This artist’s drawings have helped countless animals live better lives

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RICHMOND, Va. -- No matter her medium or the type of canvas, artist Karen Gammon always makes gray skies blue.

Karen enrolled in art school after getting laid off in 1993. Her talents were soon discovered, with pets being her specialty.

"It is important to me to do a drawing and present it to the person and they see their dog," Karen said. "It is the greatest feeling in the world. I will never forget that feeling of accomplishment."

Her charcoal and eraser portraits command thousands of dollars.

"Seems like the only way to draw to me. It’s just how I draw. I use an eraser," she said.

But Karen work isn’t just admired. It's spurring action. Karen has donated much of her work to help homeless animals. In fact, many of her prints hang at the Richmond SPCA.

SPCA Chief Executive Officer Robin Star said Karen’s original artwork has raised more than $200,000 for the organization.

"Her ability to do charcoal drawings is utterly remarkable," Star said. "You know Karen’s heart has always been with this cause.”

These days Karen is choosing an entirely different creative outlet. Muttcrackers are Karen’s colorful figurines of Fido.

"They all have a theme or their own special look that is for sure," Karen said. "I like to call them quirky. I think they’re quirky and fun."

Karen no longer draws. Not because she doesn’t want to. In a cruel twist the artist was diagnosed with rheumatoid disease which fuses her joints.

"I would do anything to do my portrait work again,” Karen said.

While creating her masterpieces is next to impossible, Karen Gammon is not letting her illness slow her down.

The 62-year-old artist meticulously makes her Muttcrackers daily.

“They sort of bring out my inner-child. That is really good for me right now. It is better than any medicine I can take,” she said.

Her figures may sell for a fraction of her sought after portraits, but Karen says as long as she is able to create.

This artist vows never to walk away from her favorite furry subjects.

“There is a need to do it,” she said. “I know I’m not doing it now, but I still have the need to do something creatively and help those animals over there. That will not change.”

You can see see Karen’s artwork here.

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Watch CBS 6 News at 6 p.m. Thursdays for Greg McQuade's "Heroes Among Us" reports. If you know of someone CBS 6 should should feature, email heroes@wtvr.com

Watch CBS 6 News at 6 p.m. Thursdays for Greg McQuade's "Heroes Among Us" profiles. If you know of someone CBS 6 should should feature, email heroes@wtvr.com. Click here to view more "Heroes Among Us" reports.