Saturday, December 26, 2020

A painting of Emmy - Irish Setter

 This painting was completed of Emmy back in November.   I will be doing four paintings of Emmy and her house mates.   Painting # 2 is nearing completion.


I've known Emmy since she was a pup.  She is a sweetheart and has the most gentle personality.   It was a joy to be around her and take her photographs.   It was challenging to pick the photos for this paining.  Emmy is so photogenic, there were many choices from which to pick.   We couldn't have gone wrong regardless on the photos chosen.    

Yvette, thank you for having me painting your beautiful Emmy.  I can't wait for you to see the painting in person.

Here are the reference photos used for the painting:

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A painting of Stevie - PBGV - Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen

Here is a painting of Stevie.  She is a PBGV - Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen

Here is a little background Stevie's owner shared with me...I got “Stevie” from a breeder  (“Lilly - her previous name” at the time, was 18 Months Old).  I lost my last Heart Dog on December 28th, 2013 and swore NO more Dogs!!!  (no more heartbreak)  Well, less than 2 Months Later, (Feb. 26th 2014) Stevie became my Forever Dog and the rest is History.  It was Love at First Sight and DEFINITELY a sign from Rainbow Bridge that was telling me, my previous PBGV didn’t want Mom to be lonely.  Stevie and I walk for about 5 miles every day and anyone and everyone that sees her, stops to ask me what kind of Dog she is.  She captures the hearts of everyone and LOVES both people and other dogs.  Her outgoing personality and her zest for life, keep me going and I can’t wait to open my eyes every morning to see her face.  She makes me smile, laugh and kisses my tears away when I’m sad.  She LOVES to chase squirrels, rabbits and anything else that’s small, furry and moves.  She has such an AMAZING temperament and the tail wags CONSTANTLY!  Her eyes sparkle and she has brought so much Sunshine and Love in to my Life and I’m Blessed to be lucky enough to be her “Forever Mom”.  One other thing is that she realizes how poor my Vision is and actually leads me through trails, paths etc. to find our way home.  I LOVE, LOVE LOVE what you’ve created!

Here are the reference photos used to create Stevie's painting.   Thank yo to Diane for having me paint your beautiful girl!

Monday, July 20, 2020

The one and only Clarence - Clumber Spaniel

I was so excited to paint a Clumber.    I'd painted an Irish Setter, Bailey, for Hilary and Pat in the past.   They are wonderful people and I was looking forward to working with them again.  This time they approached me to discuss painting their beloved Clumber, Clarence.  They are so dang adorable.  This is a breed I've always watched at the shows.   Hard to pinpoint the exact attraction, there is just something "happy" about a Clumber.

When it came to accumulating photos for Clarence's painting, his owners had some really fabulous choices.   A number of photos would have worked wonderfully.    They chose a perfect photo for me to use as the primary reference photo.  Clarence was sitting in a regal pose surrounded by a lovely garden of soft fuchsia colored blooms. 

With the white of the Clumber, having a soft blanket of color enveloping him was the ideal background.   The color really allowed Clarence to jump out of the composition as our primary focal point.

I'd asked Hilary and Pat to share some words about Clarence for me to include with his painting in my posts.   Here is what was shared:
As far as info on Clarence, you know that Bailey was our heart dog and we’re honored to have his portrait by you in our home.  We’re lucky to have a second heart dog in Clarence and are thrilled to have his portrait now too. He’s a true gentleman and loves his work as a therapy dog. He makes us smile every single day.

Thank you again!

It was my pleasure to paint Clarence.   He is such a character.   Congrats to Hilary and Pat for the new puppies they have out of Clarence.  His legacy will continue on.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A painting of Dominick: MBISS MBISS NBIS GCHG PaRay’s Power and Privilege

This painting was something I'd been looking forward to doing.   Dominick's owners had wanted a unique painting of their lovely boy.   I was excited to work with them again.   I had painted their girl, Sloan, a number of years ago.
The goal was to have him in a Victorian setting.   After quite a lot of research and going back and forth with ideas - we had a plan.  I've not done a painting like this before, but what fun it was to create.   Dominick was a Bichon Frise and had a significant impact on the breed.   With that in mind, I wanted the colors of the clothing to reflect Dominick.   The purple and gold colors in the clothing are the colors of the Best of Breed ribbon in the dog show world.  In addition, purple and gold are the colors for the Westminster Kennel Club.   All fitting to include in this dog's painting.   Over the course of the research and the completion of the painting, many conversations were had.  

