Her love of animals inspires her creativity as she captures the charm and character of people’s treasured pets in her unique portraits.
The distinctive designs are now proving popular with customers not just in this country but also overseas, with her pictures now hanging on walls throughout the USA as well as Australia and Japan.
The 36-year-old, who lives in Wolverhampton, gave up her full-time telesales job to follow her art dream four years ago.
“I’ve loved drawing and art since I was a little kid, it’s always been there but I had never pursued it as a career," she says.
"When I was working full-time, I was always doodling when I was on the phone. I knew I could do more with my art so I took the plunge to go self-employed.
“It was exciting but I was a little nervous. I couldn’t have done without my husband and family’s support,” she adds.
Gemma launched her business, Pet Pawtraits, in 2017 and began studying for a BA honours degree in creative arts with The Open College of the Arts.
Not long after beginning the course, she discovered paper craft and fell in love with its versatility.
“I like that the possibilities with paper are endless. You can do so much with it and you don’t have to just make something that’s flat, it can be 3D too.
“With paper you can create anything you want and put your own stamp on it,” explains Gemma.
She builds up layers of white paper to create a 3D image and uses coloured pastels and paints to bring the picture to life.
“For my pet portraits, I will start by looking at photographs of the pet, which the customer has given me.
“I also ask for some information about their pet and what their character is like. I will work out the body shapes, draw them out on paper and then I will cut out the pieces.
“I then add in all of the details like the face and the colours and textures in their fur and markings to bring out their personalities. Then I put all the pieces all together, building up the layers to make it 3D,” says Gemma, who has previously showcased her work at Crufts and Twycross Zoo.
Since starting to offer pet portraits, she has recreated a wide range of different dog breeds, as well as cats and rabbits.
She says the final stage of the creative process is what gives her the most enjoyment when making portraits for her customers.
“My favourite part is putting it all together because I feel like the pet is coming to life. Customer feedback is very rewarding especially if someone has lost a pet and they want a portrait to remember them by. It’s really nice to be able to make it for them,” she says.
Now in the final year of her degree course, Gemma has continued to build up her business and was recently named Online Specialist Store Of The Year 2020/2021 in the Central English Prestige Awards.
“It’s really taken off and I’ve had a lot of interest in my work on Facebook and Instagram," she says.
"I’ve sold portraits to people in 23 states in America. It’s crazy to think there are pieces of my art dotted around the world and in places I’ve never been to. I’ve come a long way and I was really humbled to win the award.
“I’ve been really lucky. During Covid it’s been tough for everyone, I’ve been closed off from it in my art room. I really appreciate everyone’s support,” she says.
Gemma has also used her work to raise money for animal charities such as Fat Fluffs Rabbit Rescue and Greyhound Trust.
She has recently teamed up with the Animal House Rescue Charity in Birmingham, which takes in unwanted, abused and abandoned pets and places them with foster carers until they can be rehomed.
“They are really struggling due to the effects of Covid so I really wanted to help them. So every portrait I sell helps the animals that the charity are working with to have care, food and find their forever new homes,” says Gemma who owns four rabbits – Bugsy, Bandit, Bonnie and Blizzard.
To help improve her drawing skills, she studied for a diploma in zoology so she could gain a better understanding of the animals that inspire her work.
“My mission is to help animals through my art. I am now doing a collection of British wildlife to showcase our wonderful animals, such as the red kite which has made a comeback thanks to conservation work to help them improve their numbers in our skies.
“I’ve also created a bumble bee to capture their beauty and raise awareness to get more people to help them.
“With numbers in decline there are many things we can do to help them from planting flower seeds to making small homes for them.
“Whether you have your own garden or a nearby park we can all do a little to help one of our friendliest insects survive.
“I will be creating prints soon and also cards. I would also like to help hedgehogs as they are also in decline and raise awareness of how to help them,” says Gemma.
* For more information visit paperpawtraits.co.uk