The dog makes an ideal companion and working partner, as any reader of Best In Show Daily will tell you. But a canine also makes the perfect muse for artists and writers. In fact, the dog is an excellent model for any creative person looking to express his or her love and admiration for “man’s best friend.”
When I was a little kid, I liked to use crayons to draw on the dining room walls. Mom didn’t appreciate this, of course, so I was given coloring books instead to discourage me from exploring my inner graffiti artist. As I got older, my medium of choice became a sharp pencil and my school notebooks. I was forever drawing animals inside the margins – a sure sign of a student who wanted to be with animals instead of in the classroom.
Eventually my interest in drawing focused almost exclusively on dogs, and my growing confidence allowed me to graduate from using pencils to exploring pen and ink. I liked the permanence of drawing with a pen. I soon discovered that pen and ink is a great way to draw quickly. Every stroke matters, leaving little room for making mistakes. I liked the challenge of drawing this way.
I’m a self-taught artist who has always enjoyed the excitement presented by a blank sheet of paper. I usually have a few ideas floating around in my head that I like to explore in pen and ink when I have the time. Otherwise, most drawings are created as a gift or as part of a project of one kind or another. A pet portrait is particularly satisfying to do since I know it will become a treasured keepsake of one person’s special relationship with his or her canine partner.
What’s so wonderful about pen and ink as a medium is the way it allows an artist to work in a variety of ways. When I’m feeling especially brave – or on a particularly tight deadline – I like to work quickly, allowing a single stroke to do the work for me. This is especially true of breed portraits where one correctly drawn line can demonstrate essential breed type. Pen and ink also allows for a more detailed exploration of a subject. Time permitting, it’s not difficult to flesh out a lot of detail in a drawing with every hair given careful consideration.
Every artist needs a supporter, and my grandfather was a wonderfully creative woodworker who genuinely appreciated my talents. He was fascinated with the way I could draw, and once asked, “Can you see the picture before you draw it?” I remember not knowing how to answer him at the time, but his question helped me to understand how creativity works.
I always have a drawing (or a story) that I’d like to work on, but until I sit down and actually draw (or write) I don’t know where things are going to go. Sometimes when I’m drawing, I’m actually amazed to watch as the subject “comes to life” right in front of my eyes. It’s the same thing with writing. When an article is finished, I’m sometimes surprised with the direction it took. It’s not unusual for separate ideas for new articles to germinate along the way.
I can remember a time when I thought I was the only person who liked to draw and write about dogs, but then I discovered the many books published by the William Secord Gallery. The New York gallery’s presentation of 19th-century dog paintings introduced me to the rich legacy of painters, illustrators and sculptors whose life’s work was centered almost exclusively on the dog. Discovering those books helped to connect me with others who very likely considered the dog to be the perfect artistic model.
I also discovered that many contemporary artists share my passion for celebrating the dog through their art. At any dog show today, the work of so many talented artists will be on display with vendors who carry a wide variety of current works. Illustrations are just a portion of what’s available, with paintings, prints, sculpture, silk screens and embroidery just some of the items that can be purchased – often at bargain prices. Many pieces are signed originals that immediately become one-of-a-kind treasures.
One of the surprising things I’ve learned about creating art is finding out that the best part for me is the act of drawing and writing, and not the finished work. When I’ve completed an illustration or an article like this one, I’m happy to see it go to a good home where it can be cared for and admired. In this regard, making art is kind of like breeding dogs. Both are creative processes in which the real reward is nurturing the drawing, the story or the puppies along to reach their full potential. Then they can belong to someone else to treasure forever.