Last Updated on: January 6, 2014 by Ingrid King
Connie Bowen doesn’t just paint pet portraits. She captures the unique spirit of each pet in each painting, turning the finished work into a lasting treasure for the recipient – a portrait of love.
Connie began drawing at an early age and majored in art at Washington State University. She then completed training and worked for 23 years as a freelance court reporter. Since retiring from court reporting in 1997, she has devoted all her time to the loves of her life: her family, her art, and the expression of Truth.
I’m so pleased to introduce you to this wonderful artist today.
When did you first begin painting pets?
I first began painting pets in May of 2003.
Your pet portraits really capture the unique essence of each animal. What is the creative process for a pet portrait like for you?
When I first meet the animal, or view their photo via e-mail, I am immediately drawn to the personality of the animal and the expression on their face. The emotion I feel from them is what I portray in their portrait. Animals have the most expressive eyes and that is the place where I start with each portrait. After the animals’ eyes are painted in, I definitely feel their spirit is with me as I paint.
One time I was working on a challenging cat painting because I was working from a photo that wasn’t very clear. Sometimes when an animal has already passed on, I’m working from cherished photos from long ago and the detail can be lost. I simply asked out loud for help from this particular cat. I went on painting and as I swiveled in my chair, the squeak made an unmistakable spine-chilling “Meow” sound! I have lots of stories like that – of animals coming to my aid as I’m painting.
While pets are featured prominently in your artwork, you also paint other subjects. What is more challenging – capturing pets, or capturing other images?
For me, capturing pets is my pure joy. The other images are painted more impressionistically. I use the background and other images simply to support the star of the painting – the pet. I take more time capturing the essence of the pet, but time seems to stand still as I do so.
To illustrate my point, one afternoon while I was painting, my husband kissed me good-bye as he left to catch a movie. It seemed like it had been only 20 minutes when he returned. I asked him if he had missed the movie. He surprisingly told me that he had not only seen the movie, but it had been at least two hours that he’d been gone!
The only real challenge for me is when I’m asked to add a person into the painting with the pet. This happens quite a bit with horse paintings. It always takes me twice as long to capture the likeness of the person as for any other subject.
Where does your inspiration come from?
From the photos of the animals, themselves. People e-mail me with the most interesting and adorable photos! I remember one photo in particular had two kitties resting on the bed surrounded by their stuffed animals. I couldn’t wait to start on that painting!
Another photo I received was taken with a phone and the whole image had a lovely peachy tone to it. The pet parent and I decided to leave the colors as they were and the whole painting was done in those colors. I’m always amazed and inspired by my clients and the creativity that emerges from working together.
Tell us about your own pets, and how they inspire your work.
I have a 10-year old Australian shepherd named Jesse and two cats named Brock and Carma. Brock is a large black male with a little bit of white under his chin. Carma is a small-boned little tabby with huge green eyes. I’ve done quite a few paintings of Brock. He is especially inspiring as he has golden eyes and seems very magical in his poses. It’s hard to find Carma quiet and still. She loves to race around the house, up the cat tree and everything she does is filled with energy. When Carma sees me in my office ready to begin painting and hears the lovely music I am playing, she comes in to sleep in her soft kitty bed and keep me company. She sleeps right by my arm. I love to listen to her purring and kiss her softly and let her know I appreciate her company.
I rescued both cats when they were just weaned. They were both very ill and it took quite a lot of antiseptic baths and all kinds of medicine to get them on the road to health.
My pets inspire my work by being a continual source of positive, loving energy. I delight in their presence.
You’re also an author of several inspirational books – tell us a little bit more about them.
My most popular book is the children’s affirmation book, I Believe In Me. It has sold over 51,000 copies, including the Spanish edition. It won the national Athena Award for book-as-mentor in the category of spirituality. A copy has been donated to each Ronald McDonald House nationally. I wrote this book for my son when he was one year old. It was published when he was three years old. He’s now in college, and the book is still going strong simply by word-of-mouth.
My second book, I Turn To The Light, is a collection of healing affirmations. This book is meant more for adults, but has reached an audience of children and teenagers.
I illustrated The Sunbeam and the Wave, and also two of author Susan Chernak’s books, Heart In The Wild and All My Relations: Living with Animals as Teachers and Healers. I used pen and ink for Susan’s books. All of my other books were done in ink plus colored pencil.
You can find more information about Connie and her art, along with a huge selection of her stunning paintings, on her website.
All images of paintings © Connie Bowen, used by permission.
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.