Help Martin Usborne Save Mango

Martin Usborne and Mango

Yesterday’s post was about London-based photographer Martin Usborne, but there was more to tell (what else is new?). So I decided to chop it into two posts, and with today’s entry you can get your hands on one of his prints for a very good price AND help him save a little puppy called Mango from the meat trade at the same time.

It starts out like this: Martin loves animals and he decided to embark on a yearlong journey around the world to save as many as he can, and he’s named the project “A Year to Help”. Now I realize that sounds kind of granola and lofty and flowers-in-meadows, but this is also a personal odyssey for Martin. He’s a guy who, like a lot of us, has enormous compassion for animals but questions what he does with it on a daily basis. So he set out last July to do what he can, however he can. And when he says animals, he’s not excluding any species: he’s serving as savior to bugs as well. Here’s the manifesto from his project’s website:

1. Whenever I come across an animal in distress I must help (fruit flies included).
2. I must follow my heart, not my head. Ignore the nagging intellect Martin!
3. This project is deadly serious. Therefore I will try and be funny where possible.
4. I must risk failure, confusion and utter humiliation.
5. My allegiance is to the animals, not to any charity or religion.
6. I must stop eating bacon.

You can see that Martin has a good sense of humor. Read his “About the Project” page here for more of his reasoning behind his idea. It’s open, honest, and very entertaining, I must say. You’ll wonder if you’ve stumbled into a script for a new Ricky Gervais program or something.

At the moment, Martin is in the Philippines spending some time with a group called Network for Animals. In the last few days they’ve saved a puppy from the street where they sell dogs for the meat trade and named her Mango. He’s promised to get her back to the UK, and must raise at least £750 to do so. So he’s taken some beautiful photographs of her and is selling them through his project’s website to raise the money.

Mango by Martin Usborne

This one is my favorite. You can’t beat that stare of hope and expectation for keeping you up at night. If you’re thinking, “but it’s just one dog and there are so many in the same boat”, I’d say that’s true. But to this one lucky little Mango, giving her a chance is everything. Here are some others:

Mango by Martin Usborne

Sleepy Mango by Martin Usborne

There are also options with some added typography with a punch. I think Mango does a super job as a pin-up queen:

Stop the Dog Meat Trade by Martin Usborne

…and with a dash of Martin’s good humor. Or humour, I suppose:

Mango Wants Fish and Chips by Martin Usborne

So far Mango has been checked out by a vet and she’s become much more affectionate after getting some good meals in her tummy. It turns out getting off the chain and out of the grimy street is also a plus. Overall I think she’d say that it’s much better getting dinner than being dinner.

If you’d like to donate to Martin’s effort of getting Mango safely back to the UK and into a safe, loving home read his post here with the instructions on placing your photograph order (or just donating). The hardest part is deciding which print to get and what size.

If you can, please share this post to spread the word. You can also follow Martin’s journey on his Facebook page here.

The official “A Year to Help” project site can be found here.
Martin’s photography website can be found here.
All images courtesy and copyright Martin Usborne.

Martin Usborne: The Silence of Dogs in Cars

Prospero by Martin Usborne

Martin Usborne is a London-based photographer with an affinity for dogs. And if you’re lucky enough to be in London yourself before April 27 you can see work from his series The Silence of Dogs in Cars at The Little Black Gallery. Every time I look at these images, I get a lump in my throat and feel very emotional, almost to tears in fact. Now these dogs weren’t really abandoned, but you can definitely sense that’s how they’re feeling to varying degrees.

Ruby by Martin Usborne

Burt by Martin Usborne

Murphy by Martin Usborne

Shep by Martin Usborne

Bones by Martin Usborne

Normally my first reaction to the idea of dogs being left alone in cars is the danger of heat exhaustion. Maybe that’s why all of these were taken at night or during overcast conditions to eliminate that thought—or it’s just typical weather in England. For me, once I realize there’s no threat of heat exhaustion, immediately they become about something else.

Here is the statement by the artist, Martin Usborne:

“I was once left in a car at a young age.

I don’t know when or where or for how long, possibly at the age of four, perhaps outside a supermarket, probably for fifteen minutes only. The details don’t matter. The point is that I wondered if anyone would come back. In a child’s mind it is possible to be alone forever.

Around the same age I began to feel a deep affinity with animals—in particular their plight at the hands of humans. I saw a TV documentary that included footage of a dog being put in a plastic bag and being kicked. What appalled me most was that the dog could not speak back. Its muteness terrified me.

