Jessica Stone got so much more than a pet when she adopted Piper. The one-eyed Bulldog quickly became a best friend and fellow artist, following Stone into the studio to create abstract paintings alongside her. Both have work on display: Stone in a solo show and Piper on her website, piperstoneartwork.com, and in her Etsy shop. The pair also share a new gallery space in their home city of Austin. Together, they are our newest Dogster Heroes.
When Stone decided to add another animal to her family — which also includes husband Jeff and Staffordshire Bull Terrier Roxie — she started looking for one with special needs.
“I really wanted a dog who might be difficult to adopt out,” Stone says. “Roxie was really ill when we rescued her. The thought of someone giving her back because of it … I just can’t imagine.”
She thought a Bulldog would be a good fit. Austin does not have a rescue group for the breed, though, so she filled out an application with San Antonio Bulldog Rescue, requesting a special-needs dog.
“They contacted me and said, ‘I think we have a dog for you. She’s got one eye, she’s grumpy, and has really bad hips,’” Stone recalls. “When we saw her, we just fell in love.”
The rescue group’s coordinator, Teresa Dalton, brought Piper to the Stones this time last year. It was clear from Piper’s behavior that she had been abused and teased, on top of somehow losing her right eye.
“We work with her every day, giving her affection. She’s come so far in the last year,” Stone says of Piper, now 9 years old. The family plans to celebrate on her adoption day, Oct. 8.
Stone has a background in graphic design and photography, but she decided to give art her full attention about five years ago. Her solo exhibit, Self Contradictions, explores exactly that, with abstract paintings hanging alongside precise 3-D multimedia works at Stinger Studio in nearby Georgetown and on her website, jessicastoneartwork.com.
The paintings have a style similar to the art Piper produces, but Stone keeps her role in the pup’s creative process to a minimum.
“I never taught Piper anything. Whenever I would go into my studio to paint, she would run in after me. The only other thing she runs for is food because she has horrible hip dysplasia. She would just sit there for hours and watch me paint.
“After about six weeks, I said to my husband, ‘I think she wants to paint.’ He already thinks I’m crazy, so I stuck a brush in her mouth. She sat there with me, didn’t run away. It seemed like she was having fun.”
Stone chooses the colors and holds the paper while Piper works, chewing the brush handle and wiggling her head to create strokes.
Once Stone realized Piper’s paintings had artistic value, she created a Facebook page (now at nearly 6,000 likes) along with the website and the Etsy shop. More than 120 of Piper’s paintings have sold, and she recently had works in a show at Niza Knoll Gallery in Denver.
Stone admits to being a little jealous of Piper’s painting career, but more so for her style than her success. She told Texas Country Reporter in a segment that aired earlier this year, “I think what’s so beautiful about her work and so unique is that it’s completely free. A human could never do what she does because even if we think we’re being free, we still are watching, we still have some kind of control. And she’s not controlled at all, and her pieces are just so carefree and whimsical, and they amaze me.”
Piper’s Etsy shop has more than a dozen works. Prices range from $55 to $144 for paintings, while print repoductions cost $20. Playful images of the one-eyed painting Bulldog, taken by Stone, and other Piper-related items mix with her artwork in the online store, which donates 10 percent of every purchase price to San Antonio Bulldog Rescue. Stone also donates money and other items, such as used paintbrushes, to rescue groups for their auctions and charity events. They include Austin Pets Alive! (from which the Stones adopted Roxie), Treat Em’ Right Rescue, National Mill Dog Rescue, Bulldog Haven NW, and Lone Star Bulldog Club Rescue. Piper’s used paintbrushes actually fetch a high price at charity auctions, with one recently going for $250.
Speaking of paintbrushes, Piper doesn’t chew on just any old brush as part of her artistic process.
“She uses better brushes than I do, because I like to get her ones with bamboo wooden handles without varnish,” Stone says, adding that she covers most of Piper’s brushes with tape or something to protect her teeth and gums (but she does leave them bare for photos and TV appearances, of which Piper has had a few). She also uses more expensive, nontoxic paints than Stone.
Stone and Piper will have a booth at the Texas Country Reporter Festival on Oct. 27 and will be part of the East Austin Studio Tour, happening Nov. 10 through 18, at their new gallery space at the Big Medium artist community. Stone does not yet have regular gallery hours for their new space, but she will show fans their works by appointment.
For those not in the Austin area, Stone continues to add works to Piper’s Etsy shop and also has several other projects in the works with the pup, including a calendar and photo book. She also hopes to publish a children’s book with Piper as the star.
Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.