ISLAMABAD: With a science certificate in his pocket, Arbaz Malik was ready for college when the coronavirus struck and shut the door of his dream school. Putting the 19-year-old’s education on hold, the pandemic has, however, opened to him a strikingly different career path: pet portraiture.
In front of a veterinary clinic at a small market in Islamabad’s F7 sector, Malik set up a tiny pop-up studio which draws attention with a rainbow sign “Paint Your Loving Pet” and furry customers waiting for their turn to be captured in paint.
“I was very excited for school to begin, I am aiming to get a Bachelor of Business Management (BBM) degree,” he said. But as the pandemic made everything become uncertain, the current job as a pet portraitist gives him “a positive thing to look forward to every day.”
Malik’s engagement in the arts began at a young age, but until recently he was trying to master landscape and cityscape painting. Animals entered his canvas only last year, when his beloved cat Shpanty went missing.
Heartbroken, unable to find Shpanty, Malik eventually painted her portrait from a photograph. Seeing the result, his brother, Arsalan, advised him to think about turning talent into a career.
“My brother suggested that I come here to the same place we would bring our cat, and see if pet parents going in and out of the clinic might be interested in getting their pets painted,” Malik told Arab News while painting a German Shephard pup patiently sitting next to his easel.
“Three months ago, with the support of the clinic, I began my business.”
Dog, cat, bird, and even horse owners have since become Malik’s faithful and broad customer base. His paintings have already traveled across the world into homes in Canada and France with repeat customers commissioning him to paint pet portraits which they carry abroad as gifts for relatives and friends.
When his college reopens, Malik wants to attend classes full time, but says he will not give up art.
“I will always do both, even after my studies are complete,” he said, “I love painting too much.”
He also loves animals, which is what he and his customers have in common.
“Pets are so important, you love them, they are beautiful and innocent, and they really are your best friend,” Malik said, “They even help you fight off depression, because their support and love are unconditional.”