When dog portrait artist Brian Vegter was working as a film and television cameraman in New York City, a friend of his opened an upscale pooch boutique in 2003. “I wasn’t getting film work I liked, so I took up the paintbrush again to make some paintings of dogs for the walls,” he says. “That turned out to be the beginning of a new career.”
Vegter, who is largely self-taught as an artist, grew up in Chicago and learned to paint through a combination of formal classes, independent study and freelancing. “My first artistic career was behind the camera,” he says. “I did film editing and produced a live music show.”
Dogs have always been an important part of his life. He and his wife currently have two dogs—Zephyr, a foxhound mix, and Bettini, a Jack Russell terrier. They all moved to Oregon from New York on the suggestion of a friend who was a sculptor, who thought it would be a good place to escape to. The couple landed in Bend, Ore., before deciding to settle in Baker City, Ore. “We wanted to live in a small town with a rural feel,” says Vegter. “We love the town’s setting with the mountains in the background.”
Most of the dogs Vegter paints in his home studio are commissioned works. He works largely from photographs to create his paintings (below). “Usually I’ll use one photo as the basis of the painting, and refer to others to highlight specific personality traits the owner wants me to showcase,” he says. “If the dog lives nearby or is in a place I’ll be visiting, I’ll try to meet the dog and take some of my own photographs. I really like to talk to a dog’s owner and get to know what makes the dog special and try to make his or her personality jump off the canvas.” Vegter’s acrylic-on-canvas dog portraits start at $200 for a 6-inch by 6-inch painting.