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Artist with a studio at Halfpenny Green is passionate about creating portraits of pets

Combining a love of animals and a passion for art has led to a dream job for Katharine Skorka.

Katharine Skorka outside her studio, gallery and shop, Skorkart, in the craft village at Halfpenny Green Wine Estate
Katharine Skorka outside her studio, gallery and shop, Skorkart, in the craft village at Halfpenny Green Wine Estate

Using watercolour paints and pastel pencils, she captures the lovable personalities of treasured pets in her unique portraits. And the 32-year-old says it’s always a joy to craft a piece of artwork that will bring a smile to its owner’s face.

“I like capturing the texture of the fur and the light reflecting in their eyes. This captures the personality and character of the animal. When the customer sees the portrait for the first time and says ‘that’s him, that’s my dog’, I know I’ve done a good job,” says Katharine, who lives in Warstones, Wolverhampton.

A love of drawing animals led her to studying at Loughborough University where she graduated with a BA Honours degree in Fine Art in 2011.

One of Katharine's pet portraits

Her artwork continued to be her main focus and after taking time out to travel the world, she began making pet portraits alongside working full-time in a local hospitality venues.

Although she had always wanted to make art her full-time job, she never thought it could become a reality. But, as demand for her creations started to increase, the opportunity arose to rent a unit in the craft village at Halfpenny Green Wine Estate, near Bobbington.

She took the plunge, leaving her full-time job to become self-employed and transforming the unit into her Skorkart studio, gallery and shop. Since taking over the unit in 2019, her business has continued to grow and she has never looked back.

Now she is able to work from her studio and chat to people visiting the shop and gallery.

Katharine works on one of her pet portraits

Katharine offers two different styles of pet portrait depending on what the customer is looking for – pastel and watercolour. “Pastels are more traditional because they capture the final details and are more life-like and watercolours are more freely painted,” she explains.

For each commission, she works from a reference photograph, usually a favourite one of the owner’s that means something to them and that shows off their pet’s personality.

To ensure an accurate portrait, the photograph must be a true representation of the colour of the pet’s eyes, fur or feathers. It should be well lit, preferably taken outside in natural diffused light such as on a cloudy day or in an indoor space that is naturally lit like a window.

Katharine works with watercolour paints and pastel pencils

Katharine provides customers with tips on how to take a quality photograph. Before starting the drawing, she will study the picture and ensure she has the paint or pastel colours she needs for the project.

She then keeps customers up-to-date on how the portrait is progressing to ensure they are happy with how it’s coming together.

“Some people like to see it as it’s being completed but some people don’t want to see it until the end,” says Katharine.

Hours of work go into each portrait and when she is happy with the finished piece she will either post it to the customer or invite them to the studio for an unveiling.

She says she loves seeing their reaction and hearing their feedback. “The best thing about the pet portraits is that, especially when someone has lost a pet, is that it is really nice to make something that they are going to treasure forever,” says Katharine.

Although she specialises in pet portraits, she also offers art prints and originals, greetings cards and gifts featuring some of our most favourite animals. Her studio, gallery and shop is based on the same site as Wild Zoological Park and Katharine has sketched some of its residents including the ring-tailed lemurs. Katharine has also been getting out and about to events such as DogFest at Tatton Park in Cheshire and the food and artisan market at Himley Hall.

She also runs art workshops giving people the chance to try different mediums such as watercolour. During the classes, Katharine provides guidance and demonstrations while participants learn about different materials and practice painting techniques.

She also ran video tutorials for beginners on YouTube during lockdown, where she demonstrated how to paint a variety of animals including a zebra, lion and giraffe. This year Katharine is launching The Art Club at Halfpenny Green for adults of all levels to meet.

“I want to create a community where local creative people can meet with like-minded people,” she says.

Contact Katharine on 01384 989897, email theartclubhalfpennygreen@gmail.com, or see www.skorkart.co.uk for more information.

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