Bowie & Friends

Ep.9 Paw Wow with Pet Portrait Artist, Niki Firmin

Bowie had the pleasure to be drawn by Niki. She also shared her inspiration and journey of becoming a pet portrait artist with Master Bowie, and her drawing approach that manages to capture each animal’s unique personality.

Tell us a bit about yourself…
My name is Niki Firmin and I am a pet portrait artist. I live in Ripon, a cathedral city in the Borough of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England.

What’s your earliest memory of drawing?
I guess my earliest memory of drawing is about the age of 10, just copying pictures from magazines.

How long have you been a pet portrait artist, and what inspired you to be one?
I have been doing pet portraits professionally since 2015. First part-time then full-time two years ago. I got started with pet portraits after a couple of people I know asked me if I could do their dogs after seeing an elephant I had done.

Why animals?
I just feel a connection and affinity to animals, and love capturing their beautiful souls, through their eyes.

Were you trained or self-taught?
I am self-taught.

Watch Bowie’s portraiture comes to life below

How do you begin each portrait?
I usually ask for a few photos of the subject in question so I have a good understanding of their character and colouring. I ask for good close ups of the face so I can really see the eyes. Getting these right is the most important part of the portrait to really capture the true essence and personality of the subject. I also love the reflection in the eyes, they often tell another story – a picture within a picture.

Once I have decided with the client a suitable reference photo, I begin by getting the outline of the portrait drawn up. I almost always start with the right eye, which is slightly odd as I am right handed, and so end up working over the top of parts already completed, but it works for me! This is probably a sign I have not been professionally trained. I just do what comes naturally.

How do you get that much detail and life into your drawing?
I just love detail! What can I say! I do like other artists that use a looser style and sometimes wish I could work that way, but I just go back to detail. The secret to getting the detail and life into a portrait, I guess, is just observation and reading (almost) between the lines, picking up on those subtle details that make each subject unique.

What inspires you?
Really capturing the unique characteristics and personality of the subject I have on my drawing board, and creating a lovely memory for someone to cherish long after the fur-baby in question has passed over the rainbow bridge.

What’s your most memorable drawing or subject?
My most memorable artwork has been my 2d to 3d projects. One of a calf and one of a Ram. I also did a dog in this way too, that was auctioned off some years ago making a substantial amount of funds for the Greyhound Trust at their Ruby anniversary ball.

Moodle (2D to 3D). Image courtesy to Niki

Thanks Niki for the Paw Wow and most importantly, for Bowie’s gorgeous portrait!
See Niki’s work and say hello to Niki at Niki