Hockney's two little red dachsunds aren't sitting up begging with bows around their necks: in most of the paintings they are just stretched out asleep. Somehow the artist has made them delightful without being cute or uncanine. If I could paint puppies and kittens like that I think my young visitor might be proved right.
|The Master - acrylic - 2005|
|Patrolling His Wall - acrylic - 2008 - 24" x 32"|
I think dogs are at their best when they have a job to do, and this dog took his responsibilities very seriously indeed. I hoped to capture his determination to protect his property at all costs--which is why I don't want him to be seen as a softie. As regards the painting, it was difficult and frustrating, in part because of the awkward viewpoint and perspective. I value it chiefly for the foliage in the background, which is painted in a looser and more impressionistic way than I had been able to achieve before.
Soon after making the acquaintance of my future son-in-law, I also met his bearded dragon, a lizard about a foot long who lived in his comic-book store. Simon had had the dragon some ten years by then, which speaks highly of his handling and feeding of it, since many reptiles meet an untimely end in captivity. However, after another year or two it died, and one year I had the idea of painting it for Simon's birthday. I had gathered that the dragon was female and that her name was Trish. I therefore asked Simon to lend me some photos of "Trish," at which point he told me a bit sheepishly that her name was Chish, a contraction, he explained, of "chickenshit."
Although he hunted, Simon was not able to find any photos of his pet, so I had to go further afield to find models. I didn't want to work from someone else's photos, so I drove out to the Reptile Refuge in the further reaches of Surrey, on a dark, rainy afternoon. The Refuge, which I believe has now closed for lack of funding, had a collection of bearded dragons along with many other adopted reptiles, many of which had been abandoned by their owners. I found my way to the dragons' quarters, squeezing past a school group in the narrow space. I asked if I could photograph the lizards, which would have necessitated a flash, and was not surprised when permission was refused. So I stood close to the glass, jostled by the school children, and made some sketches. Later I chose one of them and made Simon's birthday present, but then I used the same pose for two different versions, which became more colourful each time.
|Lizard 2 - acrylic - 14" x 11"|
|In Memory of Chish - acrylic - 12" x 12"|
|Lizard 3 - acrylic - 12" x 12"|
Of the above paintings, I sold "The Master" and "Lizard 3", and Simon seemed happy with his present. Another dog,"Designated Driver", which I featured in my blog on April 23, 2011, also sold, as did my other attempt at reptiles, "Cancun Conversation" (blog March 6, 2011.) So I'm not doing too badly with my animals, and maybe that young boy was on the right track, even if I'm not up there with David Hockney.
Next instalment mid-November