NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - At her West Village storefront studio, Mimi Vang Olsen paints portraits of dogs, cats, and the occasional guinea pig. Her work is in high demand.
"There's enough to keep me busy. I can't do more than about one a month," she said. "It took a few years to catch on, but it finally did."
Her paintings, which run in the thousands of dollars, portray pets at home in their typical surroundings—from a corgi digging in a backyard garden to a calico cat lounging on a claw-shredded armchair.
"I don't paint animals after they pass away. A lot of people are disappointed," she said. "I like to meet them to see their true personalities. They do their act for me."
Mimi was born in the Bronx to immigrant parents from Hungary and Armenia. From when she was a young child, her textile designer mother and photographer father encouraged her art.
"It was natural that I not become a doctor," she said.
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"A fun part of this job is my first introduction to the pets, be it cat or dog. When I go into the house or the apartment, I gasp when I see what the pets are doing. Sometimes, the dogs jump up on you. The cats just stay in their place, or they run behind the refrigerator. You never know."
She takes photos of the animals on her digital camera and uses prints of her subjects for reference.
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For Mimi, there's just one rule in pet portraiture.
"Get it right, so that it's absolutely that pet," she said. "[It's] not just any corgi. It's this corgi."
When it comes time for the finished portrait's unveiling, Mimi hopes to hear the pet owners gasp and laugh with delight.
"It should be a wonderful surprise," she said.
First-time customer Helene Gross commissioned a portrait of her beloved cats Max and Sam as a birthday gift to herself.
"It's not only fun, but it serves a purpose. It serves a small need for a small bunch of people," Mimi said. "They're gaining a permanent portrait of their love object, their pet. People really love their pets."
Mimi Vang Olsen Pet Portraits
545 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
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