Laguna Beach artist Megan Marsden paints portraits of the four-legged kind.
A portrait of Miles, a wirehaired dachshund, hangs on the wall in Megan Marsden’s Laguna Beach home studio. It’s been there for nearly a week now, its furry subject gazing playfully from the canvas.
Marsden is the artist behind Miles’ re-creation, and she’s just about ready to send his portrait to the family that commissioned it. For the past week, she’s been walking by Miles’ likeness several times a day, making small touch-ups – a bit of color in the fur, a background alteration, a twinkle in the eye – until she’s satisfied that the painting does him justice. “I spend a lot of time doing the eyes because they’re the whole soul of the animal,” says Marsden. “When I paint the eyes and they start staring back at me, I know I’ve got it.”
Marsden hasn’t always devoted her entire practice to animals. She used to paint people, and she has an aptitude for capturing local beach scenes, which are then printed onto Crane stationery and sold as cards. Years of formal training at art colleges from Fullerton to London have taught her the technical foundation of creating a strong, signature style, and genetics helped with the rest (Marsden’s grandmother was a painter). But it’s pets that keep calling her back with their ability to inspire both her and the pet’s owner. “No matter how many pets I paint, I know that each person loves that animal,” says Marsden. “People get very emotional when they see [the portrait]; it’s a really nice thing for me to be a part of.”
“Pets” for Marsden refer mainly to dogs and cats, though she’s open to others, and about 20% of the portraits are of pets that are no longer alive. “I call them my ‘angel paintings,’” she says. “I feel an extra responsibility because I know that how I paint that cat or dog will influence the way the people remember their pet.”
“My husband wants to know when we’ll have something on the wall that doesn’t have four legs,” says Marsden.
Truthfully, it may be a while.
Paint Your Pet
Paintings of single pets start at $250 and increase depending on size. Paintings are sold unframed, but frames can be provided upon request. Gift certificates are also available.