Very talented Ottawa artist, Allison MacAlister of AlliePets
Location: Ottawa, ON
What kind of Dog Art do you do?
My style is very “toony” compared to many pet portrait artists. Instead of referencing directly from one photo, I prefer to get a handful of photos and a description of the animal’s personality, and from that, create an entirely unique pet portrait according to the client’s description and ideas. Sometimes my style is more toony, sometimes it’s more realistic; depends on the animal, and the client’s desires.
How did you get into doing dog-related artwork?
I’ve done doodles of my pets and friend’s pets for years and years. Animals in general have been my favorite art subject for my entire life. I only got into actually doing pet portraits as a hobby about two years ago, and officially made it a business a year ago.
When did you first realize you are an artist?
When I could pick up a crayon! Ever since I can remember I’ve had the desire to draw, doodle, scribble, and otherwise put pictures on paper. I think I’ve been an artist my entire life, and have simply been honing my craft. I personally feel that anyone who has the desire to create, no matter what age or craft, is an artist.
Could you tell us some more about your work?
I work digitally. The entire piece from sketch to completion is done on the computer. I’ve had requests for real media, and may offer it as an alternative when I feel skilled enough to do so. My favorite program to work in is a Japanese program called Paint Tool SAI, but I also work in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign when needed. I work on a powerful PC with dual monitors, and draw using a Wacom Intuos3 9×12 drawing tablet. Every so often, I stream my drawing process live to the client or others interested in watching me work. Aside from portraits, I also enjoy offering logo, branding and design services that are pet-related. I have a design diploma and like to put it to good use!
What is it that inspires you to create your pieces of art?
The animals! I love pets of all kinds, that’s what inspired me to start this business in the first place. I worked in a boarding kennel, and have volunteered for a number of animal rescues over the years (and continue to). It’s incredible how much animals influence us, inspire us and wedge their ways into our hearts. Dogs, cats, ferrets, reptiles, livestock… everyone loves different animals for different reasons. I love learning about people’s pets and their love for them, and that iunspires me to create memorable portraits.
What famous artists have influenced you, and how?
Oh goodness. Where do I start? Pretty much every artist I’ve come across has influenced me in some way. The classics, Da Vinci, Monet, Van Gogh… lots of modern cartoonists and animators as well, such as Chuck Jones, Ralph Bakshi, Don Bluth, Chris Sanders… the list goes on. I’ve always been a fan of the sharp colouring styles of comic books as well. Warren Ellis, Jeff Smith, Dave Gibbons… I’m blessed to also have many incredible professional artists as good friends, who have influenced me, inspired me and advised me along my path.
What do you do for fun (besides painting)?
My primary hobby is my pets. I have a dog, a cat, a ferret, a chinchilla, two geckos and two guinea pigs. It’s a full house and I love every minute of it. I spend time with my boyfriend, who is awesome and supportive. Knitting is my secondary hobby, I adore it and it’s a wonderful way to relax at the end of a long day. I love going running with my dog, hanging out in the garden with a sketchbook, having weekend BBQs with friends, having an evening at the pub, relaxing with a good book… I have a lot of interests!
What inspires you to create art and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?
I don’t know if anything inspires me to create… more that I have a drive to create, and doing illustration for a living has been a great way to fuel that drive. Sometimes I definitely hit mental roadblocks or art blocks. When that happens, I leave the office for a few minutes, get a glass of water, take a quick stroll around the block for fresh air, play ball with the dog in the yard for a little while… I find that taking the bit of time to step away makes me far more productive in the long run than staring frustratingly at a computer screen. I don’t run into obstacles too often, though. I love to create.
How have you handled the business side of being an artist?
That was the hardest part at first. I’ll openly admit to being entirely discombobulated for my first few months as a proper business! Keeping your own accounts, keeping clientele contacts in order and maintaining priority/task lists… it’s tricky at first, and I don’t think any amount of planning beforehand (and trust me, I did a lot of that) can prepare you for simply being in the fray. I’ve since fallen into the habit of managing money and clients, and it’s become a lot easier overall. Accounting and tasking software helps me a lot.
What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Don’t give up! Many artists I’ve known tend to get frustrated at others who are better than they are. EVERY artist will develop and learn at their own pace, and will develop a unique style. No artist is perfect. Try not to obsess over what others are doing. Instead, study them, decide what it is you love about their work, and then work on developing your skills in those areas. Life drawing helps immensely. The advice I once received that has helped me the most and continues to do so is… carry a sketchbook and pencil everywhere. Draw people, animals, trees, rocks, houses, buildings, cars, rivers, lakes… draw everything you see. The more you draw, the more you learn. I suggest taking some art classes too, the theory you’ll learn is priceless.
Do you have a dog? if yes, what kind, please brag about your pooch here.
I do have a dog! His name is Finnegan, and he’s a border collie. I brought him home as a puppy from a working breeder, and he’s now a year and a half. He’s a handful, but he’s focused, smart, driven and a joy to be with. He’s my co-pilot. We go to the Landsdowne Dog Park, we take long evening walks, he goes running with me… we started herding lessons in the fall, and hope to continue them this summer, as well as start on agility. In the meantime, he has a love affair with tennis balls and bubbles, and his best friend is our calico cat. He’s awesome and has been my primary inspiration for starting my own home business – nothing beats playing fetch with your best buddy on your lunch break.