From an early age, Shawn Hart discovered her passions: the love of animals and creating art. She incorporated these elements in her work, painting portraits of animals, among other nature-inspired subjects. Shawn is a professional pet portrait artist with a studio at nationally-recognized Artspace in downtown Raleigh. Shawn has created numerous private commissions, with collectors across the continental United States, Brazil, Canada, and a growing market in the UK.
Shawn Hart earned a BA from the University of Central Florida where she studied visual arts and psychology, tying her study of operant conditioning (shaping of behaviors) with dog training. She later earned her MBA to support her business/marketing career. Shawn spent more than 17 years working in a corporate job, primarily in digital design, marketing, web design, social media, IT, and project management. However, in 2013, she decided to refocus her career to pursue artistic fervor, moved to Raleigh, and began painting full time and working with dogs.
Painting primarily oil on canvas, she starts each portrait the eyes of the animal, which she believes are the windows to the soul. Her style reflects the use of abstract negative space to provide contrast to the focus point, which she captures in detail. Her work can also be found online through her whimsical business name, Earth Muffin Studio, which describes Shawn as an nature-loving individual. She offers group painting classes for all skill levels and ages.
Shawn began training her first dog at the young age of 12 (a hound mix), and picked the “training bug” back up in 2003 when she adopted her first whippet. She studied at the longest-running clicker training school in the southeast, learning positive reinforcement methods. Keeping her whippets active and happy, she has competed in, trained, taught, and/or assisted in classes of obedience/manners, rally, flyball, agility, disc dog (frisbee), dock diving, canine good citizen, pet therapy, and reactive dog behavior. Her first whippet, Bella Bean, was the American Whippet Club’s 2007 Willow Award winner for nationally-recognized therapy dogs, and her “failed foster” George the Whippet remains in the top 20 whippets in North America for flyball.
As an athlete herself, Shawn understands the importance of being active for both mental and physical health. She is a marathon runner, and even competes in the annual 4-mile K9 Biathlon obstacle course/run with her whippet, Newman. To train for such events, Shawn and Newman use equipment and exercise techniques offered at Woofinwaggle for getting fit.