Following are some snippets of these conversations as well as background information about Dominick.
 Dawn, I have been fascinated by these images since I opened your email!
You are so clever with the angle of the head in position to the chest. Very intriguing.
The image of Dominick (#3)  looking up to the right, without his tongue sticking out - is the one I like best for the portrait. 
Did you flip this image?   Perfect!

Here is a little bit about Dominick:
MBISS MBISS NBIS GCHG PaRay’s Power and Privilege, “Dominick,” was our foundation sire for the Rosemont Bichon Frise line and had 21 litters to his credit.

And... a finished painting:
WOW! Just WOW!!
Beautiful. I think you did an extraordinary job on Dominick's head/face/expression, and the colors are magnificent - soft purple and gold - Westminster, and Best of Breed!
Dominick’s expression is lovely and your eye is perfect.
Martin got the biggest smile our of Dominick’s paw on the cane. It is his favorite part, after Dominick’s head.  I will enjoy it every day!  I can't wait to see the original.  And yes, the background detail is beyond expectations! Thank you very much!!
He will always be a most precious Bichon to me - - my heart dog.
Thank you to Laura and Martin for having me paint their special boy.  It was an honor.

Parker - Original Painting

Here is a painting just finished of Parker, an Irish Setter.     His owner sent me a fabulous reference photo and I couldn't wait to get started.   Not only was Parker's pose wonderful, the background was lovely.   Photos are my road map.   When you are traveling, a map (or GPS) can help you get from point A to point B.  The same holds true when painting a commissioned piece.   I need a map to get from a blank slate to reach a painting that is indeed truly a specific dog.   As an artist, I use liberties to make the composition stronger than the photo.   For this painting, I wanted Parker as large as possible while keeping as much background as possible.  If you look at the reference photo at the bottom of this post,  I've dropped the skyline, added darks where needed and reduced areas that were too dark in the photo.   The water is more emphasized in the painting and more colors were incorporated into the foliage.   There are more "reds -burnt sienna" in the foliage and grasses to create a color harmony that ties into the color of Parker.  In essence, I closely followed the photo, but made something distinct and different - a stronger composition.

I always like to know a little bit about the dogs I am painting.   It turns out, Parker was Lindsey's first Irish Setter.   For those of us who have the breed, we know they are smart, can be independent and have a lot of energy.   When I read what Lindsey sent me about Parker, I had to laugh.   Here is what she said....

My 1st Irish Setter and he taught me so much about training a dog that wasn’t as pleasing in temperament as a German Shepherd. He had a mind of his own and he was very determined. Parker could give you a look that screamed “do you think I am stupid?” The day we took this photo I had been working with him for months on obedience commands and was so proud of him for being such a good boy for the photos.

 Thank you for  having me paint your special boy Lindsey, it was an honor.  He was a gorgeous boy.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

A painting of Rowan

This painting was recently finished and will be shipped to his owners once they have relocated to their new home.

I've met Rowan and what a wonderful boy he is.   I'd asked his "parents" to share a little bit about him and his mom wrote the following poem.   She is so creative.  

Here is a little bit about Rowan!  Thank you to his parents for having me paint their beautiful boy.


He came from Colorado
A Galewinn’s pick of litter
Then went to California
To join Rose, an English Setter

Rowan got his first few nods
As he competed in the ring
He also played with toys
Great joy to us he’d bring

When one year old he went up North
Alaska seemed the place
To retire with some family
In open Klondike space

The next year again he moved
Midwest Wisconsin he was bound
A new job for Dad to try
New fun in squirrels he found

Family called us to Florida sun
Row tired of move once more
He found more squirrels to be chased
And handlers for shows galore

The show ring brought more wins
As Grand Champion he did reach
And then we got a new puppy
To chase squirrels he did teach

So now he’s almost five, still young
Making sure his fun’s not a bore
Rowan has a lot life ahead
Many goals he has in store.

