Islington artist launches pet portrait career

12:56 05 January 2013

Animal artist Susannah Peel, 25, at work on her latest portrait

Animal artist Susannah Peel, 25, at work on her latest portrait

Dieter Perry

They say the job of a portrait artist is to capture something of the subject’s personality on canvas.

Animal artist Susannah Peel, 25, with her dog SabbyAnimal artist Susannah Peel, 25, with her dog Sabby

Yet for one Islington painter forging a career in this most skilled of professions, it’s mostly about getting the fur coat and tail right.

Susannah Peel is a fledgling portrait artist dedicated to painting pets – be they dogs in drag or even gorillas – and has produced hundreds of works at her home in Barnsbury Street, in the “studio” which doubles as her bedroom.

From this humble workspace, the 25-year-old’s paintings travel far and wide, with more and more of them winding up on the other side of the Atlantic.

Ms Peel, who also volunteers at Islington homelessness charity The Pilion Trust, said: “I don’t have an art background, but I’ve been doing little sketches of animals since childhood.

“I was fixated on animals, but I didn’t live in the countryside and there weren’t many around. So I just drew them instead.”

She says the wackiest commission was to paint a huge toy gorilla in the driver’s seat of a convertible sports car, but more often than not she does dogs.

Her burgeoning career started as a hobby, but quickly became more as her client base expanded through word of mouth on social network Facebook, where her pictures have become a big hit with animal lovers in the US and Canada.

She said: “Most of my clients are in north America, although I’ve also sent paintings to Norway, Australia and Brazil.

“A few years ago I discovered a community of dog and cat owners on Facebook and I did paintings for free and paid to post them to America myself.

“I started getting real commissions and began doing it as pure enterprise. I also give half my profits to The Pilion Trust.”

The former pupil of Canonbury Primary School in Canonbury Road, Canonbury, works from photographs and charges £50 plus postage for an A3 acrylic paint-on-watercolour paper piece.

“Quite a lot of the time, people’s pets have passed on and they want a memorial of them. Lots of the Americans also do these costume shows with their pets, and often they want pictures of them in their outfits.

“I usually speak to the owners and there are some interesting characters, I must admit.

“My most recent portrait was of a chihuahua in a pink feather outfit at a dog show – the owner told me it was a male in drag.”

While she has no formal artistic training, her background in zoology comes in handy.

“I studied zoology at university and it helps with the observational skills,” she said. “We had to do lots of diagrams and it helps when the photos aren’t too clear, because I know what’s there and can make a guess of what it should look like.”

Ms Peel devotes several hours to each work, before reviewing it with fresh eyes the next morning to make any adjustments.

Much like a painter of people, she emphasises how important it is to get the eyes right to really capture the subject.

She added: “It’s been a hobby, but is hopefully becoming something I can earn a living from.”

Visit for more information.


Latest News Stories

Anyone with information about this man is asked to contact police on 101 quoting image 191154 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Police have released a video of a chilling knifepoint robbery in Clerkenwell Close in hopes of identifying a man they want to speak to.

Yesterday, 17:42
Ruumi founders Jack Archer (L) and Pete James (R)

Anyone with experience of flat-hunting in London will know just how difficult it is to find a decently-priced cupboard to rent – let alone flatmates with whom you have anything in common.

Yesterday, 09:36
Battersea’s longest serving volunteer Laurence Ackland-Smith, Battersea Chairman Heather Love, the Kennedy family, Battersea Chief Executive Claire Horton and a Freightliners volunteer

Battersea Dogs Home founder Mary Tealby has been honoured with an Islington People’s Plaque near the spot where she set up the original animal shelter.

Mon, 17:59
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers his first keynote speech on day three of the Labour Party annual conference. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Jeremy Corbyn is due to speak at a protest against postal cuts in Manchester today, as his rival party meets in the city for its conference.

Most read news


You could be splashing the cash at Topshop!

Just imagine what you could do with £1,000 to spend at Topshop.

You won't need to fork out for groceries for a while!

Asda, one of the country’s leading supermarkets, prides itself in being one of the cheapest places to shop, so you can be sure that your money will go a long way here!

Digital Edition

Read the Islington Gazette e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder