We proudly welcome Laura Nativo as the official National Dog Week Spokesperson for 2011.  Laura is the star of the Reality TV Show, Greatest American Dog and soon to be Host of the second episode of GSN’s Dog Park Superstars to air on September 25th.  National Dog Week is observed September 19-25. Laura joins friend, Los Angeles-basaed Veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney (NDW Pet Health Care Consultant) to round out the “committe” for this year’s Observance! For more information, please see ABOUT.

“I had rather see the portrait of a dog that I know, than all the allegorical paintings they can show me in the world.”  Samuel Johnson, English (1709-1784)

As a writer and a painter, I was especially delighted when I discovered that at one time in its history, National Dog Week actually had beautiful promotional seals and labels depicting  images of dogs and people with a slogan for each year’s observance. In 1950, notable American artist, Albert Staehle, had the honor with his image for NDW titled, “Butch.” http://www.americanartarchives.com/staehle.htm  It got me thinking that today’s National Dog Week  needed an artisitc creation of  its own.

Enter West Coast artist, Donald E. Brown.  Donald’s vibrant images of canines had caught my eye on Facebook and when he requested great pooch photos to work from, I obliged.  By the next morning there on my Facebook wall was a beautiful rendition of Styles, a pit bull  “belonging” to my sister Manette, her fiance David and her son, Zac.

When I approached Donald to be our NDW 2011 artist, this dog-loving painter really stepped up to the plate.  Not only is he going along with the idea for a Canines on Canvas Contest, he is allowing an image of a painting titled “Help,” to be our NDW poster.  Everyone can be part of this exciting process.  During the month of September, everyone who LIKES (or has Liked) and posted a great close-up photo of their dog will have the chance to win an original painting of their pup from the entered photo. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/National-Dog-Week/218596591491974  You must LIKE and POST PHOTO to be eligible. There are also twenty five hand-signed posters that can be purchased  for $15.00.  Unsigned posters can be purchased after these are no longer available, with all proceeds going to benefit  the Baja Animal Sanctuary (the charity of Donald’s choice). The original painting is also for sale and Donald hopes a private or corporate donor will purchase it to also help BAS (please let me know if you are interested).

Photo of real dog Sergio who inspired the painting, "HELP."

Read on about Donald and the moving story of Sergio, the dog that inspired “HELP.”  With his soulful depiction of Sergio standing behind a frayed cyclone fence, Donald really sums up the plight of many animals.  With its sweetness and vibrancy this painting draws you in with its sense of hope.  You want to take Sergio’s paw and lead him, and all homeless animals, away from a failed shelter system to a brighter future.

Please tell us a little about your background. I am originally from Climax, Michigan, which is near Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.  I attended Western Michigan University where I studied art, but somehow ended up with a degree in accounting of all things.  But, that’s been good as it has created a good living for me, my wife and many dog children.

When did you first start painting dogs? About twelve years ago.  I developed my abstract portrait style by painting many of my relatives.  When I ran out of people subjects I thought I would try painting my dogs.  My first commission was from someone looking over my shoulder while I painted Rita, the best Rat Terrier we ever knew.

What inspired you to paint your first dog portrait? We do not have children and our dogs are like our kids, so it was natural to include them in family portraits.  For me, painting a dog is like painting a portrait in the 1800’s.  They are so noble and stately, and their whole persona is reflected in their eyes.  The rarely smile, and a smile can distract from the truth in a person’s eyes.  Dogs just give you the truth.

What mediums do you prefer and why? I have never painted with oils.  Too messy for me.  I like acrylic paint.  It dries fast, it’s thick and I like to paint thick and gooey, and it layers without graying.  I love the way the colors that are layered peek through other colors and create interest.  I work from photographs and paint with a different palette on each painting.  I choose the palette after an interview with the client for the personality of the dog.  I use a series of questions so the client gets to participate in the commission process.  One of the most interesting questions is “What job would your dog hold if he were a person?”  The answers are so funny, but also telling.  I then choose my color palette based on the answers.  Being an accountant I am very process oriented, and my painting is definitely a process.

