September 4, 2012

Artist's Best Friend

        I've done my share of Cat Art, but I'm afraid I've been very weak in the dog department.  As an artist I have two main problems with dogs.  First, I haven't got one, so there's no handy muse hanging around the house modeling charming poses for my inspiration.  Second, dogs don't all look the same.  When I make a portrait of my cat, it looks a lot like your cat, or anyone's cat, or your generic image of Cat, and all cat-lovers can relate to it.  But dogs don't look like Dogs; they look like pugs, or poodles, or labs, or chihuahuas, or dachshunds, or Saint Bernards, or whippets…
        Still, other artists have been better than I, and to get a sampling of dog block prints I've returned to my virtual collection of alphabet books and pulled out D is for Dog.  I've come up with five dogs for your enjoyment today.  Perhaps my favorite is from a new alphabet source I discovered on-line.  This dog represents D in The Ladder to Learning, published in 1852 by R.H. Pease, who advertises himself as an "Engraver on Wood."  (The author is given as Miss Lovechild, but with a name like that, I can't help suspecting that there is no such person!)
        Betsy Bowen and Mary Azarian have both painted their prints, although Mary Azarian has black and white versions of hers as well.  (Unfortunately, I couldn't find an uncolored version to post today.)  But despite any similarities of color, these two pieces show opposite ends of the dog spectrum, Bowen going with active working sled dogs, and Azarian with a lazy old hound snoozing in the armchair.  Azarian's looks ready for a snuggle, and of Bowen's huskies I like the one closest to the sled best because you can see its face the most clearly.
        Antonio Frasconi and Walter Anderson have both treated their dogs in a very graphic, decorative manner.  Frasconi's makes me think of the friendly, loyal mutt, and Anderson's seems almost medieval to me, taking part in a field of decorative motifs.  Both artists have clearly had fun with the graphic qualities of the medium.
        Recently I've been thinking it's time I tried some Dog Art of my own, but in the meantime I hope all you dog-lovers out there can find a puppy to love somewhere in this selection!

[Pictures: D stands for dog, wood block print by R.H. Pease, hand painted, from The Ladder to Learning by Miss Lovechild, 1852 (Image from International Children's Digital Library);
Dogsled, hand-colored woodblock print by Betsy Bowen from Antler, Bear, Canoe: A Northwoods Alphabet Year, 1991 (Image from Betsy Bowen Studio);
Dog, hand-colored wood block print by Mary Azarian from A Farmer's Alphabet, 1981 (Image from Mary Azarian's web site);
D, wood block print by Antonio Frasconi from Bestiary, 1965;
Dog, linoleum block print by Walter Inglis Anderson, 1930's (Image from The Walter Anderson Shop).]

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