The COVID-19 pandemic pushed Lakewood Ranch resident and art teacher Jody Schneider into a new hobby: pet portraits.

by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer, East County Observer

When Edgewater Cove resident Jody Schneider started painting portraits of pets, she expected to work with dogs and cats.

Then she was asked to paint a cow.

So Schneider had fun with the assignment. Daisy, a black and white farm animal, was instead represented by shades of green, purple and orange.

“Her daughter is an artist, so she loved the unconventional colors,” Schneider said.

Daisy is just one example of the dozens of pet portraits Schneider, 56, has created over the past 15 months. She has donated 10% of her revenue to animal rescue.

Schneider is an art teacher at Fruitville Elementary School, which she called the “best job.” She loves sharing her passion for art with her students, but it can be difficult to find time for her own projects. However, the COVID-19 pandemic gave her plenty of time to do so.

Jody Schneider said the most difficult part about painting Daisy the cow was figuring out the right colors to use. (Courtesy of Jody Schneider)

Schneider stumbled into the idea of pet portraits when her daughter, Melissa Sebring, adopted a Cane Corso named Ginny from Detroit Dog Rescue in December 2019. Schneider usually gives her adult daughter gift cards or something similar at Christmas, but she decided to do something different to commemorate the new addition to Sebring’s family. She painted a portrait of Ginny.

After the gift was revealed to her daughter, Schneider posted the painting to Facebook. Suddenly, she began receiving messages and texts from other people who wanted portraits of their pets.

Schneider said her paintings started gaining popularity around the time the COVID-19 pandemic started. Once school started again, she stopped painting for a while. That changed in December 2020.

“I missed looking forward to, in the evening, adding a layer of paint,” Schneider said. “Or on the weekend, adding a couple layers.”

Schneider generally completes each painting in about one to three weeks, depending on the size. An hour one day, maybe two hours the next.

Jody Schneider receives more requests to paint dogs, such as Spunky, Tank and Scrappy, than any other animal. (Courtesy of Jody Schneider)

“Maybe it’s only a half-hour,” Schneider said. “Then I’ll walk away and come back to it again. So it’s just kind of a constant work in progress.”

Schneider said one of her biggest challenges is painting dogs that aren’t necessarily pretty in the traditional sense. When this happens, Schneider gets creative. She might tint a black cocker spaniel with shades of turquoise and light blue. Or she might try to add some personality by focusing on the dog’s eyes and face.

“Sometimes, when their tongues are out, they have a little more personality,” Schneider said. “Between the personality in the eyes and the smile and the colors, it just seems to come together.”

Cats are also challenging to paint because their fur often includes multiple hues of color.

Jody Schneider said the hardest part of painting cats, such as this one named Spencer, is capturing the different hues of their fur. (Courtesy of Jody Schneider)

Schneider said her style varies from painting to painting, but she does follow a loose process. It starts by painting the eyes as realistically as she can. Then, she typically adds some fun color to the animal’s fur to liven up the painting.

“It’s just really evolving,” Schneider said. “I find from where I started to how I’m painting now, I learn something from each portrait. I just keep working on it.”