Edward Tufte is a Dog Guy

Edward Tufte Sculpture & Dog Photo

On my recent trip to New York, I made it a point to check out the gallery of Edward Tufte in Chelsea. If you’re not familiar with Edward Tufte, he’s kind of the worldwide father of information design, among many other things. I was lucky to attend one of his all-day lectures back in 1996 in San Francisco, and boy was it fascinating. I’ll never forget watching him zip around the room, passionately pulling imaginary pixels from the air. Most of his career was spent as Professor of Political Science, Statistics, and Computer Science, Senior Critic, School of Art at Yale University, from 1977 to 1999, and he continues there as Emeritus Professor. But what I didn’t know is that he’s a practicing artist, mostly sculpture that’s dotting the Connecticut countryside. It was his apparent love for dogs in his work and personal life that caught my eye.

Edward Tufte Gallery, Chelsea

So the first thing I did in New York (although I did briefly pass through Eataly) was to make my way to his gallery and see some of the dog works in person. I didn’t see this “dog friendly” sign at the time, but I did notice there was a bowl of fresh sparkling water at the gallery’s entrance for thirsty patrons of the arts that might be out and about cruising the Chelsea arts district on a warm June day. Mr. Tufte gets another point from me.

Edward Tufte's dog sculptures, Chelsea

This sculpture is the one that I wanted to see most of all, and I was able to see both the large one at the top and the “mini-me” version below, which also appears in the first photo in this post along with Porta the Portuguese Water Dog, the real life model. Porta appears to be giving it the critic’s review. There is some great information and photos about the process on his website here.

The piece below was also on display, and I’m hoping it’s a dog…I assumed it was at the time, but I was too caught up in the moment and now I’m not completely sure because it feels a little equine. Apologies if I’m wrong.

Edward Tufte Sculpture

There are also some great photographs by Tufte on display, and he appears to have a good sense of humor:

Sorry I Bit the Christie's Guy photo by Edward Tufte

I pulled this photo from the official Edward Tufte website. It shows his dog Ace visiting the gallery and taking stock of the dog works on display. I think it would be really great if he could be wearing a black turtleneck here. With maybe a pipe.

Tufte's dog Ace at ET Modern

And as a reference for some of Edward Tufte’s other work, this photo (also from his website) shows his landscape piece titled Dear Leader I. Three of his dogs are shown in the photo also, according to Mr. Tufte, to provide a sense of scale. But of course I think they make it better!

Dear Leader I by Edward Tufte, 2006

I’m really glad that someone I’ve admired for a long time turns out to be a pretty big dog person. But before I sign off here, I want to say a little bit more about information design, because most people don’t really know what that means. In the profession of graphic design, you will often meet people who don’t understand what it is you do exactly, but it basically boils down to the visual display of information. Sadly, the perception is your role is limited to “making business cards and brochures”. Here is an excellent example of information design, not designed by Edward Tufte but it’s one of his favorites and available to purchase for framing:

Napoleon's March to Moscow

The design of this poster reflects Napoleon’s winter march to Moscow in the War of 1812. On the left side, the top shape indicates the population of Napoleon’s army of 442,000 at the beginning of the campaign. As the march progresses to the right, markers along the route indicate position and the thinning of the band depicts shrinking troop size. When Napoleon’s men arrive in Moscow at the far right, they are down to 100,000 troops and their retreat path is shown in black. This ever-thinning band is tied to temperature and time, ultimately dwindling to just 10,000 troops when they arrive back at their starting point. In Mr. Tufte’s book, he states “it may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn.” And maybe the most poignant.

If you’re interested in visiting Edward Tufte’s gallery in Chelsea, you can get the info here. Just one thing: I learned on my visit that this is a temporary gallery (they are unsure of just how long) so make your way there sooner than later. The great thing about its location is that it’s just steps from an entrance to the High Line, which I wrote about in my last post.

For information on Edward Tufte, any of his four books, projects, prints or lectures, visit his website here.

Edward Tufte's books

The Portraitsphere: Paul Boddum

R.P. by artist Paul Boddum

It’s Friday and a good time for an excursion into the Portraitsphere! This time we’re zipping off to Toronto, Canada to check out the work of artist Paul Boddum.

Lucy by artist Paul Boddum

Here is a portion of Paul’s artist statement as it relates to dogs in his work:

“The original idea for his twenty-four year ongoing series of dog works began during a trip to a dog show in the mid-1980’s. The source of Paul’s early works were photos he had taken there as well as sourcing vintage dog breed books at second hand book shops. Not having his own dog at the time, his ongoing series was influenced by oberving other city dwellers’ dogs; everyday joyful interactions between dogs, owners, and strangers had a unique positive energy that gave a big urban city a warmth and added to the fabric of a healthy community.

Paul is continually inspired by seeing people’s connection to their pets, how they enrich their lives, and become a part of their family. Growing up as an adoptee, Paul has always been interested in exploring the effects of nature versus nurture, and the transformative bond that forms from the domestic pet’s innate need to be cared for by others. Paul is also a long time vegetarian.”

Three Studies of Brody by artist Paul Boddum

Paul’s abstract paintings (without dogs) are also wonderful explorations of color and texture, expressionistic journeys influenced of memories, dreams and music. And when he combines this approach with the portrait of a dog, I find the result to be incredibly reassuring. A lot of people seem to request artist commissions of their dog after its passing, and by creating such a thoughtful background environment it seems very comforting to me. In other words, we’re not quite sure exactly where this place or space is because we can’t identify shapes or forms that are familiar to us, but it’s dreamlike and poetic. Our beloved is there, they’re safe, and it’s a beautiful image to behold.

Autumn by artist Paul Boddum

Summer by artist Paul Boddum

Katrina_Survivor

Jasper and Cooper by artist Paul Boddum

Paul works mostly in acrylics, adding thick layers of a gel medium at the end that creates an encaustic type of surface. Working from photos, he strives to make each painting a unique original customized to clients’ size, style and color requests. Although he’s based in Toronto much of his work is from outside of the area, ordered online. His paintings can be found in homes across the US, Canada, and internationally.

In addition to being a gifted artist, Paul is also big-hearted: he’s devoted to helping animal charities by donating portrait commissions and original paintings to raise money on a regular basis.

Here is a listing of Paul’s upcoming exhibitions if you would like to see his work in person.

You can visit Paul Boddum’s website here, to see more of his work.

All images courtesy and copyright Paul Boddum.

Typographic Tuesday: Mary Oliver

"Dog on Beach" by Shannon BuekerThe First Time Percy Came Back, by Mary Oliver

Today’s Typographic Tuesday honors National Poetry Month here in America and it’s brought to you by big dose of serendipity (which, I love): this morning I asked my yoga instructor Shannon after class if she could recommend a great dog poem and her eyes lit up. The book she was holding in her hands is by one of her favorite poets, Mary Oliver, and she quickly found this one for me. I knew it would be perfect, a little bit sad but mostly uplifting and tender. Shannon is a very talented artist, and I’ve wanted to feature her work here for a while and as it turns out, one of the three watercolors of hers that I own is this one titled “Dog on Beach”. That makes me want to say “spoooooky…” but I’m just going to say “ommmmmmmm!” Thanks, Shannon!

“The First Time Percy Came Back” is from A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver. A great bio—and a lovely photo with her dog—can be found here.

Artist Shannon Bueker’s work can be found on her website here.

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!