Saturday, July 8, 2017

Above the Barn

Owls have always fascinated me.   We have a pair of what we call "hoot" owls that roost in the palm trees above our barn.   To be correct, they are "Great Horned Owls."  When we are out at night they fly over us.   Occasionally, they roost on top of the telephone pole directly behind the barn. and hoot away.  One night, crazy as this sounds, one was on top of our home's chimney.   The hooting was echoing down into the house.   It was so cool.

Dawn Secord Fine Art
For an art show it came into my heart to paint one.  So, I set out to photograph owls.   We went to the zoo and photographed owls.   We were having dinner at a friend's ranch and there was one in the pine tree near their home.  It was sitting there in a Ponderosa Pine (hence the Ponderosa in the painting).   Then, at another friend's home there was one in the opening of their barn.

This owl is a combination of all my owl sightings and photos taken.  The pine tree was photographed near our home in a canyon. 

We love to hear them call out at night.   Equally, we love to be under them as they fly overhead.  We enjoy the sound of their wings flapping in the calm night air.

The painting is currently on exhibit in Southern California at the Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve and is for sale.

Thanks for taking a peek.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fern: NZ SPR CH and SPL GR CH Lanascol Question Answered

Facebook is so awesome and allows us to peek into people's lives in ways never before available.   We see fun pictures of friends and family.  We see wonderful pictures of peoples' travels.  And for me, I see lots and lots of pictures of peoples' dogs.  There is an Irish Setter in New Zealand that I've loved to follow and admire.   Her name is Fern.  Those in the dog show world know her as NZ SPR CH and SPL GR CH Lanascol Question Answered.
When her owner approached me to paint her it was such a thrill.   We met when she was traveling here to the US and were able to talk in person.  She returned to New Zealand and started sending me me reference photos of Fern for the painting.   Each photo was lovely - so many great shots.   Long story short, the project became a two image painting.  The main image would be a head shot of Fern and the second image would be a movement shot.

Fern is a classically beautiful setter.   One main change that was made from the reference photo to the painting was the reflection in her eyes.  The reflection in her left eye (the right side of the painting) was wonderful.  The reflection in her right eye in the photo was pretty subdued.  This was not that apparent when looking at the photo.  However, in the painting, it felt out of balance.  So, I put a much stronger reflection in the right eye.  Not as much reflection as in the left eye as the right eye is partially shadowed in the photo.   But the painting was stronger with more light in that right eye. 

It is so important to me that people do not have me "replicate" a photo.  Actually, that word makes me cringe when I hear it.   My goal as an artist is to create a painting using photos as reference material.  I equate it to a map.  When driving to a new location don't you need directions to get there?    Cameras can capture a wonderful image of the dog.  If it were not for photographs, it would be really difficult to paint a dog.  My dogs are trained to be models and they will only sit still for as long as they think is appropriate and then go galluping to the kitchen for treats!   In a painting, an artist can change whatever they want to from the reference photos.  We can make weaker areas strong or tone down strengths of a photo that are over powering.  We can fix a twitching nose that is pointed the wrong direction in a photo.   We can open eyes that are squinting.  We can straighten hair that is kinky.   In the painting I can put detail where there is none in a photo or I can eliminate details from a  photo that really are not needed.  As a professional artist, my job is to capture the essence of the dog and create something special.   I look to the photos as help to give me details to capture that animal for the person who commissioned me to do so.  (In no way do I intend for this post to downplay photos or photographers.   From taking photos of animals avidly for over 40 years, photography is an art in and of itself and to be admired and respected.)

When it came to creating the background of Fern's painting I was given artist liberty - no preferences.   A great deal of time was spent looking at the painting and deciding what to do with the background.  Fern's classic look set me in a "Rembrandt" mode - classical paintings.   The background was created in the environment of the old masters.   A subdued palette with lights and darks.   Hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I did painting it.   Huge thank you to Carolyn and Paul for having me paint their special girl!

Fern painting completed (the copyright mark is not on the painting)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Visiting Castle Hill Lighthouse - a new painting and limited edition prints.

Each year I come out with a new painting that is released at the time of the Irish Setter Club of America National Specialty.

This year the National is in Rhode Island.  I'd visited Rhode Island 12  years ago and photographed a lighthouse for this very purpose.

An unexpected vacation came up last summer and all of a sudden ... I would have better photos than I'd taken 12 years ago.   But, before I give away the entire story .... there is a page dedicated to the painting with reference photos and all the details.  Please click on the photo of the painting below to be taken to the page - or put this in your browser:

The original of this painting is sold.  If you are interested in purchasing a reproduction - click here:

As always - thank you for taking a peek at my work!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Hummingbird Painting - Part of my work to be exhibited in San Dimas, California, the end of April
The annual art exhibit at the San Dimas Festival of Arts is April 28th thru 30th.  If you live in Southern California, would love to see you there.   This painting is available.  If interested, please email me at

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Painting of Polo

This painting of Polo was heartbreaking to paint.  Polo held a special place in his owner's heart.  His life was cut way to short by illness. 

