“My little dog–a heartbeat at my feet.” Edith Wharton (from Petsinpastel.com)
Pets get to people in ways humans can’t. They are the silent inspiration, the quiet heartfelt love that only asks for basic needs and your company. Do they effect art and art making?
Picasso’s dog, Lump was the only other being allowed in his studio. Warhol immortalized his dogs in his art. David Hockney continues to paint his two dachshunds even now. Many artists have shared their lives with pets. For some it’s cats and others dogs. Freda Kahlo had monkeys. Salvador Dali’s pets were ocelots. The list goes on. Summer Anne Burton at Buzzfeed has outlined these and other artists and their pets in an interesting article with wonderful photos.
George Rodigue turned portraits of his dog into a multi- million- dollar empire. The Blue Dog series, along with paintings of life in the Louisiana Bayou became Rodrigue’s life’s work. He based the Blue Dog character in his paintings on his spaniel, Tiffany. 70 of the Blue Dog works were on display at Baton Rouge’s LSU Museum of Art recently.
I confess I talk to my dog as he sits quietly at my feet beside the easel or under the drawing table. He doesn’t usually talk back. For some reason, it is easier to work out problems if discussed with Twinkie. He doesn’t offer advice or suggest it could have been done another way. He just listens and occasionally thumps his tail. I take that to mean he has approved the solution. Once Twinkie sat too close to the easel when I was working on a pastel. Green pastel dust covered the top of the white fur on his back. He didn’t seem to mind but people looked at him very strangely until I got it all out.
It is likely different from artist to artist. Not all artists have pets. For those who do, there is a connection that is hard to describe in logical terms. Maybe it’s the companionship. Could be the fact that a pet is hardly ever critical. All your art is good with the pet. They think you, and by extension, your art are wonderful. But I believe it is deeper than that. A connection between artist and pet creates a bond that flows over into the work. A silent communication happens sparking the creative juices. Or maybe, it’s just my imagination. Twinkie’s not saying.