Shanny Schmidt has found an art niche that offers something special for animal lovers.
She paints pet portraits, mostly dogs, which feature vibrant colors and unusual poses. Her growing collection of works ranges from Airedales to Wolfhounds and most breeds in between.
The Williamsburg resident has portrayed gregarious Greyhounds, pensive Poodles and shy Sheepdogs, all in bright colors that creatively contrast and complement. Schmidt’s unconventional portraits are patchy and fluid at the same time. They whimsically portray each pooch in an artful way.
With Schmidt’s canine creations, a pet owner has an opportunity to have not only a unique charming portrait of a family member, but also an impressive work of art.
“Bold use of color is one way I portray the personality and overall feeling of the dog,” explains Schmidt, 34, who began her creative career in a much different field.
After graduating from Interlochen Arts Academy where she majored in opera performance, Schmidt went on to attend the prestigious Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where she pursued a degree in opera.
“But I soon learned that it wasn’t for me,” says Schmidt. “Opera wasn’t fun anymore.”
A few years later, she pursued another passion: a career as a chef. Schmidt built a successful business for herself as a personal chef in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida which later led to her opening Regalo’s, a restaurant in Elk Rapids which allowed her to be closer to her family.
As a stress reliever and a way to decompress from long days of running a restaurant, Shanny began painting.
“I went to Michael’s and bought some paints and brushes,” she remembers. “Those first paintings were dream-like abstract stuff. It was very therapeutic, that’s for sure.”
After complications caused the restaurant to close, Schmidt kept her brush in hand and kept painting. She felt the process of creating art in this way became critical to her overall peace and was a source of renewal for her. After much cajoling from family and friends, Shanny shyly took a chance and began showing her artwork.
“Painting quickly went from just being a source of stress relief to becoming a budding career,” she says. “And I began acquiring many requests for commissions.”
So how did she go from abstract impressionist works to pooch portraits?
“I have a friend, Pam Johnson, who is a dog trainer and I asked if I could come to her training session and draw the dogs,” explains Schmidt. “The first painting I did was a poodle, a commission work. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I was excited because I liked the painting, but nervous, hoping that the owner would like it too. She adored it!” Since that poodle portrait, Schmidt has done dozens of canine creations and a handful of kitty compositions. Does she have a favorite breed?
“I like smooth-faced dogs,” she says.
“Flat smooshed in faces, I think, are fun to do. They’re all cute, but I like quirks. A snaggle tooth, or tongue that hangs out, I like that. And people know that it’s their dog.”
Schmidt is a dog owner herself, with two Chihuahuas and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
While still a personal chef, Schmidt is following her passion and paints every day, which is something she considers herself very lucky to be able to do. During this winter she’s been preparing to display at a number of summer art shows across northern Michigan.
“I like doing art shows,” she says. “The dogs are such a commonality. People pass by and comment and smile. Seeing people experience and enjoy my art is really heartwarming.”
Her works are now on display at two locations in Traverse City, the Art & Soul Gallery and Premier Floral and Gifts. The Northern Michigan Animal Hospital in Williamsburg also features her works. For more information, contact Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (231) 735-4448