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Pop art portrait of pooch

Jennifer Baltic Osgood's portraits of dogs come in every color, but look best sporting Warhol red or Matisse green.

Their faces peer out at viewers as if they had just walked up to the painting bearing Milk Bones, expressions waivering somewhere between "I adore you" and "Who the heck are you?"

These are your pets as Osgood imagines them.

Osgood, 34, works as a financial planner by day and pop art pet painter by night.

Throughout history, artists from Titian to Goya have depicted aristocracy and royalty coddling beloved lapdogs.

Now it's Osgood's turn. Only her paintings of Jack Russell terriers and chocolate Labs don't look like anything history has seen.

Her portraits are bold rather than bourgeois, piquing the interest of some serious art lovers from Naples to New York to South Tampa.

Of course, these art lovers also love their pets and want to immortalize them forever on the walls of their homes.

"They really think of their animal as a part of the family," Osgood said.

Osgood works from a small, second-floor studio in her Harbour Island home. It has hardwood floors and a paint-splashed wall where she hangs canvases too big for an easel. She works in acrylic and mixed media, swirling in metal, glass and sand so the paint adheres more thickly to her canvas.

Before picking up a brush, she goes to a prospective client's house and photographs the animal in black and white so she can invent her own colors in the painting.

Right now, she's in the middle of a 5-by-4-foot portrait of a sweet-faced Bouvier des Flandres, one of dozens she has painted in recent years. Prices range from $425 for a small, unframed portrait to $2,500 for a large, framed painting.

Osgood completes about two to four portraits a month, some wall-sized.

She pulls out her scrapbook.

Meet Millie, the Lab; Skye, the greyhound; Daisy, the Prince Charles spaniel; Precious, the Shih Tzu; and Scotties, Briggs and Mollie.

She typically limits requests to dogs and cats, but not always; clients also have requested portraits of their birds and horses.

Osgood, who grew up in Detroit and comes from a family populated equally with artists and analytical types, didn't start painting in earnest until 1998. (Her brother, Nicholas Baltic, plays guitar in the local band, Impromptu Jazz.)

The pet portraits evolved out of her own love of animals, particularly her two cats, Mocha and Truffle. Osgood painted a portrait of the pair and hung it on the wall of her home. Friends at a cocktail party saw the painting and immediately hired her to paint their own animals.

Osgood studied business in college and runs her own financial planning firm. Her husband, Todd, 35, is also a financial planner. Having two very different vocations, she says, "gives me a chance to use the right and left side of my brain equally."

Osgood is expecting her first child, a boy, in February, which raises an interesting question: Do people hire her to paint their children?

"No," she says, "They tend to want traditional portraits of their children. It's really all about the dogs."

_ For more information about Osgood's pet portraits, call 221-5241.

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