Central Park resident Johanna Querry Smith was busy running a natural skincare company out of her home when, “on a whim and for the joy of it,” as she recalls, she picked up a paintbrush and nimbly depicted two of her dogs on canvas. Smith’s vibrant use of color and her whimsical, energetic style soon caught the attention of friends and neighbors, and last September she unexpectedly launched her second business, this one as a painter of dog portraits.
Her success in both ventures has “been a surprise and a gift,” she says. “I wasn’t formally trained as an artist, and I had zero experience starting a skincare business. But I’ve always believed in forging my own way through hard work, passion, and a deep love for what I do.” Thanks to word of mouth, Smith has already received more than 50 commissions for dog paintings, and several of her pieces now animate the walls of Northfield Veterinary Hospital.
Smith’s dog portraits, all painted with acrylics on canvas and reflecting a variety of breeds, are strikingly accurate yet playfully abstract. “I love bright, happy, fun colors,” Smith says. “My paintings are full of positive energy and smiling dogs.” She aims to “capture a dog’s personality,” with the final, vivacious “artwork representing the special love people have for their dogs and the love dogs have for their owners.”
Smith commences each painting by having a conversation with the dog’s owners. “I want to know everything about the dog, its preferences, what it enjoys,” she says. “Then I ask for photographs of the dog from all angles, so I can capture the essence of the dog.” Many of her paintings are completed in memoriam. “The owner and I often end up in tears,” Smith notes. “But they are happy tears, knowing they can take home this painting to hang on their wall, with the dog just emerging from the canvas with love.”
The eyes of a dog “unlock the love connection on canvas,” Smith explains. “My favorite aspect of painting dogs is capturing their heart and soul in their eyes. It’s a beautiful way to keep a dog’s memory and spirit alive.”
Smith says that she has been on a mission “to bring the love and the joy” since graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder and taking a job as an elementary school art teacher. She taught for 18 years before pivoting to skincare, which she says was “another way to make a difference for good in the world.” For two years she researched skincare formulas and scents, experimented in her kitchen, and built her brand, GLOW for a cause. Today Smith’s products are carried in beauty subscription boxes internationally, as well as sold in boutiques throughout the United States and via her website.
The name of her brand, “GLOW for a cause,” is significant: “The ‘cause’ part is about helping a number of small nonprofits that I am closely connected with,” she says. It’s no surprise that organizations supporting animals are especially important to her: Smith supports the local nonprofit HoBo Care Boxer Rescue as a financial backer, as a boxer foster mom, and as an adoption coordinator.
“Some of the dogs who I’ve fostered have had trauma in their lives before being rescued,” says Smith. “Through learning to be patient with them and finding ways to help them work through that, I’ve grown as a person. We can understand people through understanding dogs, and that’s a connection I bring to my artwork.”
She continues, “The bottom line in my work and in my paintings is creating joy and love. I want to pour that into each piece because joy and love are what dogs give to us.”
To learn more about Smith’s art, visit her website at www.metalandgrace.com.
Photos courtesy of Johanna Querry Smith