Although Ian Mowforth and I have a mutual friend in common, I first came across Ian’s work at “The Dog Show” in Brighton, an exhibition organised by Joanna Osborne & Sally Muir featuring art for dog lovers. I was drawn to his very strong black & white, Lino cut print, dog portraits and was totally unaware of his big, bold and colourful paintings; until, encouraged by our mutual friend, I researched him online and saw that this was an artist clearly in love with colour.
An Interview with the artist Ian Mowforth
Besides being a dog lover I am also very passionate about colour, so my trip to down to the Wimbledon Art Studios, to interview Ian for this blog did not disappoint. On walking into his studio space I was immediately excited by the large colourful canvases hung on the wall. Ian’s paintings of dogs are so full of vitality and energy that you feel the dogs are going to jump right out of the canvas. These dog portraits, skilfully painted, are definitely not of the twee dog painting genre but then Ian is an accomplished artist, who has been painting & drawing for over 30 years. A fine art graduate of Wimbledon School of Art, Ian also has an MA in Fine Art Printmaking from Brighton University as well as being a qualified art teacher. In 2017 he exhibited a Lino cut in the prestigious Royal Academy Summer Exhibition where he sold 74 copies. The RA also published a greetings card with his image of Princess. It sold over 4,000 copies in the first 6 months.
Ian doesn’t exclusively paint dogs, and is in fact currently exhibiting his landscape paintings at the Graham Hunter Gallery, in Marylebone, which equally demonstrate his passion for colour. Although, clearly a man who has great affinity and a rapport with dogs (he affectionately refers to each painting by the name of the dog rather than breed), it is a bit of a surprise to learn that Ian doesn’t currently own a dog and is in fact allergic to many of our four legged friends! So I asked him how did this obsession with painting dogs begin? He recounts that about 6 or 7 years ago, he painted a picture of a friend’s dog for her birthday; it was so successful that he realised this was something he had a talent for and so continued to focus on dogs as a subject matter. Learning in the process that the type of brush you use should be sympathetic to the fur of the dog; no good using a hog hair brush when the fur you want to portray is soft and silky or conversely using a sable brush for a coarse haired terrier!
As the eyes of the red setter in a canvas, propped against the wall of his studio, stare quizzically at me, I wonder if the eyes are the key to the success of Ian’s dog portraits. Ian explains that the eyes are very important and that he always paints in the eyes first; but that the background colours he selects are also key to the success of the painting. He paints in an acrylic base but then builds the painting up in oils. Ian loves using oil paint for the way in which he can expressively move it across the canvas and finds it gives him the depth of colour his work demands. His drawer of oil paints is a sight to behold. an artwork in itself!
In contrast to his colourful paintings are Ian’s monochrome Lino Prints, mentioned earlier. These beautiful dog studies, demonstrate his skilled draughtsmanship and like his paintings, also show great texture and expressive mark making.
For his commissioned portraits paintings, Ian works from photographs that he prefers to take himself; this often involves taking the dog out of the studio for a walk, as he wants the dog to look as happy and as relaxed as possible. From the myriad of images taken, Ian will whittle it down to about 10 and in consultation with the client, chooses the best image to work from. The client then decides on whether to have the painting on a panel or canvas, as well determine as the size of the finished piece. Ian’s one metre square canvases can cost approximately £4,000, so it is important that the client is involved in the process from an early stage. Ian also keeps the client up to date on the progress of the painting, sending them photos of the various stages of the drawing and painting process.
Ian is a prolific artist, creating over 100 images per year of which about only 20% to 30% are dog portrait commissions. His work is in demand and he often has a waiting list for his portraits; although this may all change soon as he is leaving his teaching post this summer and hopes to devote more time to his artwork; as well as having some tentative plans of offering one to one tuition and creative workshops.
Justine Osborne is an artist who clearly loves and understands dogs and their relationship to man; her work, whether it is a sketch or a painting, truly captures the essence of the dog’s personality.
The stunning artwork of, Cirencester based artist, Justine Osborne has universal appeal and can be found in dog loving homes all around the World. I have been a longtime admirer of her style, so I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed for this blog.
