Christin Boone, 45, is the creative type.
She owns Boone Creative Designs, a local website design company, and has worked for an advertising agency, a large Web design firm and as a production manager for a local film studio.
But it took the Huntingtowne Farms resident's four-legged friend, a yellow Labrador retriever mix named Katie, to inspire her to put brush to canvas.
"I wanted to capture her in some way before she died," said Boone. "To have something to remind me of her."
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Katie lived to age 14 and died a few months after Boone finished her portrait.
More than 25 pet portraits later, Boone has honed her painting skills and added them to her business offerings.
Many of these pet projects are for owners of older dogs. They want what Boone wanted: A way to remember and honor those dogs that had become part of the family.
One completed picture was delivered to the client the same day the dog had been put down, and the owner was grateful.
"That makes me feel good," Boone said. "When it is something they are going to cherish and love for a long time."
Boone also had a brush with celebrity. She painted Precious, the five-legged Chihuahua puppy from Gastonia who was going to be sold to a freak show in summer 2009 and became the center of a heated debate. Precious ended up being adopted by one of Boone's clients. Boone surprised that client with a picture of her new addition.
The 12-by-12-inch paintings cost from $75 to $90, depending on whether Boone uses canvas or wood. Boone also has donated dog portraits for fundraisers and auctions. Her dog paintings have led to other works, most of which hang in the homes of family and friends.
A painting of Sullivan (aka Sully) sits prominently on top of the bookshelf in Courtney Schroeder's living room. The Huntingtowne Farms resident asked Boone to paint her chocolate Labrador retriever as a surprise for her husband, Kurt.
Sully was the couple's first "baby" before their three children came along. She kept Schroeder company during Schroeder's pregnancy bed-rest and late-night feedings. When Schroeder finally sat down at the end of the day, she'd pet Sully until they both feel asleep.
"She was a shy, funny little dog," she said.
Sully died a few years ago at age 13, and although the pain is still there, the family is grateful for the image Boone created.
"I'm so glad it's there. I love looking at it. It's priceless to have," said Schroeder.
Boone is glad Katie prompted her to explore a new media.
"I never painted a dog before, I never painted much before," said Boone. "It was a completely different style, an experiment."
During the painting process, Boone said, she bonds with each subject.
"I paint in my bedroom, so I live with the photo of the dog for quite a while," she said.
It takes between three days to two weeks to finish a picture, depending on how much time she has to paint. Her two children and Web business keep her pretty busy, she said.
Boone admits some subjects are easier to paint than others.
"Some dog's are just meant to be painted," she said. "They have a certain look or quirkiness that comes through their face."
Other subjects have a rougher side, she said.
"Some dog personalities are not all bouncy and happy. Sometimes you have to capture their perhaps gruff, unfriendly personality. That can be tough, but you can't put a smile on a dog that never smiles."