Heather Laws – Pastel Animal Painter
The love I have for animals is pure and unfettered. My paintings become an authentic expression of that love. Whether I am painting my own, or someone else’s companion – capturing their essence is critical to my work.
Working in the medium of soft pastel on a sanded paper I gently stroke in the many layers, slowly building the lights and the darks in my subject, pushing colour and having fun with it. I’m careful not to blend with stumps and fingers in order to preserve the delicate crystal structure unique to pastel. I delight in rendering the language of their hair; the textures of the surfaces around and underneath them; the glint and emotion in their eyes and the way the light illuminates their beautiful form. Although a lifelike quality is important in my work, I do not wish to take the piece into super-realism. Instead, I prefer the viewer to see the hand of the artist in each pastel stroke.
About the Artist
Heather’s career as an animal painter effectively began when she received a call from a woman, the owner of a local food emporium, and an artist herself, requesting to view her portfolio. The woman had taken on some animal portrait commissions which she was unable to complete in time for the upcoming Christmas. She needed someone to complete her unfinished works, and had heard favourable comments about Heather’s work. However, the portraits were to be done in soft pastels, a medium with which Heather had little familiarity at that time, having used pastels only a few times in life-drawing classes to fill in broad areas with color. In the event, the final result met with approval, and pastels have come to be her primary medium.
From Heather’s earliest beginnings, her love for, and indeed “obsession” with animals, particularly dogs and horses, has governed a worldview of what was important in life. To this day that love continues to guide her actions of what is important. And, as well, the idea of combining these two passions of painting and love of animals greatly intrigued Heather as she welcomed the prospect of earning a living by conjoining the two. In this venture, Heather owes much to her father and mentor, the late Norman Laws, a successful commercial artist in his own right, who provided his daughter with unfailing support and constructive artistic guidance. For that unique collaboration, Heather remains forever grateful.
Heather initially launched her career in a picturesque “cabin” on a Tottenham horse farm. The very first animal companions that joined her at that time: “Maggie”, a three-year old Clydesdale / Thoroughbred mare, and “Jesse”, a year-old Labrador/Great Dane cross. They became her “Muses” during that period when she was developing a body of work for display at local horse shows and art festivals. The resulting exposure brought Laws increasing recognition.
Heather has now worked as a professional artist for 30 years. Throughout those years she has always had her beloved companions by her side; they have given me endless love and inspiration. Whether it was Lola, Jesse’s successor ( a happy Labrador/Border Collie cross rescued at age one ) with whom she shared 12 wonderful years with; or my present companion, little “Lord” Elliot, a most handsome Jack Russel, also rescued early at age two, and with me for some 11 years now, and whose energy and loving gaze gives me daily solace.
The most important aspect of Heather’s work is meeting the “subjects”, getting a glimpse of their personality, feeling the energy they exude, and watching how they interact with their people. Animals are always on the move, their expressions are fleeting, and one must be prepared to capture them in an instant. In that regard, the camera is her most valuable tool.
When Heather is not able to meet a subjects in the flesh she will work from provided photographs. And, to further her knowledge of the subject’s personality, she will always ask the client to relate some stories about the animal in order to gain further insight into their character.
In addition to her commissioned work, Heather spends many hours building a personal body of work, seeking to capture those special moments in time. It may be the expression on a soggy Labrador’s face as he triumphantly catches a stick; or how the sunlight plays across the hides and harness of a team of draft horses. Inspiration comes in many forms. And so Heather works to continually develop new ideas for paintings that tell a strong and engaging visual story.
Some of Heather Laws’ accomplishments:
Heather’s work has won Regional and National awards including Honourable Mention at the Draft Horse Classic and Western Art Show, Grass Valley, California in 2002, and winner of the Cover Artwork Competition for Pastel Artists Canada 2016 ICAN Convention, and Honourable Mention in the Pastel Artists Canada’s 29th Annual Purely Pastel Exhibition in 2020.
She was also an elected member of the Ontario Society of Artists(OSA), an associate member of the US based Society of Animal Artists (SAA), has received Master Pastelist status with Pastel Artists Canada (PAC, MPAC), and has served as Director and Exhibitions Coordinator for the Pastel Artists Canada.