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Picture perfect: Farmington artist illustrates portraits resembling photography

As a kindergartener, artist Heidi Haugen was blown away on a field trip when she saw detailed paintings at the Minnesota Institute of Art in Minneapolis. "It made sense later in life that I was drawn to that, and I just continued to evolve, and throughout my life I have grown as an artist," Haugen said. Kara Hildreth / contributor

As a young kindergartener artist Heidi Haugen Katuin was blown away when she took a field trip to Minneapolis Institute of Arts to discover huge paintings of Biblical scenes and fine detailed art.

Little did she know, she would grow up to become an illustration artist in her professional career and now as a commissioned artist. Haugen can be hired to create fine art illustrations from photos. Her art is so detailed that people swear her art pieces are photographs.

"When I was walking around the MIA and I saw the paintings of Biblical scenes and detailed human anatomy and I thought, Wow! I was blown away at all the beautiful details and the structural paintings, so I was lost and I was really struck by art at five years old, but I was coloring like any other 5-year-old, and so it makes sense later in life that I was drawn," Haugen said.

Artist Heidi Haugen drew this child portrait that resembles fine gallery art.  Kara Hildreth / contributor

"I have kind of continued to evolve with my art throughout my life and I have never stopped wanting to grow as an artist," she admitted. Many walls in her Farmington home are covered in detailed painted murals with lush green trees and wildlife animals nesting in tree canopies in nature scenes.

For years, people have hired Haugen to bring photos to life. Like a lost or deceased pet or even capture generational images and transform photos into keepsake treasured art that can be passed down to the next generation. She is so happy when her clients express emotion as they first see her artwork. Many times her client's eyes fill with happy tears when they see their beloved pet or a family member's essence translated into art.

In her portraits, she focuses on capturing a person's eyes that are said to be the windows of the soul.

"My style looks so three dimensional and photo realistic that I hope it comes to life," Haugen said, humbly.

"If somebody gives my art as a memorial gift to someone who lost a pet and they miss them, the art will trigger deep emotions and I hope my art looks so real that it jumps off the page," she added.

As a young artist, Haugen studied and earned a degree in art and illustration from the Associated Arts School formerly located in St. Paul. She went on to create art for different venues around the country, including Disney Central Shops in Buena Vista at Orlando's Disney World in the late 1980s and 90s.

Nurtured artistic talent

Inspired to express her creative talents by her maternal grandmother who was an oil portrait artist who painted with live models, Haugen inherited this nurtured artistic talent. She is grateful for all the support she has been give my her parents and family who like to see her grow as an illustration artist.

Influenced by the legendary, famous Norman Rockwell and wildlife artist Francis Lee Jaques, Haugen love to see Jaques' work on display at the National History Museum in Minneapolis.

Years ago, she said she was fortunate to meet her artist idol, Robert Bateman, well known for his wildlife art.

"Robert Bateman's art blows my mind and I met him one year at an art educators' convention and wildlife art exhibit," Haugen said.

Due to a Minnesota blizzard she could not personally make his presentation, but she was able to later sit down with him and share lunch and pick his brain.

"He gave me painting tips and it was really cool to meet him in person," Haugen said.

In recent weeks, Haugen launched her business on the Etsy social media site that shows her commission work for people and pet portraits that can be custom ordered in different sizes and level of complexity.

Working professionally as a full-time illustrator at Jostens for 22 years, Haugen continually works to grow her freelance art and illustration business, Pheasant Ridge Art Enterprise and connects with clients on Facebook.

"I have added so many faucets to my skill set like portraits, graphite, acrylic paint, cartooning and caricatures, humorous illustrations and photo realism details in my art," Haugen said.

In the last year, a good friend commissioned her to paint in color with acrylics.

"I had to jump in the deep end even though I know how to paint in color and it turned out great," she said.

She hopes to grow this area of her commissioned art work projects.

Her father brainstormed a business name for her with the Pheasant Ridge Enterprises years ago. For years she and her father would go on pheasant hunting excursions, along with her beloved dog Montana.

"Back in the day, pheasants were plentiful and fly away ducks were plentiful in western Minnesota and now the flyway has shifted west, and farmers have tilled their fields and, of course, the pheasant population waivers," she said. But her father remembers a hunting day when hundreds of pheasants flew off a beautiful ridge and this is remembered as a remarkable ridge in Minnesota.

"That became the perfect name for my wildlife art business and the plentiful represents prosperity when the birds were plentiful," she said, "and so I think it means I will have positive and good luck that will be a good luck charm for my business and, hopefully, I will continue to get more jobs and grow my business."

More info

What: Pheasant Ridge Art Enterprises

Who: Artist Heidi Haugen — commission artist draws portraits and illustrations of people and pets.

Contact: Email at or call 952-451-2533

Connect: Facebook