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Staff by Day, Animal Portraitist by Night

News Story

After a 26-year hiatus, ITS Project Manager Fran Megerdichian goes back to the drawing board and the classroom. Find out how she can turn your Maltese into a masterpiece!

Fran Megerdichian may spend her days working on application development and planning and directing implementation of projects in ITS. But when the computers get powered off, the pencils come out and she brings animals to life as a pet portraitist.

While most kids were inspired by The Cat in the Hat, Corduroy, and The Velveteen Rabbit, Megerdichian was immersed in the work of 18th century English horse painter, George Stubbs.

“He inspired me in first and second grades,” she says. “I started drawing as a kid. When I was in third grade, a teacher called in my parents to let them know I had some talent and should be pursuing [it]; that they should take me out of school to go to art school.”

Despite this encouragement, Megerdichian’s parents thought art was a waste of time. So she traded in her pencils for programming and went to work for IBM Global Services at 19-years-old and continued with a successful 26-year career. “The pencils and pads were put away once I hit high school and stayed in a box for decades. Having a career and raising a family left little time for hobbies,” she says.  

But something was missing. Five years ago and with no formal training, she dusted off her old pencils and went back to the drawing board.

“By the time I reached my mid-forties and my daughters were heading off to college, I opened up a very old and yellowed drawing pad and rock hard pencils and started doodling. I felt like I was “going home” to a place that was comforting and familiar,” Megerdichian says.

Specializing in canine and equine portraits, Megerdichian uses graphite, charcoal, and colored pencil to make the animals come to life.

“I love seeing an image come out through the paper. That’s my inspiration,” Megerdichian says. “When I see that it’s about to pop out off of the paper, it consumes me and it’s what I want to achieve.”

What started as a request from someone to draw a dog to surprise her husband for his birthday has now turned into a part-time business.

“It was just like the 80’s Faberge commercial… ‘And they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on,’” Megerdichian says. Currently, Megerdichian completes one to two portraits a month, each taking between 10 and 12 hours from start to finish. “The passion for me is seeing the expression on their faces when they see the portrait,” she says.

Through her artwork, Megerdichian reminds us of the special place animals have in our lives. In addition to dogs and horses, she has completed portraits of cats, cows, deer, and a chipmunk. She’s even dabbled in some mixed media. Using a photo taken by a photographer of a lion on a safari, Megerdichian matched it in graphite and placed the photo against the drawing in a face off of the two media. And now, she has her eyes set on something bigger…literally, with hopes to one day draw an elephant or other exotic creature.

In addition to her work with her four-legged friends, Megerdichian provided 15 graphite illustrations for “Dr. Edward Maynard Letters from the Land of the Tsar 1845-1846 America’s Pioneering Dental Surgeon Turned Civil War Gun Inventor,” a biography about 19th century pioneering dental surgeon and inventor of Maynard tape primer and the Maynard carbine, a rifle used by both Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War, which included illustrations of figures from Russian history.

“People say it’s never too late,” Megerdichian says. “When I picked the pencils up again, I was 43 or 44. They were from third grade. But I picked them up.”

To see more of Megerdichian’s portraits and to find out how you can turn your Charlie into a charcoal masterpiece, visit her website and make sure to like her on Facebook.

“Working at Pace has provided many opportunities for me, my colleagues have been incredibly supportive and as a student I enjoyed taking classes and getting to know the faculty,” she says. “I am thrilled to announce that I will be teaching Drawing I on the Westchester Campus in the fall. I look forward to sharing my knowledge with students while inspiring them to create! Remember, it is never too late to pursue your passion, I’m living proof!”

Are you a Pace faculty or staff member with a fun hobby, interest, part-time job, or passion? Know someone that fits the bill? E-mail to share your story with us and other faculty and staff!