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.

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.

The Portraitsphere: Claire Dunaway

Dog portrait by Claire Dunaway

Here we go into the Portraitsphere: the world of Marietta, Georgia-based artist and teacher Claire Dunaway. And on this journey, you might not leave empty-handed: Bark Magazine is hosting a contest and you could win a portrait of your very own.

Dog Portrait by Claire Dunaway

Claire describes her inspiration this way:

“I am an artist and a teacher who embraces learning and exploring. As a native Georgian born and raised, I am deeply influenced by my family, faith, canine camaraderie, history and love for country; those numerous and powerful influences in my life can be seen running through the pieces I create.”

I especially like her appreciation of an easily-distracted mind (because I have one myself):

“I give thanks to God for giving me the eyes to see, the easily-distracted mind to notice and the heart to create.”

And create she does. Just look at all these faces!

Claire Dunaway's dog portraits

If you’d like to check out more of Claire’s work, you can visit her website here. And if you’d like to enter Bark Magazine’s contest and win a 16 x 20 portrait of your dog, do so before May 14, 2013 by visiting their site here (sorry, the contest is only open to US residents). Good luck!

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!

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.

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.

The Portraitsphere: Marz Jr.

Chloe Malle's Dog Jerry by Marz Jr.

Today’s journey into the Portraitsphere features an illustration I happened to see recently in a fall issue of Vogue Magazine (yes, I’m a little behind), printed at about 2″ in height. The feature was “The Editor’s Eye”, which is an inside look at just what a particular editor personally likes/owns.

This installment was all about Vogue’s Social Editor Chloe Malle, and the subject of this portrait is her beloved Goldendoodle Jerry by illustrator Marz Jr. And based on the other embellished items shown in the feature, it appears Marz Jr. nailed her style with the crown, table, tassels and fringed setting. One of her other favorite items, a pair of Charlie McCarthy salt and pepper shakers, initially did seem a bit out of place…until I realized that her grandfather was Edgar Bergen, and her father was Louis Malle, and so her mother is Candace Bergen. Like I said, I’m a little behind.

Here are a few more examples of Marz Jr.’s work:

Illustrations by Marz Jr.

Thanks to Marz Jr. for permission to use his work in this post. To see more of his work, visit his website here.

The Portraitsphere

Zachary's Jack Russell

Today begins yet another new category here on Dogs Make Everything Better: the Portraitsphere! It’s going to be a wide assortment of great dog portraits from near and far. There are so many great dog portraits out there, and not just professional ones but also simple ones scrawled onto napkins and notebooks and everywhere else…and I want to track them down.

First to be featured: this entry that I saw a few years ago at the state fair—and had won a ribbon!—drawn in charcoal by a ninth-grader named Zachary. I love the wonky ears, I love the kind eyes, and I love the smudginess and erased bits, the evidence of let’s-start-over. But what I especially love is that this is probably a very special dog in Zachary’s life and it’s absolutely captured here.

Three cheers for the Portraitsphere!

Sculptor Jonathan Bowling

Hound 2012 by Jonathan Bowling

Not long ago I was visiting a letterpress friend at his shop, which included a separate building where he keeps his cabinets full of metal type. This building also includes workspace for different artists, with all kinds of interesting things going on like glassblowing, painting, hammering, melting stuff, weaving things, you name it. For me, it was sort of a trip back to my dad’s workshop and my days at California College of the Arts (which used to be called California College of Arts and Crafts back then, and I wish it still was). While my major was design, there was a lot of crossover in course curriculum and campus layout so you were always exposed to all sorts of other work (and the fine artists always seemed to be having much more fun than design students).

While I was visiting this studio building, the work of sculptor Jonathan Bowling was on display. Now I’ll be honest: in the past I haven’t really loved this kind of welded-together-found-object art because I usually found it to be kind of spooky and creepy. And normally when I would see a sculpture, I would first see the “parts” and then have to figure out the “whole”. When I look at Jonathan’s work however, I first see the “whole” and then I have fun looking closer to see just what “parts” that he used to arrive there. As the Monkees say, “now I’m a believer.” Another thing is that his life-size or larger than life-size finished pieces seem to really capture the spirit and personality of the animal, like his Hound 2012 shown above. It seems playful to me, almost animated. Sigh, I want it.

Detail, Hound 2012 by Jonathan Bowling

In addition to the sculpture shown here, there were lots of other pieces on display like beautiful horses, bulls, and a big spider (shown hanging in the top photo). You can see more of Jonathan’s amazing work on his website. Well worth the visit.

Update: After viewing the post and checking out my blog, Jonathan kindly sent me this great shot of his sweet dog Maci in her birthday hat!

Jonathan's dog Maci

Artist Yoshitomo Nara

Do Not Disturb! 1996, Yoshitomo Nara

A while back I became a fan of Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, and what initially caught my eye of course was this white dog. He appears in paintings, drawings, and installations. At some point, somewhere (Toronto? London? Chicago? San Francisco? I can’t remember!) I saw an installation of three of these white dogs in a circle, bigger than life, filling up a room. I was smitten.

But look at this guy! I hope I can visit Japan one day and see him in person at the Aomori Museum of Art. Just look how happy these people are! And who wouldn’t be? There’s something so great about the incredible sense of scale with any piece of that size, and it would be even better if that piece is a gigantic dog!

Yoshitomo Nara at Aomori Museum of Art

Yoshitomo Nara at Aomori Museum of Art

Yoshitomo Nara has also created a sweet children’s book for Chronicle with this giant white dog at the center of the story, The Lonesome Puppy. It’s about a dog that’s just so darn big, no one notices him except for one special little girl. Aw.

The Lonesome Puppy from Chronicle Books

To be fair, Yoshitomo Nara isn’t entirely about white dogs. A lot of his work features these little mischievous kids, they’re trouble but they’re very alluring. And who knows what they’re up to! Smoking cigarettes, fighting, swearing a little and glaring a lot. I like these kids, but they’re somewhat intimidating and make me uneasy, like the kid that stares at you on a subway and has the power to make you squirm. Oh save me, giant white dog!

Yoshitomo Nara's work

Great article on artist Yoshitomo Nara here.
For some info on the Aomori Museum of Art, their website is here and there’s a good writeup here.
Aomori installation photos from flickr, here and here.