December 27, 2009

A Dog Named Bear

A Dog Named Bear
Artists’ work in December often runs towards the small and intimate. It is the Christmas market. Craftsmen busy themselves turning out trinkets. Large and ponderous work falls by the wayside as all hands work for the immediate gift giving market. It is a strange time of year for artists-for-hire; fulfilling the desires of others.
Unexpectedly, I had small commissions and large commitments to complete on short notice. As they were gifts for other givers the subject matter and execution was somewhat outside my usual repertoire. They consisted of two small paintings of beloved dogs for their person companions and one group portrait of five children to be given to their grandmother for Christmas.
It was a challenge at first to become motivated to paint subjects that were of much greater sentimental value to people other than myself, but times being what they were, and still are, I rose to that challenge. One of my subjects was a little dog named "Bear." As I sized up Bear and began to paint his visage on a small panel I reminded myself that although I don’t know him, I could at least do a decent job of making an oil painting of him. In order to interpret the photograph I was given in a more artistic manner, I eliminated some of the floor board lines that were cutting across his body and created deeper shadows along the edge of his form.
As I painted that perky little face I was surprised that I began to see something of a presence of animal consciousness. It was looking at that curious consciousness that pets have when perceiving their person companions and aware once more of the mutual adoration of human with animal. It then occurred to me that I was painting something like a small icon. Little Bear reminded me of how emotionally attached people become to their animal companions despite the folly of investing so much time and heart to a living thing with a limited life span. The painting I had completed the week before was of a deceased pet and poor Bear was also not long for this world so I was told. I do hope that he continues to bring his family joy for just a little longer and that my painting will warm the heart for years to come.

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