Hidden Gems Of Chenango County: Paint Your Pet’s Portrait
Published: May 19th, 2022
By: Sarah Genter

Hidden Gems of Chenango County: Paint Your Pet’s Portrait Our cats Mongie and Stuart, and their painted counterparts. My husband Dustin and I painted portraits of two of our furry family members at the Paint Your Pet's Portrait fundraiser held by the Chenango SPCA. Participating in the workshop not only teaches you a fun and creative skill, but also supports the Chenango SPCA and all the animals in their care. (Photos by Dustin and Sarah Genter)

In my quest to find more fun things to do around Chenango County, I signed up for something I’ve wanted to do for months: Paint Your Pet’s Portrait.

Paint Your Pet’s Portrait is a fundraiser by the Chenango SPCA that raises money for the care of their shelter animals while also teaching area residents how to paint adorable photos of their furry friends.

My husband Dustin and I are the proud parents of three fuzzy little demons named Helen, Stuart, and Mongie. While I felt a little bad one of our cats would be left out of the portraits, it does give me a great excuse to go back in the future! We decided Dustin would paint Mongie and I would paint Stuart, and I got us signed up.

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The classes are only $40 per person, and all supplies are included. It’s pretty simple to sign up too: the SPCA usually posts the information on their Facebook page when there’s another event coming up, and you can follow the link to the registration page or find it easily on their website, chenangospca.org, under the “News & Events” tab.

After registering, an email is provided for Shelter Manager Kathy Wyder. All you have to do is send her the photo of your pet that you’d like to paint, and you’re good to go! (Not to brag, but she told me my cats are the cutest she’s ever seen).

The SPCA partners with Creative Works in downtown Norwich to put on the events, and Artists’ Palette Owner Jill Kraft will sketch your photo onto a canvas, which makes it so much easier to get started.

Another great thing about Paint Your Pet’s Portrait is that it’s held in the same building as the Cottage Bakery. As someone who lives on coffee, I was thrilled I could still enjoy my morning joe while attending the workshop.

Tables were set up in the back of the store, and our canvases, supplies, and printed photos of our beloved felines were already all set up for us. We got settled in while Kathy explained the workshop process to us.

She said Jill would help us determine what colors we needed for our paintings, how we could mix them to get different shades, and how to layer our paint to get the effect we wanted. She said Jill would be around throughout the workshop to help us out and give pointers if we needed it, too.

Kathy also explained every time the SPCA holds this fundraiser, she participates and paints one of the shelter animals to feature on their Facebook page to hopefully get them adopted. How sweet is that!

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While I have to admit my mind automatically went to cats and dogs when thinking about the workshop, Kathy told us they've had plenty of people paint other animals as well, such as horses, birds, and reptiles. So whether your pet has fur, feathers, or scales, you can still sign up for Paint Your Pet's Portrait and turn your pet into a work of art.

Finally we were ready to get started. Armed with smocks, paintbrushes, and a styrofoam plate full of acrylic paint, we got to work. Now, I consider myself fairly artistic. I majored in Studio Art for a couple years, and continued to draw after leaving school.

However, I tended to excel more with various drawing mediums such as charcoal, pencil, and pen. Painting was never something I was very good at, and it’s been several years since I’ve seriously tried to paint anything. So, I was a little nervous in the beginning — just putting that first swipe of paint on the canvas was intimidating!

But, once I got over that hurdle it was easy to fall into the process. The atmosphere was easygoing, and I got to hear lots of lovely stories about other people’s pets. Best of all, everyone that attended the workshop was nothing but encouraging. Every few minutes I heard someone exclaim “Good job!” Or, “Wow! That looks great!” Some people even walked over to check out mine and Dustin’s paintings and tell us what a good job we were doing.

As promised, Jill made her rounds while we painted to answer questions, provide advice, and just chat. It was a relaxing and fun start to my weekend, and it was so nice to do something creative, even though my painting skills were a bit more than rusty.

Plus, despite my lack of painting prowess, I think my portrait turned out pretty good! The pre-sketched canvas and Jill’s instruction made all the difference in getting (most) of the shapes, shades, and dimensions right. She also reminded Dustin and I of the little finishing touches, such as adding whiskers, and little dots of white on the eyes to add depth.

Watching how everyone else’s paintings progressed and turned out was part of the fun, too. Whether you’re a skilled painter with years of experience or have never picked up a brush, everyone still has their own individual style that shines through.

Dustin and I truly had a blast painting portraits of our little terrors. We had so much fun, in fact, that we didn’t want to leave! While everyone else wrapped up their paintings after an hour or two, we were still plugging away long after the event had officially ended. (Okay, I’ll admit it was mostly my fault. I’m a perfectionist!)

Luckily, Jill and Kathy are very gracious hosts, and we were able to keep working until we were satisfied with our portraits. While our finished pieces certainly have their quirks, and it took Dustin nearly five coats of paint to get a satisfactory background color, we loved the entire process. And, it’s pretty cool to have portraits of our cats that we made ourselves hanging in our apartment!

If you’re looking to do something creative, look no further than Paint Your Pet’s Portrait. No painting experience or artistic skill is required, and the proceeds go to a good cause. The Chenango SPCA costs approximately $320,000 each year to run, and they currently have 67 cats and seven dogs up for adoption.

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By participating in the workshop, you’re not only creating a unique and handmade portrait of your four-legged best friend, you’re also helping to care for all the cats and dogs at the Chenango SPCA.

Kathy told me many of the participants in Paint Your Pet’s Portrait had signed up for the workshop several times in a row, and I can’t say I’m surprised! I’m already watching the SPCA Facebook page like a hawk for their next event. Next time, we’ll be able to paint portraits of the rest of our animal family: our third cat, Helen, and our corn snake Damien.

Keep an eye on the Chenango SPCA Facebook page and website, chenangospca.org, for details on the next Paint Your Pet’s Portrait event!