Andrea Cáceres’ Art Captures the Pet Parent Condition
From mental health tips she learned from her dogs to the shame of running out of poop bags, her illustrations are playful and relatable.
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Andrea Cáceres wasn’t supposed to be an illustrator. At college back home in Venezuela, she studied to be a civil engineer. But a side gig with a friend painting mugs got her noticed by a textile design company. One thing led to another, she moved to New York, and now she’s a celebrated artist with nearly 40,000 followers on Instagram; partnerships with brands like Snapchat, Kiehl’s, and The Farmer’s Dog; and a children’s book, My Dog Just Speaks Spanish, that’s coming out in 2023. From pet portraits to a mural at a dog-friendly coffee shop to drawings of her own two pups on Instagram, much of Cáceres’ work centers around dogs, and she says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “Honestly, working with dogs is my favorite thing. It’s a great match.”
You’ve been so successful as a self-taught illustrator. How did you get started?
When I moved to New York City in 2016, I worked as a textile designer for a baby clothing company, illustrating textiles and doing a lot of other design stuff and social media. They used to have dogs come into the office all the time, and one day I thought, “Oh, I’m going to start a project that will keep me drawing and that is just for myself, not for a company.” So I decided to do “A dog a day keeps the stress away,” and I started illustrating a dog every day of the year. I drew 365 dogs, and I would post them on social media.
Were the drawings instant hits?
Little by little, I could see my followers starting to change — there were more dog people. Then, eventually, people were like: “Even if my dog doesn’t have a chance to be in the 365, can I pay you to get a dog portrait?” I was like, okay! After that, Boris & Horton, this dog-friendly coffee shop, said “We have a wall you can paint if you want.” So I painted the wall, and then they asked if I wanted to paint dogs live, at an event. I did it, and they loved it. Then I went to Pet Con, the pet influencers conference, and did free pet portraits for people there, and I got a lot of exposure. After that, my pet illustration became a full-time business.
When you get commissioned to do a pet portrait, what do you think is the key to capturing a pet’s essence?
It obviously depends on the pet, but it’s not just about what breed they are. They don’t all look the same. You have to really have an eye for the little details — how they sit, if they have an overbite... Do they always stick their tongue out? How do they usually hold their ears? Each pet has details that really define them. If you get those details, nothing else matters. I can do whatever and you’ll be like, “Yeah, that’s my dog.”
You do so much work for other companies; how do you think about what you put on your own social media?
I want my social media to be a place where people enjoy themselves. My partnership manager isn’t so happy with that, because I don’t really promote products. But I feel like there’s no reason for people to follow me if I’m not giving them something. I always try to bring happiness to people. Now I need to do stuff that people feel like they can relate to, [like “Mental Health Tips I Learned From My Dog” and “Gifts Dogs Would Give You”].
You have such a distinct illustration style. How did that come about?
My art is very instinctual. I never took any classes; I learned everything by myself. And because of that, I kind of created my own style that is just how I like it. Obviously, I have my own references, people I look up to. I have a whole bookshelf full of children’s books from my favorite illustrators. I like Jon Klassen — I have literally all his books. I also like Carson Ellis and Marc Martin. Those are my three biggest inspirations.
You have your own children’s book coming out next year. Do you plan on writing more?
There’s definitely more books coming out. I want my career to be at least 50% children’s books, and then the rest wholesaling of my merch — that’s probably coming this year — and then just design and content for myself. I don’t think I’ll do commissioned artwork forever.
Tell me about your own dogs.
I have two. The little dog is Toby, a Silky Terrier who’s been with me since I was 17. He’s 11 now. He moved with me here from Venezuela. He’s the cutest; he’s like my soulmate. He’s crazy and is not scared of anything. He believes he’s huge. He might look like a Yorkie, but he’s very muscular — very athletic. When you see him standing, it’s like he has abs. I feel like Toby is like an old man in Miami who’s always going to the gym.
My other dog is Sherlock. We adopted him last year from the D.C. Weimaraner Rescue, and he’s an almost two-year-old Weimaraner. The rescue called us last year, and they had two puppies at the time, and Toby kind of picked Sherlock. We introduced Toby to both, and the other dog he wouldn’t even smell, but Sherlock he liked. Sherlock is a little bit insecure, but at the same time very smart. He opens all the doors. We have baby locks on the fridge because Sherlock will open it and eat the food. He’s very mischievous.
How was that, going from one dog to two?
The biggest change was getting Sherlock used to Toby’s space, and vice versa. We did a lot of positive reinforcement training. Sherlock wore a leash for the first month in the house, and every time he would go up to Toby we would pull on it a little bit so he wouldn’t get too close to him, because Toby doesn’t like to play with other dogs. But they love each other. They like to sleep together.
“It’s always a really funny, happy parade that’s going through the house and workplace at all times.”
“I think the relationship between a woman and her animal companion can build out a character a lot — they’re more like witches’ familiars than pets.”
Madeleine Aggeler is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, D.C. Previously, she was a writer at New York magazine’s The Cut. She lives with her dog, Cleo, who works primarily as a foot warmer.