December 30, 2009

Year-End Media Review

This year my blog has been in mothballs while I devoted my energies to on-the-ground local networking. Next year I hope to strike a better balance in minding both my online and local business. But in the meantime, due to my neglect, I missed a few important things that I should have duly noted here.

So, in the spirit of year-end retrospectives, this is as good a time as any to catch up on some media attention that I received earlier this year — just for the record.

“Pittsburgh Today Live” interview, KDKA Pittsburgh TV

First back in July, there was the KDKA Pittsburgh Today Live interview, which I did report here.

Pittsburgh Tribune Review article, “Career Change is Picture-Perfect for Oakmont Artist”, August 12, 2009

Susan Donley demonstrating scratchboard at her home studioDeborah Deasy, a Trib newspaper staff feature writer did a phone interview and then came out to my house to chat for another couple of hours and see a demonstration on a hot August day. Trib photographer Justin Merriman joined us and recorded my hot, frizzy self at work on our deck in the shade of one of our old sycamores.

Debi conducts interviews like she’s chatting with an old friend, so the time went by very quickly. So quickly that we were totally caught by surprise by a thunderstorm that blew in so fast that we had to just start grabbing artwork, interview notes, pencils, and paper and run for cover inside! Later she contacted several of my clients who were very kind with their comments. Read the article, “Career Change is Picture-Perfect for Oakmont Artist”, on the Tribune Review’s site.

Pittsburgh Business Radio interview, WMNY/AM, December 2, 2009

My alert business coaches at Volunteers of America’s Working Order learned of Pittsburgh Business Radio’s plan to highlight pet-related gift businesses during the holiday retail season. They told host Suzanne Caplan about my pet portraits and connected me up for a live interview on December 2. The interview was about 10 minutes long and shared with a woman who owns a pet bakery. Pittsburgh Business Radio archives all of its programs as podcasts, so you can listen to it here:

Thanks to KDKA, the Tribune Review, and Pittsburgh Business Radio for spreading the word about my artwork and taking love for pets as seriously as we crazy pet-people do (or at least humoring us!)!

November 7, 2008

Memorial Portrait of Jack, a Rottweiler from the Shenandoah Valley

Now that Jack the Rottweiler’s human dad’s birthday is over, it is safe for me to post his memorial portrait. Katie Warner of Harrisonburg, Virginia commissioned Jack’s portrait for her boyfriend Allen, who grieved the loss of his hiking buddy earlier this year.

Finding good photos for memorial portraits can be a challenge, since there is no going back to take new portrait-worthy reference photos for me to work from. Doing it in secret for a gift can double the challenge! Over time Katie snuck me several photos, each showing a different side of Jack’s personality.

The photo we finally chose showed Jack taking a hiking break on the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, over-looking the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. The 11×14 inch size allowed me to include enough background to set Jack in the mountains plus his massive chest. Oil pastel captured the vivid greens and blues of the Blue Ridge and the velvety black of Jack’s coat.

I received this lovely note from Katie after Jack’s portrait arrived:

I just got it, and it is absolutely beautiful. Thank you, thank you. I can’t wait to order another. Thank you so much for being so patient with me over the past few months, I know it took me awhile to get the ball rolling.

You are a truly talented artist, and I can tell how compassionate and caring you are. Thank you for giving us a memory of Jack that we will treasure forever. I look forward to working with you again soon.

By the way, none of the photos showed a hint of the supposedly aggressive side of Rottweilers that has landed them on some communities ill-concieved Least Wanted Dogs list. Such “breed profiling” is an ill-concieved way to control aggression in dogs. The real problem isn’t aggressive dogs, but people who don’t have control over their dogs because they don’t bother to train them to be good citizens.

Anyone looking into Jack’s sweet face can see the true nature of this noble breed! For a closer look into that face, visit Jack’s page on

Did you know Jack or another lovable Rottweiler who defies the stereotypes? Please share your memories in the comments!

March 2, 2008

Meet Gerry, a rescued Beagle Mix

I’m among many who were tickled when the always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride Beagle became top dog at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club show! The All-American Beagle, of Snoopy fame, has gone decades without winning the coveted place, until Uno took the prize last month! Uno stole the hearts of many in the crowd at Madison Square and watching at home on the tube, just as so many of his kin have stolen the hearts of millions of dog loving families.