I should say that I was a well-loved child and never abandoned and yet it is clear that both these experiences arose from the same place deep inside me: a fear of being alone and unheard.

The images in this series explore that feeling, both in relation to myself and to animals in general. The dog in the car is a metaphor, not just for the way that animals (both domestic and wild) are so often silenced and controlled by humans but for the way that we so often silence and control the darker parts of ourselves: the fear and loneliness that we would rather keep locked away.”

Gulp. These images are 24 x 36 and 60 x 40, so I’m thinking that to see them in person would be even more compelling. If you’re like me and there’s no way you’ll be in London before the show ends, there is a beautiful book available.

Margaux by Martin Usborne

If you’d like some information on Martin’s show in London at The Little Black Gallery, price list, or interviews with the artist, it’s here.

A signed copy of Martin’s book The Silence of Dogs in Cars can be purchased here. And if you’d just like more information on Martin in general, you can visit his website here.
All images courtesy and copyright Martin Usborne.

The Portraitsphere: Ian Mason

Work by artist Ian Mason

As my dad used to say every morning (much to my teenage chagrin) “Wakey, wakey!” We’re starting this week off with an adventure to the Portraitsphere! And this time you should probably pack a raincoat, because we’re heading to jolly old England to visit the truly jaw-dropping work of artist Ian Mason. And forget the big cities. We’re heading out to the countryside, through the villages and shires and something-upon-somethings, to the beautiful seaside destination of Cornwall. So get yourself a packet of Wine Gums or Allsorts, or perhaps a nice cup of tea for the journey. When we get there, you won’t actually believe your eyes.

Ink, paint, charcoal, paper, canvas. Every piece is so expressive. His technique is the kind that you just don’t find very often with lines that are so deliberate and confident, yet nothing is lost in translating the subject’s personality and a moment in time. You know these dogs, or at least you certainly feel like you do.

Works by Cornwall artist Ian Mason

The nonchalant raised eyebrow on the black Labrador, the Churchill-esque blasé expression of the French bulldog, the thoughtful eyes of the greyhound. How do you decide which ones to feature in a post? It was impossible, so I kept going:

Works by Cornwall artist Ian Mason

I have to say that I’m really smitten with Ian Mason’s portraits to an unhealthy state. Let me put it this way: if I was invited to Windsor Castle and wanted to bring a gift for Prince William and Kate, I would phone Mr. Mason for a portrait of their little dog…but I’m pretty sure that I’d end up keeping it for myself. Nope, wouldn’t give it up. Not even for all the Wine Gums in the world.

If you would like to see more of Ian Mason’s work, visit his website here.

Everybody’s Working for the Weekend

Tito's Dogs

Thanks to the title of this post you probably now have that annoying 1980’s Loverboy song swirling around in your head. Apologies. But as the saying goes, it’s 5:00 somewhere so it’s time to mix up a nice cocktail and relax. There’s a vodka brand that you may or may not be familiar with that I happen to love: Tito’s Handmade Vodka, from right here in the good old USA. Texas, in fact. And guess what? They are some serious dog folks! The image above is from their most recent photo shoot and it features just half (HALF?) of the dogs owned by the staff. Little ones, big ones, woolly ones, shaggy ones, you name it (I’m talking about the dogs). I was also informed that there are packs of wild dogs near their facility just outside of Austin, so there’s always something new showing up. And these folks step up every time, believe me!

Here’s a photo of Tito himself (whose last name just happens to be Beveridge), with the trusty boy Roscoe. What a pair! They sure look content, and I don’t see a shaker anywhere near them!

Tito and Roscoe

So in honor of Tito, his staff, the wonderful dogs they love and the ones that are about to show up any minute now, and of course St. Patrick’s Day last Sunday, I decided to compose a little limerick. If you’re thinking “but Vodka’s not Irish!”, I would say that there’s probably not an Irishman anywhere that would deny someone their wee drink of choice! So, ahem…

Tito Limerick

Ah well, I tried. Anyway, my drink of choice — surprise — is a Salty Dog! Here is a simple recipe and photo from The Daily Noff:

Salty Dog from The Daily Noff

Salty Dog

2 oz Vodka
4 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
Salt for the rim
Salt your rim. Pour vodka into rocks glass with ice, pour grapefruit juice over that. Slurp.

If you’d like to learn more about Tito’s Vodka (which I think they should rename “dogka”), check out the official Tito’s Handmade Vodka website here. And cheers!

