If asked the connection between clay, pastries, and paint¬ing, one might be momentarily stumped, the most obvious of answers often evading us. To artist Jean Glaser, though, the answer is immediately clear: they all involve working with your hands. After graduating from Arizona State University with a BFA in ceramics, working at an Art Gallery in Scottsdale, and owning a café and bakery in Park City, Utah, Glaser took a painting class that intro¬duced her to portrait painting. And that was all it took. Motivated by her passion for animals, Glaser now works out of her Park City home studio full-time painting acrylic pet portraits. The portraits are more impressionistic than photographic, but Glaser manages to pack a lot of defining character and personality onto each canvas.

Of the mediums she worked with throughout her career, Glaser prefers paint. “Paintings,” says Glaser, “have a depth.” Acrylics are particu¬larly appealing to Glaser, because they immediately take to the canvas, unlike oils and watercolour, which take time to set and dry.

Glaser says her commissions are often gifts or memorial piec¬es. Her goal with each painting is to make the owners happy by giving them a connection with their animals that they can keep forever. “I call it ‘art for the heart,’” she explains.

Glaser paints exclusively from photographs, which can prove challenging. For this reason, she has a detailed description of the type of photograph she needs. Through an alternating process of painting and reflecting, Glaser transforms a four by five photo¬graph into a nine by twelve portrait. But it wasn’t always this easy. After being away from painting since college, Glaser needed a push to spark her creativity and quell her fear. Luckily for Glaser, her friends and very understanding husband helped her get back into painting and over her trepidation that her artistic work wouldn’t be appreciated.

Glaser’s own pets, Zephyr, an Australian Shepherd and two cats, Zoei and Charming, help by keeping Glaser company while she works in her studio. Over the past three years Glaser has completed over 50 com¬missioned pieces. For most artists seeing a person cry when they receive their portrait would be a bad sign, but for Glaser tears of surprise means she’s captured exactly what was hoped for, and in the case of memorial commissions, it’s often overwhelming.

“About 75 percent of people cry when they see their pet’s portrait,” said Glaser. “I wish they’d laugh, but I understand the tears.”

Commissions from $200; visit www.craigandjean.com/jeanglaseranimalportraits