Man’s Best Friend is Art’s Best Friend, Too?

Young Woman Holding A Dog In Her Arms by Berthe Morisot, 1892 | An Artist's Dog | Take Your Dog to Work Day | Artist Daily
Young Woman Holding A Dog In Her Arms by Berthe Morisot, 1892

We have always felt that as plein air painters we are observers of the landscape—recording moments and places that can rapidly transform with fleeting changes of light. In a pure landscape, figures and animals are rendered small and insignificant against the vast and awe inspiring backdrop of nature.

In our portrait art and still life painting work, however, we are observers of the intimate—the interior worlds of home and studio. Here, the figure, the object, the people and the animals that inhabit these spaces become the dominant focus, and we attempt to lift these interior portraits up to the grand level of a landscape.

The Artist (Portrait Of Gilbert Marcellin Desboutin) by Edouard Manet, 1875 | | An Artist's Dog | Take Your Dog to Work Day | Artist Daily
The Artist (Portrait Of Gilbert Marcellin Desboutin) by Edouard Manet, 1875

Finding and expressing a connection with those people, objects and animals is essential to the expressive power and ultimately, success, of these works.

The rule is simple: Paint what you know and love. So we paint our beloved animal companions—our studio dogs. And what better way to celebrate our furry family members than with a holiday created back in 1999 as a way to “celebrate the great companion dogs make and promote their adoptions,” known as Take Your Dog to Work Day–or for us artists, Take Your Dog to Your Studio Day.

The Role of Four-Legged Family in Our Art

In the Summer Garden by John Hulsey, pastel painting.
In the Summer Garden by John Hulsey, pastel painting

Not only are our pets patient and generally serene models, but they also possess a dignity and acceptance of life that we would do well to try to emulate.

As time winds down for our second great pyrenees, we have found it important to take our paints in hand and work to catch at least a glimpse of his internal grace and loving spirit in our works. In this way we hope to honor his life and perhaps pay homage to all the dogs who have spent their lives helping their human charges making it through theirs.

There is beautiful evidence from Renoir, Morisot, Cassatt and others, that we are not alone in our canine devotions. In the era of Impressionism, dogs began to be included more often in portraits with families and not just depicted as working animals.

In some of these paintings, the dog is the only figure directly looking at the viewer, acknowledging the outside world, as it were, while his human companions are rendered as oblivious to the painter and viewer. The dog observes the observer.

The Inn Of Mother Anthony by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1866 | An Artist's Dog | Take Your Dog to Work Day | Artist Daily
The Inn Of Mother Anthony by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1866

Science tells us that a few minutes of petting a dog results in the release of oxytocin into the bloodstream of both the petter and the pet, lowering blood pressure and stress.

It is our firm belief that taking the time to study and paint a dog does the same, ten-fold. Of course, getting them to hold still is the trick!

Does your pet(s) keep you company during your art-making process? Tell us more about your furry best friends in the comments below. And, please visit us at The Artist’s Road for more great articles on painting your life.

–John & Ann

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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.