Stray Dog Arts


I just stumbled upon this interview from April of 2010 in the files of my computer. By golly, I don't even remember who the interview was with, but I loved reading it and can't help but share it again here! Since this interview, there are some things that have evolved, but at the core of my work, at its essence, there is still that same feeling--a sense of satisfaction and purpose that is just beyond language. Distill it down and there is a word for it and it is: LOVE.

Enjoy the interview!

1. What inspired/motivated you to want to do this?
You can read more about what inspired me to do this by visiting my artist statement, here.

2. When did you do your first animal painting? When did you sell your first painting?
I painted my first dog in January, 2008. I showed my first series of dog paintings in March of the same year. Half of those portraits sold and I received several new commissions in the process. I sold my first painting in 2003 during my Senior Art Exhibition, a requirement for my art degree. I also gathered steam by selling on Etsy, an online artist's site, did mural painting, and also worked as the in-house artist at Wild Rumpus, a strange and wonderful children's bookstore in Minneapolis.

3. How do you market yourself?
Bark magazine, postcards, partnerships with other businesses, networking, social media (facebook and twitter), Etsy, Flickr, blogging, art fairs, events, and art exhibitions in public spaces. I also sell my work (originals and products) in retail spaces and boutiques. Branding, authenticity and product eye-candy goes an amazingly long way. A lot can be done--even on a tight budget. I love watching things come to life. I put a lot of effort into marketing partially because it's so important, but also because it's something I really enjoy.

4. Where do your 'clients' come from?
When starting out, I had clients from all over the country. California, New York, Florida...all over. Internationally, I've painted for clients in Ireland, Canada, and Australia. However, over the last year, the majority of my clients are from the Minneapolis area. This is largely due to projects that focus on particular neighborhoods in the Minneapolis area. I love getting to meet the dogs and their companions in person as well as take my own photos. Because of this, I've realized how much I enjoy painting locally and, therefore, have shifted my energy and marketing accordingly. Who knows, this will probably continue to evolve. I'm beginning to imagine more travel in my future. For now, I have more than enough to keep me busy right here.

5. What type of animals have you painted?
I mostly paint dog portraits, but really enjoy painting cats as well. I am endlessly inspired by the unique qualities of dogs. As for cats, well, I love their beautiful eyes. To date, dogs and cats are the extent of my painted animal menagerie. I've also been wanting to start painting horses for quite some time now, but have been so busy painting dogs that there just hasn't been time to do so. Everything happens at the right time though. I think the idea of painting horses has been incubating, slowly making itself visible in my mind's eye. Whatever I'm painting, it's a lot of fun to see the work evolve--both inwardly and outwardly.

6. How many painting do you average in a week?
I've come to terms with the fact that the paintings come in waves. There is a lot more to being a full time artist than simply making art--much more than most people realize. At any given time I am managing over 50 commissions, emails, marketing, bookkeeping, phone calls, event planning, project preparation, errand running, packaging and shipping, online shop, you know, pretty much the whole gambit of what makes a business tick successfully. I tend to get really focused and will work really hard on the business end of things for several days or even a couple of weeks and do the same with painting. I work well under pressure and with deadlines and do my best to structure a time-line that works with everything else that's going on. Switching things up like this keeps things fresh for me. When I'm away from the studio for any length of time, it always feels especially good to get back to the paint. I average about 75 paintings a year, many of which are quite large. Not sure how many I paint per week, but I'm pretty sure that this is what they mean by "prolific." :)-

7. How long do most paintings take?
Anywhere from a couple days to a week, or even a month. I tend to work in long stretches with lots of tiny breaks throughout. It's not unusual for me to paint for 12-18 hours a day. I didn't start out being able to work this way, but it's become a habit that I actually enjoy. I get in a groove and want to see it through. I've also come to accept the fact that I can't put a number to how many hours it takes me to do a painting. There are too many variables--the dog's hair, the lighting, the colors, the background details, the size. In art school I was taught to be able to track my time, but I've given up. A painting might take me anywhere from 10-40 hours or more--except when it doesn't. ;)

Working mostly on commission adds another element to the whole notion of time. I need to factor in emails, photo shoots, phone consultations, canvas prep, drawing and all the other things that go into a painting before I even pick up a brush. All said and done, a commissioned painting can be anywhere from several months to a year in the making. It's a pretty cool process, actually. A lot of relationship building happens in that time and by the time I'm done with an animal's portrait, I truly feel like their life has affected mine in a very deep and meaningful way.

8. Are there any paintings you have done that have especially touched your heart?
There are several dogs that have had an extremely profound effect on me, my life, and the direction of my art. But, over all, I have to say that I truly fall in love with every single animal that I've painted. I'm a sucker for dog-love and it catches me off guard every time. Sometimes I wonder how it's possible to love this much. Through painting, I get to know an animal on a very deep level and, because of this, I suffer from love-overwhelm. Sometimes I'm afraid I might melt or explode or disintegrate, but it's an occupational hazard that I'm totally willing to live with.

9. Describe some of the emotions you feel while painting.
Love. The most consistent and powerful emotion that I feel while painting is, by far, love. I often feel the love that the animal has for his or her human companion as well as the love they have for each other. It's pretty amazing actually. As weird as it might sound, I truly feel that, through painting, I become a conduit for the emotions of the animal I'm painting. Sometimes I feel a sense of gentleness. Other times I feel happiness, playfulness, inquisitiveness, sweetness...whatever the animal seems to be feeling, I feel it too. Beneath any of these emotions is always love--and that is something I never, ever get tired of.

10. How, on a bad day, do you stay motivated to continue working to meet your deadlines?
I just don't allow bad days to derail me. I wasn't always like this, but my love for what I do is stronger than the curve balls that bad days might throw at me. I've taught myself to move through whatever might threaten to hold me back--whether it be tiredness, frustration, anxiety, apathy, rain, barking dogs, doesn't matter. Focusing on those things only makes it worse and if I waited around for perfect conditions, I'd never get anything done. Anyway, I usually find that the work itself tends to fix anything that is throwing me off course. I also find that it helps me to stay inspired and motivated by paying attention to little pleasures such as the smell of a fresh cup of coffee, the muffle-puffin sounds of snoring dogs, or my sun-drenched workbench. If all else fails, a walk in the woods with the dogs or a double espresso will usually put me back in workable groove. That groove is nice place to be and is easier to reach the more I practice it.

11. How has pursuing this dream changed your life?
More like: how hasn't it changed my life? Oy! Pursuing my dream and watching it succeed has made it impossible for me to even consider anything less than fully living my purpose. To be honest, it can be kind of scary--after all, I have a lot to lose now that I've experienced what it feels like to be living and working from the center of my heart. Pursuing my dream has required a hearty combination of determination and inspiration. It has also taught me that everything is possible--for anyone. First we need to imagine it. Then we need to take action. I am constantly nudging myself forward into new territory. It is exhaustive and exhilarating all at once! Eleanor Roosevelt once said: "Do one thing every day that scares you." Those are words I live by. Those are the words that changed my life and pushed me to start living my dream. There's no going back now!


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