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Art With Heart

Karen Derrico’s art depicts the same menagerie of creatures it aims to help

Karen Derrico’s art depicts the same menagerie of creatures it aims to help

A longtime animal lover and shelter supporter with an extensive background in fine arts, illustration, and graphic design, Karen Derrico has been incorporating critters into her artwork for years. But it was only a few years ago that she started wondering whether she could turn some of her subjects into beneficiaries.

“I had been doing paintings for people and donating some of the profits for a few years already,” she says, “but I finally named it and made it official about six months ago.”

Thus Painting 4 Paws was born. By offering portraits of both owned and homeless animals, Derrico has found another way to give back to the animals she cares so much about. Through her website,, pet lovers can help animal nonprofits get much-needed money to care for their critters.

Derrico’s program helps animals in a number of ways. People who don’t have time to care for a real live pet can “adopt” one of Derrico’s animal portraits. Adoption options include prints of several pigs, geese, a chocolate Lab, and other pooches. When a painting is adopted, the buyer receives a high-quality print and the organization that cared for the featured animal receives 20 percent of the payment. The geese, for example, are residents of Farm Sanctuary; every time their $35 portrait is purchased, the organization gets $7. Other adoptions benefit Alley Cat Allies, Doberman Rescue, the Fredericksburg SPCA, and Days End Farm Horse Rescue, to name a few.

The artist also does commissioned portraits of owned animals and donates 15 percent of the money she makes from those sales to animal charities. She hopes to get lots of visitors who want to adopt prints, though, because the adoptable prints each tell a story about the animal depicted. “That’s a way for me to not only raise funds but raise awareness,” Derrico says.

Derrico’s efforts extend beyond her website. She recently worked with the Fredericksburg SPCA to hold an adopt-a-painting event at a local bookstore that raised more than $1,000.

The artist has set a goal of painting new needy animals each month—and she’s looking for models. If you want to send an image of one of your organization’s photogenic critters, visit If Derrico picks one of your pets, she’ll donate her painting time and your organization will receive 20 percent of the sales; you’ll also get to tell the animal’s story.

She asks that groups try to send her animals whose tales have happy endings. “People tend to like that my paintings are kind of bright and cheerful and happy,” she says. “It’s a different approach than some of what I see, but it seems to work.”


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