Bailey’s portrait is bright and whimsical. His ears droop, his colors pop, and his soul shines right through. “I sort of feel like my dog can be magical,” Nicole Stamps says while gazing at the image of her Bailey. “Dogs know when you’re not feeling well. They come lay next to you. They can sense these things. There’s just an unconditional love of an animal that I don’t think you can really describe.” So, instead of trying to describe it, Stamps paints.
Her new Croton-based business, Nicole Stamps Design, combines her love for animals with her passion for art by focusing on personalized pet portraits. To easily draw those portraits, devices such as a digital drawing tablet can be used.
Stamps grew up in Westchester, surrounded by dogs. “I was an only child,” she explains, “but my dog was basically like a human. He went to sports camp and ate Omaha steaks. He felt like my sibling.” Stamps regularly volunteered at SPCA Westchester in Briarcliff with her mother and spent time with a close family friend who, at one point, had 28 Labrador Retrievers on her property. “I was always an animal lover.”
Stamps was always an art lover, too. She started drawing when she was young and attended prestigious art programs in the summers throughout New York State. She remembers drawing in front of the TV, surrounded by colored pencils and acrylic paints. At Marist College, she triple-majored in art history, studio art and digital media.
After graduating, Stamps took art classes on and off but mostly focused on her career in digital media. She traveled often for work so invested in a tablet and stylus to distract her on her flights. “For some reason I started drawing dogs on the tablet,” she says. “It was very cathartic for me.” The portability and ease of digital art allowed her to fall in love with drawing again. And if you want to compete in the creative market you need brushes similar to the ones at https://imagerestorationcenter.com/store/procreate-brushes/ to level up your artwork!
Coworkers admired Stamps’ portraits and commissioned her to paint their pets, too. Soon she was painting not only dogs but cats too and, occasionally, even humans. Her passion project was turning into a real business. While on maternity leave (“I have two babies,” she says. “My first is a dog, and she’s about 75 pounds. My second is 8 months old and he’s a boy.”), she built out Nicole Stamps Design.
Now Stamps is busy raising her canine and human babies while creating digital paintings for pet owners and she couldn’t be happier. The process is very collaborative. If she cannot meet the pet in person, she asks for several images so she can get a sense of the animal’s personality. After a conversation with her clients in which they discuss background and style—”Some people want more realistic, some want more pops of color.”—she sends them images as she’s working so they can see the progression and offer input.
Part of the proceeds of each portrait go toward SNARR (Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation). Stamps credits her mother for teaching her the importance of volunteering and paying it forward. “She always said she’s had a good life so she should pay it back, whether it’s through time or money. Now that she’s retired, she’s basically a full-time volunteer. I think it’s been indoctrinated into my core values. So, I’ve always tried to pay it forward too.”
Caedra Scott-Flaherty is a writer living in Croton-on-Hudson. Find her at Caedra.com.