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Most of my days begin with the battle of creative expression; do I head for the mouse first and draft a chapter or two, or grab a brush and finish a painting? Physically it isn’t a difficult choice, as my loft space is divided in halves; one side dedicated to drawing and painting, the other where the writing takes place.

Some days I let my muse guide me, others, I ask my dog to choose the side he prefers at the moment. It’s only fair as my writing often celebrates the canine-human bond. 

I’ve worked as a fine artist since 1989, so a few years ago, when people heard that I’d taken up writing, they’d assumed I’d be an illustrator as well. To them I continue to explain that I’m a painter, mostly landscape, and illustration is a very different animal. Also, up until recently, authors didn’t typically illustrate their own work (in fact, the two rarely even communicated to keep each one’s unique vision intact), although currently there’s an increased call for author/illustrators.

Recently, however, wondering how I could combine words and image in my own creative projects, I received a fortuitous call from the Program Director of a local arts guild. She’d heard about my paintings that incorporate vintage postcards, and my books, and asked if I’d give a presentation for their annual membership dinner in November. They’d even pay and feed me and allow me to sell books. Who could refuse?  I said, “yes,” then hung up, grasping the challenge of my audience; talented well-known artists. 

Because it’s a story that originates in New Jersey, I’ve decided to focus on Around the World in 1909: Harriet Fisher and Her Locomobile, (American History Press – 2014) a fun and informative book about the first woman to drive around the world. It’s filled with inspiration, history, travel and even pets!

For this event, I’ve created Postcard Paintings featuring three destinations in Harriet’s history-making journey; Paris, Lake Como, Italy and Japan. Time doesn’t allow for Fisher’s tour of Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, China, and back through the American West, but hopefully they’ll appear in subsequent presentations.

For the past several years, I’ve addressed historical societies, elementary schools, women’s clubs, a university association and although each event has focused on a different book, many people want to hear about the story behind the book, or seek encouragement to write one of their own.

Although my interest in writing and painting was evident early on, my official Path to Creativity began at age 30 when I left a great job in the entertainment industry, traveled to Italy for a painting course, returning home a Full-Time artist. Fifteen years later, after taking a writing course, I began composing short stories and drafted my first book. I believe that the discipline and professionalism gained in the corporate world in my 20s has helped me to structure my writing and art life. It hasn’t been an easy or straight-forward path, but I always tell those who ask for advice to think of a goal as a journey filled with small steps and to keep learning and form alliances with those who share your vision. 

My journey goes on. Currently, I’m “barking up” new projects, and my story of Teddy (our foster-to-forever dog) will be featured in an Anthology published by the Baker Publishing Group in Fall 2018. It’s always good to have several projects in the works because the path to publication has many twists and turns. And of course, it never hurts to surround yourself with great family members, friends and to have a loyal dog (or any loving pet) curled up at your creative feet, no matter what side of the studio your creative muse, or dog, dictates.

So, if you invited me to present at your next event, what would you ask, or like to learn? Please leave a comment, or reach me at lbkauthor@gmail.com. 

Happy musing! Here are the images for my presentation (all are 8 X 10 – acrylic paint on mat board. All postcards are originals from 1909-1914).

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Paris – postmarked 1914

 

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Lake Como, Italy – postmarked 1909

 

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Japanese garden – 1910

 

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Enter a caption – Flip side with postal markings.

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A New Look for the Week of the Dog!

     Welcome to the 89th Observance of a special time called National Dog Week. In searching for a quote to begin this post I opened my dog-eared copy of Will Judy’s Don’t Call a Man a Dog, 1949 (for it would be insulting to the dog) to let that quote find me! Please Note: Today, many dog-lovers don’t like the term “dog owner” however, many years ago, the Timeline of the Tail Wagger was still evolving and that term was commonly used. 
     The sentiment, no matter the wording, still stands stronger than ever.
“People own dogs for varied reasons. The reason is of small consequence; the important item is that the owners be worthy of their dogs. To your dog, you are a god. Do not do anything which destroys this delusion.”
     Captain Judy was trained as a minister, became a decorated WWI Veteran, lawyer and one of America’s most prolific writers. He published Dog World Magazine for several decades, influencing a new generation of dog-lovers and enthusiasts.
     Judy saw the value of artists and authors and was happy to include them in his magazine’s issues and campaigns to promote National Dog Week an observance he launched in 1928 just before the nation was plunged into the Great Depression. But how could a dog get a week when most humans couldn’t get one day? 
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Logos and Thems of Dog Weeks Past

