When Patti Surdi was growing up in Long Island, New York, she was encouraged by her father to explore the world of art. And after a career as a kindergarten teacher, Surdi is finally getting back to her first love of painting – and is making a profit from it.

With her father a watercolor artist, and her grandfather a stone mason from Italy, Surdi comes from a family who values art and has found a living pursuing creative careers.

“It’s been in the family for generations,” Surdi said. “I guess I inherited my art abilities from my father.”

And despite her career in education, Surdi has never forgotten her childhood spent learning to paint, nor the lessons she learned while attending the University of Bridgeport, studying the various forms of art. She’s often painted for her church, created pieces for friends and schools, and though she didn’t think about professionally painting until later on in life, she’s always been practicing her craft.

And in the past 16 years, she has taken her work more seriously. In fact, her longtime hobby has become her post-retirement job.

Ramping up business

Shortly after she married her second husband, Jim, in 2003, she was encouraged by him to start back up with her art. Nearing the end of her career as a teacher, she decided to start dabbling in her favorite hobby again, beginning by just painting family pets and seeing how it turned out.

She took her first few pieces to an art festival and people went crazy over her artwork.

“I started going to art shows and showing my work in Coconut Creek, Florida, where we lived at the time,” Surdi said. “Then I found a couple guys at work that showed me how to make my own website.”

Surdi said the idea to paint pets came from Jim, and while she’s painted landscapes before and tried her hand at human portraits, she found she enjoyed painting animals most. So soon after, “Patti’s Pet Portraits” was born and has since developed into a bustling business with a continuous stream of customers.

“Most of my requests come from pet owners who want their dogs or cats immortalized,” Surdi said. “So when they look at the portrait, it’ll bring back memories.”

Surdi and her husband moved to Calhoun less than a year ago after years spent in Florida. Surdi said they both wanted to live in Northwest Georgia and fell in love with Calhoun when they first visited years ago.

“We could have gone anywhere since we’re both retired,” Surdi said. “But we came here, and we love it.”

Operating out of Calhoun

Even though her business has shifted its home base, the number of requests she gets on a regular basis hasn’t changed much, especially since most customers discover her business online. A majority of her customers are from the New England area or Florida, where her business originated.

At the beginning of June, Surdi said she had 10 pieces that she had been asked to do and that her business keeps her busier than she ever expected it would. What started as something she did for fun has become something she is making a profit from, all while getting to hear the stories of other people’s pets and “immortalizing them” for her customers.

Though painting is quite a different job than teaching kindergarten students, Surdi has learned to find some similarities between the two careers.

“I kind of think of my customers like the parents of my students,” Surdi said. “They consider their animals to be their babies, almost like their children.”

Surdi said offering a personal connection to her customers is what sets her apart from other artists, though. She enjoys the process of working with her customers as much as she does the creative process, and she says direct communication adds a different aspect to her business.

Surdi is currently accepting requests across from the country and even works with a few international customers. For more information about her portraits or to request a quote, visit her website at www.pattispetportraits.com or call her at 954-644-2156.