Most dog parents are crazy enough about their fur kids to want to have their animals’ likenesses well-represented in their homes, in things such as snapshots, figurines, needlepoint pillows, and paintings. You know how it goes. You’re browsing at a gift shop, art festival, or even Etsy, and a piece catches your eye. “Hey, that reminds me of Sophie or Truffles,” you say, and the next thing you know it’s occupying a treasured spot on your mantle. And that piece becomes all the more meaningful when it represents a pet you’ve lost.
A few weeks ago I attended the Self-Taught Art Show and Sale run by Slotin Folk Art of Atlanta. More than 12,000 visitors a year attend this expo to see the creative work of craftspeople from throughout the Southeast. And I was thrilled to see dogs all over the place — at least on the walls.
Canines have long been a favorite subject for so-called “outsider art,” which often reflects the joys and simplicities of everyday life and is not connected to the established art world. Many of these talented local artists base their work on their own pets, but they also offer custom, personalized pieces as well — often for less than $200. As the creator of DoggieNames.com, I especially love to see those carefully chosen names creatively woven into the art itself.
I spoke to some of the artists whose doggie art I admired. Here are four of them — and they offer discounts to Dogster readers.
Cooper’s amazing and colorful collages really caught my eye. She got started creating them about a decade ago. All it took was finding the right medium. “Turns out I’m not good with a paintbrush, but scissors really gave me the freedom I needed.” She lives and works out of End of the Road Studios in Walhalla, South Carolina, in a home she shares with a “fabulous mutt. My husband came with a mutt of his own and the cat allows all of us to live in his house.” She prefers to depict dogs, though, since “they truly come in all shapes, size and textures.”
Like many of these friendly folk artists, she’s happy to customize a piece. They each take about a week to complete. “Whether it be a personalized tag, a special collar or an ode to a college or team, helping them capture the spirit of their loved one is the challenge and the fun.”
Bonus: She’s offering a 20 percent discount at her online store if you enter the code Dogster20.
Self-taught artist Miz Thang, who hails from Sandersville, Georgia, began crafting her original, colorful works in the early ‘90s, and they’ve since been featured at shows across the South. Her wooden figures often include a handwritten message or poem as well.
“My own dogs were and are my inspiration. I’ve had dog friends all my life, and I love to honor them through my art.” That includes her 10-year-old Tibetan Spaniel Mojo, who’s been known to shake his tail feathers a time or two. “I’ve done many dancing dogs in his honor,” she says. Before Mojo, Miz Thang shared her life with another Tibetan, Lacey, who crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in 2011. That led her to develop her angel pieces, which she always creates “with Lacey in mind.”
She loves to create custom pieces to honor others’ beloved animals as well. “They’re my favorites to do,” she says. “They bring me a lot of joy.”
Besides the painted figures, Miz Thang came up with another very cool way to honor and depict canines. She calls these pieces her “dawg tag dawgs,” and they’re literally made out of discarded dog tags, which follows the outsider art tradition of creating works out of found objects.
Bonus: Check out her website, and if you’re interested in ordering a piece, mention Dogster and you’ll get a 20-percent discount through December.
Jimmy W. describes himself as a “memory” folk artist from Alabama who depicts scenes of his childhood in the late 1940s and 1950s, most of which include his hound dog, Cracker.
“Cracker showed up on our doorstep in 1950,” he says. “We were sort of poor, and the only thing we had in the house to eat was a cracker. She ate it, so I named her Cracker. She went with me everywhere when I was a kid, so I paint her in a lot of my paintings.”
He only began crafting his art about 10 years ago, using acrylics on boards, canvas, tin and sometimes even windows, and exhibits his work at shows throughout the region. “I paint because it makes me happy and it seems to make some other people happy,” he says.
Though Jimmy W. prefers to paint Cracker, he does do custom work as well. He doesn’t have a website, but he’s reachable by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ceramic artist Karen Fincannon was inspired to create her adorable large-bodied animal sculptures by her cat Wooley, whom she and her family called “the very short cow.” And though she crafts a variety of species, from pigs to zebras, she found herself making more dogs than any other type of animal. “Dogs have a lot of personality, and look so distinct,” she says. Her process takes about a week and involves several steps. She starts by crafting the bodies out of earthenware clay, then creates the heads to go on top. Then, after a few rounds of drying, glazing and firing, they’re ready for their new homes.
“Most all of my dogs are smiling,” Fincannon says of her happy little figures. “I take pride in trying to capture both the look and personality of all of the dogs I make.” She also makes a lot of custom orders from photos. “I ask for the customer to tell me a bit about their dog. That helps me understand the personality and translate it to the sculpture,” she says.
Bonus: If you’d like to snag one of these great pooches for yourself, or are interested in a custom order, Fincannon is offering a Dogster discount as well. Contact her at her Etsy store.
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About the author: Atlanta’s own Toni Perling is a writer, mostly about dogs, hence her blogger name, Doggienista. 🙂 And hence, her two beautiful rescues dogs: Daisy Jo and Bud Earl. She tweets for them at DaisyJoBudEarl, and shares her collection of dog names and trends at DoggieNames.com. Toni started asking her parents for a puppy pretty much the minute she learned to speak, but they held off until she was the ripe old age of 10, when the family welcomed a Miniature Schnauzer named Truffles. In between, she inhaled every book about dogs ever written and can pretty much identify any breed by sight. She’s also a longtime supporter of spay/neuter/rescue, and adopted her first dog, a sweet lovable mutt named Sophie, from an L.A. County shelter.