     Captain Judy understood the power of the paw and prevailed and in that continuing spirit, next September, National Dog Week will celebrate 90 years of honoring the American Dog. I’d love to see it celebrated in the spectacular fashion it once was on the grounds of Rockefeller Center and elsewhere.  Suggestions on how to maket that happen are welcome.
     As one young man suggested the other day, it should be International. I’m happy to report that I often hear from people over the world sharing their stories and photos of their pups.
     This year, we’ve introduced a new logo. The image of a happy hound proudly posing against the backdrop of red, white, and blue is wishing on a star for so many reason. We hope you find it hopeful and inspiring at a time when something so “simple” as a dog’s love can help so many get through difficult times.
     Please join us in celebration by LIKING the official National Dog Week Page and posting photos of your dogs (and other pets if they’re feeling left out). If you’re an artist, author, blogger, rescue pr foster group or do work that is relevant, etc. please share your Links and experiences as well. https://www.facebook.com/NatDogWeek/
     I’ll leave you with one more quote from Captain Will Judy: 
“Dogs are an antidote to the machine-shop-precision and the speeding machinery of our present day tempo of living. Their naturalness, their lack of affectation, their use of the simple reactions of living – always naive, fresh and warm-blooded, are a balance wheel to our whirring life.“
     So come tomorrow, try to be the god your dog thinks you are (if only for a week)!
     Happy National Dog Week – Let’s keep its spirit alive year-round – 52/12! 
     Learn more about the origin and traditions of National Dog Week:
Or read Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher (McFarland & Co. – 2014) https://www.facebook.com/Dogs-Best-Friend-Will-Judy-Founder-of-National-Dog-Week-1534832043432602/?ref=br_rs

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“Ted, White and Blue – Patriotic Paws”

Five years ago today, we said farewell to our beloved Portuguese Water Dog, Hooper. Named for the Matt Hooper character of  the blockbuster movie Jaws, she really did drive the boat, our house, our lives.

On a cold night in the winter of 2010, “Hoop Girl” was sitting by my feet at the moment I happened upon something called National Dog Week, a quirky yet poignant Canine American Holiday established in 1928. I fell in love with its colorful history, and began writing a biography about its Founder, Captain Will Judy, chronicling its unique, roller coaster-like legacy. In doing so, a new career was launched, and five books later, I’ve never stopped writing.

Alone with Hooper during the last moments of her life, I had an odd request. I whispered in her ear, “When the time is right, please send Dad and I a special new dog friend, and if possible please send one that likes other dogs and is calm, cool and collected.”

It seemed like a strange way to say goodbye to a loyal and loving companion, but in true dog-like fashion, within five months, my heart-felt request was granted when we fostered a little black and white Havanese-mix named Teddy.

Teddy came to us like a bright light in a bleak post Hurricane Sandy landscape. He wasn’t intended to stay, but stay he did, and has brought us much happiness. “Steady Teddy” couldn’t be any more different than “Hyper Hooper”. And unlike Hooper, Teddy adores other dogs. Now, with us for nearly four years, Teddy sits by my feet and inspires me to keep on writing, in fact, a story I wrote, based on his arrival in our lives, will be part of an Anthology released by the Revell Publishing group in October 2018. When the editor titles the book, I will let you know!

And another interesting thing happened with the Tedster by my side. I revamped my art studio and did something I’d wanted to do for a very long time, paint my first pet portrait. The painting of Teddy featured above, draped by the American flag, brings my creative life full circle, and reminds me why I continue to write about dogs and history, or anything else that inspires me. It also captures the spirit of National Dog Week that was established to encourage a collective and thoughtful period when we are mindful of all the ways dogs enrich our lives.

