Sum Leung Uses Fashion to Capture Personality in Her Custom Dog Portraits

Read our interview with the artist and owner of Woof Models, then enter to win a custom portrait of your dog!

Wendy Newell  |  Jan 23rd 2015


Just after my dog’s first birthday, I broke up with my live-in boyfriend, who was also Riggins’ “dad.” He told me I could have “the dog.” I told him, “Darn right, I can.” Except I didn’t use quite that polite wording.

In our new house, I wanted something to make it all ours. After a quick search, I found a young artist online who does original dog portraits. Without a second thought, I commissioned one of Riggins. As soon as it arrived, I ran out and got a frame and placed it on the mantle above the fireplace. I love it! Sitting regally up there looking down at me, the painting symbolizes all the support and love Riggins has given me over the years.

Because of my experience, I’m a firm believer that every home should have personalized dog art on the wall, which is why I was so excited to interview Sum Leung, illustrator and owner of Woof Models. She has a unique vision that allows her to not only capture your dog’s look, but also his personality! I live in Los Angeles, and Leung lives in Sydney, so I spoke with her via email.

Wendy Newell for Dogster: Tell us a little about yourself.

Sum Leung: I’m an Illustrator who lives in Sydney. I started my career working in advertising agencies in London, Hong Kong, and then Shanghai, working on clients such as Harvey Nichols, Tiffany, Levi’s, Nike, and Converse. I’ve been living in sunny Sydney for over a year now, and that’s when I started Woof Models.

It’s a series of illustrations that I make centered on dogs. I “dress” them up in designer clothes based on their personalities or stories that their owners tell me about them. For example, I recently did a portrait for a friend’s father’s dog. She told me that the dog goes everywhere with him and especially loves collecting the balls when he practices golf. So I thought that the dog would look great as a stylish golf caddy. I drew the dog wearing a vintage-style golf hat with matching polo shirt, and I also added the father’s initials embroidered on it as a nice little touch for him.

What was your inspiration for Woof Models?

My main inspiration came from my gorgeous 10-year-old Corgi, VV. We all see VV as just another member of the family. She has her good days, her naughty days, and her crazy days just like the rest of us. I’m lucky to live with a very close family, and we have photos of each other covering the walls. Holidays, birthdays, graduations, and even embarrassing photos of when I was a kid, but we didn’t really have any of VV. And that got me thinking, if VV could have a portrait on the wall, what would it look like? What’s her style? What would she wear? And if she could wear something, she’d definitely want to look her best.

Tell us more about VV.

She’s one special lady, and sometimes I think she knows it. She loves being held in the air like she’s flying, she loves running away at any possible moment with a “catch me if you can” look on her face. She’s even mastered the art of posing for the camera — she can’t pout, but she definitely tries. And she loves walks along the beach, but hates getting her hair wet. I have to admit, she’s a bit of a diva. She’s well trained, but only when she wants to be. Unless, of course, you have treats in your hand.

Why do you think there is such a market for custom pet art?

I believe that a dog is part of family, and I’m sure a lot of other pet owners feel the same way. A dog can become a big part of your life. Every dog is unique with her own personality and stories to tell. So why not show how much you love them by having a pet portrait that is unique to them, that tells their story or expresses their personality?

Tell us a little about the favorite characters that you have created.

Apart from my dog, I’d have to say my friend’s dog Blondie the Chihuahua. She was quite a challenging portrait to make. Blondie is a very spoiled little princess. She prefers to sit in my friend’s handbag than actually walk around. So I created a little story about her refusing to get out for a walk because she just had her nails done. I then drew her in a turtleneck and stylish veiled beanie, as she’s always hiding away from everyone in the handbag.

I see that a portion of your proceeds go to the animal rescue world. Why is that important to you?

Why pet rescue? My work is all about dogs being a part of the family, and to think of dogs without a home, without a family to call their own, breaks my heart. Dogs are the most forgiving pet you can have; they’ll love you unconditionally. They don’t care what you do, what you look like, they just want to be loved. And that’s why I chose pet rescue. Every dog should have a home, and every dog deserves to be loved.

How would you describe your style?

I suppose it has come from my advertising background. In advertising, it’s important to keep your message simple and clear so it’s easy for people to understand. As my work tells stories, I wanted to keep it simple yet make it interesting, and at the same time, charming. I’ve always been a fan of minimalist design, and my favorite fashion brands, Comme des Garçons, Maison Martin Margiela, and Isabel Marant, influenced my style greatly. They have a simple yet interesting approach to their work, which is what I try and do.

Now enter to win our Woof Model giveaway!

Leung will create a custom 8-by-10 portrait print for one lucky Dogster reader! Follow the instructions below to enter.

How to Enter

  1. Create a Disqus account, if you haven’t already, and include a valid email. It takes just a minute and allows you to better participate in Dogster’s community of people who are passionate about dogs. If you already have a Disqus account, check it to ensure the account includes a valid email.
  2. Comment below using your Disqus account, telling us what your dog would wear in the portrait and why. Leung’s favorite comment wins.
  3. Check your email for a “You’ve Won!” message from us after noon PST on Thursday, Jan. 29. We’ll give the winner two days to respond before moving on to our next favorite.

Good luck! And read more about Woof Models on its website.

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