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!

Saving Stephen Huneck’s Dog Mountain

Woodcuts by artist Stephen Huneck

I wanted to feature the artist Stephen Huneck’s work and the incredible Dog Chapel he created on his Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont for a while now. And so here we go, but unfortunately when I began doing research I was shocked to discover he passed away a few years ago. I think that perhaps I didn’t hear about it at the time because I lost someone very special on the exact same day: January 7, 2010. Stephen Huneck took his own life that day because he was distraught over having to lay off his staff. In an ironic twist, the staff was hired back following his death because of the renewed interest in his work. However, things have once again taken a downturn and the future of Dog Mountain is in serious jeopardy.

Stephen Huneck with Lab, Woodcuts and Post

If you’re not familiar with the art of Stephen Huneck, the majority of his work consists of wonderful woodcuts and carvings, usually with dogs as subject matter. The pieces often depict true dog moments and observations with minimal text, but the dogs always retain a certain sense of nobility (as they should!). In addition, he became a NY Times bestselling children’s book author, with many of the books featuring his black Lab Sally as the main character. Following an illness and two-month coma, Mr. Huneck had the idea to create a special place where people could come and visit to honor their spiritual connection with their dogs, Dog Chapel. There is a sign outside the chapel that reads “All Creeds, All Breeds Welcome. No Dogmas Allowed.” People have come from all over the world to visit Dog Chapel, many of them posting notes to their departed dogs on the walls inside.

Dog Chapel on Dog Mountain

I think that Stephen Huneck’s art is absolutely wonderful, but I also think that maybe his most successful piece is the living, breathing one we can all share: Dog Chapel and Dog Mountain. Every dog that visits, every person who comes with a heavy heart and a special message to send, every afternoon spent laughing and playing and enjoying life is the essence of this living piece. I hope that Dog Mountain can stay open, providing so many with the comfort they need after suffering a loss or celebrating life with their friend. If you’re planning a trip to Vermont for the fall color this year, maybe make a stop in St. Johnsbury and visit Dog Chapel and the Stephen Huneck Gallery. Or if you’d like to begin holiday shopping early this year, visit their website‘s online shop because every little bit helps. You can find anything there from keychains to books and puzzles for mobile devices to signed original woodcuts and sculptures.

You can find more information on Stephen Huneck in these articles:
Puppy Love, by Rosalyn Graham
Stephen Huneck, Artist of Dogs, Dies at 61 by Margalit Fox

Most images copyright and courtesy Stephen Huneck Gallery; dog post image, Ann Dabney via Flickr

England’s Cecil Aldin

Illustration by Cecil Aldin, 1902, from "A Dog Day"

I love to walk and wander around cities when I’m traveling because I often find wonderful things by chance. If I had read about a shop or something in a guidebook or magazine, I would probably spend most of the day pulling my hair out trying to find the place and be disappointed when I finally arrived. It might even be closed (doggone pet boutique in Milan). Or there would be no parking because I didn’t know it was market day (entire city of Siena). Even then, recovery is possible because other things can be discovered like an unexpected shop or a fantastic hidden-gem-of-a-locals-restaurant and hotel like Il Ceppo (see ya later, Siena). So, it’s taken a while but now I know: over-planning is overrated and chance encounters are best.

Example: seven years ago, I was wandering around in London when I came across one of those nifty London shops tucked away on one those nifty London streets whose specialty is antique prints. Not expensive prints, but old engravings and other cellophane-wrapped things in bins organized by subject matter. I bought three small prints that day featuring a cute dog because, well, I was smitten. They were only £6 each, but I could tell they were actually old and chopped out of a book. But what book?

Pup and woman with pup, from Cecil Aldin 1902

It turns out, the book is called A Dog Day, written by Walter Emanuel and illustrated by Cecil Aldin. Okay. It’s basically a day in the life of this cute but mischievous dog that gets away with everything and comes out smelling like a rose (Ferris Bueller?). This book has been reprinted several times over the years, but I doubt that a reprint would make me happy for the same reason my sister refuses to watch colorized old movies, Mr. Ted Turner: it just won’t be the same. I wouldn’t mind reading the whole day’s account though, because what I’ve read so far is pretty good. From the backs of my prints here’s a little disjointed sample of the story, complete with time stamps:

Excerpts from A Dog Day, by Walter Emmanuel and Cecil Aldin

So I end up being even more smitten than before. The thick paper stock feels special, the letterpress printing is wonderful, the metal typesetting’s imperfections make it perfect. I would say this find was a happy accident indeed, because while all of Great Britain has loved him forever and a day, I had never heard of Cecil Aldin or seen his wonderful illustrations. Mr. Aldin’s dogs Cracker (the Bull Terrier) and Micky (the Irish Wolfhound) are a famous pair that he featured in his popular book Sleeping Partners and as models for many other illustrations. Royal Doulton and other prominent English manufacturers have used his illustrations for a range of products over the years and these items are now hugely collectible. All of Cecil Aldin’s engraving plates were destroyed in World War II, so original prints are rare and have skyrocketed in value. I’m not a collector of anything (well, except dog hair) so I’m pretty happy with my three little prints, even if they were chopped out of a book. Unraveling the mystery of what I bought that day in London has been fun and I definitely plan to keep my eyes open for more things from one of England’s best loved illustrators, Mr. Cecil Charles Windsor Aldin.

Photo of Mr. Aldin and his dog/signature

If you’d like to read more about Cecil Aldin collectibles, this article seems very helpful.

Two Westies in Perugia

Two Westies in Perugia

Well, just when you thought you’d seen everything…

Two gorgeous (and rather large) Westies in Perugia, Italy, by the incredibly talented Mr. Mark Ulriksen. Don’t you just love the scale of these two guys, and that the people are just going about their business? I love it.

You can read my previous post about Mr. Ulriksen here or visit his site here.

Alberto Garutti : ALL’APERTO

Alberto Garutti : All'Aperto

“The dog portrayed here belongs to a Trivero family. This work is dedicated to them and the people who will talk about it as they sit here.”

In 2009 Italian artist Alberto Garutti created a permanent installation in the town of Trivero, Italy as his contribution to the Fondazione Zegna’s ALL’APERTO (OUTDOORS) project. The goal of the project is to make art accessible to the community, and Mr. Garutti chose to incorporate dogs (hooray!) of local families because, in his words: “Through dogs, you also speak about owners and families, whom they reflect. Dogs are also a great metaphor for art: they want to ‘socialize’ with everybody.” What a wonderful sentiment.

Alberto Garutti : Trivero

The photos above and this summary are taken from the project’s website:

“In order to map out the territory of Trivero, Alberto Garutti sought the collaboration of the teachers and local primary school fifth grade students. He asked the children to choose, describe and draw the town’s dogs: Eva, Pulce, Sbadiglio, Lampo, Ferro, Sissi and Otto, Luna…

This process enabled the artist to establish contact with the kids, their families, and the owners of the dogs, meeting, photographing and involving them in the realization of the project. The result is a public work that can be used (and ‘adopted’) by everyone.”

I especially love the last sentence, because it’s a perfect parallel to dogs in our lives. If you have a few minutes, watch Mr. Garutti in the video about the project. There are English subtitles: And if you happen to find yourself way up in the north of Italy sometime, visit Trivero and experience the installation for yourself! It’s a beautiful part of Italy. But then, what part of Italy is not beautiful?