LEWISTON — Tammie Grieshaber was playing around with Photoshop one day when she decided to see how her standard poodle would look wearing a princess crown. 

The answer, it turned out: pretty darned good.

For years, a giant canvas print of that artistic experiment hung in the front hallway of Grieshaber’s Lewiston home, where friends and other visitors would admire Shiloh the princess as they walked in the door. Soon they began asking for their own whimsical artwork — their cat looking regal in a jeweled crown, their dog dapper in glasses.

It was fun, but Grieshaber, 68, never considered it more than a lark until she began looking for a way to make some extra money in her retirement. Friends pointed her back to that print of Shiloh.

“They said, ‘This is what you should be doing,'” Grieshaber said.

This fall, Grieshaber started Glamour Pet Digital Painting, an online business that uses computer editing to blend customers’ pet photos with unique backgrounds and props.

Want a portrait of Fluffy in a knight’s armor or Fido sporting a top hat and formal silk scarf? Grieshaber makes it happen.

“I have so much fun,” she said.

Art has long been part of Grieshaber’s life, including a stint as a children’s photographer. She’s probably best known for owning and curating the Lyceum Gallery, a Lisbon Street gallery that showcased Maine artists, offered workshops and hosted events. Grieshaber and her gallery were a staple of summertime downtown Art Walks until a couple of years ago when health problems made retirement necessary.

When Grieshaber got healthier, she started looking for a way to supplement her income. She’d worked at an L.L. Bean call center 20 years ago and tried that again, but found she couldn’t handle the distraction of 100 people talking at the same time.  

Shiloh was her constant companion: She would prove also to be Grieshaber’s inspiration. 

“My friends told me, ‘You need to do something with your dog and the stuff that you do with Photoshop.’ They came up with the whole idea when we were at Fuel (restaurant) one night,” she said.

But Grieshaber had created her digital paintings only sporadically over the past five years; she couldn’t easily remember how.

“It was just one of those trial and error things,” she said.

Grieshaber spent this past September immersing herself in Photoshop, relearning and recording the steps it took to go from a family snapshot to a piece of digital art. She created a website and bounced ideas off friends: How should she organize the site? How many different options should she give buyers?  

“I’ve got hundreds of different elements I can use on critters, hats and glasses and all kinds of things like that. They said people will never be able to make a decision if you do that, so we narrowed it down,” she said.

Grieshaber’s site went live a few weeks ago. It offers eight kinds of “glamour portraits,” which meld a snapshot with Photoshop elements to make it look like the cat is posing in her favorite jewel-draped necklace, for example, or the dog is napping in a hipster cap and glasses. The site also offers five kinds of “royal portraits,” digitally inserting the family pet into a portrait originally painted by one of the old masters.

Families supply a couple of photos for Grieshaber to work with in Photoshop. And although it’s not strictly needed, she always asks the family to describe the pet of honor.

“I like to know a little about who I’m working with,” she said.

Each piece of artwork takes Grieshaber three to four hours to complete. Glasses, hats and crowns — even virtual ones — do not naturally fit on animals, so it can take some work to make them look right.

“I was working on one this morning with a cat. Cats’ heads are very short, so to fit a cat’s head into some of these portraits, or even hats and crowns, you have to warp the (item) so it looks natural when it sits on the cat’s head,” she said. “There are little things that I work around.”

When a piece is done, Grieshaber sends it out to be printed on canvas. The entire process, from customer order to mailing, can take a few weeks.

Prices range from $115 for an 8-by-8 inch royal portrait to $195 for a 20-by-20 inch glamour portrait. Grieshaber also does “family portraits,” digitally inserting a family’s past and present pets into the same painting.

Grieshaber has sold a couple of pieces since her website went live and she’s starting to get orders for Christmas. Dog people have so far outnumbered cat people, though Grieshaber tries to give equal time to both on her website.

And then there are the custom orders.

“A friend. . . she had two (dogs). She had a male and a female. She’s saying now, ‘I want a bride and groom. I want them to be a bride and groom.’ So I’m trying to figure out where I can find all the right pieces. I’ve got the top hat for the groom. And maybe a bow tie,” Grieshaber said. “A bridal veil will be a challenge.”

So far Glamour Pet Digital Painting isn’t a big moneymaker, but Grieshaber has hope that it will do well. More importantly, she said, she’s having fun.

“My dad used to tell us, ‘Whatever you do with your life, make sure it’s something you want to do when you wake up in the morning,'” Grieshaber said, rubbing Shiloh’s ears as the dog laid her head on Grieshaber’s knee. “(Shiloh and I) are up between 6 and 6:30. She gets taken care of first and I get my coffee and we’re at the computer in 15 minutes.”

Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected].

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