Inner Best: Shirley Bond

Shirley Bond of Balmain proudly admits that her doggy, Wally, is her baby.  And after she retired from her job as a high school visual arts teacher, Wally soon became the inspiration for her next project in life – pet portraiture.

“I just had so many photos of Wally and I would always think that would make a lovely drawing,” Shirley said.

“As a dog-lover I also met a lot of people whose dogs have gone to the great big kennel in the sky, and who would tell me how important their dogs were to them. I thought portraits would provide a nice memento of these relationships.”

While pet-portraiture may sound niche, Shirley says that from her experience as a commissioned artist drawings of loved animals are much more popular than those of loved people.

“When I’m at the markets telling people about my work, and I mention that I can also draw their children if they like, often people respond ‘I don’t want a picture of my child – I want one of my dog!’”

Shirley can definitely relate. Wally is the centre of her family-life.

“As I don’t have a child, he’s like my child. And in many ways he is around me more than a child would be – children eventually go off and leave the pack so to speak. Wally follows me around and sleeps on my bed, he is a very affectionate little boy.”

A love of dogs has set Shirley apart in her work as a portrait artist as she has become extremely adept at capturing the personality of four-legged beasts, great and small.

“I will always remember the time I was commissioned to draw a King Charles Cavalier [who had passed away] that belonged to the father of a friend of mine. Her father is a stoic, hardened Italian man who said himself that he never had really felt much for animals, until he took in this one cavalier who he just loved.

“I was invited by the family to be there when they gave him the artwork. He stared at it and just started sobbing,” Shirley said.

Portraits of companion animals (Shirley has drawn everything from feathered friends to kittens) commonly end in joyful and reflective tears.

“Pets are a loved part of the family and I love being able to provide a constant reminder of these little friends.”