By KAROLYN GEPHART
Area pets are helping animals at the Starlight Outreach and Rescue organization but the way they are doing it is unique, thanks to 17 year old Sayuri Jayawardena.
Jayawardena is an artist and photographer and she is painting and drawing portraits of pets with the sale profits going to help animals at Starlight.
People can commission a drawing or painting of their pet by sending a donation and a private message with a close-up photo of their pet through the Starlight Outreach and Rescue Facebook page.
She met Starlight Director Amy Castro in 2018 when the Starlight organization had a booth at a craft fair and Jayawardena was helping her mom with a craft booth.
“They were there to fundraise for Starlight Outreach and Rescue by selling pottery donated by a college art professor, so that made me think they might be open to working with a high school student to do something similar,” Jayawardena said. “I learned more about why the organization was founded and how they really prioritize helping these animals and finding them their forever homes, paying for the treatments and even waiving adoption fees for the ones that have stayed at the shelter the longest. That really convinced me to do whatever I could to help. They were both very kind and supportive of the idea that I could draw some of the rescues at the shelter for donations.”
Her first project was providing shelter drawings for an auction that was held October 2019.
“The drawings at the auction raised $125 and the current pet portrait project has raised $100. I didn’t have a goal of how much I wanted to collect, I just want to continue doing this if it helps even a little,” Jayawardena said.
The paintings are in watercolor or acrylics and have a set price of $45 with pencil drawings at $30. The time to complete each is around 10 days.
“The feedback has been positive. The first commission I got for a personal pet portrait was from a lady who also bought one of my drawings at the auction the year prior, so I was really touched that she liked it. It’s reassuring to hear that I captured a likeness of someone’s beloved pet,” Jayawardena said.
She has always enjoyed photographing and drawing nature, especially animals.
“Fundraising art has been something I wanted to do since elementary school when my art teacher and a teacher who was a wildlife rehabilitation volunteer organized a mini-auction of our clay works to raise money or the center,” Jayawardena said.
As the lucky companion of two practically perfect cats who have been by m y side since I was a toddler, I am grateful and delighted to have the chance to use my drawings to raise money for a non-profit organization like Starlight Outreach and Rescue that was founded on compassion for animals and is dedicated to giving strays a loving home,” Jayawardena said.
The young artist has been instrumental in other community service projects.
“Last year I suggested that our school’s National Arts Honor Society make coloring books (we drew line art in ink, photocopied the drawings, and bound them) and had a drive for art supplies to give to the children in Sarah’s House (a shelter for women and children). This year I’m the NAHS president, so I hope to continue finding creative ways for the members to use their talents and interests to help the community,” she said.
Jayawardena attends Clear Lake High School and plans to major in biology.
“The pet portraits were meant to be a summer break project so I had the time to do them well, so August 14 would be about the last day a drawing or painting can be commissioned. During winter break I could also do another,” Jayawardena said.
Starlight Outreach and Rescue supports Houston-area shelters to provide better quality of life for stray and abandoned animals by providing medical attention beyond the scope/capabilities of the facilities, and short and long-term fostering and rescue services for animals that need medical or other special care.
SOAR also rescues animals directly from the community, housing adoptable animals as well as permanent residents at its 7-acre “rescue ranch” in Alvin.