A LOCAL man’s lockdown art adventure has turned into an entirely new career – and he’s hoping for some Royal customers.
Rob Ballentine, a former Crowthorne resident, was distraught when the coronavirus pandemic left him jobless earlier this year.
Then, when a friend’s dog passed away, he decided to use his spare time to draw a fine art portrait of the late pet – and it prompted him to open his own independent business.
“I drew a picture of my friend’s dog, sent it over to him and he says it really helped him through his grieving,” Mr Ballentine explained.
“He then posted it on social media and within a minute, everybody was asking me for one.
“I asked my wife what to and she jokingly says ‘charge them!’ so that’s what I did.”
The local artist took the plunge and decided to set up his own pet portrait business, running it from his home in Yateley.
And since starting the business in May of this year, he’s received commissions from around the world and has even sent a portrait to the Royal family.
In November, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge lost their nine-year-old cocker spaniel Lupo, and the Yately artist wanted to give them something to remember him by.
“I read an article which says how much Lupo meant to their family and it really touched me,” Mr Ballentine explained.
“I thought if I could draw him in an outstanding way and send it to them as a gift, it might help them, you know.”
While Mr Ballentine doesn’t know if the Duke and Duchess have seen the portrait yet, after Kensington Palace put in a holding house for coronavirus, but he says it’s vitally important to honour our pets in this way.
“I don’t draw a picture because I like to draw, but because I want a memory,” the artist explained.
“We are a nation of pet lovers and they are our family. We treat them with the same respect and honour that we do for our kids.
“A drawing is different to a photograph, he added, “because it takes time and it takes skill. It’s very personal and intimate.”
While Mr Ballentine launched his art business because of the coronavirus, he says he doesn’t plan to turn his back on it post-pandemic.
“I’m absolutely loving it,” he says. “It’s wonderful to help people be happy through my work, and Covid has made people really hunker down and realise what matters to them the most, including their pets.
“To do something in this life that is so meaningful to yourself and to other people is just wonderful.”
To find out more about Rob Ballentine’s pet portraits, visit: www.robballentine.com