So stay tuned to Rowan’s life
And see all that he does do
His future’s bright for all to see
His love from him to you.

Continue all to roam with Rowan
This Irish Setter from the States
His adventures I will share
As we all enjoy his fates.

Monday, March 23, 2020

A painting of Felix

This is Felix.  I've had the pleasure of meeting him in person and what a sweet dog he is.   I would have taken him home in a minute.

He was a dream during our photo shoot.   I've asked his owner, Gerry, to share a little bit about him.   Following is what she shared....

Felix Is a “giant gentle” was out of a litter of 4, two boys and girls; named after the stars of the Odd Couple.  Weighing 90 pounds, he could get into your bed and you would not even know it.  He brought comfort and companionship to my mom and dad while they were ill and would alert everyone if there was something out of the ordinary going on.  Felix is a true gentleman and adopted my heart when I met him when he was 4 1/2 years old.  He will be 11 years old in May and is truly my heart dog.

I am currently accepting commissions.  If you would like me to paint your dog, cat, horse, bird - etc - I'd love to talk to you.   Please email me at   As always, thank you for reading my blog.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Painting of John Doe - English Setter

This painting was recently finished.   The painting is a portrait of a beautiful English Setter, John Doe - BISS, GHC Sea Island’s Kadon Code Blue.

I love painting English Setters.   Painting them takes more time than some breeds.  It is a full time "checks and balances" to make sure I have the markings correct.  I usually use a ruler and have a large photo taped next to the painting as well as the image on my computer screen next to my easel.   The computer allows me to zoom in on fine details.  The photo allows me to use a ruler and measure back and forth between the painting and the photo comparing the placements of the markings. 

The primary reference pose was John Doe sitting on a grooming table at a dog show.  We can see he was having a great time.  My dogs love going to the shows - lots of pampering - seeing new people - making new friends - and....lots of TREATS!  What a beautiful boy.

Thank you Frazier for having me paint this special boy.

If you are interested in commissioning a painting of your dog, please email me at

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A painting of Behbinn

This is a commissioned painting of Behbinn.   "CH Malleyrhu First Love JR"

She is gone now, but she lives on in the heart of her owner and through her puppies that enrich our lives.

There is a long story behind Behbinn and me, and I will attempt to keep this short....

In 2009, my husband and I were attending the Irish Setter Club of America National Specialty which was held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that year.  Our young male dog, Drew, had placed 4th in the 12 - 18 month class.   A friend and art collector, Claire Andrews, had approached me to compliment me on Drew.    Anyone who knows Claire, knows a compliment from Claire is a big deal.   Claire then went on to recommend Drew as a potential stud dog to another friend, Jan Mathews, who had a lovely young girl named Behbinn.   Jan and I talked about a possible breeding.  Our dogs were too young at the time.  There was a lot to be accomplished before truly considering to breed these two dogs.   We wanted them to complete their championships, they needed them to undergo health testing and receive various health clearances, time would tell - but we decided to talk down the road.   

Two years later, our two dogs were of age, they were champions, and had their health clearances.   I took photos of Behbinn, and her pedigree, to Pat Haigler, my mentor, and sought her advice on the potential breeding.   Pat and I sat down and discussed all the dogs in the two pedigrees.   It was decided - we would move forward with the breeding.