I began by asking her what was her earliest memory of falling in love with painting and drawing. Justine explained that although she loved art from an early age her real passion, and one that would feed into her work today, was sparked by the introduction to life drawing at around the age of 17. Justine says she fell in love with the “urgency and excitement of working from life” and this was reinforced after visiting the Lucian Freud show at The Whitechapel Gallery. The careful observation and skilled hand of a life artist can be seen in her work today and it is particularly interesting that it was Lucian Freud’s work that first lit this flame. Freud’s inclusion of his whippets in a number of his paintings show his equal respect for his doggy companions as much as his human subjects; their weight, presence and character is as strong as the human figure portrayed.
However it wasn’t until after Justine had graduated with a degree in painting at Central St Martins in 1998, and had her first dog as an adult that she turned to drawing dogs. She explains that she always loved animals as a child “my dog was my constant companion, and I loved being in nature. The quietness, and watching. It wasn’t until I had my first dog as an adult, after art school, that I turned to drawing dogs, I looked at other artists work that showed dogs, and I really wanted to treat them as seriously as their human counterparts, with a fine art approach. Artist’s such as Maud Earl, and Landseer were inspiring at this stage”.
It was Justine’s beautiful drawings of sighthounds that first brought her work to my attention. Her understanding of their form, posture and character traits made me assume that she must have a sighthound of her own (and wouldn’t that bring us nicely back full circle to Lucian Freud and his whippets); but no Justine has an elderly basset hound, which she jokes … “no grace and long limbs there”!! Sighthounds, Justine explains, give her the same feeling as when she is life drawing, exploring and observing the lines, limbs and body shapes. She says that she drew her first whippet by accident … “I had an hour to draw, an experimental hour, and then Serene was created! Prints of this drawing have been sent around the world, I still have the original and it is my most precious object. You’ll see from the large amount of sighthounds sketches that I have, that I fell in love with them.”
Justine’s body of work is so much greater than drawings of sighthounds though; she not only creates prints but also takes on commissions and is in the fortunate position where the popularity of her work affords her the time to continue to experiment, which as an artist is important for maintaining a freshness and curiosity. As she says …“As an artist the main aim is to develop and explore, to keep time aside for those moments you have a strong instinct to just make a mark and see where it leads. This is of course hard to do as the need to make a living often dominates, but I am lucky now that I can balance the priorities”.
We’ve already learned that Lucian Freud is an artistic inspiration but what other artists does Justine admire … “I love Morandi and Lucian Freud for their brushwork and remarkable dedication to their singular subjects. Picasso and his animal drawings, simple lines, his pigeons! I also recently have got into the work of Tracey Emin, she talks so eloquently that I have rejected any former opinions I had of her, and really love the way she draws and paints. Benjamin Bjorklund, is also a contemporary favourite who paints animals exquisitely”.
Justine appears at home working in either pencil / charcoal or paint, so I wondered what was her preferred medium … she says “That’s difficult to choose, but I think charcoal is my “go to” medium for sketches, but I do love mixing paint, I love building up coat texture with different brushes”. Indeed her painting style shows the same fluidity and softness of touch as her drawings and I wondered if this style came instinctively or whether it had taken time to develop; for she successfully manages to bridge the gap between realism and representation of her doggy subjects, without their ever being just a study of a breed or sentimental in their portrayal. Justine explains that it came instinctively .. “I always want a piece of work to show the brush marks, but I also want the connection of detail that draws the viewer in. A tension between reality and paint. There is a moment in painting where a sudden strong connection occurs with the subject and at that moment the painting comes to life – I want my empathy for the dogs, and love of the paint to create a compelling image”.
Most recently Justine’s work has found it’s way onto ceramics. In collaboration with Victoria Armstrong Fine Art, Justine’s black and white sketches can be found on a range of mugs and plates. Different breeds are being added to the range all the time and the latest product is a diffuser, for which Justine worked with a local fragrance company to develop a unique scent. Justine says it has surprised her just how beautiful the products are and she has found it a great way to reach a wider audience.
The ceramics, prints and originals can be found in not only independent shops and galleries around the UK but also on her Paint My Dog website shop.
Originals are also often found in Wadham Trading, a local gallery in her hometown of Cirencester. Apparently the owner is just as batty about dogs and so most of her originals go there first. There is a new gallery opening in Sherborne called Elementum Gallery, where you can also currently find three of Justine’s originals too.
