MOBILE, Alabama — Summertime was made for dogs, kids and books.
Despite oppressive heat and afternoon thunderstorms, we are comforted by the images of dogs splashing through breaking waves and gyrating sprinklers, squealing youngsters playing on the Slip ’n’ Slide, and adults enjoying a paperback while relaxing in the shade of another 90-degree morning in July.
All those elements are much in evidence in a trio of new exhibits on view through July at the galleries of Mobile Arts Council.
“Dog Days of Summer” is an exhibit of canine portraits in a variety of media; “20 Pages” is a fascinating project begun earlier this year in which more than two dozen artists kept journals from January through June; and “Impalettes,” artwork by students of Lou Anne Strope at St. Ignatius School. (See related story and information box on this page.)
“Dog days” refers to those hot, sultry summer days that sap your energy and leave you lying around like a lazy hound, according to artist and organizer Kathy Friedline. Conversely, “Dog Days of Summer” will “energize you and get you all excited about our canine friends,” she says. “My original thought about naming the show was the contrast behind the meaning of ‘dog days’ in general and the fun of a dog exhibit.”
“Dog Days of Summer” also is a fundraiser for Alexander’s Place, Tom Andrews’ Great Dane rescue organization (https://sites.google.com/site/alexandersplacemgdrescue), which will receive proceeds from sales of art and notecards from the exhibition.
Each pack of cards will sell for $10 with $5 going to the dog rescue and $5 going to the artist to cover the cost of printing, envelopes and packaging. A display board in the lobby will list the available card packs. Sales begin the night of the reception (6-9 p.m. Friday) and continue through July.
Mobile Arts Council prefers payment in cash or a check for the small purchases, but will accept credit or debit cards as well. Artists who sell artwork from the show will donate at least 10 percent to the rescue, according to Friedline.
“We have already sold one large framed etching, and the artist Conroy Hudlow donated a generous amount to the rescue.”
As most people know, the term “dog days” comes from the ancient belief that Sirius, the “Dog Star” in close proximity to the sun, was responsible for the sweltering heat. As the artwork in this show illustrates, no creature seeks relief from the heat with greater joy than man’s best friend — and no artist ever had a more willing model.
“I have thought about this show for a long time and was thrilled when Charlie (Smoke) wanted to go ahead with it at the arts council,” Friedline says. “Basically, the exhibit is intended to get you out and moving during those long, hot days.”
Thirty artists have created a fairly astonishing variety of dog art, she says, “everything from two tiny Chihuahuas to a humongus Great Dane lounging on a sofa. It is ‘feel good’ art that brings to mind special dogs we have had.
“I often paint animals, so this show is a natural extension of my own passion for creating art that captures everyday moments that include a four-legged friend. I like the deep connection that animal art makes with the viewer. That same feeling of familiarity and comfort we get from our relationships with our animals leaps out at us when we view them in art.
“It is an intimate, personal experience that many of us share and that brings joy, and often humor, to our lives.”
Karen McGahagin of Cathedral Square Gallery submitted a painting titled “Buckshot, Button and Creola,” which depicts her son’s trio of Walker Hounds.
“They have these great markings that are somewhat alike, but different,” she says. “Their color is burnt sienna, a deep rich brown and black. My intent was to show the differences in their personalities.”
Joanne Brandt’s contribution is a 10-by-10-inch portrait, acrylic on paper, titled “Morgan’s Sad, Hound-Dog Eyes.” The model was a Rhodesian Ridgeback hound belonging to the son of a friend in Athens, Ga.
“I promised her I’d try to do a portrait of Morgan for her,” she says, “and (I) had been feeling pretty sheepish over the past year or so that I hadn’t gotten around to Morgan’s portrait. . . . This (exhibit) gave me the nudge I needed, so my friend Kathy will finally get her dog portrait!”
Jean-Marie McDonnell is a full-time artist who specializes in painting pets. She lives in Daphne with Girl and Little Girl, a chow-mix and a longhaired Chihuahua, both rescues.
