An artist from Northern Ireland has helped dozens of people remember their deceased pets with watercolour portraits – which he creates free of charge.
Ian Wilgaus, from Belfast, has been making art for as long as he can remember and often paints until the early hours of the morning after he gets home from his day job in hospitality.
Until last year, the husband and dad focused primarily on human subjects, but after his dog Pudsey passed away, his work took an unexpected philanthropic turn.
Speaking to LADbible, he said: “Having seen several people online post about losing their pets, the initial thought of giving them a portrait as a way to remember them came to me.
“This started in September 2019 and it really snowballed from there. Although I have only created around 40 works, I want to create as many as I can.”
Since he started making the portraits, Mr Wilgaus has been inundated with requests, receiving tens of thousands of emails and messages.
Realistically, he can only do one or two portraits per day, but the feedback he has received has spurred him on to do as many as he can in the coming year.
He said: “I have had so many great responses about the works I’ve sent. My goal when painting them is to try and capture their pet for who they remember them as.
“I did get a phone call from one owner to thank me personally and I could hear the emotion in her voice. For me it validated the reason I’m doing this. I think in a small way it helps people grieve for their loss as it allows them to talk about how they feel.
“Some people contact me about a friend or family member who’s pet has passed away and they want to get a portrait for them as a surprise. I love that someone would go out of there way to help someone else’s grieving. It really appeals to my own nature of giving.”
The process of creating the portraits is ‘highly enjoyable’ too.
Mr Wilgaus explained: “It always starts with a conversation. Usually about their pet, how they died and something about their personalities and what they meant to the family.
“Once I have images or videos I can sketch out the portrait and then ink it in finishing it off with watercolours. It’s a quick process but highly enjoyable for me. Using watercolours I feel gives life to the animals and helps capture their nature.”
You can explore more of Mr Wilgaus’ art on his website or donate towards the cost of materials here.