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Carrie Guenther’s meaningful pet projects

IDT customer care advocate Carrie Guenther produces pet portraits that help others deal with the loss of beloved companions.
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Creating art, for many, can be therapeutic. It’s a way to express feelings, cope with emotions, and create a memory that will forever be associated with a person, place, moment in time or something treasured.

There’s nothing that says, however, that the artist can’t achieve all of that for someone else. Case in point is Carrie Guenther. A customer care advocate at IDT’s Coralville, Iowa, headquarters, she utilizes her art background to produce pet portraits that help friends, family members, and others deal with the loss of a beloved companion.

“Creating is a form of therapy for me,” Guenther said. “I’ve always leaned on drawing or painting during times of stress.”

And it’s why others are now leaning on her during their times of stress.

“The way I got involved was a little sad,” the Manchester, Iowa, native said. “My brother’s cat passed away after he was in our family for 17 years or so, and I painted him as a gift. Not too long after, my best friend had to put her cat down, so I did the same for her.”

Portraits have been a part of her Guenther’s life.  She once worked as a photographer, shooting senior class, family, and wedding portraits but didn’t find it as fulfilling as painting and sketching.

“I’ve done portraits mostly in acrylic paint,” said Guenther, who earned a psychology degree at the University of Iowa. “I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s best. It dries quickly, and that works best for my style and techniques. I also really like working with watercolor pencils. It all depends on what you’re looking for, size and style-wise, with your final product.”

Her favorite pet portrait so far has been one she did of her own cat, Link (right).

“It’s in black and white, it’s dramatic and it’s very high contrast,” Guenther explained.

While it’s easy to say that her love and familiarity with Link helped provide depth and character to the work, she said personally knowing the subject doesn’t always help.

“I think knowing the pet can be helpful in some respects but detrimental in others,” Guenther said. “I tend to stress a lot more about projects involving subjects that I know personally, or when I’m attached in some way. On one hand, it’s nice to just have a subject that I’m not attached to, to just be provided reference I can look at and replicate for what is in the example photo alone, without other influences. On the other hand, it’s nice to be able to step back and look at a painting and know I’ve captured their personality.”

Examples of her finished and unfinished works can be found on her Instagram page.

“As long as I’m still learning and adapting my own craft, I want to do it as much as I can,” Guenther said. “As long as it’s something I enjoy doing, and not something that I resent or feel pressured to do, I hope to keep taking on more projects.”

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