Friday, October 29, 2010

Pet Portrait 1-2-3

If you live in or near Little Rock, Arkansas you can see Rocket's pet portrait hanging in the waiting room of Pinnacle Valley Animal Hospital, which happens to be owned by the human "owned" by Rocket. :) Rocket is a lucky guy & gets to go to work with his human every single day- he doesn't seem to mind that it's a vet's office. I'm not sure that Maisy would want a thing to do with me if I worked at a vet's office... She tries to stage a "sit-in" in the car when she gets so much as a whiff of the place...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

If you have ever loved a dog...

My Maisy's adoption photo, taken in 2002
On a clear autumn day earlier this month, I found myself with several hours between meetings, in a town an hour from home. As I drove around aimlessly in Hot Springs National Park, I spotted a stray dog. Being a volunteer and advocate involved in pet rescue for years, I sensed by her behavior that she had not been out long. She was wearing a collar, with no tag. She appeared to be well-fed, was wagging her tail & behaved as if she was on an adventure. There were none of the signs of a dog who has been alone long enough to understand that all people are not nice. I made a quick trip to a nearby Subway Sandwich shop.

“May I have one foot-long sandwich with all the meat it will hold?”

“And an empty soup bowl?”

“And a bottle of water?”

I drove around for 45 minutes looking for the dog, slowing along the way to shout out my window at strangers walking down the sidewalk,



Nobody had seen her. Frustrated, I decided to go to the bookstore, get a book then return to the area where I had last seen her in case she returned. I had 5 hours to kill & it was a nice day.

As I walked aimlessly through the bookstore, the cover of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ caught my eye. Although I’m often reticent to read books about dogs because they so often have sad endings, the events of my morning led me to flip the book over & read the dust jacket.

The best book I have ever read
A novel told from the dog’s perspective?

A dog who’s soul is reincarnated several times?

After reading the acknowledgements & seeing the care taken by Mr. Cameron in his effort to “think like a dog”, I practically ran to the checkout, clutching the book as if someone might try to wrestle it from my grasp.

Sitting on that park bench, hoping for the stray to return & reading ‘A Dog’s Purpose’, I laughed & I cried. I laughed until I cried…sopping up my tears & trying to keep my act together. I was, after all in public. On a couple of occasions I wanted to put the book down in my lap & applaud, but I restrained myself, lest I lose my place.

I was elated with the attention the author brought to the plight of stray dogs, the often financially-biased motivation of breeders, the impact that one kind compassionate human can have on a dog… & even better yet, the unconditional love & loyalty that those of us who love dogs are lucky enough to experience in return.

Were I to be an independently wealthy person, I would order ‘A Dogs Purpose’ by the truckload & stand on a busy street corner handing it to anyone willing to accept a book being thrust upon them by a wild-eyed stranger. Instead, I have recommended it to every person who has commissioned a pet portrait from me since I read it.

It has, without a doubt, changed the way I look at my rescue dog, my Maisy, who was found running down the side of the road in rural Arkansas almost a decade ago.

I have spent the last 9 years wondering what that sweet little scared dog was running from & now I know she wasn’t running from anything.

She was running to me.

Maisy in the snow, 2008

Monday, October 25, 2010

Howl-O-Ween: I love a dog in a costume

Kathy Woods, founder of 'Out of the Woods' pet rescue
  After months of planning & a few days of frantic hand-wringing over the possibility of rain, Howl-O-Ween was a great success (and rain-free I might add). It is so inspiring to volunteer with this amazing group of people who are so passionate about rescuing homeless dogs & cats. It was our first year to have this fundraiser but I hope it will be an annual event. All the proceeds went to 'Out of the Woods' where 100% of donations are used to help rescue & rehome animals.

One person... four dogs on leashes. That involves a level of optimism that I can barely fathom.

We had 10 categories for the dog contests. My favorite categories were 'most charming senior' & 'best ears'

By the end of the day, all of the volunteers resembled this little guy.
Photos taken by Sharon Hammond

Friday, October 22, 2010


Interstate 40, Exit 150

Phone: 501-758-1424, Toll-Free: 800-643-4690

North Little Rock, AR

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Please join me for this wonderful event! I'll be painting faces for the kiddos in the 'Out of the Woods' tent. We are also selling raffle tickets for a 16" x 20" Meow Bark Art pet portrait... that's right, someone is getting an original painting of their pet for $5!! Hope to see you there!

The days events include:

"Carol Pate" - Carol Pate from the Carol Pate Psychic Center will do pet readings for $20 each. Carol Pate often helps law enforcement agents solve crimes. She is known internationally for her talents and abilities and loves dogs! Carol will be donating her profits for the day to Out of the Woods Animal Rescue of Arkansas!

"Dog Photos" - Bring the kids in their costumes along with your pooch as Nelson Chenault Photography will be on-site offering his services at the photo booth. Pricing depends on the photos you choose. Nelson is also donating a portion of his profits from the sale of photography packages to Out of the Woods Rescue!

"Fun Dog Contest" - There are 10 categories your pooch can enter. They are: Most Creative Costume, Spookiest Dog Costume, Best Howler, Best Trick, Cutest Puppy, Most Charming Senior Dog, Best Ears, Best Kisser, Most Macho Dog and Most Beautiful Dog! The contest entry fee is $5 per contest category or you can enter all 10 contests for $25. Contest judging will begin at 2pm so please arrive by 1:30 to register! All proceeds from the "Fun Dog Contest" benefit Out of the Woods!

"Ask the Vet" with Dr. Bill Ormsbee. This service is free with your paid entry to the event!

"Face Painting" - For the kids not the pooches! Local artist Sherry Williamson from will be on-hand to paint faces for a $1 donation to Out of the Woods Animal Rescue. Sherry will also be selling raffle tickets for a 16x20 custom pet portrait! Winner will be drawn at 4pm! Check out for a sample of Sherry's creative work!