Talk about your 2-Hour Canine paintings…How do you time yourself?  Commissions take a lot of time because you want to make sure you capture your subject completely.  A commissioned piece can take me 12 to 24 hours of paint time depending on the subject and size.  I also love abstract work although I rarely sell that.  My Canine Series was an attempt to accomplish two goals.  First, it frees me to paint quickly and with abandon (like abstract work), and it makes me put the paint on quickly and work with it wet.  Some interesting things happen with wet paint.  Second, I wanted to produce work that I could sell at $100 to make it more affordable for people who love dogs, but can’t afford a commissioned piece of their dog.  The fun thing is that people have really responded to it online.  I have received photographs from people as far away as Australia.  You never know when your dog might show up in my new series, and you can reasonably afford it.

I see you have exhibited in California in the past.  What is your connection to the state? My wife and I have lived in Washington, DC, Orange County, California and now Portland, Oregon.  Laguna Beach was our home for many years and I participated in the Sawdust Festival every summer for nine weeks which really exposed my work and built a good following.  Laguna has always been a very special place for us.  I hope to retire there one day.

Tell us about your affiliation with Baja Animal Sanctuary. I met a volunteer for the organization through the Sawdust Festival and they asked me to contribute a commissioned painting for them to raffle to raise money.  The more I looked into what they do and how difficult it must be to operate in Baja, Mexico, the more impressed I was with the organization.  They do wonderful things for dogs that just need a second chance.  The shelter situation in the U.S. has its issues, but is so much better than in Mexico.  Dogs there are just thrown away, and the sanctuary is one of the few no-kill shelters for animals.  Many of the dogs who arrive there are rehabilitated and placed in homes, but many will just live their lives there comfortably because they can’t be rehomed.  Sunny Benedict, who runs the shelter, is doing wonderful things.  The shelter always employs people who need second chances, so it does good dogs who need people and people who need dogs.

I fell in love with the painting “Help” on your wall…Tell us about the story behind the painting. I asked the Baja Animal Sanctuary if I could paint one of the actual dogs at the sanctuary to sell to a corporate donor.  Lydia Jensen organized a bunch of photos to me, and a picture of a dog behind a beat up cyclone fence really hit my heart.  I had to paint it.  I spent about thirty hours working on this piece, and I think it speaks to what the Baja Animal Sanctuary is all about.  The dog’s name is Sergio and he has an interesting story.  I heard from Sunny that one of the workers at the sanctuary whose name is Sergio, lived in a rehabilitation home and that home occasionally used extra food to feed local children.  Sergio the dog, would appear to come with children for the food, but when the children no longer came Sergio the dog still showed up for food.  Sergio the person then recognized that Sergio the dog was alone and not fed very well, so he took him to his work at Baja Animal Sanctuary.  Sergio the dog was placed in a home in the U.S.

How does it feel to be part of the 83 year-old National Dog Week legacy as our official Dog Week artist?  Wow, it is such an honor.  Honestly, I had not heard of National Dog Week until I found your site on facebook, but what a great concept.  It amazes me that it was so popular in the past and not honored appropriately today.  I am so glad you are helping bring it back.  We, as a population are doing better to take care of these animals but we still have a long way to go.  There is no dog that should be subjected to poor care or a shelter that feels it is appropriate to terminate their lives.  Dogs are honorable beings who deserve to be cared for with respect and will only give you love in return.  A National Dog Week can be so good at raising awareness of issues that dogs face, and I hope you and all your friends are successful at increase NDW’s popularity. I will help you in any way I can.

Thank you Donald.  Your ability to combine your artistic talents with your desire to help animals is inspiring. I hope many will take advantage of the special opportunity to own some of Donald’s work while helping dogs everywhere. Hopefully this image will “Help” viewers learn more about the man behind the National Dog Week Movement, Captain William Lewis Judy, and to honor his life and work by observing it each September. I believe he would have loved this painting, too.

You can enter the Canines on Canvas Contest by going to http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/National-Dog-Week/218596591491974 Winners to be announced on or near October 31, 2011. Grand Prize winner must allow image derived from their photograph to be used for future National Dog Week Promotions.  Read more at: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.oregonlive.com%2Fpets%2Findex.ssf%2F2011%2F09%2Fportland_pet_artists_painting.html&h=sAQB0A6kOAQBz8K8N-WiPv8eyjCpiVLUP1xuqGANYRjq2jw