“I knew I wanted to paint a big, black dog for ‘Dog Days of Summer’ show,” McDonnell says. “I wanted to paint . . . a black Lab, the quintessential water dog of the South, a dog that lives to cool off on a hot, sultry day by jumping into the bay for a stick — the kind of dog that is often overlooked at shelters.
“Black animals are hard to paint. . . . These days I mix a rainbow of colors to form various blacks. I like the way the names of colors roll off your tongue even though I am not really thinking about that when I am painting. Ultramarine blue and burnt umber make a nice warm (more reddish) black. Alizarin crimson, phalo green and Prussian blue is a cooler (more bluish) black. Sometimes I use a deep color to stand in for black. There is no real formula to it.
“On the way home from delivering my still-wet portrait to the Mobile Arts Council, I stopped at a Haven adoption event and told director Mike Graham what his encouragement had led to. While I was there, the most beautiful, laid-back purebred Lab puppy who had been adopted a few months earlier sauntered by. Tovi was among several litters of black labs that were at shelters throughout Baldwin County this spring.
“Some day he would be a Big Black Dog like Sampson, the Labs4Rescue dog that was the model for my painting.”
Lauren Woods is an artist who teaches drawing at Spring Hill College and the University of South Alabama. She is also a dancer with Mobile Ballet. She has two small (5-by-7-inch) oil paintings on wood in this show. One is titled “The Earring” and the other is “The Rose.”
“They are paintings of my family’s dogs, Petey and Sandy, based on Baroque portraits by Rembrandt and Vermeer,” Woods says. “I kind of did them as a joke because I was taking my work and myself too seriously at the time and needed to do something light-hearted.
“I love these two dogs and wanted to show their personalities in the portraits. Petey is a sweet, high-maintenance rat terrier, and Sandy is a playful mutt that eats everything.”
One of the most striking pieces in the show was created by Lydia Host, who used plaster cast material.
“It is about 20 inches tall,” Host says. “I haven’t ever made anything out of plaster cast material and it was really a great material to work with. I made an armature out of papier-maché. I then painted it with liquid watercolors and finally coated it with an acrylic varnish.
“The subject is sort of an ubiquitous dog. I was thinking of the ‘idea’ of a dog rather than a specific dog, though my dog Zeus was the body model. (He is a brindle-coated pound puppy assembled of bits and pieces.) The first ‘trick’ I always teach my dog is to sit, hence the pose.
“I can’t imagine life without a dog, having always had one or two in my family. Their personalities have all been different, but what they represent in terms of companion, champion and friend have been a good constant in my life.”
Conroy Hudlow’s piece is an intaglio print from the 1970s, about 30 by 22 inches, done while the artist was living in New York City with his Doberman, Caesar.
“If you got right in his face and talked to him, he would try like hell to talk back,” Hudlow says. “That’s what’s happening in the print: The model (nude) is trying to get him to talk.”
Dogs make great subjects for artists “because they are curious and have personality, and are simply dogs. My current menagerie, a 3-year-old female greyhound and a one-year-old male mutt — “a Dobe look-a-like but only 40 pounds” — are “funny beyond words in the relationship they’ve built,” he says.
Artist Sara E. Morales is primarily a ceramic sculptor, although she also dabbles in pottery and two-dimensional work. Her artwork is a round ceramic plate 11 inches in diameter.
“I threw the plate on a potter’s wheel and applied layers of turquoise underglaze,” she says. “Then I carved small portraits of 25 different dogs and applied yellow, purple and orange underglazes to select areas. Finally, I fired the plate and applied a gloss enamel coating to the surface.”
Susan Downing-White submitted a piece titled “Morning Walk with Woodrow, 18 by 18 inches, a photo oils on inkjet canvas print, of her boxer.
