WHEN Hank the five-year-old black labrador was dog-napped, artist de Shan began an artistic journey based around the canine's imaginary adventures.
The series started with Hank Runs Away To The Circus, Hank The Astronaut On The Moon, and Sir Hank-A-Lot With The Knights Of The Round Table.
Although Hank never re-appeared, her artworks helped de Shan think of him living a happy life.
And they were the inspiration for a new line of work involving painting beloved pet portraits for the wider community.
Pet owners simply send her a photograph of their "fur baby" and de Shan does the rest for special gifts or display on lounge walls.
"It is an easy process and I always do a preliminary sketch for approval first," de Shan, who is as warm and vibrant as her artwork, said.
"That way, clients can get an idea of how the finished product will look.
"I ask them to imagine their pet as a famous person, a rock star, politician or model and play those traits up in the painting."
Imagine her surprise when an Australian rock star's wife recently commissioned a portrait of her three dogs while visiting Caloundra's Bulcock Street Sunday markets.
She remains "mum", however, on public mention of her famous client's name.
Personality traits are important as de Shan seeks to capture distinct, individual and quirky characteristics of each pampered pet.
A recent commission of Lottie - the young daschund cheekily looking over her shoulder as she scampers through a checkerboard field - perfectly captured her personality for her owners.
"They were so happy with it, saying: 'She has that look in her eyes as she runs away'," a satisfied de Shan said.
"They photographed the portrait and were Facebooking it to their friends before they left my house."
De Shan's work is on display at markets and galleries all over the Sunshine Coast.
"People always comment on the jewel tones - the really clear, vibrant colours," she said.
De Shan has a tactile approach with oil sticks as her medium and only uses brushes for fine details.
Her signature piece remains a striking midnight blue painting - a close-up of Hank's happy face with soulful eyes.
He still travels with her today as she creates happy memories for families.
- De Shan is formally trained with a Masters of Fine Arts.
- She was an artist-in-residence for the State of Oklahoma (2000) and gallery owner in Oklahoma City before returning to Australia.
- For more information go to studiodeshan.com.
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