Behbinn's reference photo - thank you Kathy Roscoe
Drew and I were in Southern California at the time, Jan and Behbinn were in Rhode Island.   Previously, my husband and I had two breedings with Drew to our Monet, both didn't take due to timing issues with Monet.   We didn't want to risk a timing issue with Behbinn.    Getting the frozen semen to Behbinn was challenging on a timing basis.   Thankfully, we were successful and a lovely litter of pups rewarded us.    Jan kept "yellow boy"  aka "Brady" from the litter.    Here is a photo of me and Brady a few years ago.   He is a lovely dog.   Rich and I lost Drew a few months ago.    Through Brady, we have a little piece of Behbinn and Drew to warm our hearts.    Much thanks to Jan (and Claire) for seeing the beauty Drew had to contribute to the lovely Behbinn.  Thank you to the owners of their pups for the fantastic homes they have given them.
Rich and Dawn with Brady aka CH Malleyrhu California Red Patriot JH, TKN, TKI

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Norman and Malkpi

When Norman and Malkpi were brought to me to take reference photos of them for a painting my heart totally melted.  They were adorable on the outside and such treasures on the inside.   I asked their parents for a little information about them and this is what I was told:  
     Malpki is a champion and Norman came into our lives as a loner when Malpki went to have her babies with the breeder. We just could not let him go back.   "Malpki" is polish for little monkey and Norman came with his name.  We just couldn't change it. He is such a Norman.  They are both world travelers and prefer first class all the way.

Registered Names:
Malpki: CH Pramada's Naughty Nicolet or Nicky for short
Norman: Pramada's Naughty Norman or Norman
Norman and Malkpi Pastel Painting

They patiently posed for their photo shoot.   Here are some cute candid shots on the journey to their reference photos.

We are doing what?

Oh- what is going on over there?

Did someone drop a treat?

Is it a bird?  A plane?
Ah - perfect posers!
Thank you to Rick and Craig for having me paint their little angles.  It was a wonderful experience for sure.  Just love these two cuties!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Under Sun Stars and Sails by Marsha Hall Brown, Illustrated by Dawn Secord

This project has been a few years in the making.   It was great to work with Marsha again.  I was thrilled when she asked me to illustrate this historical book published by Spinner Publications of New Bedford, MA.
The book follows a whaling family's real life experiences at sea between 1851 and 1861.   Marsha Hall Brown is a descendant of the family as well as the island of Nantucket's founding families.  Marsha had some of the artifacts I painted and sketched in her possession at the time of the illustration process (most of which have now been placed with the Nantucket Historical Association).

It seemed at times that I was on the journey with the family.  It would have been fascinating to been at sea with them.   One can only image the adventures of young Helen (Nelly) as she traveled the globe. 
There are some historical illustrations included in the book which are wonderful.    It amazes me that illustrations, such as the historical ones included in the book, could survive not only the decades but the elements.

The current illustrations, including the maps and cover, were done by me.  Countless months were spent researching maps circa 1851- 1861 for the map illustrations.    Panama in 1852, for example, is not what we know today.  The routes to travel from one coast to the other were crude at best.   Many maps were studied before I created the illustration for that area.  It was critical that the map illustrations created were accurate for the time period.   Each illustration was created with a detailed sketch and discussed with Mrs. Brown before rendering a final illustration for publication.  I studied whaling vessels for illustrations.   Fortunately, Marsha was a wealth of information.   She is an expert on the inside and outside of a whaling vessel.  I studied the royal dressing trends for the illustration of the Queen of Tahiti as well as foliage and landscape for accuracy.   For the young Nelly, I researched clothing for a child during that time period.   The cover illustration was absolutely my favorite.  The gown Mrs. Marshall wore for the vessel's true return to port was made especially for the occasion.    The gown is still intact and part of the collection donated by Marsha Hall Brown to the Nantucket Historical Association.  I was able to use several actual photos of the gown to create the illustration for the book's cover.   The horse hair chair used in the Captain's quarters illustration is still in possession of Mrs. Brown's family.  Researching antique furniture and items was of great interest as my own grandmother was an avid antique collector.  There are many fond memories of accompanying her to estate sales and witnessing the auction process.  Her basement smelled of turpentine and wood stain.

The above photo is of Marsha during a book signing in Nantucket at Mitchell's Book Store.  Having personally visited that book store a few years ago, it is my favorite photo of Mrs. Brown's book signing tour. 

