Monday, December 18, 2017

The story of Bailey

This is a pastel painting of Bailey. 

It is always so special to be asked to paint someones beloved pet.   When this painting was started, I knew Bailey had passed away earlier in the year.   It is emotional for me in those cases.  At the time each painting is started, 100% dedication is given to that painting as if no other paintings are on the waiting list.   That way there is no rushing - no pressure - just dedication to creating the best painting possible.
I'd asked Bailey's owners to share a bit with me about Bailey and here is what they shared:
      My husband Jim and I always had Irish from the beginning of our marriage. We became involved with ISCA after purchasing several dogs from Cheryl Mika. These boys trained my daughter to show them and to take care of them. As they got older we discovered we would have to look for a new breeder to purchase our setters. Enter Ginny Swanson. Ginny sent me Bailey, Tramore Just Because. Bailey was probably one of the smartest boys we had the pleasure to care for. He had the ability to walk into a stack and stay there...I would watch him effortlessly glide across the yard. Up till that point I never early understood what good movement looked like. It looked like Bailey!  We took him to the national in Michigan and he won the large 18 month old class. Cheryl Mika showed him flawlessly. That was a huge thrill. He had a beautiful dream coat . Long straight hair ....tons of hair that moved so effortlessly  with him . But far above his movement was his devilish personality. You could be sitting on the couch with him and turn to look at him and he was watching you with his side eyes. The second time you looked at him he would lunge at you.....never touched you, never bit, just to scare you....a game...he played. Loved to chase ball ....never brought back.....loved to walk on an extend lead out as far as he could go and prance back and forth.....loved the squirrels in the yard ....spent many an afternoon stacked in front of the tree.   We said goodbye earlier this year after 12.5 too short years. If I close my eyes he is still floating through the yard.

The photo submitted of Bailey had him sitting in front of a Christmas tree.  The question became, do we use that background or not?  Several things popped into my mind as the artist, would the lights and decorations take the focal point away from the main subject?  Possibly was the answer.   Secondly, would the painting seem "seasonal"?   Possibly was again the answer.    In the end, the choice was to go with the idea of the Christmas tree but it was not yet decorated.   It was the perfect solution.   The painting was all about Bailey and with this simpler background, there was no question about the focal point.   Bailey's owners will always know he was standing in front of their Christmas tree but there would be no distraction to take the viewers' attention away from Bailey.

Commission a painting by Dawn

Thank you to Bailey's owners for having me paint your special boy.  It was indeed my pleasure and honor.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Longhorns on the Ruby

This painting has a fun story. Well, in the long run it is a fun story. 

A dear friend and art collector took the photo for this painting in Montana a number of years ago.  At the time, I was in the process of creating paintings of Longhorn Cattle for a western art show that my work was to be exhibited in.

This collector had been on a fishing trip in Montana on the Ruby River and had taken a photo of a herd of Longhorn on his way home.   He emailed me the photo - excited for me to see it.  The reference photo was awesome and I thought it would make a wonderful painting someday.

A year or so passed and he asked me about the photo.  Of course I had it and would love to be able to paint it someday.  In my mind I thought, gee, I have a lot of commissioned work lined up.  I can not feasibly paint this painting to exhibit in a show at this time - but someday.

Another year plus passed  and he asked about the photo again. Yes, of course I had it - it was awesome.   I'd paint it someday.   Well, we were all together at one point and his wife said to me, "You know he is wondering when you are going to do the Longhorn painting."   I'm not sure how the question came about - but I asked her if he wanted me to paint that the Longhorns as a commission - to my horror he did.  Holy Smokes.    I never realized he took the photo and then desired for me to paint it.  With the timing of the photo and the western art show, I just thought he was being helpful and giving me additional reference material to use should I want to.  

We all "assume" things at one time or another and occasionally those assumptions can nip us in the buttocks.

To the gentleman with the patience of a saint, here is your long awaited painting.   The name of the painting is "Longhorns on the Ruby" and the painting will be put into print in the near future.   If you are interested in ordering a reproduction, please email me at or   

Here is a picture in process as well as the original photo:

Monday, October 16, 2017

Daisy - an Italian Greyhound

This is a painting of Daisy, an Italian Greyhound.

They are such a fun breed.  As stated on the Internet, "The Italian Greyhound is a small breed of dog of the sight hound type, sometimes called an "I.G.", "Iggy."   

I've gotten to know the breed better due to my art and what a fabulous breed they are.   They are smart - inquisitive and have the heart of a lion.   Of course, there have been a few that have stolen my heart and it is easy to see why they are so popular.