Sometimes just a few words can say so much.  Here is what Polo's human mom told me when I asked her to share about her boy...

Avon Farm Polo Ralph Lauren
December 7, 2009 - October 18,2016
He was a sweet and gentle boy who left too soon. 

I can't write anymore Dawn. I am crying
When I read her response to my question asking her to share, I just had to sit and digest her answer.  How many of us have lost a pet too soon?    How many of us have wondered what memories we've lost because we didn't have the time to experience them?    How many of us have lost seeing those gentle eyes that warm our souls and somehow, miraculously, make any hurt a little more bearable?    For me, losing an old pet who has attained their expected life span is tough.   But with losing a younger one, you are filled with that feeling of unfairness - being robbed.   One thing I have learned for sure - no matter how long we have our pets, it is never long enough.

Below is the reference photo of Polo.  At first we were just going to paint his head and shoulders.  The more I studied the photo, the more I realized having more of his body in the painting really complimented the gentle expression in his eyes.   For the sofa, I wanted something that wasn't a pattern.  I asked Julie if a leather sofa could be substituted for her floral one.  She was agreeable.   The softer background really lends to accentuate Polo and unquestionably make him the main focus of the painting.

Hoping this painting helps Julie with the healing process.

Thank you, as always, for taking a peek at my work.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A painting of Tobie the Yorkie and Murphee the Maltese

This painting was really awesome to create.  The owners of Tobie and Murphee had the perfect photos for our project.  Both dogs had passed away and and fortunately their owners had a number of them.  

There was a great photo of the boys laying on the back of the sofa.   Their expressions in that photo were not ideally what the owners wanted reflected in the painting.   However, there were some other photos that had the dogs' expressions that really showed "the boys" personalities.

Usually I stay away from moving body parts like this.  Since the dogs had so much coat, it was not as big of a transition as it would be on a short coated dog like a Frenchie (for example).  I didn't have to worry about muscle or tendons being off - all would be covered with their hair.  For the background, I was a bit concerned the darkness in the photo would over power the dogs.  This was discussed with the dogs owners, Kim and Eric, and they agreed.

The photos are all shown below and you can see how the painting came to life.

I asked the owners to share a little bit about the dogs and this is what they told me:

Tobie, our Yorkie, was born August 26, 2004, and Murphee, our Maltese, was born December 26, 2005.  They became brothers in the Spring of 2006 and played a tremendous role in our family for the years to follow.

In their relationship with each other, Tobie was the “big brother”.  He was very smart, spirited, and welcoming; we considered him an “old soul”, as he was very intuitive in his mannerisms.  Murphee, the baby of the family, had a very affectionate and playful character.  He carried himself in a regal manner, and was a true and sweet companion to all he trusted.  “The Boys”, as we affectionately called them, shared a loving bond and were always together. 

This painting, on the back of our sofa, depicts their favorite spot in the house.  It gave them a collective, comfortable view over their home, and more importantly, over our family.  We are so grateful for our time together, and remain appreciative of their lively spirit – they will be in our hearts forever.
Thank you again for truly capturing their spirit.  We are so grateful for this keepsake and your effort.

Eric & Kim

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A painting of Easi.....Multi BIS, BISS Am/Can Ch Ashton Peaceful Easy Feeling

This is a painting of Easi.   Her owners tragically lost her a few weeks ago.   The painting was being finished at that time.    When they received the painting today - and opened it - I think it was like getting a little piece of her back.   That is how I feel when I look at the paintings I've done of my pets that are passed.   Having their painting allows me to feel I have a piece of them here in my home - something special in which to pay tribute to them.

Her owners gave me permission to use the information they had about her on their website - here is what is posted under a beautiful photo of her:

Multi BIS, BISS Am/Can Ch Ashton Peaceful Easy Feeling
(Am/Can Ch Mijean's I Fooled Ya X Ch Pin Oak's Secret-Lee Ashton)

"Easi, and that totally depicts her, is our Homebred Star. Finishing her AKC, and Canadian Champion title just months before she won the Irish Setter Club of America National Specialty in 2008 , then only to follow the next year by winning Best of Breed at Westminster "The Garden" in New York City. All of this before she was 4 years old. Throughout her career extending  2 years, always piloted by Jennifer Holmberg Baggenstos, Easi garnered 50 + Group Firsts, Numerous Best In Specialty Breed Awards and Five All Breed Best In Shows."

