I met Maggie a few months ago on Twitter (seems to be a pattern there Jason) and was really captivated by her work. I offered her the chance to be a guest blogger, and she graciously accepted. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for animals, especially dogs. I’ve had three dogs in my life, and every day I find something else to love about them. They love me when I’m feeling sad, run around and make me laugh and are just the friend I need when things aren’t going my way. I can talk to my puppy and it’s almost like he understands me. You should see him when he cocks his head and his ears perk up when I’m talking to him… Anyway, I’ve always believed that dogs were a man’s best friend, but after reading Maggie’s amazing story, I now truly believe that animals of all kinds really are angels on earth. It’s my pleasure to present to you Maggie Weakley and the story of Maggie’s Angels. If this doesn’t make you smile, you either hate animals or just don’t have a HEART!!!
Thanks again for featuring me, Jason. It is quite an honor 🙂
My love for art and animals has been with me since I was a little girl. I would constantly draw all kinds of animals on everything, especially in my school notebooks. My first true inspiration/teacher, what I believe has shaped me as an artist, was watching the films from Walt Disney. The art of Walt Disney, the imagination, the stories, the emotions and the character development they had in the films made a huge impression on me. I would practice drawing all the Disney characters for hours, trying to capture their expressions and the human qualities the animators were so good at conveying. For a long time, I thought that someday I would be an animator and maybe even get a chance to work for The Walt Disney Studios, but as I grew older, my interests changed. I started focusing more on my love of animals, my love for art, and marine biology became my next big interest.
In high school I loved biology, and in my senior year I took a marine biology class that completely changed me. The passion the teacher had for the subject, and the hands-on experience I developed by taking care of marine animals captured my imagination, and I thought I could do this for a living. I also took a drawing class because I figured it would be an easy grade, but what I wasn’t expecting was how much I had missed drawing. Some of the students in the class were taking group lessons from Barbara Bassett, an art teacher from Winter Park, Fla. They all encouraged me to call her so I could take her class. I was so nervous when I called her, and when she said she had to interview me first to see if I qualified to be in her class, I was mortified! I gathered all my courage and as many drawings as I thought would be worthy of her time. Apparently, I did well enough to get into her class that summer. I really felt intimidated in this class of talented kids who were younger than me, but I worked twice as hard as everyone else to prove myself. In the fall I started at the University of Central Florida, majoring in biology, with a sub major in business, but I decided to take a figure drawing class, too. I thought, “Why not, it will be fun!” I never suspected that the combination of Ms. Bassett’s class and this figure drawing class would change my stars. I was at UCF for two years when everything changed.
Just a brief history of how I was raised… I come from a traditional Spanish family, where the women in the family leave their parents’ home when they get married. My father is a doctor and so was his father, and my mother stayed home, raised her girls and took care of the house. Art was a hobby to them, not a career. I know they were proud of the artwork I was doing, but I don’t think it ever crossed their minds that I would want to make this my career. One afternoon, in Ms. Bassett’s class, all the kids were getting their portfolios ready to send out to the art schools. I’m watching the excitement of it all and thought to myself, “I would love to send out my portfolio, too,” but was I ready? I gathered all my courage, went up to Ms. Bassett and asked her, “Do you think I could apply to art school too?” She responded with a smile, “I thought you’d never ask!” She said that I could have applied last year, but I had to believe in myself that I could do it. My heart sank because the scary thing was ~ how do I persuade my parents to let me go? I figured I would send my portfolio to the different art schools and wait to see if I would even be accepted. I continued doing well at UCF and even made the honor roll every semester. Then “the letters” arrived. I applied to Rhode Island School of Design, The School of Visual Arts, and Columbus College of Art and Design. I was accepted to all three schools, but CCAD in Columbus, Oh., offered me a scholarship. I about fainted! Now, how do I tell my parents? I took a deep breath and told them. As you might suspect, they were shocked and angry. I explained that I wanted to go to CCAD, which was in Columbus, Oh., (we lived in Orlando Fla.) and that I received a scholarship. My dad kept saying, “What are you going to do with an art degree?” and then I began to point out that art is all around us. It is in the pictures we hang, in the chairs we sit in, in the house we live in, art is everywhere! I know this was a truly difficult decision they made to let me go, and I am forever grateful they let me live out my dream.
