When it comes to art from the heart, there's no better muse than a furry best friend.
Animal lovers will be able to create one-of-a-kind pet portraits at the first-ever Paws & Paint event, put on by the creative team behind the "Indy, Oh Indy" books, coming to Cafe Smitten on Oct. 24. The event will also raise money for the Kern County Animal Shelter.
"It gives them the opportunity to have the artistic version of their best friend," said Teresa Adamo, author of the "Indy" books. "Each one is going to be unique."
The "Indy, Oh Indy" team is made up of Adamo and illustrator Jennifer Williams-Cordova. In the last year, the duo has made two books following the adventures of Adamo's rescue dog, Indy. The first book, "Indy, Oh Indy: Wanderin' the Streets of Bakersfield," followed the dog as she roamed around town before finding her forever home with the Adamos; in "Indy, Oh Indy: Pismo or Bust!" the dog hits the road for the beach, helping friends along the way.
Knowing how much their own pets have inspired their work — Williams-Cordova's dog, Ben, is also in the books — the "Indy" team wanted to offer a way for other animal lovers to join the fun.
"People often ask Jen about how she illustrates the animals," Adamo said, noting the artist's skill for capturing a pet's personality. "She said originally, 'What if I teach them how to draw their pets?' That's what we were going to do."
Ultimately, the two decided on a method different from other step-by-step art nights in town. Participants will send Williams-Cordova a picture of their furry, feathered or scaled friend and she will draw the initial picture. (Front-facing, straight on photos of pets work best, she said.)
"Every animal is different, but I look at the photo and pick out the main lines that make up the identifying characteristics," Williams-Cordova wrote of her process in an email. "I focus on creating a simplified version so that the attendees can focus on the fun creative part."
From there, guests will trace that picture onto their 8-inch-by-8-inch watercolor paper and use watercolor pencils to finish the design and make it their own.
That method works to "cut back the intimidation," Adamo said, "to give people a product they feel good about. Technically, the artist is giving them a big head start."
Williams-Cordova will be right there to give participants as much help as they need, she said. The artist said she wants to make it "as easy as possible" for attendees.
"The fun part about creating your own pet is that everyone will be doing something a little different," she said. "I’ll give general tips and guidance as a group, and then one-on-one help if people have specific questions."
Participants will also have accessories they can add to their portrait, including hats, glasses, flowers and the Bakersfield sign that graces the front of the first book. (For more on the process, see sidebar.)
Space at the event will be limited to 20 people, Adamo said. If it does as well as she thinks it will, a second event will be planned in the coming months.
For every ticket sold, the duo will donate $10 to Kern County Animal Services, where Adamo adopted Indy.
Williams-Cordova said Paws & Paint is "a perfect combination of all the things I think are fun!" — an art project and a night out for a good cause.
"Not to mention you get to create a portrait of your very own pet," she said. "Our favorite part of the Indy books has certainly been the interaction and response from our community. We are excited to offer them this new creative experience, while also using it as another method to support the shelter."
But Paws & Paint isn't the only thing Adamo and Williams-Cordova have in the works.
After publishing "Indy, Oh Indy: Wanderin' the Streets of Bakersfield" last October and its follow-up "Indy, Oh Indy: Pismo or Bust!" in June, the pair are now finalizing a third book, "Bakersfield A-Z." The alphabet book will feature all local landmarks, businesses and people, with Indy still a presence even if she's not going on another big adventure.
"It will have the vibe of an Indy (book) but it's not an Indy adventure story," Adamo said. "She's still present in the book."
Seeing how many people were giving the Indy books as baby shower gifts, Adamo and Williams-Cordova decided to make a book more specifically geared toward that.
"Bakersfield A-Z" is set to come out later this month or early November, Adamo said. Since each letter in the book is its own image, Indy fans will be able to buy prints for any letter of the alphabet, a perfect decoration for any nursery, Adamo suggested.
The author and illustrator are excited to share newest book with the community.
"It's really sweet," Adamo said.