As mentioned earlier Justine has undertaken numerous dog portrait commissions, so I asked her what would be her dream commission to which she replied … “Some life size full body commissions are always exciting! I always joke my paintings are much better travelled than me, and many are in amazing locations, Bermuda, New York, Miami, Australia . But there is a story behind every painting, with the same sentiment, a very dear loved dog, and whoever the owner, wherever it’s such a privilege to create a painting for them”.
Tempted to immortalise your four legged friend with an original, commissioned portrait by Justine? … Then click here for further information.
Dogs have been used as symbols and devices in art for many centuries and in Selina Cassidy’s collection of paintings “Chien Couture”, they are the protagonists. But these aren’t any ordinary paintings of dogs, her dogs occupy centre stage in a fashionable and luxurious tableau, where the narrative isn’t quite as cut and dried as it at first appears.
‘A Dogue By Any Other Name” by Selina Cassidy from the “Chien Couture” collection
When I first stumbled across Selina’s “Chien Couture” paintings, I was amazed that I had never seen them before; particularly as they combined three of my biggest passions … dogs, interiors & art, I knew had to find out more and so I contacted Selina who kindly agreed to answer some questions and to be featured in this blog.
I began by asking how did “Chien Couture” come about, Selina explains …
“I have always been drawn to interiors and objects, I used to spend hours looking through my mothers 80s interior decoration books and now have my own Terence Conran collection and a small library of World Of Interiors publications. This, along with my passion for second hand furniture, fashion and unusual objects, has for many years provided an endless source of inspiration to carry concept and narrative”. It was whilst Selina was studying for her MA in communication Design at Central St Martins that she began focusing on the domestic interior, in particular drawing attention to the role of women in the home. However it wasn’t until Selina graduated and found herself living in the South of France, that dogs provided an unexpected inspiration. It was here that she found herself being particularly drawn to the rich and colourful, designer clad stylish locals with their canine companions, often dressed in matching attire. Selina recalls, “I was both intrigued and amused to often see both dressed head to toe in haute couture, it was a feast for the eyes. I wanted to tell the story of the designer through interiors and the objects placed within them, with the dog centre stage and that is how it began”.
‘Chien Couture’ is such a great name and it truly expresses what this collection of paintings is about, I suggest to Selina that the name in itself is like a “brand name” and wonder at what point did she decide this was going to be a series of paintings. “The idea grew organically after finishing the first couple of pieces. I have a design background and the subject of my artwork offered itself to being presented as its own unique brand. ‘Chien Couture’, allowing for a bit of poetic license, neatly conveys the concept of my collection whilst referencing where it all began in France. The logo is purposely playful, but at the same time it communicates the luxuriousness of the finished artwork”. And it’s not only in this branding concept that art is imitating fashion, Selina also carries through the feeling of luxury into how she presents her work. “I take so much care over every part of the artwork right through to the packaging, allowing the concept to run through the collectors’ whole experience, as you would expect with any luxury ‘designer’ object. I thoroughly enjoyed designing and creating everything and am proud to be able to say that the limited edition prints, archival portfolios and bespoke frames are all made in Britain. I initially made my own portfolios as I am a qualified book-binder and they had to be created to hold a very specific size print whilst also looking attractive, like a boxed perfume. I now work with a wonderful traditional bookbinding team in the West Country who make them to my exacting specifications, this allows me to spend more time painting”.
Below left to right are examples of Selina’s attention to detail, the embossed logo, the handmade portfolio and a folio seal of the logo.