“I’ve been interested in hand-colored photographs since finding several that my great aunt colored back in the 1940s,” the artist says. “Photo oils are transparent, and it’s the same concept as glazing with oil paints over a monochromatic underpainting that I use for my landscape painting. I’ve updated the technique by printing my photographs on special inkjet canvas using a large format printer.
In 2008, Downing-White and her husband Michael decided “the time was right for the pitter-patter of little paws.”
“Finding an ad for a litter of eight-week-old puppies in Grand Bay, we visited. Mike was kneeling to pet one when our pup came running up and jumped on his back, almost knocking him on his face. For some reason, we took this as a sign.
“At 10 months we looked at each other and thought, ‘What have we done?’ Woodrow revealed a passion for chewing electronic devices and feminine undergarments. Friends dropped off dog training books. We watched ‘It’s Me or the Dog’ reruns every evening.”
From the “Dog Whisperer” they discovered that a doggy backpack loaded with liter bottles of water would wear out their “lovable little beast” on his twice-daily walks.
“Best dog-training secret: A tired dog is a happy dog,” she says.
“We now have a loyal friend, protector and companion. He does all the dog things: chase egrets down Arlington Park pier; flop for a belly rub; put on his starving third-world face while we’re eating. But he also exhibits a nobility that is beautiful to see.
“Dogs are everything we humans so often fail at being — forgiving, ever grateful and unconditionally loving,” she says. “It shows in their faces; it makes them an endlessly compelling subject.”
Photographer Walter Beckham contributed an archival pigment print, 13 by 18 inches, from an image he took during a walk with his wife, Clare King.
“(We) were walking around the yard, looking at our azaleas in full bloom, and our hound dog Bama was tailing along too,” he says. “He sat under the azalea, almost hiding, and I made the picture of his partially hidden face and feet and the surreal color of the azalea!”
Bama, he says, “forever reminds us of the many cartoon hound dogs that we watched on television as children.”
King’s contribution is an 11-by-14-inch watercolor on paper painted from a photo of her dog swimming in the Dog River.
“She’s a beautiful chocolate Lab, Mollie,” King says. “In this picture it really is just her head and shoulders in the green water making a wake. That is the title, “She Makes A Wake.” It’s a little atypical of dog pictures, but that’s why I chose to paint it for this show.
“We tend to think of dogs as family, almost children — and their loyalty and adoration of us is very childlike. Our human children outgrow that deep adoration, but dogs never do. They are true to the end. We find that a pure and noble trait. That, I believe, is why dogs are almost universally loved. And that is why we love pictures of them.”
Here are comments from other artists in the “Dog Days” show:
ANN PEARCE: “My artwork is a watercolor painting of Kodie, a golden retriever rescue dog. Between his front legs is a tennis ball, his favorite thing beside his family. Painting an animal is always a joy to me because they are without comment or complaint. I can draw or sketch dogs, cats, fish or birds outside without an arranged time or place and have a usually willing subject.
“When I first met this dog, he was a sad, skinny, shaking shadow of the dog he would become. His once scrawny, listless flea-bitten tail tucked between his hind legs now wags nonstop, full and upright. . . . Today Kodie is a happy, healthy golden retriever (and) a real example of the transforming power of love and care!”
NOLA POWELL: “The dog portrait features Spenser, our yellow Labrador retriever, who lived to be almost 13 years old. I used an old photograph as a reference for the 12×12-inch painting in acrylics on canvas.
“Dogs, of course, become part of our families and our affections grow over time. We became so attached to Spenser — who, by the way, weighed over 100 pounds — that when he developed hip problems and struggled to rise, we made arrangements for him to have a hip replacement.
T”his operation added four more comfortable years to his life. Spenser loved to go for a walk and when I would say to him, ‘Want to go for a walk?’ he would jump in the air and do a 360-degree spin and then could hardly stand still for me to snap on his leash.
“I have titled the painting ‘Home Alone.’ It is a painting of Spenser waiting faithfully for his family to return.”
