Spring Break Projects: Cartoon Pet Portraits

pet portrait main
Cartoon-style portraits are a colorful way to capture your pets’ unique personalities. Image by Lisa Kay Tate.

For the month of March I’ve decided to share some creative projects to fill those moments of boredom during Spring Break. Each of these projects can be done in an afternoon, or little-by-little over the course of the week.

This week’s project is Cartoon Pet Portraits.

Every time we get a new pet addition to the family, we create a little portrait, mixing photos and illustrations.

The best part is, this isn’t something that takes any refined drawing talent, as the portrait’s main attraction is live action. Also, the purpose of the portrait isn’t to show off how good an animator we are, but to capture the essence of our pets.

These are simple to make. First, find or take a photograph that captures the pet’s defining features. Action shots of them frolicking are fine, too.

Print and cut out the photo of the pet, and place it on a piece of paper. Trace around it so the outline appears where it will go on in the final drawing. Set the picture aside until later.

Draw a proper setting for this pet (outer space, medieval throne room, Wayne Manor), making sure to leave the outline visible (it’s okay to color the entire background, as long as the outline can bee seen. Any medium is fine, too. We’ve made portraits in watercolors, crayons, colored pencils, felt tip markers, and even pen and ink.

Pet owners of all ages and skill levels can turn a photo into a pet’s alter ego. Images by Lisa Kay Tate.

Finally, glue the photograph back in place, using the outline as a guide. If it still seems incomplete, draw and cut out some “accessories” for the pet (crown, scepter, wand, dead fish). Place it in a simple, inexpensive photo frame.

We’ve been creating these for all our pets, as they become part of our home, and have built a colorful little attention-getting “pet gallery” in our girls’ room.

Our gallery includes our first dog, Gypsy and our aloof and stoic cat Bagheera in a Bella Notte pose with my parents’ dog, whom they visited often. We also rescued a stray dog, Tramp, who loved to jump at balloons, bubbles and sprinklers. He is in a┬áportrait reflecting his high-flying demeanor. All of these pets have since passed on, but our current dog, Sirius Black, named by my Potterhead daughter, has a portrait in honor of his namesake.

Loki on this throne and ready for framing. Image by Lisa Kay Tate.

Our newest edition is a cat that adopted us. We literally opened the door one day and he ran inside, refusing to leave the house. It turns out his owners may have packed up and left him, neutered and declawed, to fend for himself. He immediately became the punching bag of a larger neighborhood cat-bully. As a result, he found the first sucker on the street, and bombed his way into our lives. We decided to name him Loki, and our portrait reflects the very “I own you guys, now” nature in which he came to be our pet. Loki, of course, is seated on the throne in Asgard, in appropriate takeover mode.

We’ve also learned, sadly, when the inevitable time comes to say goodbye to a pet, one of our most effective ways of dealing with the loss is to celebrate their life and the times we had with them.

These little portraits have helped us do that. I recommend these as a good way for kids to create a way to remember their pet that isn’t somber or sad.

On a happier note, these are also fun, personalized, one-of-a-kind gifts to give to fellow pet lovers. We made a Song of the South inspired portrait for my parents’ dog who they rescued from a schoolyard, and a vintage Paper Moon-era sepia portrait for an older family friend, and her overly-pampered Bichon Frise. We also made a Brady Bunch-style poster for my brother’s house, which is constantly filled with both kids and pets.

We still get comments from people who have seen these paintings, and just love the way they fit the pets’ personalities. We’ve also learned the way people approach their pet ownership, including what they name them, and how they treat them, teaches us as much about the owner as it does the pet.

Everyone who owns, and loves, a pet knows their time with us is never long enough, but always filled with adventure and memories. Even when they are no longer in our homes, they are forever in our hearts.

Sirius Black and his portrait. “Not bad for a muggle,” he thinks. Image by Lisa Kay Tate.

Lisa Kay Tate is a veteran feature writer with 20 years experience in newspaper, magazine and freelance writing. In addition to serving as Associate Editor for her local arts and entertainment guide, El Paso Scene, she has been a regular contributor to the site ihogeek.com and maintains her own blogsite at lisathegeekmom.wordpress.com. She and her husband, writer/photographer Rick, live on the edge of "New Texico" where they keep busy raising their two geeklings and sharing space with their dog, Sirius Black, and cat, Loki.