New Orleans-based artist and general weirdo, specializing in pet portraits.
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Melissa Vandiver | Blog

A behind-the-scenes look at the budding career of a real weirdo.

an artist is (re-)born!

  In my studio, getting started on a Fancy Beast commission.

In my studio, getting started on a Fancy Beast commission.

This month, my journey begins as a full-time professional artist - more specifically, a pet portrait artist. In what I hope was not my most irresponsible decision ever, I quit my job, threw caution to the wind, and decided to follow my dreams!

It sounds so heroic when I write it out like that. In truth, it was ugly. It looked like many months of planning and saving and self-doubt. It looked like daily rides on an emotional roller-coaster. It looked like asking my husband every four days if he resents me. Shout out to Jeff for his unwavering support (now and always), and for giving me the courage to take this leap.

 

The history of Fancy Beasts

Additional shout outs are due: shout out to my friend, Jenn, who had a weird print of a dog in a suit she found at a flea market. Shout out to my brother, Peter, to suggest I paint people's pets like that. 

  Blanche, the first ever Fancy Beast.

Blanche, the first ever Fancy Beast.

Shout out to my dogs, Kirby the Wienerdog and Louise the Swamp Chihuahua, whom I somehow still have yet to paint. After one week of working from home, I've realized they are quite the conversationalists. I value their input and wisdom.

Fancy Beasts are most often commissioned as gifts for pet owners. The first one was a gift from me to Jenn of her dog Blanche, somewhat scantily-clad (for an old lady), giving a side-eye that only a chihuahua can achieve. 

 

but why?

Even though many will view my art as kitschy and weird, it's made by a kitschy, weird person (me) for other kitschy, weird people (you), and that's just fine. My Fancy Beast pet portraits are an expression of love and imagination - a collaboration between the pet owners and myself - and their sole purpose is to make you smile. 

New Orleans knows no shortage of pet enthusiasts, costume enthusiasts, and general weirdos who like something that is custom and unique. At the end of the ride on my daily emotional roller-coaster, I would ultimately circle back to my decision because it just feels like the time and the place are so right; I've had more commissions than I could handle with a full time job but not enough to support myself. My only choice was to take a risk or abandon ship.

Thank you, loved ones, for your support and encouragement. Thank you, life, for handing me a promising set of circumstances. And thank you, dear reader, for following along with me.