"You lose all sense of time. You're in the moment and whatever is going on in your life, it stops during that time," said Bealer, owner of Pet Portraits in Discovery Bay. "It's a zone that I get into. You forget about housework, bills and following up on phone calls because you just get lost in it."
Her passion began at age 15 when the military brat, born in Germany, spent most of her time growing up in Hawaii. She began painting landscapes, people, urban scenes - and now, pets. "There's something about animals, they love us unconditionally and they're always there," she said. "I don't have any children, except for my dog Moe, he is my child."
Bealer creates her paintings from snapshots given to her by clients, or she'll take digital shots herself on location. "It gives me a chance to know the animal and its personality."
Her husband Scott Macdonald, who works for Cisco Systems in San Jose, supports her portrait business and knows how much it means to her. It's something she does when she gets home from work, on the weekends or in the wee hours of the morning when the lake off their back deck is still and the mood is just right.
Depending on complexity and size (8x8, 16x20 or 28x22), each painting takes her no longer than four weeks to produce. "It depends on how happy or not happy I am with the painting. I'll start all over if I have to."
Jody Merriam of Discovery Bay, a pet sitter for Bealer's dog Moe, has had five portraits made of her cats and dogs. One of her dogs passed away, but Bealer was able to capture her black lab's true essence. "She painted Shawn exactly how my dog looks," said Merriam. "Shawn died May 7 this year."
Why a pet portrait? Bealer said it helps to immortalize people's pets, and the paintings make unique gifts for friends and families.
Her sister-in-law, Erin Ruiz, is a design consultant for Systems Paving in Brentwood, and has purchased three portraits so far. "I gave one to my horseriding instructor as a gift and she loved the picture," said Ruiz. "They're also reasonably priced, and these pictures are dead-on with the animal, too."
Her paintings range from $65 for an 8x8, up to $300 for a 28x22.
Ultimately inspired by Van Gough's use of color and composition, Bealer continues to study under local artists such as Nancy Roberts of Antioch, Mark Roberts of Antioch (no relation to Nancy), Jason Bowen of Antioch, and Jody Mattison and Robert Chapla, both of Walnut Creek Civic Arts.
"They're all different artists and they all have something about them that I like," said Bealer. "Their technique is something I can incorporate into my own style."
Perfection is not in Bealer's vocabulary. "Painting can never be mastered," she said. "But maybe in one's mind it can, depending on the person's ego."
She said painting runs in her family, but not in her parents, who still live in Hawaii. "Honestly, they think my painting is a great little hobby, but they're so grateful I didn't make it a career!"
Contact Kaethe Bealer at 325-2159 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.