I think a lot of artists dread the question “Will you paint my dog?” but I never do. Even as a child I had dog love wending its way through my veins and I gravitate toward them. Additionally when you have spent as much time in art museums as I have you start to notice the ever present animal. Animal imagery has evolved along with our own since the beginning of time. (cont)
I like 18th and 19th century animal painters. George Stubbs. Edwin Henry Landseer. Many were kicked out of the royal Academy posthumously not necessarily because they were bad painting but perhaps because animal art was not considered serious enough to maintain a genre. Who knows.
Although among these portraits you find mostly mutts, satos, strays and rescues. Each owner can recount every detail of how they acquired their animal, their quirky habits, their individual personalities. Even in casual snapshots you can see the relationship the guardian has with their pet. And then there is the fact that I tend to like animals more than people.
The people that come to me asking for portraits are legal aids, nurses, teachers, etc. It made me pause at first, considering why a portrait was different than the snapshot it was based on. I am frequently asked to paint portraits after the animal has become ill or has passed on.
I am fine with making something small that carries with it tremendous meaning for one person. The conclusion I came to about image making was that an effective image exists in their own hinterland: a good image is not really alive, but it is not exactly dead.
Next time you are in a museum do yourself a favor and look at the portraits that have dogs in them. My favorite are always the ladies with their little dogs. The dog often has a paw possessively placed on the owners arm- they are rarely just draped over, they are often placed on the arm in that little show of dominance that toy dogs so effortlessly achieve and maintain. You look at the expression in the little dog’s eyes and you think “Ah. I know who was in charge here.”
But you have to look for it, or you won’t see it. And mabe if you haven’t had that experience you won’t know what to look for.