Like so many, I have a soft spot for Beagles. I’ve already told the story of Sadie, the Beagle who get me started on this line of graphite pet portraits. Just before Christmas I finished a portrait of Gerry, actually a Beagle mix, for the Pavlak family. Gerry’s dad wrote:

The picture is absolutely georgeous. It is amazing that you were able to capture him so well…. Thanks again for everything, we had quite a few compliments on the drawing, when we took it to get it framed.

I asked Mark Pavlak for Gerry’s story, since I’ve learned every rescued dog seems to have one. He writes:

Gerry’s Story:

Gerry, Beagle Mix

We finally decided it was time to get a dog for the family. We wanted to get a beagle, since I had some experience with them growing up as a kid. We looked in the local shelters for our dog and their weren’t any beagles showing up. A few weeks had passed by and finally a beagle came up in the local paper. My wife and kids rushed over to take a look, but unfortunately the dog had been adopted already, talk about disappointment! A few more weeks passed by and and no beagles. What are we going to do?

My son happened to look in the local paper one day and found a beagle available in town. We called first to make sure he was still available. The person at the shelter said he was available, but that he had many problems and wasn’t sure if he would be the right fit for us. We rushed over right away to see “Gerry”. He looked so small in his cage, but his tail was wagging a mile a minute when we stopped in front of him. When we took him out to play with us, he picked up his little Ernie doll and strutted out of the cage, like he owned the place. He won us over immediately. We signed the papers for him on that Thursday and he home with us on Monday. Gerry did have a few problems when he came to our house, but they were fixable with a little time, effort and a lot of love.

Who wouldn’t have problems if you were abandoned and plunked in strange place without friend or family? My hat is off to folks who look past the “many problems” of pets who end up in shelters and adopt anyway. Thanks to love of family, Gerry and many other like him, live to tell the tale — or is it tail?

February 7, 2008

Drawn to Dogs – From Pixels to Pencils

I got some nice press coverage today from the Baltimore Sun’s “Mutts” dog blog. Monday February 4 – Wednesday February 6 this week reporter John Woestendiek has been using my drawings to illustrate a series of a articles called “The Dog Lover’s Guide to the Presidential Elections” in which he asks the question, “If the Presidential candidates were dogs, which breed would they be?”

Then today he did a little piece on my career switch to a portrait artist specializing in pets.

Drawn to Dogs: From Pixels to Pencils

January 5, 2008

In Memory of Samson, Golden Retriever

Memorial Portrait of Samson, Golden RetrieverMemorial Portrait of Samson, Golden Retriever, Susan Donley, 2007. Oil Pastel, 9×12 inches. Commissioned Portrait, Private Collection.

Samson’s human dad Joe Mannato called me the day Samson died to commission this portrait. It touched me to become such an integral part of someone’s mourning process.

Besides capturing that winning Golden smile, the challenge with this portrait was to render the wonderful over- and under-tones that make Golden Retriever coats so beautiful. How do these dogs manage to be blonds and redheads simultaneously? It’s Golden magic!

Joe wrote me……on seeing the approval scan I emailed him:

Oh Sue you brought tears to my eyes, it is so incredible. This is a gift tome, so go ahead and post it on your website [before Christmas]. Thank you sooooooo much.  

And after he received the real thing in the mail:

Sue the portrait is amazing! Thank you so much, you brought tears to my ears. I can never truly express how I feel in words.     

I hope the portrait has helped Joe in the healing process by bringing back warm memories of this beautiful dog.

Art details: Sennelier oil pastel on Art Spectrum tinted primed pastel paper. Oil pastel with solvent under-painting.

September 13, 2007

Dogs in advertising: Pets and Branding

What a pleasant surprise to be tagged by Mihaela Lica’s Online Public Relations blog back in July! I’m sure I’m supposed to have realized this through some automagical trackback or technorati technology, but since I’m a blog newbie (though have been hand-tooling web sites professionally since my first in 1996!), I had no idea until checking my stats now! Thank you, Mihaela, for the kind words:

Sue – at least to give you a link to her amazing site, where she displays the most beautiful pet portraits I’ve ever seen.

So, a month after her August 14 deadline for comments, I respond to Mihaela’s request for instances of pets being used in branding a non-pet business, here are a few I can think of:

There must be others, but those came to me right away.

This is a great topic — it would be interesting to see if this has changed over time, too. A good topic for someone’s graduate school thesis!

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