Carmen López at work in her studio in Palma. | H. Carter


Accordingto the latest report in Spain, there are 1.5 pets per household, more than children, as young families are postponing starting a family due to the cost-of-living crisis and other factors. Last year, a new Animal Welfare Law was introduced protecting the rights of pets because they play an extremely important part in family life and mean so much to their owners. Anyone reading this who either owns or has owned a pet will understand where Palma-based artist Carmen López is coming from.

Originally from Seville, Carmen is a psychiatrist by profession and specialises in mental health. She moved to Mallorca six years ago and worked in the public sector treating patients in hospitals and in person in their homes. However, having been creative all of her life - she is a virtuoso pianist - she has always loved animals and she has always had a passion to paint. So six years ago, she decided to embark on a brave new journey, painting portraits of pets.

Overseas clients
“I knew it was going to be a gamble, but I felt like a change. It had been a very demanding six years and I needed a change and painting has always been an escape, a therapy for me, especially with my pets. So I started painting my own cats and pets of friends and family. Then, thanks to word of mouth and having a few on show around Palma, new clients began contacting me and so I launched on social media and, to be honest, I can’t complain. The response has been overwhelming and I’m extremely busy.

Over the past year, apart from clients in Mallorca and the Balearics, I’ve painted portraits of pets for clients across the mainland, from the Canary Islands, Portugal and Germany and I’ve now got repeat clients. In some cases I am painting a fifth pet for one animal lover. The majority are cats and dogs, but I’ve painted rabbits, turtles and even birds and it’s a wonderful experience for me and my clients.

“I meet those here on the island in person to meet the pet and its owners, talk about the pet’s characteristics, its favourite habits, its looks and facial expressions and how they all live together - the most important moments, so I can express them, capture all that in the portrait.

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“Pet owners have so much love and empathy, it’s a really beautiful connection and it works both ways. If you own or have owned a pet, how many times have you come home and your furry friend is waiting for you at the front door? It’s a very wholesome and positive experience all round.

Passed away
“And, of course, there are cases where the pet has passed away but the owners want to have a long-lasting memory of their beloved family member. We all have photos on our phones or in our albums, but we hardly ever look at them. They are not the same as having a portrait hanging which you can always look at and remember all the wonderful moments you’ve enjoyed with your pet and how important it was to you personally or the family as a whole,” Carmen explained.

“Plus, from my professional medical experience, I know how comforting having a pet can be. It certain cases it’s very healthy for one’s mental health because of the love pets show in return. The bonds formed are extremely strong. When I am working with clients from overseas, we have a series of conversations by phone or video conference. They send me a collection of photos and videos and we work from there. The process is very similar to that when I meet people in person.

“We get to know each other and they tell me everything about their beloved pet so I can get a real feeling for the animal and begin creating an idea of how to approach the portrait.
“Some can take a matter of hours while others may take a week, especially those which feature a number of pets,” she said.
With acrylic on cotton canvas, this Sevillian artist creates hyper-realistic portraits and she said the feedback has been very encouraging.

Very emotional
“Many, if not all of my clients to date, when they see the portrait, have got very emotional, especially those who have commissioned a painting of a lost pet.
“For me that’s extremely important because people have a brutal connection with grief. I think that the bonds we develop with animals are very important.
There are people who go through a very complicated grief process and find in me someone who listens to them, with whom it is easy to talk. At the end of the day, that’s what I was trained in, it’s easy to connect with me,” she added. or