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.
|At the Inn of Mother Anthony
by Renoir, 1866, oil on canvas.
||The Artist (Portrait of Gilbert
Marcellin Desboutin) by Edouard
Manet, 1875, oil painting.
||Young Woman Holding a Dog in Her Arms
by Berthe Morisot, 1892, pastel painting.
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. Finding and expressing a connection with those
people, objects and animals is essential to the expressive power and
ultimately, success, of these works.
||In the Summer Garden
by John Hulsey, pastel painting.
The rule is simple: paint what you know and
love. And so we paint our beloved animal companions—our studio
dogs. Not only are they 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.
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 pettee, 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!
us at The Artist's Road for more great articles
on painting your life!
--John & Ann