By DANA BORICK
manda Emig, of Hughesville, started drawing pet portraits as gifts for friends and family when she couldn't think of new ideas for Christmas presents.
As the graphic artist and promotions manager at the James V. Brown Library, Emig's first portrait was for her co-worker, Sue Rider.
"They loved them so much, showed their friends and family the gifts, and the word just started spreading from there," Emig said about the inspiration for her Wistart Studio pet portrait business.
More importantly, the portraits give Emig a chance to connect with people about their pets.
"This business is about drawing something that people will hold dear and appreciate and so the value of the artwork is priceless overall," she said. "I enjoy talking with the pet owners, hearing stories about their pets and seeing the look on their faces when the portrait is complete."
To date, Emig has completed more than 250 pet portraits, ranging from dogs, cats and even a blue lobster named Blue.
Rider said the portrait Emig drew of her dogs Coby and Muffin was the best Christmas present she got that year.
"At the time, my mom was at the Williamsport Home nursing facility and I showed it to her and another resident loved it," Rider said. "Another lady wanted a portrait of Sadie the dog ... they loved it so much they hung it in the room."
Rider said everyone who saw the portrait wanted one of their own, so she took a lot of orders for Emig from the Williamsport Home.
"I'm the 'dog lady' - people would hand me pictures for her," Rider said with a laugh.
"I gave one to my vet office, my neighbors, a friend for her birthday," Emig said. "It started to snowball from there, so I got a booth at the fair."
Since Rider's dogs were the first she had drawn, Emig featured those for January in a 2012 calendar she created.
Her favorite dog tale, however, was the story of Lasso, a K-9 dog she drew in September for a woman at the nursing home who wanted a picture for her father, Officer William Lynn of the Williamsport Bureau of Police.
Shortly thereafter, Emig received a call at work that Officer Lynn was there to see her. Turns out, she wasn't wanted by the police - Lynn was so moved that he wanted to personally thank her for the drawing of his "best bud."
"He hugged me and had a tear in his eye," she said about the surprise meeting. "He also had a horse [through the Mounted Horse unit] and other [K-9] dogs ... I did one for his son, whose dog was serving in Iraq."
Most recently, she surprised New York Times best-selling author Adriana Trigiani with a portrait of her cat, Smokey Renee. Trigiani was in town Sept. 27 as the featured author for the library's major fundraising gala event.
"It was my gift to her," Emig said about the author who has been featured twice at the gala event and has donated money to the James V. Brown Library.
Emig said it takes her about two hours to do each portrait, depending on the detail and number of pets in a picture. She also creates specialty items such as photo boxes, bookmarks, calendars, a "Dog Log" diary, note paper, Christmas ornaments and more.
The "Dog Log" idea came from her daughters, Alara, 14, and Maibren, 10, and her husband, Brent, after observing the antics of their family dog, an English setter named Rylee. The family also has two cats, Star and Kia, and a horse, Andee.
"The stories of people and their current pets crack me up," Emig said. "I listen, and that's where the 'Dog Log' quotes come from, too."
Although she sells her pet portraits for a modest fee, she also donates a lot of artwork to the Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Williamsport Riding Club and the James V. Brown Library. She also volunteers her time as the Lycoming County 4-H leader for the Artitude youth group that meets monthly at the library and teaches private art classes to students of all ages.
As a child, Emig said she was known for her artistic abilities and she was born to a creative family. Her mother, Emily Bassler, taught elementary art and sign painting at the former Williamsport Area Community College, and her father, Louis, is an architect and industrial designer.
Growing up, she drew a lot of horses. "They were very square then, but once I got into sculpture, around third or fourth grade, they became more realistic," she said.
She continued her training at Kutztown University, where she earned a bachelor's degree of fine arts in communication design, and received a master's degree in education from American Intercontinental University. She also has taught Life Drawing, Intro to Graphic Design and Intro to Painting at Pennsylvania College of Technology, and assists the Ashkar Reporters at Ashkar Elementary School, Hughesville.
For Emig, the pet portraits are a hobby that allows her to give a gift that can be appreciated. Sometimes she even gets to meet the pet when she delivers the portrait.
"I've met springer spaniel, beagle and boxer rescue clubs," she said, adding that they all told her stories about their dogs.
"That's the goal, giving someone a gift they will appreciate," she said. "People love their pets."
She said she sometimes draws older dogs that might not be around much longer. All portraits are personalized with the animal's name and her signature, which is how she "catalogs" the pictures.
"I remember the portraits by the dog's name," she said, adding that she loves all the animals that she draws, but she does have a few favorites.
"Two Yorkies - Shirley and Oscar - they don't belong to the same people, but they look like they should be married," she said. "And Lasso, he's my favorite because of his owner's reaction. When they say, 'Oh, that's it, you captured him.' "
She also enjoys some of the pet names - Martini the dog, Coal the white dog and Blue the blue lobster - and her "firsts," such as Gracie, the first Chihuahua she ever drew.
She draws a lot of boxers and golden retrievers, and gets requests for some breeds more than others. Her favorite breed, however, is the English setter.
Black dogs are harder to draw, so there has to be light or reflection so she can make out the eyes.
She uses 4B and 6B weighted lead Staedtler pencils for sketching and blending. She's not as particular about her paper, preferring sketch, drawing or texture paper for her portraits.
Having pets takes a heart, Emig said, adding that many people view their pets as children.
"I just love talking about pets and when people share their stories," she said. "It's a gift people treasure," she said.
Her Wildwood Graphic Design and Wistart Studio can be accessed at pencilpetsketch.com.
For more information, or to request a portrait, email Emig at email@example.com or call 584-6377.