A Merry Hand at Pet Portraiture

02 Dec 2022

A love of animals lured this self-taught artist to her long career

By Elizabeth Sugg  »  Photos by John Patota

As a young girl Merry Scotland began sketching the wildlife around her. Born in the picturesque town of Newport, Vermont, where the shores of Lake Memphremagog separate the small New England town and Magog, Quebec, the natural beauty seemed to lure a pencil to her drawing paper whenever she had the chance. Though Scotland moved and finished her childhood and education in New York, the tranquility of small-town life surrounded by vivid nature had seeped into her bones and inspired her artist’s hand.

Married young, Scotland never had the opportunity to take formal art classes, instead developing her skill with practice and a natural ability to sketch what was in front of her. As a young mother she began dabbling with acrylics,  exclaiming, “I didn’t have the patience for oils!” When she took a painting of a horse she had done to a frame shop, the owner encouraged her to enter it into a local contest and she won. “I was so surprised but that was the beginning,” says Scotland as she describes the moment she began to think of herself as an artist.

A rider herself, her main influence were equestrian paintings, particularly those of English horse riding yet as people began bringing Scotland photos of their beloved pets to capture on canvas, she has depicted everything from leopards to a family cow, cats to a multitude of dog breeds, and she has enjoyed doing every one of them. “It’s the expression you want to capture, and the shape of the head. I may paint a certain pose but I ask that people bring me several photos so I can see their animal in many settings to get them right,” explains Scotland about the process.

The artist moved to North Carolina to be near her parents who retired to Pinehurst in the 1990s, and she has maintained an active studio throughout that time. She is represented by One Eleven Main in Southern Pines where they sell her original works as well as broker commissioned portraits of people’s pets. Such one-of-a-kind gifts are actually very affordable with pricing beginning at $250 for a custom painting of a beloved pet. Erin Reville, the home interiors and gift shop co-owner, was once a sales rep for Portrait South, and she has a real respect for Scotland’s abilities, saying, “Merry just seems to capture their likeness, and she can paint on just about anything which makes it (a commission) even more special.” When we met Scotland she was sporting a leather satchel with a horse painted on it, and then pulled out a handsome copper plate with a riding scene. Scotland’s enjoyment of experimentation is a part of her appeal as well.

Not only a painter, Scotland also does animal sculptures in bronze and clay. Working in various media is her passion along with her love of animals, one that is lifelong. It may be time to get your pet to strike a pose for posterity for Scotland to lend a Merry hand. one11main.com

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