Pet Portrait Christmas Gifts: Amazing Paintings & Stories from 2020

Border Collie Oil Painting Gift

The Joy of Pet Portrait Christmas Gifts

As 2020 drew to a close, many people faced the loneliest Christmas of their lives. Separated from human family, who was there to fill our hearts and homes? …Our pets! I think that’s why pet portrait Christmas gifts were such a hit this year.

I’m not the only one who turned to a furry friend or two to get me through the forced isolation of 2020 (thank you, Tiberius and Peaches, you are wonderful, just wonderful). In early Summer, emails started coming in from people across North America who wanted to connect with family through their shared love of animals.

Pet Portrait Christmas Gift of Dog
"Champ", a Christmas gift in November

These pet portraits were a huge bright spot, something to look forward to and cherish. I had clients who were so excited, they couldn’t wait for Christmas!

The Special Meaning of Pet Memorial Gifts in 2020

The gift of a handmade item can be as comforting as an embrace.
It’s physical, and human. In the midst of physical distancing, travel restrictions, and increasingly digital interactions, the value of any human touch can’t be underestimated.

Pet Portrait art of a dog and kitten by Zann Hemphill
A 12" x 12" memorial of "Biscuit", with a brand new friend

In addition, portraits of past pets brought separated friends and family members closer together through the value of shared memories. “I remember what you remember,” they said.

Cat Painting Christmas Gift in Oil
"Fargo", a 20" x 20" Oil Painting connecting three sisters sacross Canada

From BC to Quebec, from Saskatchewan to Pennsylvania, we can still feel our memories together.

Black Shepherd Mix Oil Painting Dog Portrait
Chocolate Lab Oil Painting Dog Portrait Christmas

Lucan and Coco, portraits from friends stuck in different cities.

Amazing Pet Portrait Christmas Gifts Within the Household

You know what’s just a great idea?
Buying art you love for someone you live with.

They get an amazing surprise for the holidays, and then you get to enjoy it together forever.

Jack Russell Terrier Art Painting by Zann Hemphill
Scarlett enjoying some fun in the sun

Pets played an extra-large role in our lives this year, as we adapted to working from home, seeing fewer people and going out less.

So naturally they were in the spotlight of our hearts!

Black and White Custom Cat Painting Art
Gemini lounges comfortably at home

Sometimes pets best capture the simple joys of living—indoors and out.

Painting these two smiling border collies made me feel like I was right there in the field with them.

Border Collie Oil Painting Gift
Two dogs sit for a photo and become a gift from husband to wife

Making the Impossible Possible with Art

In October, I was contacted by someone hoping to create a unique portrait as a gift for her mother.

Specifically, she was searching for a way to have a snapshot of their beloved family dog, Journey, painted in her mom’s favourite dramatic, black-on-black style.

Black Lab on Black Background Oil Painting

I always say with paint, anything is possible!

In the portrait below, a daughter wanted to create one portrait with all three of her dad’s favourite cats.

Except, getting them to sit together would be like trying to herd… well, you know.

Ragdoll Custom Cat Paintings in Oil by Zann
Three beautiful Ragdoll cats on 18" x 24" Canvas

Fortunately, herding photos is a lot easier!

The portrait below is also a compilation of different photos, but because they were taken in such similar lighting, it was possible to keep the background in.

Oil Cat Portraits of two cats
Biscuit and Boomer show off two very different personalities

And Lastly...The Tale of the Cat With Two Portraits for Christmas

I’ve had very good luck with shipping over the years. To this day, I’ve never had a parcel get lost.

However… 2020 gave me a good scare!

That there will be a postal backlog at Christmas is a given every year. And, knowing the special circumstances surrounding covid with extra delays due to supply-line precautions and truly unprecedented volume, I wasn’t caught off guard. All packages were out two weeks early. Delivered and confirmed with room to spare.

All except one.

White Cat portrait painting Christmas Gift

According the tracking system, this parcel had taken a detour deep into the lower mainland and had been chilling in a warehouse for 10 days.

It was December 22nd.

After submitting a ticket to Canada Post, I didn’t wait for a response. I grabbed my paints!

White Cat portraits painting Christmas Gift

Feeling like one of Santa’s elves, and by now quite familiar with this little guy’s features, I painted a replacement in record time and delivered it myself on Christmas eve.

It was wet. Couldn’t be helped…oils take days to dry.

A specially rigged box made it wrappable (as long as nobody turned it over).

Simon’s first portrait preceded me by less than an hour.

C’est la vie!

Giving the Gift of Custom Art

It’s been an emotional year, and for those of us lucky enough to be able to keep working during lockdowns and distance measures, saying “Thank You” to those who keep us safe is more important than ever.

This year, my way of saying Thank You to our front-line healthcare workers was a life-sized painting of Bernese Mountain Dog Jersey for a group of staff at RJH Ambulatory Care.

Since the piece was a memorial, it was very emotional to hear back from them afterward. In my line of work, I am continually touched and humbled by how much love people are able to share with their animals.

Bernese Mountain Dog Painting

If you’re looking for a unique and meaningful way to connect, give, or say “thank you”, and are interested in sending or receiving a pet portrait, I’d love to hear from you. Visit me at Paws By .

These portraits will be joining others shortly in the Pet Painting Art Gallery.

For art updates, fresh pet portraits, videos and more, sign up for my occasional newsletter (below).

Thanks for reading! Stay safe.

See you next time.


Picture of Zann Hemphill

Zann Hemphill

Zann Hemphill is a practising pet portrait artist, writer, and video producer.

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Pet Portrait art of a dog and kitten by Zann Hemphill

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