Daisy's owners gave me a number of photos of her - head shots as well as movement shots.   Then we met up at a dog show and I took "a lot" more...probably 75!    One can never have too much reference material.   When it came down to choosing which photos would be the primary reference photos they left the choices up to me.  Wow - what a responsibility - but also, wow - what freedom.   They didn't know what was chosen until the big reveal.   Nail biting I sent the image of the finished painting to them.  Here was their response, "OMG Dawn it’s perfect I love it!!"  

It was a great pleasure to paint this girl.  Hopefully, the painting warms their hearts for many many years.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ziva - Painting of a Doberman Pinscher

This is Ziva.    She is a gentle kind girl with the most beautiful brown eyes.

I met her owners probably 7 years ago when creating another painting of a different dog for them.   We met in the LA area and they did not have their dog with them.  Fortunately, a few months later, I would be traveling in Northern California.   We were able to met up so I could photograph their dog.

Jumping ahead several years, now it was Ziva's turn for her painting.   We met up in Palm Springs where I could take photos of Ziva.   She truly is a breathtaking girl - I fell in love with her.   We took numerous photos of her for reference material.  It was a difficult choice to pick a primary pose - Ziva is quite photogenic.   The photo chosen was not an ideal photo of her ears being up and alert.   The other reference photos allowed me to see different ear positions so the ear position could be changed in the painting.  Also, there were some really circular highlights on her coat that were distracting in the painting.  They were first painted in, but later I took them out.  They just looked odd.  My eye didn't question the highlights in the photos.  But, in the painting, it just wasn't right and needed to be adjusted.  Lastly, there was a significant shadow cast on her chest from her muzzle that didn't need to be in the painting.   Photos are just a road map for me to get to "that" dog's painting but I am most certainly not attempting to copy a photo.   My paintings have to be better than the photo or why have a painting.

The painting was finished several months ago.   It is always wonderful to ship the paintings to those who commissioned the work, but sad for the painting to leave my studio.   It is funny, they are like my children.   My heart is is every painting.

My normal system is to display the finished painting in my office for a week or two to clear my head.   I then take time to view the painting and make sure nothing jumps out that would need an adjustment.   It is amazing how a fresh eye can reveal things that previously went unnoticed.  So much time is spent with each painting, it seems like I simply become too familiar with the piece.   A clean fresh eye is a great chance for me to do a double take.   More often than not, no changes are needed.  Once in a while something jumps out that may need a little tweak.

Thank you to Ziva's family for having me paint for you again.   It is an honor.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A painting of Liam

It is always so touching to be asked to paint a dog who is no longer with his family.  We have all been there.   Liam was a very special dog and left way too soon.

Here is Liam's story:

Liam’s registered name is  “ Glendine Sweet William, CGC, RN “. 

There is a saying that a person gets the dog they are meant to get and no truer words were said about my life with my boy Sir Liam!  Liam joined our family after a 22 year hiatus from having Irish setters due to the loss of my extremely precious and bonded girl,  my Katie.  I must admit, Liam was the smartest dog I have ever owned.  I could show him something once and he would know it forever.  He knew every toy by name and also all his close family by name.  At parks, Liam would climb ladder and go down slide just because he could.  He was amazing at agility too.  Liam loved everyone and everything.  All he ever wanted to do was to please us.  Unfortunately, Liam was not a healthy boy.  I cannot even count as to how many ICU stays he had but he always came home better and happy with good quality of life.  Three specialist did not think he would live to be 2 years old.  But my boy Liam refused to quit.  We were blessed with having him in our hearts and lives for 5 ¾ years.  We said goodbye on December 6, 2016 and our hearts and soul still ache to have him back with us.  Thank you so much Dawn for doing this special portrait of Liam to allow us to be able to see him daily!  

It is an honor to have been asked to paint Liam.  To Liam's family, I hope the painting warms your heart and brings those special memories to you each time you look at it.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A portrait of Oscar

This is Oscar.   His official name is GCHB CH American/Canadian Ramblin’ Red Brisbane.   His owner and I talked about painting him a few years ago.  He was young at that time and she thought it would be best to wait a few years until he grew up.   A few years later, here is his painting.   He is an amazing dog with a prize personality.

I’d asked his owner to share a little bit about him.  Here is what she shared:

            Oscar was among the Top 20 Irish Setters and qualified for the Irish Setter Club of America’s Health Foundation Top 20 competition in 2016.  He was the winner of the OVASA of Canada CA, Irish Setter Division.  He was bred by Peter, Anne Marie and Randy Kubacz.  (Pendoric Reign of Fire out of Ramblin’ Red Special Agent Starling).   He is owned, cared for , and loved by Nancy Salmon and Peter Kubacz; handled and conditioned by Peter.  Oscar is the 5th Ramblin’ Red Irish Setter owned and loved by Nancy.   As she concludes, “Each has owned My heart.”

Thank you Nancy for having me paint your special boy.   

Following are the main two reference photos used for the painting.

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

Thursday, March 30, 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.