I attended CCAD from 1986-1990 focusing on Illustration and Fine Art. While I was attending CCAD, I saved a little money, and the first thing I did was buy my first dog, a Westie (West Highland Terrier) that I named Perry. Perry had the personality of a Great Dane, never realizing how small he truly was. He was confident, loyal, funny and kept me on my toes. He passed away in 2002 at the age of 14. It’s hard to think of him without my eyes watering, I still miss him very much.
I graduated from CCAD with a BFA in Illustration, and right after graduating I got a position as an art director for Shoebox Greetings at Hallmark Cards Inc., in Kansas City, Missouri. I was in charge of the everyday card line, which included birthday, friendship and special occasions. When I was working there, I decided it was time to get a big dog for protection. That’s when Fe (pronounced Fay), a white German Shepherd mix, came into my life. Fe was abused by whomever owned her previously and was in bad shape when I got her. It took a while to get her physically and mentally healed, but she became a great gift from God. She could never do enough to repay me and show me how grateful she was. Sweet, affectionate, tolerant and respectful sums up what a wonderful dog she turned out to be. She passed away in February 2005, two months shy of turning 15 years old. It was the hardest day of my life.
I worked at Shoebox for three years developing the line and learning all about the industry. I loved working there. There was so much creativity and talent, and everyone just fueled each other. It was a great time in my life. In the meantime, my relationship with Kent, my best friend from CCAD, got serious. I married him in 1993, moved back to Columbus, Oh., and became a freelance artist, working for other greeting card companies and as an illustrator for my husband’s company, Blue Sky Graphic Communication, Inc. which was based in Columbus, Oh.
While Perry and Fe were with us, they were the two greatest companions that anyone could ever dream of. I am grateful they both lived such long and great lives. They were with me through my college years, my first job, my wedding, becoming a mother and all the different places we lived. They were with me all the time, even on vacations. They even helped me raise “Carter,” a puppy I raised for Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. I know there are so many people with the same type of relationship with their dogs, cats, horses or any of the wonderful pets we have in our lives. Thinking about that is what planted the seed in my mind to create paintings based on our love of our pets.
We moved to Ocala in 1998. It was an exciting and scary time because we didn’t know if we could make our businesses work there. At first it was tough and work was slow, but soon we became established. We love Ocala and everything about it, the people, the environment, and it’s a wonderful place to live and raise our family. My family includes my husband, Kent, my two sons, Lucas and Max, my horse, Luna, my two Pygmy-Nigerian goats, Lightning and Trixie, an Australian Shepherd named Sky, a little Chihuahua named Mio, and my little Westie angel, who, along with my past and present pets, are inspiration for my portraits.
In 2000 I came up with a solid idea of creating a line of artwork dedicated to the personality of our pets, and I called it Maggie’s Angels because our pets are our angels. My life has always revolved around animals. The subject I love to draw the most is animals, so why not create an entire collection of colorful paintings featuring animals the way I see them and I’m sure other pet owners see their little angels? I wrote it all out in a notebook. Every detail was carefully planned, but it wasn’t until 2005, when The Marion Cultural Alliance in Ocala had a local art show called “Bark About Art,” that I launched Maggie’s Angels. I had a booth and filled it with 35 original 8″x 8″ colorful, expressive dog portraits. My portraits were a hit, and it went so well that people ordered custom commissions. A few months later the local magazine, Ocala Style, wanted to do a story about me and published it in the January 2006 issue. They featured my bulldog painting on the cover. It was amazing what that cover and story did for my little company. The phone calls started coming in, and I became swamped with commissions. Clients came in saying they wanted their pets painted in my style. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing that period of time was.
I feel very blessed because I am not only creating art that I love, but the people I meet through my work are amazing and keep me inspired. Maggie’s Angels has grown throughout the years, and now I create portraits featuring all kinds of animals. I am also currently working on a variety of other projects and paintings with different themes. My talent has also allowed me to help raise money for different animal rescue groups and help those in need. Last year I painted a mural and created two original paintings for the Marion County Humane Society helping them remodel three of their cat rooms. It is wonderful to be able to use my talent for charitable work.
I believe the journey that got me here was long, and I see the road ahead, and it is also long because there is so much more I want to accomplish. Where it will lead me, I’m not sure, but I will definitely do my best and give it my all. I have faith that I’m on the right path and have a feeling that my animal friends will be on the trail with me.
To see more of my artwork, visit www.maggiesangels.com or www.maggiesangels.com/blog/.