In the delightful world of pet artistry, Tierra Hunter from T.SimoneDesign has made a mark with her incredibly unique and joyful pet caricatures. Backed by a lifetime love for art and a deep fascination with animals, Tierra, along with her mom Linda, has turned this passion into a thriving business. They've charmed numerous pet lovers at festivals and online with their fun, vibrant, and heartfelt pet portraits. In this JAR Interview, we delve into Tierra's artistic journey, her experiences at dog-friendly events, and the special connection her work establishes with pet lovers.
The Human-Pet Bond: Tierra's work underscores the profound bond between humans and their pets, and her art becomes a medium of celebration, remembrance, and joy.
The Power of Live Interaction: The significance of physical events in building connections, getting real-time feedback, and growing a business.
Collaborative Growth: The importance of collaboration, as showcased by Tierra's partnership with her mother, Linda, in taking the business forward.
Continuous Expansion and Learning: Even with a specific niche, there is always room for growth, learning, and expansion, as seen in Tierra's plans to introduce new art styles and products.
Q: Can you share your journey and how you came to specialize in pet caricatures?
A: Art has been a part of my entire life. I always enjoyed doodling characters and animals on any paper that was around. When I attended college, I enrolled in fine arts and drawing classes. It was during this time that I drew my first charcoal portrait. After finishing school, with my mother's help, we started participating in craft fairs. The only art styles I worked in were charcoal, digital and pencil/ink, until recently. I decided to merge my love of animals with an art style that has always fascinated me. I thought about the caricature artist I would see at theme parks and I began practicing often. When I introduced this new style at craft shows, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people were interested. Now, pet caricatures are one of our most requested services/commissions.
Q: Have you ever participated in dog-friendly festivals or events? If so, could you tell us about your experience?
A: We love attending dog-friendly events and we have participated in quite a few. Even though we draw the portraits from photographs provided, it's a real joy when the dogs visit our booth. We've even had the pups take a picture with their caricature.
Q: How do you feel your work connects with dog lovers and the broader pet community?
A: My work connects with dog lovers because they love seeing their loyal companion in a fun and different way. For those who have lost a pet, having a portrait of them helps keep their memory alive. People are represented in a lot of art, but animals are not. I love knowing that my art is contributing to having more animal representation!
Q: Could you talk about the process you use to capture a pet's personality in your caricatures?
A: I like to start with their eyes. I find you can tell so much of their personality from them. I also prefer multiple reference photos in order to capture all of their unique features.
Q: Do you have any stories to share about memorable reactions to your work?
A: We have had quite a few joyful reactions and some emotional ones too. Sometimes during a show, someone will see an example of a previous work and with a smile say, "That looks like our dog Lucy!" In December of 2022, we met a wonderful family while doing a show in Williamsburg. They were our last visitors to browse the booth. We began talking about a variety of things and before we knew it, everyone was overcome with emotion and hugging. It was a great moment and they even commissioned us to do a charcoal portrait of their beloved dog Annie.
Q: How do you prepare for an event or festival, and what challenges and rewards do these present?
A: We post about the events on our socials to encourage event goers to attend. Making sure the portfolios and framed examples are packed is a must! Some challenges we face include deciding what layout works best for each show and practicing it ahead of time. It's always worth it because preparation equals a successful show.
Q: Has participating in festivals helped grow your business and your Etsy store, T. Simone Design?
A: Absolutely! Because of our appearances at festivals, our Etsy store and socials have had an increase. We have our QR code visible in our booth and oftentimes event goers scan to visit our online shop. We are still a small business, but these interactions have helped us substantially.
Q: Do you have any advice for other artists who might want to venture into pet-themed art or participate in dog-friendly events?
A: Just go for it! You'll meet a lot of great people and get to interact with so many beautiful animals. One of the greatest drawing tips I can give is to pay attention to the fur direction because it gives shape and texture to the portrait. If you decide to participate in craft fairs, bring treats for the pups!
Q: How do you manage your workflow when creating live caricatures during an event?
A: Fortunately, I don't have to work alone. While I'm drawing the caricatures, my mom gathers client details and engages with potential customers. This allows me to focus on completing the orders in a timely manner.
Q: Could you share your future plans? Any upcoming events, new projects, or expansions on the horizon?
A: My future plans are to continue growing my business by introducing more styles (paintings and ornaments) to broaden my audience. We are so excited for our upcoming shows! We have two pet-themed events in August: Cups and Claws Cat Cafe Anniversary Celebration on the 5th and Pup Days of Summer Fest on the 13th. September will be very busy with Buckroe Arts in the Park on the 9th, Great Food Truck Festival on the 16th, and Helping Hands Fall Festival and Fundraiser on the 23rd. We have events scheduled until the end of the year. We hope to continue bringing joy through art!
(Editor's note: Click here for Part II of our interview with Tierra and her mom, Linda!)
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