"Paw Painting" with Pinnacle Valley Animal Hospital. - This one is for the pooches!

"Great Music" provided by Lawrence and Jodie Frederick of Disc-Connected K-9's. Their world famous Frisbee dogs have provided Frisbee Dog entertainment around the world and have performed for some of the most amazing audiences. You may have seen them at Riverfest in Little Rock last May, they sponsored a tent and space for Out of the Woods and rallied the audience to visit us and support rescue. Lawrence and Jodie's words are: " Last, but not least, remember that Rescue Dogs are the Best Dogs!!" "DON'T SHOP - ADOPT!

Registration fee at the door - $20 per person - $30 per family

Your registration fee includes a Howl-O-Ween event t-shirt, yummy treats for your dog, valuable coupons and other vendor give-aways. Family registration includes two Howl-O-Ween event t-shirts. (Additional t-shirts will be available for purchase at the event and the OOTW store while supplies last.)

Proceeds from this event go directly to the animals that are rescued by

Out of the Woods Animal Rescue of Arkansas.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How time flies...

Cayenne 2010
 In preparation for the ‘Out of the Woods’ Howl-O-Ween fundraiser, I found myself standing in the dining room of Kathy Woods, founder of ‘Out of the Woods’. Kathy has two paintings of her dog Cayenne; one that she commissioned in 2008 as the first art I ever sold and one that I painted for her as a gift this year.
Cayenne 2008. Photography skills? What photography skills? Add that to the list of improvements since 2008!
This was the first time I found myself standing in a room with one of the early paintings and a new one, and it was… a little painful. Rather than admiring how far I have come as an artist over the last 2 years, I started mentally picking apart the first painting. I like the background well enough but the dog made me want to come back with an armload of paints and brushes when nobody is around.

The experience reminded me of a discussion I heard repeatedly in college prior to changing my major from art to psychology…

You are a “real” artist when…

…you have sold something.

…you have something hanging in a gallery.

…you make a living off your art.

Setting the imaginary “real artist” bar so high probably discourages a lot of amazingly creative people from exploring their talents and that is a real shame.

It all makes me cringe. I credit conversations like that, along with the general lack of bravery and confidence I had at that point in my life for my 15 year absence of almost all creativity. I was scared and hard on myself. I was not brave.

Is there some sort of repository somewhere full to the rafters of uncreated creative ideas, hidden away by their originators because they are not brave or are too hard on themselves, or worry what others think? If I knew where it was, I would go and rescue each neglected idea and walk it back to the person who came up with it, holding its hand as we crossed the street. I would reintroduce them and make them some tea and a snack to share while they reacquaint themselves.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Seeing stars

Something to do with my creative energy between pet portraits! 'Seeing Stars' is listed on Etsy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pottery in the Park

It was a pleasant surprise for me to discover that my weekend visit to Fort Worth, Texas coincided with 'Pottery in the Park'; an outdoor festival featuring the handmade pottery of local artists. I always enjoy the opportunity to see different kinds of art in a casual setting where you can interact with the artists and they seem so happy to explain how they made it. I appreciate how much love and care goes into the creation of each item and spent an hour walking around with my head buzzing with possibility. I was bummed about not getting to spend any time in my studio until I arrived at 'Pottery in the Park' where I was able to get a dose of inspiration from all of the artists. Nothing like a little vicarious creativity.

After looking around for a while I decided to purchase several pieces from potter Cynthia Brinson of 'Clay Babies' located in Arlington, Texas. I love that she melts glass in the center of many of her pieces, so there is an unexpected sparkle when you look inside. She was lovely and obviously really enjoyed her work. I walked away clutching my bag of treasures and grinning from ear to ear.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Feature Art: a dog, a restaurant and a birthday party

This is Chester Webb. I painted him for Arkansas State Representative Kathy Webb who is a great friend to animal rescue. For her birthday last fall, she had a party and asked that her guests bring dog or cat food to be donated to 'Out of the Woods' and FURR instead of birthday gifts. She invited both rescue organizations to bring adoptable pets to show. The party was held in the parking lot of her restaurant, Lilly's Dim Sum Then Some. Nearly 200 people attended, including the Governor, Lt. Governor and the Mayor. It was such a wonderful gesture for homeless dogs and cats in Arkansas. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Missing my words

I lost my words last week as I sat in front of my computer with a window open for a new blog post, watching helplessly as my words packed their tiny little suitcases, lecturing me as they flung scarves and other assorted outerwear haphazardly into bags.

“We told you we would stick around for the blog if you would only talk about art and creativity and happy things. Roller coasters. Beaches. That was the deal. We wanted a contract, but we can’t write it ourselves. We’re the words… we’re on the contract, but you are in charge of putting us there. So now you think you are going to write about your awful week and the horrific things you had to hear about? You chose to work in a profession where you would have to hear about that stuff. See how far you get without us. I knew we should have gone on strike until we saw a contract for the blog. HAPPY things only!”

With that, they stomped out, slamming the door in a soap-opera-style huff. Led by the polysyllabic, most descriptive words the rest honestly didn’t stand a chance. They filed out silently, some looking at me and mouthing “sorry” as they went meekly on their way.

I waited patiently for days, beginning to fear that they would not return. I wondered where they went and hoped that they were being care for. They came back slowly, a few at a time. The conjunctions and pronouns are always the first to return- they are a forgiving bunch. Nobody would make eye-contact and they kept their suitcases packed, just to torture me.

I promised to be nice, to read to them and introduce them to new friends… to paint and give them a break. So please accept my apologies for my silence, but I have been held verbally hostage for a week by my words and I have learned my lesson.