Happy Maker Monday!
This week we are happy to feature Masako Roberts, a pet portrait artist! We love how she captures the spirit of your fur baby and turns it into a piece of art you can showcase in your home forever. We also love Masako’s overall passion for having your pets turned into works of art. Just like we have photos on the wall of our family, Masako makes sure your pet isn’t left out and gets their rightful place among the frames of family members. To check out more of Masako’s work or to get your four-legged best friend’s portrait visit her shop, Dog Color, and to learn more about her creative journey, read on!
: Tell us a little about yourself.
: My name is Masako Roberts. I was born Japanese and did my undergraduate at Missouri Western University. I graduated from Maine College of Art with an M.F. A in 2001. I met my husband in school in 1999. My husband and I moved to NJ for opportunities and possibilities. I was attracted to the New York art scene and had a dream of making art. I worked in Chelsea as a gallery assistant, an artist assistant, retail sales, a translator in NYC etc. We currently live in Newark, NJ.
: You make custom pet portraits through your business, “Dog Color.” How did “Dog Color” get its start?
: Our beagle became an elderly and I wanted to have a portrait of her. I opened paint tools and I painted.
One day, I witnessed my dear friend was collecting portraits of Hollywood star, Judy Garland from eBay. I had seen a couple of the paintings he bought and they didn’t impress me much. I thought to myself that maybe I could do better. This was the beginning of business. My first painting that I sold was a still life called, “a doughnut,” for $8 on eBay.
After many still lifes, I saw an illustrator Maira Kalman’s Basset Hound in a book. (Eventually, I went to see the actual artwork in the museum a few years later.) I decided to become a pet portrait painter.
: Portraits of any manner can sometimes be tough as the client has a good idea of what the subject looks like, or at least they think they do, haha! What is your process when creating your pet portraits? How do you go about capturing the pet’s likeness?
: That is the reason I don’t paint humans, especially children for commission. I love animals more than children. (haha!) I see all pets just like mine. Allusive or candid eyes can be the most important element in the entire painting. Carefully painted eyes are the likeliness. I am sure some are not exactly like the photos. I don’t paint photo-realistically. I don’t paint comparing a line to line, a dot to dot. At the end, it is a painting with expressions, not a photograph. Some flaws are a part of the painting medium. I focus on the likeliness of sense rather than photo realness.
: What do you love the most about painting pets?
: I am a pet owner as well. I think of the customer having the painting of their pet on the wall or in a room making it a special space. I have my own pet portrait at home. I share with my customers the same feeling of owning our own pet portrait with pride and love. I still enjoy if someone has a pet portrait by other artists in their place. It brings the feeling of home even if I’m a guest.
: What are some of your favorite medias for painting your adorable pets?
: Gouache (opaque watercolor) is quick dry and easy to clean. It is good practice for oil painting.
: Are there any particular breeds you love to paint or some breeds that you’ve never painted before and would love to?
: Golden retriever and shiba Inu. I love mixing colors and creating golden hair.
I haven’t painted a Saint Bernard, Komondor or Puli. I would love to have commissions for those breeds!
: Your work has been featured at events as well as publications. What does it feel like to see your work appreciated in this way?
: I can’t wait to have more! The book was really nice. It is my treasured book as it is the first time I was published. My dream is to see my painting on a writer’s book cover. I am a book lover. How cool would it be to see it at Strand bookstore?
: What are some memorable comments you’ve gotten from clients?
: Feedback with photos are my favorite! Photos of my paintings and their actual pets together, the moment of opening their painting, a surprising gift, or a photo of their painting framed and hand on the wall proudly. I am so delighted when I see photos of my paintings on people’s FB or Insta.( I don’t do twitters). A picture is worth a thousand words.
: What are the personalities of your pets? How do they inspire your work and help you in the studio? 🙂
: I have a Shiba Inu and 3 cats (from a shelter).
One of my cats, Matteo, is possibly mentally underdeveloped, haha! For instance, he doesn’t understand the dog’s growl. He thinks everyone is a friend or something! He thinks he ought to kiss the growling dog’s nose. He doesn’t worry or think ahead to the future. He lives only in the moment. All animals have individual personalities and watching them makes me happy. Happiness feeds my art. I look at other artists’ works and books to be inspired.
: Any advice?
: Have your own pet portrait in your place!