Life in the Wine Country!
Thank you for visiting my site. Let me share a little about myself – dog lover to dog lover. Before I tell you about my background, I want to let you know about my personal goal to help animals in need. I love animals, and not only enjoy creating a special portrait of your pet, but also happily donate a percentage of every commissioned piece to organizations that help our little friends. For 2016 and 2017 my recipient will be Bergin University of Canine Studies. If you want to learn more about their organization go to their website at www.BerginU.edu
Some of my other favorites are: World Wildlife Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, Sonoma Humane Society, ARF, and Lily’s Legacy (a local group that re-homes older, large breed dogs). Also, since 2009, I volunteer in schools for the Petaluma Humane Education Program. They teach children how to care for, be safe around and understand careers related to dogs. I take my two Canine Good Citizen certified family dogs into the Petaluma Schools every month. My prior experience as an elementary school teacher, and my love of children, have all contributed to a great match.
Speaking of children and dogs, I have a new endeavor to help both! I have created a dog safety learning activity for children. Children sort stickers into categories of “Safe to Pet” and” Not Safe to Pet”. The product it called Stop, Look and Paws. I am working with shelters and rescues organizations in the area to donate free of charge enough for them to use with every adopted or fostered dog that goes into a home. I have already committed to over 3000. As a trainer who helps families with their newly adopted rescue dog, I have seen unfortunate incidences happen with the children and the dog. Most of these occurrences are due to the family’s lack of understanding dog body language. To see more go to my other website http://www.kids-n-k9s.com
Now on to how I became a canine artist. This first bit won’t surprise you – I’ve always had two consistent loves in my life: dogs and art! From the time I was born in Wisconsin, there were always dogs in our home – anywhere from one to three dogs at a time. I learned early on that dogs are great companions and I developed a deep appreciation of and fascination with their unique beauty. I think I’ve always seen the world through the eye of an artist, although I didn’t know it then. When I was about thirteen, I wanted to give a special gift to my mother (also a dog lover). I decided to draw every dog my family had ever had…past and present! A big undertaking for such a little girl – but I was up for it and I drew on. They were 5×7 graphite drawings on ivory colored paper, all framed in black, and they still hang on the stairway wall in my childhood home.
St. Bernard – Gus
Little did I know then that this project would be the start of a lifelong pursuit of canine art. Now, as then, my illustrations reveal a personal and deep appreciation for the complex and loving nature that is the dog and the profound relationships that they can have with us.
I attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where I earned a Bachelor of Science Degree with a focus on Education and Art. Right out of school, I taught elementary education, and for over the past 10 years have been training dogs (almost 2000 dogs so far!) and painting dog portraits for clients around the world. I’ve discovered that training dogs has given me unique insight into creating wonderful pieces of art that capture your dogs essence.
Each breed and individual dog is so different, and these differences are fascinating to me. Golden Retrievers, for example, have some shared characteristics as a breed, but can vary greatly across the shape of their head, shape and color of their eyes, and color and texture of their hair … amazing! Beyond physical characteristics, as you think about the dog in your life, even their unique personality is somehow reflected in their appearance. Their eyes can be soft or intense, their ears upright and confident, or gently back and more demure. That’s what I capture in my portraits! And then there are the mixed breeds, so fascinating with combinations that only nature could put together in such a pleasing way. Just looking at the unique patterns within the dog’s coat is amazing to me. Sometimes I can get engrossed in the light hitting one specific curl or how a shadow falls across an eye. The best part is looking into their eyes. You can see the dog’s personality.
Cricket and I out for our daily dog walk.
In my role as a dog trainer, I am privy to a special perspective. When I first begin training a dog, their focus is on everything but me. After a short period, however, a connection begins to develop between me and the dog. This is the moment the dog realizes that we are working together and the magic starts. They look into my face, not in a challenging way, but in a way that tells me we understand each other, and they are ready to put their trust and faith in me.
It’s a beautiful kind of focus…they are relaxed and peaceful. When it happens I have a unique window into each dog’s soul that can only be viewed from this close and personal vantage point. Each time it happens I take a few extra moments to study the uniqueness of that dog’s face. For as long as I can, I will continue with this passion. Each month, there’s always a new and beautiful dog to be illustrated for a loving owner, and a relationship to be honored. When I create a portrait, it’s not just a piece of art. I strive to capture the love that is in your dog’s heart for you, expressed through his or her unique and special personality. I translate it to artist’s paper so that it can be preserved forever!
Lesley with her dogs