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Feeding Strays One Portrait at a Time

Mavis Lee

Many individuals in the country, even in the whole world, have turned their hobbies into an alternative income source due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The same goes for 39-year-old Mavis Lee, who paints portraits of dogs to be contributed to local animal shelters in need.

Born and raised in Ipoh, Mavis is a tattoo artist. On the side, she was self-taught in painting, thanks to her interest since she was little. What’s even more interesting, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Tunku Abdul Rahman College in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.

“My family was least supportive of my interest in art, citing that it’s unrealistic, so I went for biochemistry,” Mavis noted. “Nevertheless, my passion in art never died.”

Like most others, Mavis temporarily lost her income as a tattoo artist due to the national lockdown imposed by the Movement Control Order (MCO) in late March earlier this year. Thus, she turned to painting portraits of dogs some time during April.

“I started by painting portraits of my own pets. It slowly garnered my friends’ attention and I painted portraits of their pet dogs too,” she explained. 

“The portraits are subject to the personalities of the dog I paint, its name, likes, dislikes and more,” Mavis described.

Harith Iskander’s pet dog, Marvela the Wonder Dog

Mavis’ painting efforts have even captured the attention of local celebrities, such as actor/comedian Harith Iskander and hip-hop recording artist Namewee, whose pet dogs are also painted by her.

That’s not all. Being an animal lover herself, 10 percent of proceedings earned from sales of the portraits are contributed to needy animal shelters in Ipoh, such as Noah’s Ark, S.I. Shelter and Aunt Kelly Dog Shelter. 

“Depending on the size of the portrait and required framing, the starting price of portraits I paint for clients is at RM100,” she mentioned. “It normally takes me five days to complete painting a portrait, usually 8×10 inches in size.

“So far, I’ve sold around eight portraits and around RM80 have been contributed to shelters,” Mavis said.

Namewee and his pet dog, Yamabi

Asked on what inspired her to start painting portraits of dogs, she said, “I hope I can bring about awareness of stray animals to the public. Most of the poor strays were sent to a dumpsite in Papan. Although they are fed by kind-hearted passerbys, those strays lack medical attention, which is equally as detrimental.

“Thus, I started painting these portraits so that I can contribute to animal shelters around town, towards the betterment of the welfare of these strays,” Mavis expressed. “After all, ‘feeding strays one portrait at a time’ is my project motto.

On her advice to anyone who would like to be self-taught in painting, Mavis said, “One must practice and work hard. Do more research on whichever art style it is that one wants to follow. Trials and errors are the basis of being a painting artist, self-taught ones especially.”

For more information or to keep updated with Mavis, she can be found on Instagram and Facebook.


Chris Teh

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