Canine portraitist Pamela Dennis Hall just completed the biggest commission of her painting career.
In fact, the 10 dog paintings she created for The Swan’s Nest Interiors of Fairfield, Calif., portray more canines than are in her own Fredericksburg, Texas, pack. Hall’s Cavalier, German Shepherd, Cardigan Welsh Corgi and Pug pale in comparison to the Scottie, three Schnauzers, Brussels Griffon, Havanese and four German Shepherds she painted as part of the commission.
German Shepherds have had a recurring theme in Hall’s own life. Not only does she live with one now, 6-year-old Sister, but it was a German Shepherd who motivated her to shelve her oils for a number of years. The dog ate an entire tube of cadmium yellow. She’d been working in pastels after having her children, making gifts for relatives and neighbors, so returned to that medium after the “yellow incident,” until about 10 years ago when she resumed her professional career.
While Hall appreciates many styles of painting, she is a traditionalist. She wants the dogs she paints to look just as they do in real life. She studied art at Ohio State University in the 1960s when abstracts were in, but she finds her inspiration in such painters as Maude Earle, Edwin Landseer, George Stubbs and Edwin Douglas, all unquestionable luminaries within the canine portrait world.
As soon as Hall got the call from New York’s William Secord Gallery, which exclusively represents her work, she flew to the home where the paintings would hang in a den-office. The interior designers who commissioned the work, Carol and Janey John of Swan’s Nest, also provided a drawing of the wall – to scale – indicating where each portrait would hang.
Hall took about a hundred photos of the three living dogs and was given one or two of another six dogs. For the dogs who were no longer living, “That was really a challenge,” she says, “but I like challenges.”
From January 2011 to July 2011, she worked ceaselessly on the first nine pieces.
“I painted many, many hours a day,” she says. “I always have clients in line for paintings, and luckily they were understanding. It was just such an opportunity.”
Hall typically chooses one main photo from which to work, but uses other shots that might better show a particular part of the dog, such as the eyes. She views the photographs on a large computer screen, as many artists do now, she says, flipping from one to another as she needs to.
“The whole time I was working on it, it was just a wonderful thing. It was a pleasure to be able to let them have oil paintings of all the dogs they’ve loved. For all of us who have dogs, each and every one is special. They have such a special place in your life for the short time you’re able to have them. It’s nice to have them immortalized.”
After completing the first nine, the homeowners, who prefer to remain anonymous, found a photo of a tenth dog, so she just recently did a painting of that one as well.
The paintings range in size from 14-by-16 inches to 24-by-30. The Johns sent Hall a photo of the den after all the portraits had been mounted.
“We love dogs, as does our client, and we thought that their portraits of past and present dogs would really transform the room,” Janey John said in a statement. “They look gorgeous!”