Palm Beach Rising: Rory Mackay

Photography by Robert Nelson


Rory Mackay: the Great Portrayer

Torn between a career on the stage or in the studio, British-born Rory Mackay studied both, pursuing theater in London and art in Florence. Despite landing small roles in films and theatrical performances, he traded the script for a brush and launched a career as an artist. He started painting portraits of friends, but after memorializing his then-girlfriend’s dog as a Valentine’s Day present, he began receiving more requests for dog portraits than people and soon made animals his focus. Today, he has completed more than 60 portraits of furry friends, including pieces for Ivana Trump and Australian model Kristy Hinze Clark, and recently launched a line of bespoke stationery with personalized dog illustrations. Mackay and his wife, Palm Beach native Frances Leidy, live in West Palm Beach with their two young sons.

Favorite artists: Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Best dog to paint: Anything with a flat coat. The shaggier and scruffier they are, oftentimes the more laborious the painting.

Next career goal: To have a line of luxury products the pet lover can relate to, like a leathery doggy rucksack, fine leather leashes, and personalized jewelry.

His hypothetical self-portrait: A Pandora’s box with all my passions and experiences flooding out of it, titled Like a Box of Chocolates (Life).

Dream job: To have a comedy-sketch show.

Favorite movie: A slightly obscure English cult film called Withnail and I. It really spoke to me as an aspiring actor.

Now reading: Weird Scandinavian crime-horror books.

Go-to restaurant: Bistro Chez Jean-Pierre.

Most prized possession: My camera. I just love to take photos wherever I go. It’s the basis of all of my work, and you can capture so much story with the right kind of image.

Life motto: If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.

What he’d title his autobiography: Leap Before You Look.

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