Why I Paint Dogs

They are the height of beauty – dogs.

Expressive and individual faces convey the personality beneath.

And what perfect creatures! Dogs light up any room they are in. Like an open fireplace, dogs provide a focal point and your eye is drawn to them.

Like no other domesticated animal, dogs hold up a mirror to humans and reveal facets of our own condition. Their buried wolf ancestry comes to the fore in ways that differ their behaviour from our own – the hunting, quartering of ground, finding their way through their territory by a sense of smell; and in some breeds, the catching and killing of rodents. These differences and residual clues of their wild ancestry is fascinating to witness, and a safe window onto the wolf species, so often viewed with fear and suspicion, which is genetically barely removed at all from the domestic dog. When you see the whites of a dog’s eyes you experience the thrill of the wild.

At the same time, having selectively bred dogs over thousands of years, humans have inadvertently chosen personality facets they deem the most admirable: loyalty, honesty, a joy for life, self-deprecation – all these qualities that as a general rule dogs are better at expressing than humans. They have a sense of humour too, and a playfulness that accompanies their joy of existence. You may only be taking them to the same old field; or throwing the same old tennis ball; or placing their rug in front of the same old fire – but to a dog the magic never diminishes, and this rubs off on their owners. The wisdom they acquire with age is instinctual.

It’s true that dogs decrease stress levels in their human owners. It’s true that they provide companionship, and not in the passive sense of looking at a goldfish and dropping food into the bowl periodically. Dog owners know only too well, even if subconsciously, the mostly non-verbal communication they have with their pets, who are remarkably attuned to reading signals and interpreting gestures, tone of voice and even mood.

It’s a remarkable relationship, human and dog, and one that is founded on trust. We go through the journey together, dogs, and the humans who seek out their company – on our short lives from birth to death. It’s accelerated in dogs; but they bear their encroaching old age with a steadfastness and stoicism we could learn much from. There is no other relationship that compares to human and dog – despite the array of pets to choose from. The bond is unique and lasts a lifetime.

Thus when I see a dog commanding the attention of a stranger in a pub and welcoming them with a gracious smile; or my own dog resting after a long walk at the bottom of my bed, her paws scented with the grass she’s just hunted through; or my dog smiling on a long walk on a summer’s day – they aren’t merely objects, or just animals: but creatures that share our humanity in the best ways possible.

We could learn so much from dogs. If I can capture a small part of their wonderful personalities in oils then I’d be satisfied with that, because it’s looking for their qualities I find rewarding.

Yes, I view dogs with reverence. I find them adorable in every respect. The fascination I have for them is why I return to dogs again and again when I paint.