Selina’s paintings are as multifaceted as the world of fashion & interiors she portrays. At first glance they are decorative pieces constructed by many intricate details but can be seen on many different levels, I question Selina on whether they are in fact portraits of the owners, who aren’t even shown, rather than portraits of dogs … or are they a pure narrative on fashion, presented with a slight sense of fun or even mocking nod to the pretensions of the fashion world? To which she responds, like most artists, with a slightly non committal answer … “I would like to believe my artwork is both aesthetically pleasing but also conceptually rich. I think it is important for people to approach a piece of artwork and take the messages and ideas that they want to from the composition, without being led or shown what to see. Avoiding any spoilers, my artwork is all about subtleties, some of my collectors enjoy the pieces for their pure aesthetics, unfolding the narrative over time, even contacting me later, surprised that they never noticed the bullet-hole instead of the door knob. The majority of the works explore the history of the designer, this entwined with the dog breeds to continue the narrative. Without a doubt there is a sense of fun to the subject, how can there not be when a dog takes centre stage, but I think in most compositions there is a sense of human presence through the setting, where you are still left questioning who is in control”. Recently challenged by a visitor to one of her exhibitions, as to whether fashion was a shallow subject to convey in art, Selina quite rightly pointed out that fashion is very influential and has a rich history with some interesting stories. It is also something that tells us so much about us and the world we are living in now, as Selina concludes… “We are living in an extremely materialistic world, we collect and exhibit our acquisitions on our bodies and in our homes and that my work captures a moment in time. There is no right or wrong but as an artist I certainly find it an interesting and fulfilling subject to explore”.
So where did Selina’s passion for painting begin? Like most artists, she cannot remember a time when she wasn’t creating in one form or another. She describes herself as a very visual person and says that her family joke that her version of reading a book is looking at the pictures! Concerns over being able to earn a living, lead her to study Graphic Design at Bath School of Art rather than Fine Art; but her passion for physically drawing and painting (rather than using computer tools) meant Selina quickly specialised in illustration. From Bath, Selina secured a place at Central St Martins, where she obtained her MA and honed her skills, learning the importance and power of concept through the artwork she was creating.
It is no surprise that Selina cites the Surrealist as an influence on her work, especially the artists Dali and Rene Magritte, sprinkled she says, “with the wit and intelligence of Children’s book Illustrator, Anthony Browne. Bosch for his captivating strange little worlds, both fairytale like and horrific”. Other inspiring artists include, Georgia O’Keefe “for her suggestion of something other than what we initially see, i.e. female genitalia, despite this being denied as intentional” and German artist Rosa Loy, who Selina says “reminds me of the power and importance of negative space”.
Inspiration aside, the big question that I’ve been dying to ask is whether Selina has a dog herself, since her paintings show a familiarity and understanding of our four legged friends. Selina confesses she does indeed love dogs but is currently unable to have one of her own, owing to Ralph, a characterful but somewhat controlling British Blue cat, which she and her husband rescued. Ralph would certainly not entertain the company of a canine companion! Selina says that she does however, spend sufficient time with the dogs of family and friends to be receptive to their nuances and behaviours which is also helps to feed her imagination.
I’m intrigued as to who Selina’s clients / customers are for the “Chien Couture” series, are they dog lovers, fashionistas? And this is perhaps the beauty of Selina’s work, in that she explains her clientele are wide-ranging … “dog owners but also people who through circumstances don’t own a dog but would love to, also those who have an appreciation for conceptual art”.
“Chien Couture” artwork is available as both original paintings and as limited edition prints, Selina also is happy to undertake commissions and says she has had great fun working with clients to produce a painting that evokes a sense of them and their surroundings through their beloved dog or cat. Her originals are painted in acrylic paint on Fabriano Artistico, in what is quite a lengthy process, “from concept and numerous drafts to the painting of fine hairs or the grain of wood in an almost masochistic way, for me its about the detail” says Selina. Select pieces are available in small hand-signed limited editions of 50 prints, with a choice of ‘original’ or ‘grande’ size. Both the originals and limited editions can be purchased at chiencoutureart.com (where worldwide delivery is available). Selina is also represented online by Caiger Art and Saatchi Art online.
Appreciation of “Chien Couture” is growing, the collection was most recently exhibited at The Other Art Fair in London, where Selina was selected by art historian and Sky Arts presenter, Kate Bryan, as one of thirty female artists to showcase the 30th edition of the Fair. Prior to this Selina has also exhibited work mainly in London at the Old Truman Brewery and The Mall Galleries. This April she will be exhibiting at the British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate.
So what’s in store I asked Selina, what plans does she have for “Chien Couture” in the future? Big plans she replies and confesses she is ..”both excited and exhausted when I think of the scope for the collection. I have just completed the first of three smaller originals on Basswood cradles, which I will unveil in the coming months. The Husky is the subject of my next main collection originals and is in draft stage. I am also planning my next triptych showcasing hounds. I have had many requests to start cats and after completing a couple of private commissions I certainly have them on my agenda”.
