Homegrown Business: Paws by Zann Pet Portraits

For this week’s Homegrown Feature we spoke to Zann Hemphill, Artist and Proprietor of Paws by Zann Pet Portraits, to learn more about them!

Paws by Zann Pet Portraits

What is your business called and what does it do?

Paws By Zann Pet Portraits is my art studio, where I paint oil-on-canvas portraits of people’s pets and ship them all over North America.

What made you want to do this work?

I’ve always been fascinated by the potential animals have as subjects for art. Exploring that potential has fuelled thousands of hours of practice—what it takes to build a foundational skillset as a painter. Having that foundation in place and discovering over time that a regular 8-hour workday just wasn’t going to work for me made taking the leap into professional painting almost a no-brainer.

What problem did you want to solve with the business?

Human connection. One of the biggest problems I see in the world right now is that people can go all day without having someone hear them or touch them. I made a business that puts more of the human element in the world with person-to-person communication and handmade goods, based on the incredible relationships people build with their pets.

Who are your clientele/demographics?

People who love their pets and want to make a lasting creative celebration of how amazing they are! I’m really lucky in that my clients are all amazing pet owners—people who work hard to give their pets fulfilling lives—and I get to hear about these beautiful lives and participate in some way.

How does your business make money? How does it work?

People get in touch with me through my website or send me an email with photos. From there I’ll send back sketches and ideas and we’ll talk about what they want to capture about their pet and look at things like the background, the lighting, and the composition. Sometimes it’s simple and they just want a painting based on their favourite photo. Sometimes it’s more complicated because they can’t get the perfect photo and we have to get creative with what’s available. As I work, I send them progress so they can see the painting come together. Once they’re satisfied that it’s just right I’ll ship it out. The whole process usually takes 2-3 weeks.

Where in Vancouver can we find your profession?
My work can be found in homes all over greater Vancouver, from West Van to Abbotsford! I also do some non-commissioned pieces, featured in the Van Dop Gallery in New Westminster. Most people in Vancouver find me online.

What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.

The most important question to ask when ordering a pet portrait is “who will be painting my portrait?”. It can be really tough to find an independent artist to paint your pet, and when people go through portrait sites that represent a lot of different artists, often they’re
disappointed with the quality. To find the answer you should be able to see lots and lots of pictures and videos of your artist at work, so you know it’s the same person.

What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?

I love painting pets, but my very favourite part of my job is how people react to their portraits. The very first conversation with a client is so exciting, because they’ve often been searching for someone who can do what I do by hand, and they finally found me and they’re like “I have this idea… is it even remotely possible?” And I get to say yes. The worst part is probably that thing that happens when I update one WordPress plugin and my whole website breaks. Sometimes I get stuck in front of my laptop for hours managing business
technology instead of painting.

What is your favourite joke about your own profession?

I think the fact that I paint dogs and cats for a living is pretty funny, and I laugh about it a lot.

What are your social media channels?

My biggest social media outlet is my Paws By Zann YouTube channel because posting once a month or so is about my speed. I love being able to share my process and things I’ve learned about painting pets, painting fur, dog noses, cats’ eyes, and painting in general.

PAY IT FORWARD: What is another Vancouver business that you love?

I have to give a shout-out to Fieldshare.io in South Vancouver. This is the company I was working at when I started my Paws By Zann business, and they totally supported me through that process. They were open to part-time work and gave me a flexible schedule and even kept me on remotely when I moved to Vancouver Island. That’s really rare, to work with an employee like that who’s doing something completely unrelated. It changed my life.