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Terri Moore Pet Portraits

We love our pets and wish they could be with us forever. One way to keep your furry friend close is to immortalize your critter in a work of art. Sure, we all take photos of our pets, but when was the last time a photo made it from your phone to the real world? A painting of your pet can capture its spirit and be a reminder of your love for years and years. We spoke to artist Terri Moore about painting people’s best friends and to best capture your pet in a portrait.

How long have you been painting? How long have you been doing pet portraits? I have been drawing and sketching almost my whole life. I did a lot of pen and ink drawings when I was younger. I have been painting in pastel for about 15 years as a hobby, and paint full time now that I am retired. I have done pet portraits for the same amount of time, but many of them have been painted in the last 10 years. I still take workshops, classes, and other opportunities to continue to learn more about painting in pastels and painting pets, and I am a member of the Pastel Society of NC, as well as the Coastal Carolina Pastel Painters, the Piedmont Pastel Society, the Art League of Leland and the Oak Island Art League.

What appeals to you about painting in general and pets in particular?

I have drawn all my life, even if it was just quick sketches. With painting, I can get away from everything and get lost in my painting for hours, it is very meditative for me. I love how I can take a blank paper and make it come alive with a scene, and especially a pet. When I’m done with a pet portrait, and I feel the pet come alive in the painting, it’s a great feeling. How is painting a pet different from painting person or a scene? Any special challenges involved? Painting a pet or a specific animal or person is different than painting just any animal, person or scene because you have to capture that pet or person’s likeness. That is more of a challenge because it is more detailed and has to look like that pet or person, whereas I can be more impressionistic when I’m not painting something specific.

What tends to motivate people to commission a portrait of a pet? Pet Portraits can be a special gift for people who have lost their pets and want to keep warm memories about their animals forever. It can also be a great gift for yourself or for someone who has a deep love of their pets who mean so much to their owners. A pet painting can also be given to a person who may love animals, but is not able to have them, and a painting can be something they can have and see all the time.

What does a painting bring to the table that a photograph does not?

A Painting is more personal. It is something that I put my heart into, and I take the time to see more of the pet and get that into the portrait to make it special. If you get a painting, you are more likely to have it framed and hanging so you can see it every day.Photos tend to stay on our phones and computers. Paintings can be more specific, and just include what you want, whereas photos tend to have more background “noise” in them that you may not want in a picture.

Do you have a favorite pet portrait? I like all my pet portraits. I love seeing the pet come to life on paper, and seeing or hearing about how happy the pets owner is when they get the portrait. Each painting I do is special to me, because I know it will be special to the owner.

Have you painted your own pets? Yes, I have painted my horses and my cats.

What do you look for in a photograph that makes it best for a reference? Any tips on how to photograph your pet for potential painting?

The position of the pet in terms of height, and the lighting are two important features in any portrait photo. I look for a photo that has a close picture of the pet, not one that I have to zoom into, and one that there is good lighting on the pet.

three tips for a good photo to use as a portrait painting:

  1. Take the photo as close to eye level as possible with the pet, not looking down at it.

  2. Take the photo in natural light. While overcast days produce more evenly-lit images, sunny days create dramatic combinations of light and shadow. If you are unable to take photos of your pet outside, place your pet close to a window and don’t use a flash. Some natural daylight will help take a better photo

  3. Get close to the pet, try and have them fill at least three-fourths of the frame. Zooming in on a picture taken from a distances does not give more detail, and is usually grainy.

Take your time with taking the photos. Try and capture their personality. If possible, take as many as you want. With today’s digital cameras, you can delete those you don’t like. I can take a photo that a customer has and crop it if they only want part of it, such as a photo of the whole pet but they just want the face painted. It helps sometimes to have more than one photo to get more details. Once I have the photos, I work with the customer, showing them different ideas and suggestions so I know what the customer wants.

You can find more examples of Terri Moore’s work on her website at, find her on Facebook under artbyterrimoore. Her artwork also hangs in the Port City Java in Brunswick Forest. To learn more about commissioning a pet portrait, contact Terri Moore at


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