Selling Out

Recently, someone was unhappy with the pet portrait I created for them. This is the first time I’ve experienced this and it was really distressing, not because they didn’t like the painting itself, but because they didn’t feel the love.

My paintings are about love — connecting with and expressing an animal’s unique personality and soul. In a pet portrait, I want the owner to immediately make that connection and reflect their love back into the painting. Before starting a portrait I like to hear stories about the pet and meet it if possible, or see a lot of the owner’s photos if not. From this interaction I fall in love with the pet and see it in my mind’s eye. The colors I use are related somewhat to the animal’s coloring, but mostly to the vision of it’s soul I’ve been given.

Torn — 20" x 24" acrylic by Lisa Bohnwagner

I think this is where things went wrong with that portrait. The owner was particular about the colors they wanted me to use. I used to tell people that I can try to include a color they want, but my vision and the painting itself guide me. That was before, when I had a job and didn’t depend upon my painting income. Now I’m trying to make a living from my art. So I said “yes” even though that wasn’t the vision I had in my mind. I said “yes” even though I cringed inside.

For the next few days I battled with myself. Is my discomfort a matter of pride? Is it fear? Rather than simply starting the painting and following my instincts, I made numerous color studies and communicated back and forth with the owner. The portrait ended up being mostly what the owner asked for, but tinted by my artistic vision — which means it wasn’t exactly what the owner wanted. For me it was no longer a portrait of the pet, but an illustration of it — an excellent rendering, but not a true expression of the soul. The owner didn’t love the painting and I feel badly because I truly wanted them to love it. That’s what my paintings are about. But maybe not in this case. Maybe it was about making a sale despite what my heart told me.

After making several attempts to remedy the situation I’ve asked the owner to send the painting back for a full refund. My paintings are about love, and I don’t want anyone to settle for something they’re not in love with. I’ve learned a lot through this experience. I learned that I need to say “no” sometimes. I need to trust the artistic vision that comes from my heart and God. And I need the faith to not compromise that vision for a paycheck.


Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please click the heart ❤ to share your love!

I’d love to share with you my most recent paintings and mountain views on Instagram. Also, please see my web site for new prints and paintings available in my store or to commission a painting or pet portrait as a gift to yourself or a friend. Another way to connect and share the love!