— by Mellany Armstrong, Associate Director of Communications

Ivy McConnell's artwork has gone to the dogs. And to a few brides and hotels. She's even had a brush with celebrity.

"I created these watercolor dog head/human body portraits for Wells Adams and Sarah Hyland of Modern Family, and for Renée Felice Smith of NCIS: Los Angeles," she said. The custom dog art, as well as doing live fashion illustration at events like bridal showers and hotel openings, now makes up her business at She left the corporate world a couple of years back to become a full-time artist, and hasn't looked back. "I love what I do."

Getting there took time and a move back to Wisconsin. After McConnell graduated from Moore in 2008 with a degree in fashion design, she went to work at Abercrombie & Fitch in Ohio and did technical design of boys clothing. She got laid off in the economic collapse, then got hired at Express as a technical designer of men's clothing. She later became a designer for Thirty-One Gifts. A desire to be near her family led to a move to Milwaukee.

"I decided I didn't want to do tech design and I didn't want to apply for other jobs," she said. "I started painting houses, dogs and family portraits. Then I started painting my favorite thing, which is the dog head on a human body." A search of Etsy reveals a springer spaniel dressed as Iris Apfel, and a mastiff dressed as Brewers former first baseman Prince Fielder.

"Anybody can have their pet painted on any kind of body—Luke Skywalker or Marie Antoinette," she said. "Any pop-culture body, I can put a dog head on it."


Last summer, McConnell was hired to help celebrate the grand opening of Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel.

"That was my first job as a live fashion illustrator," she said. "I got introduced to the main event planner in Milwaukee, and he hired me that evening to do his wedding. It kind of just took off from there."

She gets hired to do live illustrations at bachelor, birthday and Valentine's Day parties, as well as at apartment complex openings and charity events. She uses Copic and Prisma markers to create fashion croquis, quick sketches that she then fills in with color.

"I get the essence of people's hairstyle and their clothing," she said, and adds other personal details. McConnell can complete one illustration in about 10 minutes.


McConnell's family tree is filled with artistic talent.

"My parents actually met in art school," she said. "My dad was a potter and my mom was an elementary art teacher." Her maternal great grandmother would find scraps of paper, staple them together and make fashion illustrations as a hobby.

"I still have those drawings, and they are absolutely beautiful," McConnell said. "I think I get my passion for fashion illustration from her."

Her favorite class at Moore was Lorie Surnitsky's fashion illustration class.

"She was a fantastic teacher and taught me a lot of tips and tricks," she said. "I'm very lucky to pick up my favorite thing at Moore and do it again. It has become my full-time job, and I love every minute of it."