In 2008 I was at the Irish Setter National Specialty where Easi had gone Best of Breed.  It was an exciting show - and personally an emotionally exhausting show.  It was there I'd retired my special girl Jewel.  She was in the show and made it to the final round as a veteran.   I remember walking towards the ring after the show (like usual, I'd left my brush or something at the ring and I was on my way to retrieve it).   My path was on a course to intersect with Janet who was walking my way.   When I was about to pass her I saw she was crying - her face was flushed.   Stopping and filled with compassion towards this woman who was having something very emotional going on I asked her, "Are you okay?"   She wiped her tears and with a huge smile told me she was okay, that it was her girl that won.   I congratulated on her.  I'd been in the ring with Easi.  She was breathtaking.

Now, years later, I was honored by being asked to paint her.   You know they always say good things come around.    This has been a full circle for me.  Being able to share in the glory of this dog and then being able to paint her.    Thank you Janet for having me paint your special girl as a surprise for Gary. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

This is a painting of Jade - an Australian Cattledog

This painting of Jade was recently finished.   Her family saw my art a few years a go and spoke to me about painting her.  They put down a deposit and a place on my waiting list.

We made arrangements for the painting and then life got in the way.   They would contact me, then I would contact them.    They sent me a number of photos of her a few months ago.    I finally was able to "see" Jade.  Until the photos arrived, I simply knew I was painting an Australian Cattle Dog named Jade.

When I saw her photos my heart jumped.  She was not only lovely, but you could see in her eyes that she loved her family.   There was "that look" that I could see in the photos - the look that she was lovingly looking into the eyes of the person taking the photo.  It was time to get to work.  It was their time on the waiting list and I had a beautiful girl to paint.

Thank you to her family for having me paint your special girl, Jade.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Painting in process

My work is in a show this April.  The theme of the show is California Images.

This is an oil - subject is an egret.   There is an under painting solely of burnt sienna.  Most of the background will be completed with a palette knife.

Having fun~

Monday, January 23, 2017

Pembroke Welsh Corgi painting is completed

This was such a cool painting.   The dog featured, Annie, is no longer with her family.  So, this was a very special painting for them.   It sounds like Annie had a nice long life.   For those of us who are animal lovers, no matter how long an animal is with us - it is never long enough.

They were going to be in Palm Springs traveling in from Arizona.  We planned for me to have the painting finished by the end of the show so they could take it with them.

Due to my waiting list, I only have a booth at a show twice a year.   It is always fun to paint in public and talk to people.   Such a huge and welcome change from sitting at home and painting alone.   While I LOVE to paint at home, it is a nice change to get out in public sometimes.

Thank you to Denisa for having me paint her special girl.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Enya - painting of a Shar-Pei

This is Enya.  Some dear friends of her owners commissioned me to paint her as a Christmas gift.

The painting has been received so it is okay for me to share the painting.

The photo used for the primary pose was a bit hazy.  I'm guessing the photo was taken using a cell phone.  Cell phones with cameras are our best friends at times.  They can help us catch those special moments that would otherwise be lost if we had to run and get the real cameras.  It was clear that the color of Enya was off in the photo.  Thankfully, other reference photos were supplied so true values of her coat, eye and nose color were available for the painting.

Enya had a special window installed for her to view out of the house.   The parties giving the gift had asked if we could incorporate "her window" into the painting.  Of course we could!

To make the painting not too busy or confusing, the bed Enya was laying on had to be eliminated.   When all said was said and done, it worked.  Enya, our main subject was not overpowered by an overly done background and she remained our primary focal point.

It is always such an honor to be commissioned to paint for another party.  Sometimes I just want to say "pinch me".   How can I have such an awesome job?   It sure would have been wonderful to meet Enya.   She passed away last year.   I hope this painting gives her family a little piece of her to keep closely tucked in their hearts.

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

So excited to share that my work is on the cover of JAVMA - Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

They contacted me earlier this year to inquire about using one of my paintings on the cover of the January 1, 2017 issue.

What a great way to start the new year!  Thank you AVMA!

Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kerry Blue Terrier - Schmokie

This is Schmokie, a Kerry Blue Terrier.  I'm quite fond of Kerry Blues.   I actually have a family history with the breed.

My maternal grandparents (Nana & Bapoo) bred and showed them.   My grandmother was the groomer and my grandfather was the exhibitor.    According to my mother, my grandmother was too bashful to run around the ring.  I was too young to remember them showing any dogs, but I do remember the dog "lingo".   I remember like it was yesterday my grandmother calling her dog a B****.   In my young mind, I couldn't believe my Nana was swearing and getting away with it.  No, neither Mom or Bapoo said anything about washing HER
mouth out with soap.  Could never figure that one out - fond memories for sure.  I still have one of Nana's slicker brushes.   They don't make brushes like they used to!

