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.



Monday, March 11, 2019


This is a painting of Liz.  She is no longer with us, but definitely she is there in the hearts of those who knew and loved her.


I asked her owner to share a little bit about Liz.  Here is what she told me:
    She is the sister to BIS Sh Ch. Quinniver's Old Time Rock N Roll.  The best "girlfriend" ever!     I miss her terribly.

It is always a heart tugger for me to paint a dog that is no longer with us.   It is an honor and so very important to give the dog's owner a special painting that will touch their hearts in a personal and tender way.   Having lost dogs myself over the years, it is an unspoken bond I hold with the dog's owner.   The pain can take your breath away and time stands still.   For me, the pain doesn't lesson with time, I simply learn to deal with it.   There are times, years after losing a dog, unexpectedly I break out in tears.    When a person asks me to paint their dog that has passed, it is personal for me.

Thank you Pam for having me paint your special girl.


 It was so exciting when Sophia's owners asked me to paint her.


I've spent time in and out of the show ring with her and not only is she beautiful physically but her personality is delightful.  We'd taken photos of her for the painting a couple times.  She is so photogenic that picking a reference photo for the painting was very challenging.

Thank you to Sophia's parents for having me paint her and for our friendship.