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"Barney" (in acrylic)

Featured Article

Furry Friends: Hand-Painted Christmas Ornaments

Captivating Hand-Painted Artwork Created with Heart and Talent

Article by Cheyenne Forbes and Christina Cheser

Photography by Karin Davidson and Jim McKay

Originally published in Media City Lifestyle

Tis the season for merriment and good cheer! The familiar smell of spiced baked goods wafting through the cold air means that Christmas is soon approaching. It’s time to deck the halls in the usual tinsel and holly. However, if you’re looking to take your holiday decorations to the next level, why not try custom Christmas ornaments of your favorite furry companion(s)? 

James Thomas McKay, the mind and creative force behind Artwork by JTM, paints portraits of animals onto a matte-finish Christmas ornament. Dogs, cats, birds -- no matter the pet, James will hand paint them meticulously. “You have to get the eyes right,” said James when speaking about his process. “You have to capture their spirit through their soul, which is the way they look at you.”

James, who began his journey as an artist from the day he could pick up a pencil and pad of paper, knew that he wanted to create art that he thought people needed. Before he found his niche, James started off working on Christmas Ornaments, inspired by prints of wildlife art. It had been the perfect source of inspiration as he did not feel set in his works; he would sell the occasional original painting but he did not have prints and was looking for another way to produce art that was less expensive. 

So he created his own Christmas Ornaments with wildlife motifs as it felt like a way to paint something not only meaningful to the people but could also turn a profit. With this inexpensive but original craft, James found himself creating this type of art for over 30 years. 

A firm believer in the importance of teaching and showing others, James never wants to keep a “secret trick” hidden from those who want to learn his techniques. He created and maintained friendships with others by observing artists he admired, and asking how they created their artwork. James was always more than happy to share the knowledge he had accumulated. 

Whether it's for other people or for the sake of art itself, James paints with heart. “It makes me feel good to be able to give that to people and it makes me feel good to be able to create that and have it flow through me,” he said, reflecting on the work he does for others. Many of his commissions are done in memory of people’s pets, so James works to keep the pet’s memory alive.

Highlights of Additional Artwork (Title)

Hand-carved, 3-D signs and life-sized wildlife (Subtitle)

His carved shark was such a success, it's now a permanent Camden Aquarium display.

Mixed Media on Framed Paper (Subtitle)

His custom artwork & commissions focus on capturing the beauty of wildlife. 

(Not using page 2 of this layout, Using page 2 of Round Up 6)

  • Jim painting a Christmas ornament from a pet photo