 

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Hooper, Ready for Her Close-Up

There are many exciting things going on in the Creative Front, and we’re working hard and visualizing some good days ahead; creating during challenging circumstances when the sun is temporarily hidden by fleeting clouds; welcoming the positive influences and encouragement from a dog that’s been sent to help makes it all worthwhile. That’s the ultimate gift.

The 89th Observance of National Dog Week will be celebrated the week of September 25th this year!

On Saturday, my husband, Rich, had the honor of transporting Old English sheepdog, DJ, and his owner, Beverly Barbaz, of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, to Manhattan for DJ’s debut at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Rich drove DJ, and his “Mom,” to their hotel just a few blocks away from Madison Square Garden.  According to him, dogs had invaded the sidewalks, and hotel lobbies of New York City.  All kinds of dogs greeted him upon his arrival, including a “party-mix” Portuguese water dog that sashayed right past him.  Hooper’s snout was out of joint because her dad didn’t get its “pawtagraph.”

On the official website for the Westminster event, there is a beautiful watercolor that has been made into a poster for this year’s event.  In it, a woman in a car (circa  the 1940s), transports her dog past a back drop of several others, including to my pleasure, a big black and white Portuguese water dog, complete with its big goofy expression.

This week marks the 134th annual occurence of this prestigious dog show.  This year, 170 different breeds will be judged.  Officially, there are seven Breed Groups judged at the Westminster show, however, there is also a group of “dogs in waiting” that occupy an eighth group knows as “Miscellaneous.”  Even if DJ is deemed best in his breed, he is up against unusually stiff competition in the Herding Group.  This year, two new breeds were welcomed into this group, the Norwegian Buhund, and the Pyrenean Shepherd.   Also making its debut, is the Irish Red and White Setter, in the Non-Sporting Group.

DJ’s handler is Gail Bodisch, of Deja Blu Old English Sheepdogs in Poughquag, New York.  Hopefully, after Gail is finished with her hard work at this event, I can talk to her about the crucial bond that exists between a dog and its handler.  Rich related to me how excited, and happy, DJ was to see Gail in New York City. 

On the subject of dog handling, an item in a Spartanburg, South Carolina newspaper, written by Lee G. Healy, tells how a local boy from that area, 12-year old Zakery Slater, will become the youngest handler in the junior category to ever appear at the Westminster Show.  Zak will be showing his Bernese mountain dog, Kaz, tomorrow.  Zak qualified for this honor by achieving 10 first-place wins in one year’s time.   Will Judy, the founder of National Dog Week, would have been proud of this young man.  Captain Judy, and much later, Captain Arthur Haggerty knew that by working together, a young person, and their dog, can learn the importance of team work, discipline, and even, as in this case, lead youths to consider career options that involve animals, and their care.

Another way to honor dogs is to celebrate them in art.  Our “seasonal neighbors,” down in Big Pine Key, Florida, Rick and Diane, recently sent the above photo of a portrait of their dogs, Koda, and Logan.  Logan was recently adopted by Diane and Rick, after the passing of their beloved shepherd, Dugan.  Koda, also an adoptee, is now five years old.  Their friend, artist, Steven Hall, presented them with this beautiful portrait just the other day. 

And we look forward to meeting Logan, soon, as we will be traveling down that way on Thursday.  Posting will continue as we journey south, through St. Augustine, Orlando, Port Charlotte, Weston, and finally to the Keys.  Last year I was informed that more best selling books were written in the Florida Keys than anywhere else.  I sure hope that’s  true, because I hope to be completing most of my National Dog Week book while I am down there….Stay tuned while I get those “ruff” drafts in shape!

I’ll let you know how sweet “little” DJ made out in New York.

Hooper

"Is it dog week yet?"

"Is it dog week yet?"

Michelle Mongelli and Wheezey

Pike, at Geiger Key

Hooper in the Keys

Hooper in the Keys

“Two Culprits” by Steven Hall

Logan & Koda

DJ

DJ Goes to Westminster

Zac and Cooper

"Look daddy, I can fly!"

“Hooper” – Best in Snow

Pita in Matt’s Garden

Hooper with cousin Roxy, Summer 2009

Me and my “Hoop”