A deep and heart felt thank you and expression of honor to Marsha Hall Brown for including me in such a wonderful project.  

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Emilee - A Seal Point Himalayan cat - Mission Impossible

This painting of Emilee was a covert operation.   Two sisters, living on separate sides of the great USA, saw my work.   One sister, I'll refer to as sister X, contacted me and wanted to arrange for me to paint the other sister's cat, Emilee.

The painting would be a surprise.    During the months that passed while on my waiting list, I stalked Emilee's parents' Facebook pages and posts.  I was ever vigilant of any photos of Emilee.  Photos were copied and pasted to a file on my computer.   Concurrently, sister X was also secretly gathering reference photos of Emilee for me. 

You know, it is difficult to collect reference material when people don't know you are collecting reference material.  Photos were too dark, photos were to small, photos were too far away.  Dog gone it!!!   Then I found it.  Yep, the ideal reference photo, well almost.  Emilee had a scowl on her face in the ideal photo.  She looked a tad irritated.  Fear not, I had many other photos from which to glean a happy Emilee expression.

The painting was finished and ready to ship.   The delivery date was planned for recipient sister's birthday.   Federal Express, another unknowing party in this surprise, delivered right on schedule.   Anticipation filled the air.  Sister X and I waited for the surprise to be unveiled.   It was killing us.  Recipient sister's husband had a busy work schedule and was not getting to Federal Express to retrieve the package.   OH MY GOSH!!!!   Finally, he gets the package, quickly sets it in their house, and heads back off to work.  He had no idea what the box was.  Okay - more waiting.

Later in the day, sister X received the long awaited phone call - crying and laughing filled her ears.  A thrilled recipient sister had found and opened the painting of her beloved Emilee.

Sister X had kept the secret for all those months.   It is so difficult to keep such a secret.   I admire her self control.

On another fun side, the recipient sister (Cindy) loves to follow the antics of my dog, Bling, on Facebook.  For a fun twist, I had Bling as an additional secret agent, delivering the package to my car to take to Federal Express.  Thank you to Cindy for loving my girl, Bling, and following her on Facebook.

Sister X (Diane) was so awesome and such a dream to work with.  I am not sure who received the best present.   Was it Diane (sister X) for a successful secret gift?  Was it Cindy (and her husband, Mark) for receiving their special gift?  Or, was it me for being able to be part of such a wonderful and loving family by creating a painting for them?    It has to be a three way tie!

A few of the many reference photos of Emilee.  Isn't she a doll!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A painting of Roxie - Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Roxie is the first Cavalier that I have painted.  It is a breed I've long wanted to paint.  They are such an adorable dog.    This is a breed we've talked about owning when we get older and find an Irish Setter may be too much to  handle.  Time will tell.

It was exciting to receive the commission.  The painting was a gift and I had no idea what breed of dog the gift recipient had.   It was exciting when the photos were emailed.   The primary reference photo is the favored photo of the beloved Roxie.   This photo was more or less a black and white photo.  Therefore, additional reference photos were needed to clarify her coat colors.
Roxie is 14 years old.  It is tough when our pets reach the age that we worry all the time about time.  How much time do we have left with them.  What are we going to do with ourselves when that time comes?   Is their remaining time going to be quality?   Hopefully, Roxie has many more years with her family.  
Each painting I do for others is precious to me.   Each painting I create is an opportunity to give families the gift of having a special tribute to their cherished family members for many years.
Thank you for having me paint the lovely Roxie.
If you are interested in having me paint for you, please click on the reference photo above and you'll be redirected to my website.
Best wishes,
Dawn Secord

Friday, May 31, 2019

A Painting of Gavin

It is always a fun experience when people approach me to paint one of their pets and tell me they have the perfect photo for my reference material.  They send me the photo to view, and yes, they have the perfect photo.

The painting of Gavin started with such a photo.   For those of you who own dogs, we all know "the look" they give us at times.  It may be they are being invisible for whatever doggie reason they have, it may be they are pouting because we are leaving, it may be dozens of reasons for the look.   In the perfect photo, Gavin had his head up with a slight breeze blowing.  He was proud and doing what he wanted.  I would have loved to have known what he was thinking at the moment the photo was taken.

