There’s Always A Way

Digital artist forges her own path

By Jessica Laskey
February 2023

One lesson Christie Martinez’s mom instilled at an early age was “there’s always a way.”

That idea stuck with Martinez as she embarked on a new career path as a digital artist who specializes in pet portraits to raise money for animal rescue organizations.

“It all starts with the thought process of giving,” says Martinez, a Sacramento native who lives in Fair Oaks with her husband and 12-year-old son. “You see all these animals in the shelters. I feel so bad for them, I wish I could take them all home. I thought, if I’m doing pet portraits, how cool would it be to partner with these organizations and donate? It’s a win-win everywhere.”

Prior to starting her business, The Real Life by Design, Martinez worked in the care industry. She did in-home care, assisted living and worked for seven years with Inalliance, a program that helps adults with disabilities find employment.

She loved the people, but knew “none of that was my passion passion.” That changed when her husband decided to leave his job as a pipefitter to become an arborist. He challenged Martinez to find a more fulfilling path as well.

“For me, my life had been about making sure I was taking care of my kid, doing what I needed to do,” Martinez says. “My husband really encouraged me to start looking for my passion, so I made it a priority for this last year to really change my mindset. I started reading self-help books about mental attitude, manifesting and finding your ‘why.’”

Aside from caring for her son, Martinez’s “why” has been artistic. She’d always loved to write and draw but didn’t have support during her “rough upbringing” to figure out where her talents were meant to go.

Over the past year, she returned to drawing—in digital form—after taking a course on user experience design. She discovered the fun drawing style that characterizes her portraits, along with a knack for web design. Now she helps her sister-in-law build her massage therapy brand and partners with animal rescue organizations on logos, T-shirts and more.

“When I work with rescues, I offer them two free portraits as digital art files so they can use it how they’d like,” Martinez says. “The Sacramento SPCA used one for a raffle to raise money and another rescue is having me make a design for T-shirts they can sell. There are so many different avenues. That’s what’s so great about digital. You can go anywhere with it.”

For every purchase made on her website, Martinez donates a portion to one of her partners, which includes the SSPCA, Nana’s Haven, a group that rescues dogs from the international meat trade and The Animal Pad, a San Diego organization that rescues animals from the streets of Mexico.

Martinez is preparing to show her work at a local vegan restaurant and the O Cafe in the Fair Oaks Village. She takes commissions for all animal portraits, not just dogs and cats. “I just finished a monkey. I’ve done bird portraits, horses, bunnies, fish—I love all animals,” she says.

Looking back, Martinez could not have predicted where she would land.

“When I first started reading about manifesting, about looking at your life and what you really want it to be, I had no idea what the path was to this at the beginning,” she says. “It’s all about making that commitment to yourself that you’re not going to stop trying to figure it out.”

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Jessica Laskey can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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