Hampstead pet portraits which have brought the community together
- Credit: Deborah Cornes
A Hampstead artist has found creating pet portraits a great way to strengthen community bonds during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Deborah Cornes, 48, swapped a career in finance to paint animals - inspired by wanting to spend more time with her own dog Tito.
"At the start, I didn't know exactly what I was doing," she said. "I started doing portraits for friends and family and kept going!
"But then when I've been walking around Hampstead, and especially during lockdown when people have been out more with their dogs, I found myself getting people chatting."
She said that when she's been talking to pet-lovers around Hampstead village and the Heath she has found people really focussing on the silver linings of lockdown, including being able to spend more time with dogs.
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And Deborah told this paper how, when she has broached the idea of painting Hampstead's four-legged friends with pet-owners, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.
She said: "I would say the community around Hampstead has really taken to this. Although lockdown has been hard for many people, a positive has perhaps been seeing people out more with their dogs.
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"I suppose dogs are a great opener - people talk about how important their dogs are to them, and I've had such positive reactions.
"The fact that a painting is something that you can hang on a wall is important and something they [pet owners] can do to mark that relationship."
Deborah's remarkable drawings are created using simply coloured pencils, and she has in some cases worked from photographs to memorialise much-missed pets.
She said her change in career had been incredibly fulfilling.
"It started when I got my beloved dog Tito," she said. "And my life completely changed and my priorities in life soon became clear."
She took an interior design course at the Chelsea School of Art, but soon found herself drawn to the idea of pet portraits, and though she had begun this before the pandemic, said she felt the difficult year had highlighted the value of enjoying the outdoors with pets.
She added: "To evoke such a positive emotion especially in these bleak times makes my work all the more worthwhile
"I feel very lucky to be able to do something I love doing."