By Hanna Lester
Being an artist runs in the family for Riley Fitzgerald. The Ole Miss senior, from Silver Spring, Maryland, has chosen to follow in her mother’s footsteps to pursue her passion for painting by starting her own business.
“My mom went to Rhode Island School of Design and got her BFA in painting, Fitzgerald said. “Since I can remember she has put me in art classes.”
Fitzgerald decided to get a degree in integrated marketing communications while minoring in fine art. She wasn’t originally planning to study art, but later saw the correlation between the creativity of IMC and art.
“I thought it could give me a creative edge in my future career,” she said.
Fitzgerald’s hobby and passion for art lead her to open “Riley’s Dog Portraits,” where she paints portraits of dogs for individuals seeking a meaningful keepsake of a furry friend.
People from all over the United States come to her with a picture of their dog, and in return, Fitzgerald produces a detailed portrait for the customer to keep, or give as a gift to a loved one.
It all started when Fitzgerald decided to paint a picture of her yellow lab, Annabelle. When her mom posted the painting on Facebook, Fitzgerald was overwhelmed with the positive feedback, which led to the idea of the business.
While her mom gave her the start she was looking for, Fitzgerald also views her mother as her inspiration and her biggest supporter.
“She gives me advice and critiques my paintings to help me improve them,” she said. “Most people just tell me that my paintings are good, which is nice, but my mom will tell me how they can be better.”
Her paintings bring joy to the customers, which keeps them coming back for more and helps keep her business blooming. Although, she said she is slowly learning the tricks-of-the-trade in the business world and realizing that she can’t always trust people.
“Last year I was gullible enough to mail a painting to a ‘friend’ of mine before he actually sent me the money. Of course, after I sent it, he told me he ‘mailed me a check’ and it never came,” Fitzgerald said. “Now I know to ask for a down deposit and to make sure I am paid before giving the painting to the customer. It was definitely a reality check of running a business.”
Fitzgerald’s business is slowly flourishing. Originally, she only sold dog portraits, but lately, she has expanded her abilities to paintings of fraternity and sorority houses for members and different objects people want to remember.
Fitzgerald’s painting hobby has remained an integral part of her life and she still strives to create time in her schedule to paint for pleasure. She continues to learn new tricks and techniques to further her skills in hopes that she can one day be skillful enough to live off of commissions.
“My first ever commission was in high school and it was a set of big paintings of flowers. I love painting flowers as well and hope to get back painting them more,” Fitzgerald stated.
While this is a start-up and a small business, Riley hopes to turn it into a career.
To view more of her artwork, visit https://rileysdogportraits.com; Instagram: rileys_dogportraits; or Facebook: Riley’s Dog Portraits.