Mimi Vang Olsen: Pet Portrait Painter
report by Max Schreier, age 8
Mimi Vang Olsen was 10 or 11 when she got her first set of oil paints.
"Everyone should have oil paints by the age of ten," Mimi says, "if they like to draw, paint, etc."
Mimi painted her first picture when she was 12. It was a picture of her cat Coody, and she still has it. Mimi grew up to become an animal painter after she went to two art schools. One of them was the School of Visual Arts in NYC.
Mimi likes animals. She has 4 cats. She had an Australian terrier named Basil for thirteen years. Her painting of him hangs in her studio.
Why do people want portraits of their pets?
"People sometimes are alone and feel that their pet is like their child. And sometimes they just really like their pet." explains Mimi.
How a portrait comes about:
First, you come and see all the samples of Mimi's painting. Then she comes to the house to take lots of photos of the pet, its surroundings and its toys (these are very important.)
The pet owner and Mimi talk together and Mimi might ask what position the pet should be in and where, on a pillow, on a couch, at play or at rest. Mimi likes to put the animal in its favorite place.
It takes about 3 weeks to finish the portrait. When the portrait is done, Mimi stages an unveiling. "The people are always surprised when they recognize their pet in the final painting."
Ralph was the world's most spoiled dog, with 25 toys. And Mimi painted him with all of them. The strangest picture Mimi painted was a portrait of 9 poodles. Six of them were white and they all looked alike. She had to make two visits to the owner's house so she could tell which poodle was which.
Mimi has also painted pictures for a number of books about cats and dogs, including an ABC book about cats in Danish. Mimi lives in NYC.
- first published in the May/June 1993 issue of ZuZu