Anyone who has adopted or retrieved a pet from the City of Dallas animal shelter in Oak Cliff during the past couple of years has probably seen one of artist Michael Sullivan’s masterpieces.

The faux museum gallery he created with a surround-view mural in one of the shelter’s main corridors is one of those Sullivan inspirations that he says “kind of come out of left field sometimes.”

There’s the “Bona Lisa,” a takeoff on the “Mona Lisa,” featuring a King Charles spaniel in a demure pose. An “American Gothic” look-alike depicts two cats in farm clothes holding a kitty litter scoop.

A multiprint in psychedelic colors a la Andy Warhol features three rubber-stamped images of a pooch with charmingly crooked ears. Even Salvador Dali finds one of his greatest works spoofed as “Salvador’s Doggy.”

To carry the theme further, Sullivan – assisted by a nephew who also is an artist – painted canine art patrons walking along beneath the portraits.

The “Canine/Feline Museum” mural, which took about a year to complete, was a big hit and won Sullivan a Special Recognition Award from the City. It also gave Sullivan a third professional passion. He now paints pet portraits in addition to the commercial art and photo retouching business he has operated for more than 13 years.

“I more or less came upon this by accident and realized how much fun it is,” says Sullivan, who owns a chow mix named Kya that he found as a stray.

“I think the bond between animal and owner is kind of like our connection with who we really are and with nature. And that bond is amazingly strong.”

Most of Sullivan’s pet portraits are given as gifts from relatives or friends to pet owners. Sullivan works mainly from snapshots – photos that the owners think best display the pet’s expression and personality.

One commission, for example, was the posthumous portrait of a black Labrador retriever that had been the favorite pet of a woman’s grown son. Another involved a comical-looking dog aptly named Gremlin, who had a tiny head and huge ears and loved to play on a pink and white blanket.

“I enjoy the extreme challenge of capturing an animal’s real character,” Sullivan says. “I sometimes call them soul paintings.”

Sullivan’s pet-related artwork also can be seen in other locations. He designed a T-shirt and logo for Pet Fixx, a low-cost pet neutering service, and recently completed a mural for the lobby of the Luv-a-Pet Spay & Neuter Clinic. He also designed dog and cat icon signs the City uses to mark the location of its animal shelters.

Sullivan grew up in Lake Highlands and graduated from Lake Highlands High School in 1970. He attended North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas in Denton). He returned to Dallas and taught himself more about art while learning to do photo retouching.

A few years later, he decided to become a freelance artist and now does a wide variety of projects from magazine covers to logos, posters, television artwork and more.

“I think I’m inspired by real life more than anything else,” Sullivan says. “My passion is painting anything and everything at any chance. I’ve never wanted to be cubbyholed as one type of artist.”

For more information, call Sullivan at 214-821-1777.