With “Chien Couture”, Selina has certainly created a unique brand and a subject matter that has mileage; one that Selina is clearly enjoying exploring; she concludes “It’s such a rich and entertaining subject and I love sharing my creations with my collectors, the conversation it strikes up and the joy you see, whilst they explore the artwork, is so rewarding.”
To view Selina’s work please visit www.chiencouture.com, where you can also sign up to the news letter to keep up-to-date with exhibition dates and new pieces.
Have you ever considered booking a photo shoot for your dog? To some it may seem a bit indulgent but what better way to capture your four legged friend for posterity than via some glorious professionally shot images.
People happily book photo shoots for their families and children, so why not their dogs too? One of my regrets is that we didn’t have professional photos taken of our previous dog, we only have a few family snaps to remember dear old Ronnie by. Our dogs are with us such a relatively short period of time that it is lovely to be able to have some quality photos that are not only beautiful pieces of artwork but capture the characters of our beloved dogs for eternity.
So when I recently visited the renowned dog photographer Kerry Jordan of “Whippet Snippets” and “Fur and Fables” to interview her for my blog (read profile post here), I decided to take the opportunity to book in a mini shoot for my hound Ralph. Cost is obviously a factor in deciding whether to book a shoot or not; and let’s face it is not something that is affordable for everyone; but there are ways of keeping the costs down and one of the ways Kerry overcomes this is by offering “Mini Shoot” sessions at set times of the year. These mini shoots, which are just 15 minutes long, are at a set location, normally scheduled one after the other, making productive use of Kerry’s time and thereby keeping costs down; what’s more Kerry doesn’t actually charge personally for these sessions all she asks is for a £50 donation to a dog rescue charity. There are of course plenty of other shoot options and packages offered by Kerry ranging from a basic package at £150 to £525 all day shoot involving two locations.
Kerry kindly agreed to undertake a mini shoot for Ralph, and with our donation paid to the Celia Cross Greyhound Trust, the next step was a phone call consultation from Kerry to ascertain information about Ralph … breed, colouring, okay off the lead or not, sitting & stay ability, any treat allergies etc. It’s at this point location would be discussed but, obviously as we were visiting Kerry anyway, the location for the shoot was in her neck of the woods. Not a bad thing, as Kerry knows the best places and landscapes to capture the perfect shot; but she is happy to drive up to an hour from her location in Fernhurst, Surrey, so you can choose where best for your dog, whether that be at home or in your favourite location.
When interviewing Kerry she did retell a rather funny story about once turning up at the house of a collie she had been booked to shoot. His owner had already warned Kerry that the dog was rather nervous and unsure of strangers, so when she arrived and saw this dog out in the front garden she thought this was a good opportunity, whilst waiting for the owner, to gain the confidence of the dog. She began by plying the dog with a few treats, and once he seemed comfortable with her she slowly began snapping away. Only to discover, after it’s baffled owner came out of the house to ask what on earth she was doing, that this wasn’t the dog she had been booked to shoot, the dog she was meant to photograph lived a few doors down!
The location for Ralph’s shoot was the beautiful Devil’s Punch Bowl, in Hindhead. Within minutes of being introduced to Kerry, Ralph was literally eating out of her hands and like the piped piper Kerry lead him to a few favourite spots, where she captured head shots, seated shots and full pace running shots. We were blessed with a dry, bright autumnal day and Kerry worked the autumn palette to create some stunning images, getting herself into some strange positions in the process. Kerry joked that she constantly forgets to look where she is sitting as she excitedly plonks herself down in an effort to get the right angle for the shot. Sitting in unsavoury things is probably not what you would have expected to be an occupational hazard of a dog photographer.
The shoot was such fun and flew by, so I can imagine how special an all day or even two hour session must feel. At the end of the shoot Kerry always gives a gift for your dog; Ralph enjoyed some super “Innocent Hound” sliced venison sausage treats and some fabulous handmade coconut dog soap from “The Dog and I”. Ralph can highly recommend both but, not being a lover of baths, I have a sneaking suspicion he preferred the treats to the soap!
