A Conversation with Long Beach Artist Stephanie Han
We will never get tired of saying it: Pet Waggin’ LOVES our Long Beach community! There are so many awesome local businesses, organizations, and artists doing great work for animals and the people who love them.
One of these people is a local painter and graphic artist, Stephanie Han. If you haven’t heard of her, Stephanie creates beautiful pet portraits that will make you fall in love with your pet all over again.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with her to ask her a few questions about her work. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Please tell us a little bit about what you do. What inspired you to add pet portraits to your impressive catalog of work?
I was a full-time graphic designer for 20 years, and during that time I had also been doing fine art and illustration. Back in 2012, I did a series of cat drawings at the Seal Beach Animal Care Center because that’s where I had adopted my first cat Yuki. It was important to me to raise some funds for the SBACC as a thank you!
I then decided to become a vendor at the first CatCon in 2015, where I had to create a LOT more cat art, which I really enjoyed! Cats, of course, are my obsession. So it was kind of amazing that I hadn't done much cat art before that. Since then, I haven't stopped, and eventually, I added dogs to my repertoire.
2. Can you give us some insight into your process?
I almost always work from photographic reference, which I either find on the internet, are provided to me by a client, or are taken myself.
If the portrait is a watercolor, I may do a very light pencil sketch on the paper to help guide me as watercolors can be very unforgiving. But if it's an acrylic on canvas piece I can just start directly with the paint, no pre-sketch needed.
My portraits aren’t very big; most of them have actually been very tiny (think credit card-sized). The next most popular size is 5x7. The biggest one I've done so far is an 18x24 acrylic on canvas painting of a cat I saw in a Parisian window that happened to look like my cat, C.C.
3. How do you interpret or capture each pet's personality?
It's not something I plan as I'm starting a piece. I don’t think to myself, "This dog should look mischievous," or anything like that. It just seems to develop organically as I'm working on a piece because pets are so naturally expressive!
4. Tell us about the Faces of Hope Foundation. How is your work involved?
I found out about the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation through some friends who are very passionate about dog rescue. This foundation rescues dogs and cats from the meat trade that is unfortunately still going on in several parts of Asia. They also work to apply political pressure in these areas to outlaw the trade for good.
I was very moved by their dedication and was trying to think of a way I could help. Art was really the most powerful tool I had! I made several visits to their facility up in Sherman Oaks to observe, make drawings on-site, and take a bunch of reference photos. After a little while, I got the idea to create a bunch of tiny portraits of these animals, "mug shot" style, so that I could sell them and raise funds.
Eventually, I did over a hundred of these paintings and exhibited them a couple of years ago at The Artistic Edge Framing & Gallery. The show was called “Faces of Hope” and it turned out great! I made an accompanying book, which is available for on-demand order. After selling a good amount of these paintings I was able to donate to the Foundation as well as to the Save Korean Dogs, which I felt great doing. I'm working on a similar project now for rescue kittens, with a show coming up in the fall—stay tuned!
5. Where can people find you? Do you accept commissions?
6. What are your favorite local places to view art?
There are so many great independent gallery spaces! I’d recommend checking out:
7. Fun (& biased) question time! What are your favorite businesses in Long Beach for pet lovers?
We take our kitties to the Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital for their vet care and get most of our supplies at Centinela Pets. But of course, my ultimate favorite is Pet Waggin’, since I come to you all the time for my pet care needs!
Aww, shucks! That sure does mean a lot to us, and we truly love taking care of Stephanie’s adorable kitties! We’re also so thankful for the incredible work she’s doing, not just for her own business, but for the important causes that work to keep our animals safe.
Stephanie inspires us to work even harder taking care of Long Beach’s furry loved ones as well as giving back to our community. If you haven’t yet, follow us on Instagram to see how we stay involved with shelter drives and causes like Paws FUR Pink… and to see how you can help, too!