Australian pet portrait artist at home in Bellingen, NSW with her Australian Terrier, Layla

Where it all began…

Early water colour painting of a flying unicorn with a golden moon. By Opal Pastro

I was interested in art at an early age and was forever drawing and painting.

My favourite thing to draw were stubby little Thelwell ponies, which I copied from the books. I loved the way the spirited nature of those naughty little ponies was so perfectly illustrated. Their plump bodies and expressive faces told a story so well.

My parents were very supportive of my love of art. Mum subscribed me to a collectible art series where you received a book on a new Master each week. I loved reading about their stories and their inspirations, and most of all enjoyed looking at the artwork. We collected the whole series - all 96 of them!

I was lucky enough to grow up in semi-rural Victoria, with big cumulus skies and lovely natural bush land. I was blessed to have many family pets and animals in our household. I loved them all, particularly the dogs and horses. They brought me friendship, humour and honesty.

I studied art all through school, and art school, not because I wanted to be an artist, but because I loved art. 

At the completion of a fine art degree, I was labeled the most talented painter of that year, but I lacked the confidence in myself to pursue a career as a full time artist. I really didn’t see myself as one- just someone who loved to draw and paint. I didn’t feel like I had anything of value to say, so I turned my back on art. 

Throughout the years of not painting or drawing, my creative side has always been nourished through other productive pursuits. I learnt art forms in different disciplines, from music to storytelling and crafts. This satisfied me until, in 2015,  my singing group dissolved, our eldest daughter left home, my job was not creatively satisfying and I was asking myself - now what?.

Horse in paddock with mountain views. Bellingen NSW. Inspiration for Australian animal painter Opal Pastro
Dogs playing in the water at the beach. Inspiration for painting custom pet portraits for Opal Pastro

It was difficult re-learning the craft of painting after 20 years, but with the encouragement of my ever supportive husband Lawrence, and our two daughters, I was honing my skills and growing in confidence.

I now have portraits hanging in Australia and overseas.

I realised that I have a gift of expressing the gesture and individual personality of each pet that I paint, and I love to share this talent with as many pet lovers as I can.

I have been told that my memorial paintings have helped people with their grieving of a lost pet, because the artwork brings a closeness to the pet, and it is like a part of them is still present.

Australian dog painter Opal Pastro being kissed by her dog Layla in the bush