Houses sit for a portrait

AT WORK

Heather Shreve, artist and owner, the Perrine Co., Baltimore

December 28, 2008|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Salary: $65,000

Age: 45

Years on the job : 26

How she got started: At an early age, Shreve knew she wanted to be an artist. Having grown up on a farm, she enjoyed painting and drawing animals. When she was 10 her mother bought her a watercolor set, which she used to paint the wildlife around her. By 11 years old, she was being commissioned to do work and at the age of 14 she was selling paintings for $400. While taking a zoology class at Towson University, she went on a 30-day foot safari in Africa. The trip became the focus of her art work for the next several years. She never completed her degree and instead pursued art full time. In 1987 she incorporated under the Perrine Co. name.

Typical day: Shreve specializes in house portraits with children and custom holiday card designs. She said she works at least five days a week in her home office studio, putting in eight- to nine-hour days. While much of that is spent painting, she estimates about two hours each day is spent promoting her work, taking photographs of houses she has been commissioned to paint, or on routine office work such as returning e-mails, following up on referrals, billing, paperwork and updating her Web site.

Most of her art, which Shreve describes as a simple cottage style, focuses on houses in Maryland. She often paints homes in Nantucket and along other parts of the East Coast. Shreve also has done work for the Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, the Baltimore Choral Arts Society and L.L. Bean. And her art work was used for several years on holiday cards for Maryland state employees.

Shreve estimates she takes about one week to finish an average-size painting and figures she completes about 30 paintings a year. "I try to get these products to people in a reasonable amount of time."

Teaching: She recently developed an art therapy kit called My Painted Word. She hopes to promote the kit at area senior centers, retirement communities and cancer centers. "I think art is such a therapeutic thing. It's gotten me through some awful health issues."

House portraits : About 90 percent of her work involves house portraits, which often include the family's children and pets. "Those are really striking a chord with people."

Average price: $2,000 to $3,000

The good : "When I give the painting to the folks and it is better than they thought. It's seeing people just love it."

The bad : The work can at times get intense, especially when it's a large project.

Philosophy: On serving her customers: "If something's not right I fix it. Service is at the top of my list."

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