JANIE BROWN: “My painting is ‘Where We Going Tucker?’ and both subjects are very dear to my heart. The little girl in the painting is my granddaughter Laurel, and the dog is my dog Tucker, a rescue dog who is 2 years old. He loves children and Laurel adores him.
“The painting was inspired by a photo I took earlier this year of the two of them walking away from me on the deck of my daughter’s house. They seemed to have a plan that involved just the two of them. When I was planning the painting I decided to put them in the yard with all the possibilities of the great outdoors and adventure ahead.”
PENNY LEWIS: “ ‘Hanging Out at the Beach’ is an 11×14-inch watercolor on 300-pound Arches watercolor paper. It was painted in May of this year.
“A friend and I were walking along the Mobile Bay shoreline looking for something interesting to photograph when we noticed a lady coming toward us with a big German Shepherd loping along beside her. We watched them play a while, noticing the dog only played with a particular stick that he had been carrying when we first saw them. He seemed to be having a grand old time. She seemed so attentive to her dog. That they were fast friends was obvious.
“As they started back, I asked her if we could photograph her dog. She was delighted as the dog was resting at the time. She told us she had had two German Shepherds but had just lost one to cancer. She told us the dogs were inseparable and this dog was terribly lonely without his pal.
“Then she told us that this beautiful dog also had cancer and she wanted to enjoy every moment she possibly could with him. I knew then I wanted to paint him. I wish I had gotten her name. I would have loved to have given her this painting.
“Having lost a dog to cancer myself, I knew what she must be going through. My Sandi was my best friend and I know I was hers. She loved me unconditionally until her last breath, and I loved her.
“In painting a dog you get to know their personality. Looking in their eyes you can see many things, and the greatest is love. Big, little, fat or lean, to me they are all beautiful and wonderfully made. I have painted our dog Smokey three times in three different media at different stages of his life, and each time was a wonderful experience.”
MISSY PATRICK: I live in Mobile and am a painter of oil landscapes, cityscapes, still-life and portraits. My painting for the ‘Dog Days of Summer’ show is a 16×20 oil on canvas. The title is ‘Poppins, Teaching Adults How to Play.’
“She was our mostly poodle Peek-a-Poo for 16 years. A great friend, filling a space in our lives. It’s what a dog should do! She was the most fun companion we ever had, and she never let us get down.
“Athletic, devoted to her ball, walking and sitting in your lap. She sailed with us for 12 years, once losing her ball overboard in Pensacola Bay and finding it on the return trip during a beach walk, hidden in seaweed. She proudly brought it to us, demanding we throw it again, instantly. In my painting, I have included her ball. We miss her very much.”
DENISE INGE: “My Jack Russell, Thomas Jefferson Inge (T.J. for short) died almost two years ago. He was 9. I took lots of photos of him and I had always said one day I would paint him. But after his death it was hard to think about a painting of him. Then I was asked to participate in this show and that was the motivation I needed.
“I painted T.J. the way I always saw him — so regal and handsome. It’s painted as a tribute to him. T.J. loved to sit by our fireplace in the winter and have his picture made. He thought he was so handsome, always posing for the camera. That year T.J. was the photo on our Christmas card, sitting very straight and proud by the fire.
“I think dogs are always trying to please us, and you can see the spirit and love for us in their eyes and actions. Most people love seeing photos or paintings of dogs because it touches that place in their heart that they have or have had for a beloved canine.
“Even if the painting or photo isn’t their breed, it’s a DOG! — that universal symbol of love and loyalty all dogs have in common.”
ROXANN DYESS: “The subject of my painting is a little Yorkshire Terrier named Nevins (after the dog in ‘The Cat in the Hat’), who belongs to some friends of mine. Since I only have a cat, I had to ‘borrow’ a dog for this show!
“I created the painting from a 4×6 photograph of Nevins in the cutest pose — he is lying down and all you can see is his shaggy head and one paw! The expression in his eyes is so soulful, I just had to try to paint him!”