Soon after the shoot Kerry forwards a link to a slideshow of an edited selection of images, which she follows up with a call and shows you how to log onto your own personal online gallery, from where you can order one of many packages or choose from a list of single items. It is difficult to choose as you are spoilt for choice, but it is best to have a budget in mind before you look, if you don’t want to get carried away. That’s one of the things I appreciated most from Kerry’s approach, there wasn’t any hard sell; we were left alone to order what we desired and not pushed or encouraged to order more than we wanted or could afford. But if you find it difficult to decide Kerry is happy to offer advice and can even give you a virtual representation of what a framed print may look like on your own wall!
I can’t recommend Kerry or the whole experience highly enough, although it may seem an expensive luxury, it is money well spent to have such beautiful lasting images of your dog, which are also artwork for your walls. And if you aren’t fortunate enough to live close enough to Kerry, then do keep an eye out on her social media platforms, as Kerry is considering scheduling a few ‘roadshow’ events around the country, even as far north as Scotland, in the new year.
It’s no surprise that Kerry Jordan cites the landscape painters John Constable & J.M.W. Turner as the inspiration for her style of photography. Her stunning canine photographic images ooze with warm muted tones and a passion for not only the dogs she captures, but the landscapes in which she places her subjects.
I’ve been an admirer of Kerry’s work for some time now and so jumped at the opportunity to visit her when she kindly agreed to an interview.As we sit around her kitchen table, in her beautiful Surrey home that she shares with her husband, Alex and their five gorgeous Whippets, Kerry tells me she feels amazingly fortunate to be doing something that combines all of her life long passions … enjoying the outdoors, being creative and of course dogs.
Kerry hasn’t always been a dog photographer, in fact she started out working in the City as a PA and subsequently, as a self taught photographer learnt her craft in the tough world of wedding photography.Not an easy job most would admit and Kerry soon realised that she preferred the more intimate and creative aspects of this job rather than the big group wedding party shots; and so moved into the direction of family portraiture.By this time Kerry had two Whippets in her life and started photographing her hounds and those of her friends; demand for her dog portraiture blossomed and ‘Whippet Snippets was born.Establishing her credentials as a top dog photographer, in 2014, when one of her images was placed in the finals of “Dog Photographer of the Year”
Today Kerry still offers family portraiture through her brand “Boo Face” and dog portraiture via “Whippet Snippets”, but it is the dog photography that constitutes 85% of her work; and despite the name, her dog portraits aren’t exclusive to Whippets or Sighthounds, Kerry is happy to, and accomplished at, photographing all breeds.It is perhaps partly due to this brand confusion that Kerry has recently decided to create an umbrella brand “Fur and Fables” to encapsulate all of her photographic work and other business activities under one roof.Many of these areas overlap with clients and collaborators being part of the same community; which has lead Kerry to create this most beautiful mission statement or summary of what she is about …
‘If you are of ferns & forest & sandy toes,
If you are of breezy days & golden skies,
If you are of Fur & Fables
Whether 4 feet or 2
We should meet, because I’m just like you.”
Kerry is certainly not a photographer content to sit back on her laurels, she is keen not only to share her passion with others but also support those on their own small business journey.In addition to offering commissioned shoots, Kerry also offers product shots and social media support for other companies in the dog business and creative communities.If she finds a product she loves and believes in, she will happily champion the brand and become a brand ambassador.And for the amateur dog photographers amongst us, wanting to improve our own snaps of our furry friends, Kerry has created an online dog photography course, brilliantly named Furdography.
The “Fur and Fables” website is due to launch before the end of this year, but Kerry isn’t content to stop there.She is already planning future initiatives, which may include travelling further afield by offering mini shoot roadshows around the UK and even overseas photo shoots.
Kerry taking a shot of Ralph
Kerry in action
Whilst visiting Kerry, I took the opportunity to experience one of her mini shoots for my hound Ralph.Watch out for a follow up blog on this shoot coming soon, but suffice to say it was an amazing experience and Ralph absolutely loved being a model for the day!I think Kerry was a bit smitten by Ralph but then I think Kerry falls in love with all of her subjects, that’s how she manages to produce such wonderful images with such depth of soul and feeling.