The painting of Schmokie is a mini 6 x 6 painting and is the result of a Christmas gift.   I LOVE doing surprise paintings.   Such a thrill to be part of that magic - the gift of giving.

When it was time to paint Schmokie, a number of reference photos were supplied.   It was had to choose - he was such an attractive dog.   His owner and I agreed on a given photo.   About a month later, with fresh eyes, I revisited the photos.   The one used jumped out at me.   There was something about the direct eye contact that was captivating.  So, an email was sent to his owner asking her to revisit the photos and give this one consideration.  She agreed and we had a new reference photo.

Thank you to everyone involved.   It was a joy to create this painting!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Portrait of 5 Ibizan Hounds

This was an exciting painting to create.   Many of the dogs featured in this painting are no longer with us.  There were limited photos of those dogs and a great deal of research was involved to assist me where the photos could not.

I studied photos of Ibizans to make sure the features I was going to add to the photos was indeed consistent in the breed.  Questions I asked myself were - what is to be expected on bone structure, nose shape, ear shape, eye shape and muzzle width for the Ibizan Hound?   The photo of Rio, in the middle, was ideal.  A few of the photos were fine.   A few of the photos were small and hazy.   With the white on the faces, it could be easy to paint the muzzle too wide or too narrow.  A little homework only makes the student stronger.  (My motto is that I am always learning - always the student in all that I do.)

The dog in the lower left corner, Annie, was laying down in the reference photo.   It was a challenging pose for the painting.  What to do?  Well, I have big dogs and I know what big dogs do.   Big dogs lay their heads on the table and beg for food when you are eating....well, they do if you let them around the table while you are eating.   That was the perfect solution.  I'd have Annie standing with her head laying on a table.   Easy - well, hopefully it would work out and be easy.   Sometimes I have these ideas to put into a painting and one thing changes one thing that changes another thing and before I know it the "easy" wasn't easy.

The layout of the dogs was also a bit challenging like putting together a puzzle.  How could I arrange them to make them into a complimentary composition.   Rio was to be in the middle of the painting, that was requested.  How I arranged the others was left to my judgement.

Long story short, with a goal of no one's ears being in anyone else's face, it worked out.   The important factor was to have the subjects' faces as large as possible and fit in all those ears in a flattering arrangement.

Hope you enjoy viewing the painting as much as I enjoyed painting it.   Thank you to Julie for entrusting me with such a large and important project.

Following is one of the proposed compositions for the painting.  It was not the final placement as seen above.  Also, we used a more recent photo of Rio in the middle - featured below the composition.  Such an enjoyable project!!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sir Finn - A portrait of an Irish Setter

This was such a fun painting to do - well - I feel like a broken record saying this, but I never tire of painting people's animals for them.   It just touches my heart.

This is Finn.   His owner wanted a standing painting of him from the very beginning.  In the primary reference photo he was pulling down on his tail a bit.  I had to laugh when she asked me to fix the tail (and she did have a great photo of his top line and tail as another reference photo).  So, the reason I had to laugh - my dogs all pull down on their tail when I am showing them if I grab the tip of their tail.    I've never trained them to hold their tail out by holding the tip of it.  If I try to pull on the tip of their tail, the tuck their hiney down and it is laughable.  I had a judge pull Jewel's tail once and Jewel fiercly tried to wag it out of the judge's grasp.   No, we didn't win, but the judge did laugh at Jewel's antics.   Finn has a lovely top line and tail set.   We most certainly did need to show that in the painting!

Sir Finn is my very special heart boy.  In this painting he was just 2 years old.  He is now 3 and has earned 6 titles.  His  reg. name is CH Captiva One Last Time BN,RN,RA,THDN, CGC.   Sir Finn Excels at his therapy work and has a real bond with Alzheimer patients.  He was with my mom when she passed away last year and it was so very amazing how gentle he was with her and is with other patients.  He wants to please me with everything he has within himself, whether it be obedience or just cuddling.  He is a true gentlemen.  In agility classes, he listens and stay with me but is now getting too fast for me so we will see what this brings.  He has a heart of pure gold and is so very calm .  Even the day we brought him home from Canada,  he, a 10 week old puppy, calmed my very sick Irish, Liam!  Sir Finn has never found a person or critter he has not liked no matter what they do or say.  There will never be another Finn.  I do thank Dawn Secord for capturing him so amazingly and in a few more year hope to have a head portrait of him.

Thank you Rita for having me paint your beautiful boy!