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Pet portrait artist Sharon Molloy is on a spiritual journey. Born and raised in the U.K. and classically trained at the Winchester School of Art, she left England at age 21 and headed east. “I began my journey by traveling to India, searching for something,” she recalled during a recent interview. Unsure of what that “something” was, the artist found herself studying meditation, and soon her path led her to Thailand and then Japan, seeking “inner truth and inspiration through artistic expression.”
Relaxing by a fire at her turn-of-the-century farmhouse in Parksville, NY, Molloy shared some of the philosophy that drives her artwork, musing on life, death and the Buddhist principles that infuse her paintings seamlessly—allowing herself to “let go” and “immerse in a higher self,” freeing her mind and channeling creativity from the cosmos. “When I’m painting, the limited self vanishes,” she expressed. “That’s when you discover who you really are.” Upon completing her training, Molloy made a living as a muralist, specializing in the art of trompe l’oeil—a French term literally meaning “trick the eye.” It’s a style of painting that gives the appearance of three-dimensional or photographic realism, and unbeknownst to her at the time, would come to serve the artist well as her path led to those with four legs.
“There was never an intention to paint pets,” she said. “It just happened quite naturally, which is always the best way. One day I was painting the arch at the Livingston Manor library and the next?” My attention steered to the walls of her studio; dogs and cats, various creatures large and small, are everywhere. “When I pick up a brush, it’s a form of meditation and I’m able to feel the soul of an animal. It always starts with their eyes. Part of me vanishes and the spirit of the dog or cat speaks to me in a magical, transformational way.”
It all began about five years ago after the passing of Molloy’s faithful companion, Georgie. “I was grieving, looking at a picture of my dog and just started to paint,” she says. “Since animals are not known for sitting perfectly still, a photograph works best.” As she painted, Molloy felt liberated, feeling the love embrace her from the other side. “We all teach each other from the very essence of our being,” she shared. “That’s how animals are—they can’t speak in the traditional sense. Animals are not judgmental. They’re not thinking about the past or the future; they live in the moment, something I believe we should all strive to do.”
If the eyes of the animal are not clearly visible in a photograph, Molloy is stymied. When working with clients, she will discard dozens of images until the right one speaks to her. Working from digital images also helps Molloy, who can then call upon her training as a visual artist, combining technology with her classical painting technique. “Working with digital images, I’m able to paint for clients all over the world,” she says. “Anyone can send me the picture of their precious pet and my subject is holding still in front of me for as long as I need them to.” With an eye for realism that hearkens back to the trompe l’oeil, Molloy can utilize the tools of photo programs and processes the pictures in extreme close-up, allowing her to hone in on a single hair, or glint in the eye—any minute detail that might otherwise escape her attention. “I feel genuine emotion when I gaze at these images,” she says. “Where there is non-resistance, everything becomes transparent, and I can connect to the animal in a transformational way that lifts me up and speaks to the human spiritually attached to that beautiful creature. You know what they say: God is dog spelled backwards.”
While many of Molloy’s clients are hoping to immortalize an animal that has passed away, she is seeing a trend emerge where folks want one of her paintings of their living companions to hang over the mantle with the rest of the family. “We are all here temporarily,” she muses. “If I can help people by immortalizing their loved ones, it helps me as much as them.” When asked what the next step is on her path, Molloy became quiet. “I still haven’t figured this out,” she says. “That’s the beauty of a personal journey; if we’re doing it right, the path is endless. We’re all part of a universal consciousness, and being able to participate brings me joy. It brings me closer to all beings, not just the animals. Painting these gorgeous cats, dogs, horses and the like is in a way, a service to others, but sometimes I feel selfish, because it gives me a sense of purpose and fills me with love. Sometimes I think that it can’t be that simple, but it is.”
Sharon Molloy might just be man’s best friend after all.
[For more information on immortalizing the animal in your life through custom painted portraits, contact Sharon Molloy at www.paintedpetportrait.com or via email at email@example.com.]