If you’re an art lover like me I bet you often buy greeting cards for no particular occasion or person but just because you love the artwork. And if like me you’re a dog lover too, a large percentage of these cards carry images of dogs!
Aside from sending cards to nearest and dearest, how many of us have cards stuffed in drawers or pinned onto pin boards, maybe even framed? For artists, illustrators and photographers too, cards are a great way of getting their work out to a wider audience, with their details on the back of the card, you could say they were the perfect marketing tool.
Cards also help to keep small independent shops and galleries in business; there is a brilliant campaign called Just a Card, which aims to encourage people to buy from Designer/Makers and Independent Galleries and Shops by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even ‘just a card’ are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses. The campaign is the brainchild of Artist & Designer Sarah Hamilton, who felt compelled to act after seeing a quote from the owners of a gallery on the closure of their business … “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought ‘just a card‘ we’d still be open”.
In my day job as a freelance art director, I recently visited the dedicated greeting card trade show PG Live, held at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, and thought that it would be a great opportunity to write a post about a couple of the smaller exhibitors who specialise in cards featuring dogs.The trade show which has been running for ten years, and takes it name from the trade publication Progressive Greetingsis a great way for retailers from around the World to find the perfect cards for their shops.Card publishers, big and small fill the exhibition space and newcomers even have a dedicated area called Springboard, from which to launch their product to prospective card buyers.
One such designer / publisher is Nicole Orsi, from Red Berry Cards.Nicole, a graphic designer, set up her card company seven years ago, after having worked for a number of years as a card designer for a larger publisher.
One of Nicole’s most successful card ranges is her range called “Top Dog”, featuring various dog breeds, which she launched in 2013 with 12 cards.Nicole’s dog illustrations are very clean and simple images reminiscent of silk screen printing, in which close ups of dog faces fill the square cards and are presented without a caption.The range now contains 28 designs, the most popular of which are the Dachshund, Schnauzer, Black Lab, Border Terrier and Westie.
Nicole isn’t surprised by the popularity of the black lab card, having a black lab herself.Although Bailey, wasn’t the inspiration for the range having come into her life just under four years ago; however Nicole explained that she has always been a big dog lover, having grown up with dogs throughout her childhood and has been known to cross the road to say hello to a puppy!Nicole supplies her cards to a variety of gift and card shops, they can even be found at her local vets and a dog groomers!
Nicole’s Labrador Bailey
Nicole & Bailey enjoying a selfie
This was Nicole’s sixth year of exhibiting at PG Live and this year she moved from the Springboard area to Springboard Extra downstairs, which she found to be a much better location for her, providing a greater buzz and more orders than the previous year.
A first time exhibitor at the show was Kathy Webster with her company Dotty Dog Art.Kathy, who had taken a stand within the Springboard section of the show, started her company in 2013 after being made redundant from her job at the Guide Dogs charity. Kathy explained that she hasn’t always been an artist, mainly because art wasn’t considered a ‘proper job’ when she was at school! So instead she journeyed along a varied career path including graphic design, veterinary nursing and Guide Dogs.Interestingly they all had the same two factors running through them, dogs and art. So when Kathy was sadly made redundant from Guide Dogs she decided to set up her own business initially concentrating on dog portrait commissions and then later in 2016 she ventured into the world of cards.
Kathy’s fabulous illustrations now adorn both captioned and non captioned cards.Like her commissioned portraits, the most popular cards feature the Terrier breeds. Dotty Dog Terriers range from the hugely popular Jack Russell Terrier to the less prevalent, but equally as gorgeous Glen of Imaal Terrier!
Dotty Dog Art cards on display at PG Live
Glen of Imaal Terrier
Dotty Dog Art Cards on display at PG Live
As for her own four legged friends, Kathy shares her studio with, in her own words,“two unruly poodles… Freya our poodle x springer and Dandy our special rescue miniature poodle”, which she says “keep me company in the Dotty studio… sometimes sleeping, sometimes noisily play-fighting and sometimes destroying something important while I’m not looking!!!!
Kathy’s first experience of PG Live was very positive, she says she will definitely be exhibiting there again next year.She said it was fun to be a part of the show, where there was a very friendly atmosphere but more importantly she gained a number of new stockists and secured her first export order!