Artist Mychael Barratt

Lichtenstein's Dog by Mychael Barratt

Mychael Barratt is a Canadian-born and now London-based printmaker who has some amazing work. I’m thinking he also has a great sense of humor: check out his series of prints created in the style of famous artists, featuring dogs they might have had. I love them! The Lichtenstein above is my favorite, and below there are some others from the series. See how many you can identify, and I’ll put the names at the end. No peeking!

Artist Series by Mychael Barratt

First row: Gormley, Chagall, Pollock  Second row: Van Gogh, Hirst, Dali  Third row: Giacometti, Modigliani, Hockney  Fourth Row: Rothko, Hopper, Warhol

Another fascinating series by Barratt is his “Life Imitating Art” works. In the one below, he’s melded many different famous works of art featuring dogs into a single composition. It’s kind of a little journey through art history. This time you can take a look and see what you can find on your own, then I’ll put the key which identifies the source material he used. But look closely, there are a total of 12 different works in there!

Life Imitating Art VIII by Mychael Barratt

Life Imitating Art Key

Personally, I’ve always appreciated a good sense of humor and wit (is this a Canadian trait or something? A secret ingredient in Tim Horton’s donuts maybe?), and it’s even better when combined with incredible artistic talent. If you’d like to see more work by the very talented and clever Mr. Mychael Barratt, including other series such as his Shakespeare works, visit his website here. Many of the prints are still available for purchase.

Typographic Tuesday: Do What You Love

Do What You Love print by ConiLab

It’s Typographic Tuesday, and at first today’s quote isn’t exactly about dogs, but for me it is! Because dogs are what I love, and design of course, and putting them together is my dream job. So I’m having a coffee toast to my company Pantofola and savoring this longer version of the above by Steve Jobs:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” — Steve Jobs

Thanks to my friend Mark McNeilly (who also has a couple of great dogs!) for sharing this Steve Jobs quote, the timing was perfect.

Last but definitely not least, the image above is a beautiful screen print by Spanish artist Coni Della Vedova that I purchased from her Etsy shop a few years ago. It’s a nice size, an A3 (11.7″ x 16.5″) and is printed on lovely paper, and she ships anywhere. You can still get one here!

Diogenes “The Dog”

Painting of Diogenes in his jar with dogs by Jean-Léon Gérôme

I don’t know about you, but I find it to be so incredibly fascinating how dogs are woven into human history. It seems that at every turn, there’s something about a dog’s role in our evolution. And I’m not just talking about a caveman with a dog for protection and survival, but the ways that they’ve helped to shape our thinking and philosophy…

Diogenes of Sinope was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. A rebel, he turned his back on his banker father and chose to separate himself from regular society by living in a jar in the middle of town and hanging out with dogs. He was the kind of guy you’d meet and probably think to yourself “What a jerk!” and then realize, well, he’s got a good point. He was known for stunts like carrying a lamp around in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man. When he met Alexander the Great, who was thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, and was asked if there was anything he could do for him, Diogenes replied “Yes, stand out of my sunlight.” Nice. After that, Alexander declared “If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes”, to which Diogenes replied “If I were not Diogenes, I should also wish to be Diogenes.” Well, okay then!

Alexander the Great meeting Diogenes

Now hold on, before we go any further, just because Diogenes was a Cynic, don’t start thinking of him as the original “Debbie Downer”. Like a lot of things, the meaning of the word “cynic” has evolved to be something negative in our modern world. According to The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “classical Cynics regarded virtue as the only necessity for happiness. They sought to free themselves from conventions; become self-sufficient; and live only in accordance with nature. They rejected any conventional notions of happiness involving money, power, or fame, in the pursuit of virtuous, and thus happy, lives. In rejecting conventional social values, they would criticise the types of behaviours, such as greed, which they viewed as causing suffering.” And there were other things they stood for, like cosmopolitanism, freedom of speech, a woman’s right to choose her mate, constitutional law, and—as the name indicates—emulating the simple behaviors of dogs. By the 19th century, however, emphasis shifted to the negative aspects of the philosophy, leading to the modern understanding of cynicism to mean “a disposition of disbelief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions.” Boo.

And what is the connection with dogs? Well, the term “cynic” derives from the Greek word kynikos which means “dog-like”. From Wikipedia: “Diogenes believed human beings live artificially and hypocritically and would do well to study the dog. Besides performing natural bodily functions in public with ease, a dog will eat anything, and make no fuss about where to sleep. Dogs live in the present without anxiety, and have no use for the pretensions of abstract philosophy. In addition to these virtues, dogs are thought to know instinctively who is friend and who is foe. Unlike human beings who either dupe others or are duped, dogs will give an honest bark at the truth.”

