• EJ Wilcox Art

Artist of the Month – ESC Pet Portraits

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

This month I got to interview the talented Pet Portrait Irish artist, Eimear from ESC Pet Portraits. I am a huge fan of Eimear’s art creations, as she understands just how special our pets are to us. ESC Pet Portraits are expertly drawn and stunningly produced.

I have commissioned numerous pet portraits from ESC Pet Portraits (such as the one above of my cat Ollie) and I have loved every single one of them. I love how my pets’ unique features have been captured in each portrait.

In this interview, Eimear talks about her very own art journey and process for drawing people’s much-loved pets. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see some of ESC Pet Portraits.

Emma: How and when did your artistic journey begin? How did you get into creating Pet Portraits? Did anyone inspire you?

Eimear: In 2015, my King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Angel, was diagnosed with heart failure and I knew our 10-year journey together was coming to an end. She had been in my life since I was 9 years old, and I had grown up with her. It was really heart breaking and I wanted to create a special portrait of her to go up in our home. I didn’t have many art materials at the time, only a sketchbook from a discount shop, two shading pencils and one umber colouring Prismacolor pencil, but to date, it remains my favourite portrait.

From there, I began to draw some of my friends’ pets as gifts to them. At this stage, I created a private Instagram account to document my work, but, as a teenager sensitive to criticism, I didn’t tell anyone about the account, because I was not yet ready for critique of my work. It was purely to monitor my progress and meet like-minded artists.

I stumbled upon an Instagram account dedicated to pet portraits, Danielle Fisher Art. The quality of her work amazed me, and it was very inspiring to see someone with art dedicated solely to pet portraits, a possibility which I had not yet thought of.

I sold my first ever commissioned pet portrait priced at £5, in or around 2017.

In October 2018, I officially launched ESC Portraits on a part-time basis alongside my full-time job and studies, and I have been consistently booked up ever since! I am so grateful to everyone who has supported ESC Portraits over the past 3 years.

Emma: How would you describe yourself as an artist and your work? How would you describe your art personality?

Eimear: I use colour pencils (Faber Castell or Prismacolor) and/or soft pastels (PanPastel, Soft Sponges, and Unison Pastels) with pastel pencils (Faber Castell Pitt Pastel and Caran D’ache) on Claire Fontaine multi-technique paper.

Emma: Do you specialise in any other art mediums?

Eimear: I have not tried working in oil paints yet, so I would love to do that in future. I would also like to create more abstract pieces. Occasionally, I use watercolour paints to create Christmas or birthday cards.

Emma: What is your favourite pet to draw?

Eimear: Spaniels, always! I love their characterful eyes and curly ears.

Emma: What has been your hardest pet to draw?

Eimear: Technique wise, definitely Kerry Blue Terriers. It is difficult to achieve the right tone and match this with their fine curls.

In general terms, it can sometimes be tricky to achieve the right composition in multi-pet portraits or to work from an older reference photograph. This is often the case where a pet has sadly passed away and the client has a limited number of photographs. However, it is even more rewarding to be able to create a quality memorial gift that will be truly valued.

Emma: Can you describe your process when you create a pet portrait?

Eimear: Firstly, I will liaise with the client to arrange a suitable date at my next availability point, making note of any key dates by which the portrait must be completed, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or Christmas.

When the booking date comes around, I will arrange a consultation with the client to:

(i) review the available reference photographs, decide which will work best and request additional photographs, if required;

(ii) select a suitable portrait size, from A4 up to A2;

(iii) select a suitable background colour, based on my recommendations and the client’s preferences;

(iv) discuss the likely turnaround time, which is generally 2-3 weeks for a standard A4 portrait;

(v) obtain any special instructions from the client, e.g. to ensure the pink collar and name tag are included, ensure any special markings are visible, and, a popular request from cat owners, to ensure the tips at the top of the ears are visible.

I will then sketch out the initial outline and begin to apply the base and background colour (if applicable), using Soft Sponges to apply Pan Pastel or Unison Colour soft pastels. I always ensure the base colours are slightly darker than required.

Once these have been applied, I will then begin to add finer details, such as the fur, and highlights, such as the glisten in their eyes or their wet noses, using pastel pencils (Faber Castell Pitt Pastels or Caran D’ache) or broken pieces of soft pastel.

I love to use colour pencil (especially gold and silver Prismacolors) to create a metallic shimmer effect on collars and name tags.

If you would like to see more progress shots and videos, I regularly share time-lapse videos on Instagram to my stories, reels, IGTV and grid.

Emma: After you have expertly drawn and produced a pet portrait for someone, do you get nervous or anxious hoping that they like it?

Eimear: 100%, every time. My mind always assumes the worst. I regularly share progress photographs and videos, which mitigates against the fear of doing a final reveal to a client.

I also worry that the portrait will go missing or be destroyed in the post.

It is definitely a relief to hear that it has arrived safe and well. There is no better feeling than a happy client sending through photographs of the framed portrait in their home.

Emma: What has been the standout moment for you as an artist so far?

Eimear: In December 2019, I signed up to a local craft fair. Not expecting much, I showed up without any business cards, price lists and without even bringing a planner (and I live by my planner!), because I honestly did not expect there to be any interest.

My stall was queued out from start to finish, I could not believe it. By the end of the day, I was booked up 6 months ahead, right through to May 2020.

This was definitely a standout moment for me when I realised people were genuinely interested in my artwork.

I am also constantly amazed by the support received from fellow artists, makers and creators on Instagram and elsewhere, particularly within my local town, Derry, where a huge emphasis is placed on shopping local and supporting independent businesses.

Emma: Is there an artwork you are most proud of?

Eimear: My all-time favourite artwork is my first ever pet portrait of my Angel.

I am always proud of larger-scale commissions, my most recent and largest to date being a 4-piece, 6 pet series for EJ Wilcox Art.

This is only added to by the fact that another artist, having that appreciation for the work, skill and time that goes into creating art, opts to select me to commission their portraits.

Emma: What advice and tips would you give fellow artists?

Eimear: To go for it, without fear of what others will say or think. Not to be deterred by a lack of materials, knowledge, experience, or ability. I haven’t studied Art at third level education and was awarded an A in my GCSE and A-Level qualifications, rather than the top grade band.

Emma: Is there a question that you would have liked me to ask? If so, what is it and how would you answer?

Eimear: “What is your ethos as an artist?”

I am committed to making quality art affordable. Many are priced out of being able to purchase art, so I try to make my work as accessible as possible.

“How do you improve your artwork?”

Myself and fellow pet portrait and wildlife artists have joined a critique group on Instagram, where we send in our almost complete portraits and reference photographs for suggestions on how to fix and improve, among other things, tones, shading, detail and composition. It has been immensely helpful to receive honest and constructive feedback on my work.

If any other artists reading this would like to engage in or set up a similar group, I would be happy to help.

Emma: Where can people see your work?

Eimear: Instagram: @escportraits Email:

Emma: Eimear, it truly has been a pleasure talking to you. I have enjoyed learning about your art journey, process and ethos . I wish you all the success that you deserve in the art world.

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