As a nation dog ownership is growing, according to a recent survey by the pet food Manufacturers Association 6.6 million households own a dog, 300,000 more than last year! Therefore it should come as no surprise that greeting cards featuring dogs are becoming increasingly prevalent and popular.It is also important not to underestimate the importance of greeting cards, whether it be from the value they serve as a communication tool or the economic part they play in sustaining small independent businesses.As I write this post it is “Just a Card Week”, an initiative by the Just a Card campaign to celebrate their 3rd birthday.So I will leave you with their inspiring words …
“When you buy just a card, just a book, just a gift, just a pin etc. from an artist, maker, independent shop or creative business you’re not buying just a card, you’re supporting passion, skill, creativity, originality and community”.
Here are some useful links for any budding card publishers out there: –
The Greeting Card Association, can provide lots of useful information on how to publish your own greeting cards or how to license your artwork to card publishers.
The Ladder Clubis a not for profit organisation helping new publishers get on the greeting card ladder.They hold seminars once a year and provide a community of other fledgling publishers to network with.
Let’s be honest if you were recuperating after breaking your arm, drawing would not be the first thing most of us would think to do to alleviate the boredom.But this is precisely what artist Samantha Barnes did when she found herself incapacitated with a fractured right arm.This “lucky break” (pardon the pun) led to her selling her first series of ink drawings of dogs to a print shop in the Kings Road, Chelsea back in the 1990’s.Although Samantha had an arts background, having graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with a degree in printed textiles, she had spent her first working years in London employed in a series of marketing and events management jobs, before this rekindling of her passion for drawing.
Fast forward 20 years and Samantha, who has had a varied and successful career as both a gallery owner and an artist, can currently be found creating beautiful pieces of art from her idyllic studio The Art Retreat in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Today dogs aren’t Samantha’s only subject matter, but it was her dog art that caught my attention at the recent Art For Cure exhibition at Glemham Hall.Her delicate simple line prints of Lurchers, which I later discovered are created using a drypoint print making technique, stopped me in my tracks and I had to find out more.
The drypoint print of “Two Dogs”, seen at the Art For Cure Exhibition
The drypoint print of “Sleeper”, seen at the Art For Cure Exhibition
I therefore arranged to visit Samantha at her Woodbridge studio, where she is currently busy preparing for her her solo exhibition, to be held at The Art Retreat, on the weekend of 16th & 17th June.Both Samantha and her adorable Cocker Spaniel, Barney, gave me a warm welcome and we sat chatting in her friends’ garden, in which The Art Retreat is situated. It appears that Barney can take the credit for this wonderful workspace, since it was after getting to know the owners of 44 chapel Street through dog walking, that they offered Samantha use of this fabulous building at the end of their garden!A garden, Samantha and Barney get to share with the owners’ beautiful hairy Lurcher Rex and some chickens!
Lurchers were the subject of the print I first saw at Glemham Hall, which Samantha explained to me is created using a drypoint print making technique.A technique that dates back to the 15th Century, is created by drawing with sharp implement directly onto a copper plate, the ink is then applied and wiped off so that the ink remaining in the incisions creates the distinctive line on the paper.Owing to the delicate nature of the incision in the plate, only a small edition of prints can be created from the one plate.Samantha creates just 12 prints from each plate, and each of these are slightly different and unique, due to the varying ways the ink can be wiped from the plate.
Frenchie The French Bulldog
Ben The Schnauzer
Aside from the drypoint prints, Samantha also paints the most gorgeous dog portraits, in an unfussy style that is bold, full of energy and truly reflects the character of each individual dog.Her textile roots show through in her confident and clever use of colour and this joyous, colourful vitality is also evident in Samantha’s non dog paintings, which often depict public places and landscapes in and around Suffolk.Created mainly in acrylics, Samantha’s paintings are happiness on a canvas, and as Samantha says on her own website … “I am an artist that makes paintings, drawings and prints directly from my tummy, not my head”.
And don’t forget if you can get to Suffolk, Samantha’s artwork will be on display at The Art Retreat (in the garden of) 44 Chapel St. Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 4NF on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th June.