can articulate what dogs mean to their people.
Although he occasionally does use traditional acrylic on canvas, Sean’s primary form of art is digital. That way, pet owners don’t have to commit to a fixed canvas size or high price. The digital artwork, in various sizes, is available to pet owners and other consumers, online. Sean paints and sketches directly onto his iPad or stylus and the process of layering is demonstrated through Instagram videos.
Also on Sean’s Instagram account are the cutest pics of rescue dog, Toby. Chiweenie Toby joined Sean’s family a little more than a year after they lost Rocky.
Digital format gives artists the freedom to experiment and explore but when you work with other mediums, you need a game plan, and it can take months to create a piece. Working digitally is less constrictive says Sean, he doesn’t have to stay within the confines of a reference photo.
When asked about his ‘favourite place to create’, Sean shares that he likes to move around and becomes creatively stagnant if he has to show up and the same place to create. Another advantage of working digitally.
Sean does not just paint pet portraits. For him, it’s all about capturing the character and the story. The ‘narrative.’
To qualify a dog as one of Sean’s subjects, potential clients are asked to share a unique idea about their companion and provide photos that demonstrate a distinguishing characteristic or quality. Once he is ‘jazzed’ about a project, Sean requests a deposit and arranges a further discussion to share ideas and combine elements and explore and develop subtleties that might not have been fully expressed initially. Anything that will make the piece as unique and personal as possible.
Upon completion of the project, clients choose whatever size of artwork they want, up to 30 x 30. There are no ‘originals.’ Even when Sean creates an acrylic on canvas piece, he rarely sells an original, so to keep the cost down for his customers.
Some people see their pets as objects. They don’t see their pet’s true personalities, or recognize what they have to teach us or appreciate that they even have a story. These people just want a picture, and there are a million artists who will just paint a picture for them.
If people aren’t able to convey the narrative, Sean will decline their commission as he does not believe it will turn out well. Some individuals find it difficult to communicate this information.
It’s funny, says Sean, some of the stories we share are maybe not ones we consider unique, but when I get my clients to open up, they tell me things they haven’t even shared with their closest friends. The bonds they have with these animals are unspoken, and during our consultation, it’s the first time they’re sharing with another person.
These are the things that get me fired up and that I want the artwork to express. Each time they show the piece to people, they have a story to share; there’s something in the composition that represents a unique trait (of their companion).
We think our stories aren’t unique. However, it’s amazing how many people visit the site, see a photo, and they get it! They totally get what that dog is about!
Sean was contacted about having one of his pieces licensed to be used in the backdrop of a scene in a movie! The piece was of an Irish Terrier with a pint of Guinness. The subject, a family dog, named……………………………yup, you guessed it, Guinness!
That’s the coolest thing; that people relate to my pieces.