When Oprah Winfrey likes something, she makes no bones about letting the entire world know.
Famous for being an ardent dog lover, the TV and magazine queen gave her blessing again this year for the art of a Howard County pet-portrait studio in the December issue of O the Oprah Magazine on her annual list of recommended gifts.
Wagging Tail Portraits received Winfrey's nod for the second consecutive year, but with a twist: It was Natalie Kendall who created the digital art for the new line of greeting cards made from mom Sherry Kendall's hand-painted portraits, scoring the mother-daughter duo a shared spot on Oprah's Favorite Things 2012.
"It's really cool, especially to be connected with my mom's stuff," said Natalie Kendall, a college student who recently changed her major to history, with a minor in art.
Sherry Kendall, who operates her Lisbon gallery from a renovated 1840s farmhouse, had been selected in 2011 for her custom glass ornaments and paintings.
"It's a very rare occurrence for someone to make a second appearance on the list," which quickly places chosen items in the public eye, said Adam Glassman, creative director at Hearst Magazines.
"When Oprah likes something, she likes it," he said of his boss, whom he described as "very into" the mother-daughter story. She picked her favorites from 500 top-tier contenders, he said.
Winfrey writes on her website: "Sending in a picture of a beloved pet, which is then computer-illustrated and made into custom greeting cards, is a heck of a lot easier than convincing a friend's gerbil to pose while someone carves his likeness in marble."
The dog whose portrait is featured in the accompanying sample of the cards is Winfrey's beloved and oft-written-about cocker spaniel, Sadie.
"Our readers love their pets, and any personalization that allows them to honor and memorialize them, they just eat that up," Glassman said.
As recently as two years ago, Natalie Kendall described her style of pet portraiture as "more cartoonish." But that changed when she took a computer graphics class and got an assignment to create a drawing from a photograph.
She worked from her mother's shot of a mastiff, a large and powerful dog, and instinctively knew she was onto something when her teacher "absolutely loved" her rendition, she said.
"Every shape and shade [of the animal's face and fur], I draw out, and it takes six to 20 hours to complete," she said of her digital illustrations.
Black dogs can be done quickly because of their limited color palette, while illustrating a more intricately colored animal like Nutmeg, the family's 15-year-old tortoiseshell cat, can require double or triple the time, she said.
Her mom said she knew the minute she saw the mastiff portrait that they should create greeting cards.
Nowadays, mother and daughter share rooms in the studio on Frederick Road where, thanks to walls covered with pet portraits, "we are watched by so many eyes when we sit down to eat lunch," Natalie said jokingly. The family owns three Labrador retrievers: Koda, Cupcake and Chip.
But more often than not, they work at home in nearby Carroll County, where they gravitate to their own spaces.
"Mom's definitely more of a morning person than I am," Natalie said, hinting at their different approaches.
The Kendalls' selection for the much-anticipated Winfrey list began inauspiciously this time, Sherry recalls.
They had gone last summer to a popular pet-product media showcase in New York and at the last minute scored a 6-foot vendor's table for $1,000, down from the $1,500 the venue initially commanded.