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Stroke survivor draws pet portraits to help animal rescue groups

Artist Ed Attanasio started sketching as a form of rehab after he had a mini-stroke on August 4, 2009, and now has drawn nearly 1,000 free 3-by-3-inch pet portraits for strangers who pay it forward by donating to animal rescue organizations.

Artist Ed Attanasio started sketching as a form of rehab after he had a mini-stroke on August 4, 2009, and now has drawn nearly 1,000 free 3-by-3-inch pet portraits for strangers who pay it forward by donating to animal rescue organizations.

At the start of 2020, California resident Ed Attanasio ran a small ad agency and was an artist-in-residence at San Jose’s Kaleid Gallery. Then the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down and he was furloughed.

Then, all of a sudden a friend quarantining with his family reached out to say, “Do me a favor and draw some art for my kids. They’re bouncing off the walls.”

Ed, more than happy to help, drew a picture of their dog and sent it over with some other drawings of animals. The older brother explained, “This is abstract art. Ed’s like Picasso.”

Word had spread and other people started requesting drawings of their pets. This is when Ed got the grand idea to turn it into a charity model. He launched the Pandemic Pet Project. People send him a photo of their pet through his Facebook page, and he creates a free mini-masterpiece on a Post-it. In lieu of payment, he asks them to make a suggested donation of $50 to their favorite animal rescue organization.

To this day, Ed has drawn over 900 pet portraits and has raised about $40,000 for shelters and rescue groups. He has also sent pet portraits to 25 states and 15 countries, including Mexico, Netherlands, France, Bulgaria and Turkey. He’s paced himself by creating four drawings each day, which he then posts on Facebook. Often people will also share photos of their pets with their portraits.

Ed described his art by saying, “I’m always thinking that I want them all to look different,” he said. “Different color combinations, different shapes, different ears, different noses. It’s original art.”

Through the project, he hopes he’s brought some cheer and healing to animal lovers as the world grapples with the ongoing pandemic. He’s been deeply touched by messages from supporters and amazed by the hard work of staff and volunteers for rescue organizations. Many people requested portraits of pets they fostered this year.

When he’s reaches his goal of 1,000 pet portraits, Attanasio says he will finally rests his hands.

“I got a glimpse into some of their lives. It’s like an ongoing circus there,” he said. “They get new animals every other week and they’re getting them adopted out and they’re taking good care of them. I just love it.”

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