…and an Interview with Artist Sarah Shearer

Paint Your Own Pet class?

I don’t often write about activities you do WITHOUT your dog. But since your dog is the whole point of the activity, it’s as if he’s there with you anyway.

“Sip and Stroke” classes and all the other variations out there have been extremely popular for the past several years. It’s a lot of fun (and low commitment) to spend one evening with a group of friends painting, chatting and sipping your favorite beverage then bringing home a completed painting.

But something a bit different caught my attention.

What about a class where you paint a portrait of your pet – in just one evening?

Local artist and entrepreneur, Sarah Shearer, created just the class for you and me. It’s been on my radar for months now, and recently I was offered the opportunity to join a Paint Your Own Pet (P.Y.O.P.) class.

Did I accept? Yes, yes, and YES!

Did I have some doubts? Also yes… If you’re thinking you’re not sure it’s something you can do, then follow along and see why you CAN paint your own pet.

(Even if you’re not local, Painted Paw Studio has exceptional offerings…see below.)

P.Y.O.P. classes are held in different venues around the Nashville area. The class I attended was at Pet Wants Nashville South in The Gulch. When I arrived, Sarah warmly greeted me. Our “studio” had already been beautifully staged with our easels and canvas, paintbrushes and water cups at hand.

Pet sketched onto canvas and ready to paint
Presentation is everything!

If you’re wondering how in the world you’re going to be able to accurately capture your pet’s face in acrylics, no worries. Sarah has set you up for success. When you register for a class, you’ll send her a high-quality image of your pet. Sarah prepares by sketching your pet onto the canvas – so you have a helpful framework to work from.

Artistic sketch on canvas by Sarah Shearer for a PYOP class

Like all the best teachers, Sarah will help guide you through the process. She’s always there to offer suggestions…sometimes before you even knew you had a question!

Pet portrait beginning to be painted
Students painting at a Paint Your Own Pet class by Painted Paw Studios
Students working on their painting at a Paint Your Own Pet class from Painted Paw Studio

Art is art; there’s no one “right” way to do it. P.Y.O.P. classes are stress free and everyone is super encouraging. No judgement here. Just lots of conversation, fun and the focus is on – our pets! And by pets, I mean anything goes. Dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters – if it’s a pet you love, you can paint it.

Completed portraits of two dogs from a Paint Your Own Pet class
Portrait of a dog being completed at a Paint Your Own Pet class

And that, surprisingly, is my biggest takeaway from the class.

And why I feel a P.Y.O.P. class is so unique…

As I was sitting with brush in hand, I spent the entire two-hour class looking at my dog’s face. I look into that face every day and realized just how well I know her. Every little spot, every whisker, every raise of an eyebrow or how she holds her ears – all of those details I know and love about her helped me to bring her personality to life.

It’s so easy to paint something you love and care about!

Amazingly, as I was listening to those beside me painting away on their portraits, I overheard the same kind of thoughts. People were talking about their pet’s personalities. You can tell how much each pet being painted that evening was loved and cherished.

Proud students with their completed portraits at a Paint Your Own Pet class

Okay, so my perfectionism kicked in. I was so focused on the details of Chloe’s fur that I didn’t have time to complete my painting before the class was over. Luckily, we have acrylic paints at home so I spend the next morning filling in the background. And voila – Chloe is captured on canvas!

Dog poses by her portrait from a Pet Your Own Pet class

And know what?

It was all painted by someone who loves her more than anything in the world.


Sarah is so intriguing, afterwards I wanted to dig a bit deeper to see who she was, and how she came up with this concept.

Meet the Artist

C: How long have you been creating art? Have you always been focused on combining animals and art?

S: My entire life! I was obsessed with drawing horses as I child! As a teenager, I started taking painting classes at a local community center and created many nature and animal-inspired pieces. By the time I went to college I was painting at a level that enabled me to get a scholarship! I majored in art and graduated cum laude. Throughout college, my work was more figurative. I’ve come back to my first love, though 😉

C: How many pets do you have?

S: Ha!! Three: Bella the 10-year-old kitty, Oslo the 6-year-old pit/boxer and Titan the 2-year-old pit/ something (mastiff, maybe?). All are rescues adopted individually over the years, but they’ve bonded into the sweetest little family 🙂

C: What motivated you to begin teaching PYOP classes?

S: I saw how popular “sips and strokes” type classes were- people really enjoy creativity. They just need more accessible opportunities for it. Most people don’t have time and money to invest in purchasing supplies or committing to ongoing classes. I was motivated by two main goals: 1) make it feel doable regardless of past art experience 2) to send people home with a piece that proudly represents how much they love their fur baby

C: What do you like most about the teaching experience?

S: Seeing confidence grow in people that are sure “they don’t have a creative bone in their body”!

C: Any moments that stand out in a big way and let you know you’re fulfilling your mission? Or any stories about the pet owners you meet that have had an impact on you?

S: Comments like this let me know I’m on the right path, “Sarah’s class was awesome. I had never painted anything and I was so nervous going into the class. However, Sarah made everything so easy. I loved every minute of class and can’t wait to go back!” -Mary Katherine Rooker …..that sparks joy!!! To have a hesitant person come in and leave so happy- and wanting to come back?! That’s everything I hope for.

C: A lot of people have blocks about creating art or feel they don’t have the skills to complete a painting – how do you reassure them?

S: I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about that. I meet people where they are and set a tone that takes away intimidation. Sketching each person’s pet onto canvas prior to class sets them up for success. They’re able to build on a solid foundation and troubleshoot each step of the way.

It’s OK, and normal, to have fears when you’re outside a comfort zone; I acknowledge that and encourage people to gradually move past those fears. In the class we don’t pursue one specific style or talk about the paintings in terms of perfection. There is beauty in the different styles each person brings to the table and we celebrate that!

C: Anything else you want us to know….!

S: Hmmm…. I appreciate how the class allows me to engage with my local community. It’s a great balance to the time I work in solitude on commissioned portraits. I feel like I have the best of both worlds and am so thankful for the support I’ve been shown!


Exquisite watercolor of a dog by Painted Paw Studio

Painted Paw Studio also offers exquisite watercolor custom paintings of your pet, charcoal sketches, mural paintings, tees and more at their site.

I encourage you to take a class, stretch your beliefs in yourself and paint your pet!

Not in Nashville? Search your local art scene to see if any similar classes are being offered.

Want to remember this? Pin this to your favorite Pinterest board.

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