I’ve been blessed to know many people the world over since starting DDB in 2002—people who, like me, didn’t understand why anyone would chain a dog for any amount of time, or why this horrendous treatment of Man’s Best Friend wasn’t illegal across the globe.
Of the European friends I’ve made, I remember Abbie Withers from Scotland frequently supporting my work, and giving me encouragement like so many of you when I’d end up in yet another jam for helping a dog.
Last week Abbie showed me the portrait she was working on of our new pup Khronos, and I got a tear in my eye when I saw it. It was so perfectly him!
But what was even cooler to me was the story behind her painting.
Of course I assumed that Abbie had been painting and drawing forever, so I asked her how long she’d been doing this.
She told me she’d never painted before she had a heart attack in February, and had picked up a brush while she was recovering at home afterward. Can you imagine? And she’s this good already? I was astounded.
Abbie has had quite the varied and animal-loving career before turning to painting. She told me “I was born hugging animals! I always adored them and understood them…more than people, who just seem to want to hurt each other.
“I was a veterinary nurse both in South Africa and the U.K., then went on to learn dog and cat grooming and later trained and worked with animals for many well known and popular programmes in the U.K.—Eastenders, Midsomer Murders, Harry Hill, and Casualty, as well as others.
“I am now a dog behaviourist, and was working with a client back at the end of February when I felt a sudden pain in my chest. It really shook me up and made me think I best call my doctor (once I was finished with training of course, silly me!)
“I did so and the doc did an ecg immediately. He wanted to refer me to a cardio specialist but in the meantime I was to call an ambulance if I had more pains and go to be checked out. I decided to take myself to hospital a few days later and they admitted me. They said I had had a heart attack and needed an emergency procedure called an angioplasty and to have stents fitted the next day.
“Slowly I recovered from the heart problems and a nasty virus I picked up while in the hospital. To pass my time I began to dabble with some paints and brushes that I had bought second hand a year ago from an elderly artist who no longer painted.
“I decided to paint a portrait of a friend’s dog as a surprise gift because she looked after my dogs while I was ill. When she received it she liked it so much she commissioned me to do two more of her other dogs. I couldn’t believe it—and I have not stopped painting and drawing since!
“I now have a face book page called Pet Portraits by Abbie and I have sent paintings all over the U.K., Canada, Australia, Missouri and Virginia. I am designing breed-specific Christmas cards [which are gorgeous!] and hope to do many more next year in time for the festive season.
“I feel so blessed with my newfound discovery and am addicted to painting commissions from my client’s photos of their pets; cats, dogs, horses, parrots…I have even recently done some baby kangaroos from a rescue centre. [You can see all these pieces on her Facebook page.]
“I still can’t believe I am able to do this myself…I’m in shock as I had not painted before my heart attack and was so worried I may not be able to carry on doing my dog and cat grooming after being so ill. I’d been hoping for a sign of something else I could do as a living….well, God has a sense of humor, so be careful what you ask for!”
Abbie lives in Perthshire, Scotland with her dogs, cats, chickens, and two rabbits in the the beautiful countryside.
If you’re interested in commissioning Abbie for a portrait of your companions, contact her through her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/abbiesdrawingandpainting/.
Thank you, Abbie, for the gorgeous portrait of Khronos, AND for your lifetime of dedication to the animals. May you have continued improved health and many years of happy painting in front of you.
Time to start thinking of Christmas cards, folks! Here’s one of Abbie’s ideas now…