Gavin's owners wanted me to down play the white beginning to frost his aging muzzle.   Also, his coloring had lightened with age.  I used some photos of a young Gavin for his coat color.   In the background was a large tree.  It was agreed that the tree competed with Gavin as a focal point in the painting, so the tree was omitted.

I always love it when people share a little bit about their dogs.  Not everyone wants to do so.  Gavin's parents were comfortable talking about Gavin and here is what they shared:

Commission a painting of your dog

      Windwood Celtic Flame Afield (Gavin) - BIS/BISS Ch Windrose Who’s On First? X Am/Can Ch Windwood Flambe’ O Redridge

Having owned many setters, both Gordon and Irish, Gavin has been a joy to live with for the past 12 1/2 years. He began a show career as a young dog earning 9 points and one major; however, his real life Dad deployed to Afghanistan and showing stopped for over a year and he never returned to the ring. For the past 12 plus years Gavin has excelled at being a companion and friend. He is an arrogant Irish Setter and he knows he is beautiful. In his opinion, the world revolves around him. Not only is Gavin beautiful and athletic, he is extremely intelligent. He demands your attention when he wants it (all of the time for the most part), but should you decide you want his attention he will become aloof and act as if he is the untouchable.

Each year it has been a tradition to take a yearly photograph for Christmas sharing. The photo submitted to Dawn was taken on our property in WV at the end of the fall season in 2017. Gavin is extremely photogenic and the secret to getting good shots of him is to take him out somewhere and to sit down and let him settle in, wait, and watch for his beautiful moments. He will not fail at producing elegant poses all on his own. As you take photos, he will hold his head high in the air enjoying the attention as he did in this photo and remind anyone watching - “I am handsome, and I know it. I am ALL Irish.”

Dawn has done a remarkable piece of an artwork for us that will be cherished for many years to come. We were lucky enough to see her work in progress with this piece at the Irish Setter National in Asheville, NC. It brought tears to my eyes when I first saw it as I noticed the accuracy in which she has captured every detail down to the fine texture of his hair on his face and head. Her work is stunning and we are grateful to her for this beautiful piece of art.

John and Rhonda Donohoe - Afield Setters, Milton, WV

Commission a painting of your dog

Thank you to the Donohoes for having me paint Gavin.  I enjoyed every minute!  And a special thank you to John Donohoe for his service in protecting the great USA!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

This is a painting of Bandit and Coors - two litter mates.  I know their "brother" Troy.  He stayed with us when he was a pup for a few weeks as a favor to a friend.   Labrador Retrievers are such great dogs - clowns while loyal, intense while casual - they are just great dogs (not to be redundant) but they are.

Thank you to Christen and Andrew (and their Aunt Suzanne) for having me involved with this special project.  I asked them to share some information about Bandit and Coors.  Below is what they had to say.

Thank you for capturing our dogs’ unique features, although they are always truly brother and sister and
love to be right next to one another, they have such different personalities. Our Blonde girl “Coors” is
such a tomboy and has no idea how big she is when she sits on the couch next to you or when she ends
up putting her big muzzle on the pillow next to your face early in the morning.
Our boy Bandit has such a deep bark on all muscle frame but wants nothing more than to be loved on
while he stares at you with his big brown innocent eyes.
These guys together have the routine down to with in minutes of the first meal, big bone when we
leave, what time I am supposed to be home to feed them dinner and then the long stare for when It is
time to go on our evening dog walk, maybe they have trained us. We love taking them on vacations and
well as eating donuts together on the weekend. Bandit and Coors are usually so well behaved until you
show them any sort of water and then all bets are off for, they never want to get out no matter what
temperature it is outside.
We love them as our own children and wish they will never grow old but at least we will have this
painting to remind us of how much they mean in our lives.
Thank you again so much
Christen and Andrew Lee

Here are the reference photos for the painting.