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.

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.

The New Yorker’s Cover Dogs

The New Yorker, cover November 26, 1966

I love this cover of the November 26, 1966 edition of The New Yorker because it features a dog. And not just any dog, but Underdog! Well, the balloon version of Underdog that is, floating by in the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For some reason I thought there was a particular story that inspired this cover, like a crash or escape or scandal, but since Underdog debuted in the parade only the year before in 1965 I guess not. There was a Friends episode apparently, in which the Underdog balloon did crash and added to the chaos of their Thanksgiving. But alas, no reality-based Underdog Thanksgiving Day Parade chaos exists that I can find. Oh well, I still really like the illustration and one day I really will frame it.

So then I started thinking about The New Yorker and what other great covers they’ve had over the years that feature dogs. Everyone knows (and loves) The New Yorker’s cartoons, there are so many books that feature collections of different subject matter such as teachers, lawyers, moms, doctors, cats, and of course dogs. But I was more interested in the iconic magazine’s covers, and so I put together an informal survey.

Covers of The New Yorker featuring dogs

It’s interesting to see the different illustration styles and palettes, and notice what trends come and go over the years. A few covers I’ve chosen feature the work of Mark Ulriksen, one of my favorite illustrators based in San Francisco (see the post here), but I’m not so familiar with the others. Some covers seem to be referring to a current event, like Obama getting ready to enter the presidency (and he’s listening to the dogs with their demands for maybe an off-leash area in the rose garden?), or it’s winter and time to ditch the old Christmas tree in the snow. Other times you just have to wonder what’s going on, if anything (is that dog thinking of water because it’s August or was there a big water shortage in 1974? I don’t remember, I was a kid). Not being a New Yorker myself, I’m usually drawn to the covers that feel, well, more “New Yorky”, like the one in the center below with the dog on the stoop having a sale. Or the one above with the Gotham-sized fire hydrant surrounded by a group of very happy dogs (bliss I guess). One thing that’s interesting to do is track is the cover price, beginning with a measly quarter in 1965 and ending up at six bucks. For now.

More New Yorker covers featuring dogs

Coming back full circle: if you love to root for the underdogs of the world and are interested in the phenomenon, there’s a really wonderful article by author Malcolm Gladwell that appears, oddly enough, in a past issue of The New Yorker. Not the November 26, 1966 issue, however, that would be weird. And impossible. Here’s the link.

All covers and illustrations copyright Condé Nast.

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.