GROWING up in the countryside of Ninebanks, wildlife and pet portrait artist Nadine Sutterby’s earliest memories include sketching images of the chickens, ducks, dogs, goats and horses which her family kept on the land.

“The eyes are the first thing I notice in an animal,” Nadine said. “And they are often the first thing I’ll paint, because that is where you capture the character.

“It sounds cliche, but eyes really are like windows to the soul, especially with animals. Some have cheeky eyes, some appear tired, but whether it is a dog, a cow or a lizard, their eyes reflect their personality.

“It’s also the first thing I show my customers because they can tell whether it truly resembles and captures the essence of their dog through the eyes alone.”

Although she has been drawing animals since being a child Nadine decided two years ago to follow her lifelong dream in becoming a professional artist specialising in pet portraits.

“It gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion, and put my talent to use, whilst making other people happy,” she said. “My children were growing up, and getting to the point where they could take care of themselves, so it also felt like the right time to take the leap into trying to make it as an artist.”

Covering countless breeds of dogs and cats, hamsters, reptiles, rabbits and even a elephant – commissioned by a volunteer at a rescue sanctuary in Thailand – Nadine has now commissioned more than 50 pet portraits which have been distributed to pet owners across the world.

“We’re a nation of animal lovers and pets for us are considered to be a member of the family, so I think that is why the portraits have been so popular.”

One the most memorable portraits Nadine has worked on thus far was of a much-loved dog called Murphy.

Whilst mid-way through completing Murphy’s portrait, she was informed that he had been killed by a illegal snare whilst out on a walk with his owner in rural Nenthead.

“It broke my heart hearing the news,” said Nadine. “But it made me want to make sure that this portrait of Murphy captured his essence completely, and gave his owner(s) something truly special to remember him by. I remember there were plenty of tears while I worked on finishing that portrait.”

In a tribute, Murphy is also featured in Nadine’s first annual calender, as a way of ensuring he continues to be remembered.

Although creating pet portraits is Nadine’s favourite style of art to work on, she also wants to remain “kept on her toes”, and continue learning as an artist, and she therefore hasn’t shied away from turning her hand to more exotic wildlife, including puffins, lions and giraffes.

Now, a she’s taken on a even bigger challenge. This year, she’ll be branching out into creating portraits of people.

“Its a whole different endeavour and much harder in many ways, as human faces contain huge amounts of intricate and individual detail, much more than animals do,” she said.

“But I’m up for excepting a challenge, and I’ve already got several commissions in the works, so I’m excited to see where this goes.”

Currently, Nadine’s artwork, which includes prints of her portraits, homeware, kitchenware and cosmetic accessories is available in 10 stores throughout Northumberland, Cumbria and Scotland, including local stores Allendale Forge Studio and Vallum Creative Studio.

“I’ve achieved everything I have so far on my own and with no prior business experience,” said Nadine.

“That makes me both proud, and confident for what the future holds.”