Point Loma artist blends two passions: painting and pets
Imagine getting your pet a professional photo shoot ... without the barking, growling or scratch marks.
At Rebecca Reeb’s Point Loma home, striking portraits of dogs and cats line the walls. The animals’ detailed silhouettes — showing off their floppy ears, silky coats, graying whiskers — are framed by bold yet understated backdrops, usually monochromic or with a subtle texture. Unlike with bursts of smartphone photos, any clutter that may distract from the animal’s character and charm vanishes. The lighting never fails; the face is always in focus.
Just like in the life of many pet owners, these portrait subjects are the star of the show.
Except these aren’t photographs — they’re pet portraits by artist Reeb, a Point Loma native who recently moved back to the neighborhood. For each pet portrait she creates, Reeb donates a portion of the sale (about 17 percent to 30 percent) to an animal charity of the customer’s choosing.
Though she loves animals, Reeb doesn’t work with them in person. She said she would enjoy setting up in-person sessions for the portraits, but she noted that pets aren’t the most patient subjects.
“I’d love to do live [paintings], but that’s really hard because the animals just don’t stay still,” she said, laughing.
Instead, Reeb works off photos to capture the animal’s spirit. Customers provide her with some of their favorite images of their furry friends, and she deciphers which would translate best to the canvas. Though some commissions are stylized, the majority of Reeb’s work aims to be as lifelike as possible.
“She does such a realistic job — it’s like you’re looking at the dog, she’s so good,” said Suzanne Allison, a customer and childhood friend of Reeb’s. (The two met at Loma Portal Elementary School 50 years ago.)
“She’s always been super artistic ever since I’ve known her … so when she started doing the pet painting, I got super excited,” Allison said.
Reeb, who previously worked in public relations and communications, picked up a paintbrush eight years ago and has been creating pet portraits ever since. With no formal art training, Reeb can’t pinpoint where she developed her skill and technique: “I don’t know — I just started [painting]. I guess it just came to me.”
Along with her creative instinct, Reeb is a lifelong animal lover who has owned many pets through the years. She’s also completed paid and volunteer work for various animal organizations, including the San Diego Humane Society, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Helen Woodward Animal Shelter, Escondido Humane Society and Animal Friends of the Valleys.
“She cares about her subject matter,” Allison said.
Reeb’s love of animals that is reflected in her paintings also translates into charitable action.
Reeb estimates she has made donations (in the name of customers) for a dozen organizations so far. They are located all over the country, including a group that worked to find and save animals displaced by the 2018 fire in Paradise, Calif.
A few years ago, Reeb was approached to lend her time and talent to the Fur Ball, one of the biggest fundraising events for the San Diego Humane Society.
For each Fur Ball, Reeb paints a pet portrait for the event’s honoree as well as for the Star of the Ball. The honoree is a Humane Society supporter/donor chosen by the organization; the Star of the Ball is an auction item from the previous year that grants the winning bidder the opportunity for his or her pet to be prominently featured at the next event.
“It’s funny because I send Rebecca some photos or images, not really knowing what she’ll create, and she just comes back with this incredible piece of art,” said Tess Mengel, special-events manager at SDHS. “It’s always a fun surprise to see what she creates.”
Mengel added that Reeb’s contributions have helped elevate the Fur Ball and that her art has a direct effect on money being donated to the organization at the fundraiser. Reeb also offers her services as an auction item, granting the winning bidder a pet portrait. In 2019, Reeb’s auction item sold for $630.
Reeb did not participate in the 2020 event, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mengel said SDHS is “cautiously optimistic” that this year’s edition will happen in person in October and that she looks forward to continuing the collaboration with Reeb.
“We’re so grateful for her support and partnership. ... I don’t know what we would do without Rebecca and her art,” Mengel said.
While her Fur Ball portraits are larger items, a typical commission for Reeb is an 8-by-10-inch canvas that sells for about $150 to $200 and takes about six to eight hours to paint.
Reeb also dabbles in creating wine labels — “Fruit Bomb,” featuring her dogs Greta and Sobe, won the silver medal in Wine Maker magazine’s label contest in 2014.
So far, Allison has commissioned two paintings from Reeb. The first was a birthday present to her boyfriend, depicting his blue heeler, Ziva. The second was of her friend’s sheep dog Coco, gifted after the beloved companion had to be put down.
“When [my friend] got that gift, she started crying,” Allison said.
The paintings “are just a sweet reminder that [pets] don’t stick around for long enough,” Allison said. “It’s really great to have something you can look at all the time.”
“It’s really fun for me — I just love seeing people’s reactions when they get [the painting],” Reeb said. “Everybody’s always so happy; that’s really nice. It makes me feel good. They love their furry babies.”
When Reeb isn’t painting or spending time with animals, the former Idaho resident takes advantage of Point Loma’s proximity to the water and hangs out at San Diego’s beaches.
“And go to [Ocean Beach’s] dog beach, of course,” she said.
Learn more about Reeb’s art at facebook.com/OriginalPetPaintings.