So it appears that even way back then, dogs were recognized by some important thinkers as role models for how society should be, and I’m down with that. Well, except for the public display of a few bodily functions. Shine on, Diogenes.

Diogenes statue, with lantern and dog

I realize this was a brisk breeze through the topic of Diogenes and Cynicism, but you can read more here if you are interested. Thanks to Wikipedia for the information and images. 

Images from top: Diogenes, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1860; Alexander and Diogenes, Caspar de Crayer, c. 1650; statue of Diogenes at Sinop, Turkey.

The Portraitsphere: Rien Poortvliet

Briard portrait by Rien Poortvliet

Today’s foray into the Portraitsphere takes us to the canvas and sketchbooks of Dutch artist Rien Poortvliet. Best known for his multitudes of Gnomes, he seemed to really love dogs and, lucky for us, spent a lot of time observing, painting, sketching and scribbling them. The portrait of the French Briard above is from his book Dogs, and it’s definitely one of my favorite books about dogs. It’s literally crammed with portraits of all kinds of dogs from A to Z. And not only that, there are thoughts, facts, opinions and observations scrawled throughout. In this example he illustrates a non-dog person meeting a dog:

Rien Poortvliet's observation on dog and non-dog people

And there are pages and pages like this, about what goes on around his house with his own dogs and the things they get up to:

Rien Poortvliet's dogs and their antics

Yep, he’s nailed it again. In fact, as you go through the book you find yourself saying over and over, with a smile “oh yes, that’s exactly how it is!” And you know you wouldn’t have it any other way!

Rien Poortvliet's book Dogs

I bought my copy of Dogs quite a few years ago so it’s out of print, but it is possible to track down a used copy of the book. Here is a link to Amazon’s current availability.

Capa of Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Since I did a post a few days ago about the dogs of Robert Sinskey Vineyards, I thought I should do a separate post on Capa, the one that originally caught my eye. So yes, what we have here is a photographic prequel, a tribute to a dog and forever a member of the Sinskey Vineyard family. I’m sure they are still telling stories about him and a life well lived among the vines.

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Thanks, Rob.

All images courtesy and copyright Robert Sinskey.

Artist and Illustrator Yuko Shimizu

SPD Dog by Yuko Shimizu

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: dog loving people are the best. They are the kindest, most generous people out there. When you meet someone at some random moment—like while your car is being serviced—and the subject of dogs comes up (because with me it always does), and a big grin appears…you know you’ve found one. Next they reach for their phone (which used to be wallet) to show you a picture of their dog, and usually you get a little story. Well, the same thing happens in the virtual world also.

The Boston Terrier illustration above is by the incredibly talented Japanese illustrator Yuko Shimizu (I will quickly point out that she’s NOT the Yuko Shimizu that created Hello Kitty!), and she created it for a poster a few years ago. The dog belongs to Bon Appetit design director Matthew Lenning, and the poster was for a Society of Publication Designers competition. When I came across this illustration I knew I had to see more. It is some of the most beautiful illustration work I have seen ever, and I find myself mesmerized by it. She must be one of the most sought-after illustrators around because there’s a lot of it to see, her website showcases around 400 pieces! What I love even more is that she traded her dull career in advertising and PR to pursue art, left Japan and came to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts. Since graduating she’s obviously kept herself very busy, and she also teaches at the school.

Back to the dogs. When I contacted Yuko, she was happy to be featured on the blog and said she needs to draw more dogs (yay!). We agreed that this illustration, as well as the one below would be good choices. She also made sure to tell me right away that she LOVES dogs, and that her own handsome long haired Chihuahua Bruiser was used as the model for this poster (I didn’t ask if the caped woman is her, but since there are brushes and art supplies in her hair, hmmm). Yuko travels quite a lot for speaking engagements, and this poster was for one in Mexico.

Yuko Shimizu Amarillo Poster

She also said I could include some photos of her beloved Bruiser, and here he is hard at work:

Yuko Shimizu's dog Bruiser

And here are some other examples of Yuko’s work. Honestly it was so difficult to choose. I wish I could put them on my walls…

Illustration work of Yuko Shimizu

If you’d like to become mesmerized yourself, visit Yuko’s website here. Her self-titled monograph was published by Gestalten and can be found here. She’s also creating a children’s book that will be released this year, titled Barbed Wire Baseball. Yuko has a preview of the book on her blog here, along with an inside look at her creative process.

All images courtesy and copyright Yuko Shimizu.