I love all creatures - great and small, and I am passionate about painting them!!! My goal, when I paint animals, is to bring out the animal’s inner spirit and I use photographs to capture the physical characteristics of the subject animal. Critical to enabling capture of the inner spirit is to have photos that capture the eyes front-on, because I truly believe that the eyes are the entry points to their spirit, and I want to use that spirit to make the paintings come alive. I have been told many times that the eyes in my paintings seem to follow the viewer. When that feeling occurs, I know that I have succeeded in my principal objective.
To illustrate the above discussion, I want to use a recent painting. The subject of the painting was “Cooper” - an absolutely gorgeous Yellow Lab, who passed over the rainbow bridge a few years ago. I started with photographs provided by my brother, Beau. Beau has a Harley-Davidson “Fat Boy” that he rides in veterans events (See https://www.kathywinklerstudio.com/post/a-tribute-to-vietnam-war-veterans-rolling-thunder). One day, he was riding his Harley in Houston, Texas and saw a Labrador rescue group walking some Labradors. He stopped to see the dogs and he was drawn to a particular Lab with beautiful, expressive eyes. He was so captivated by him that he said he had to have him. The volunteer said she had pulled him from a kill shelter just hours before he was to be put to sleep. Imagine that!!! Cooper was just a couple of years old when he saw him. He adopted the Lab and named him after Gary Cooper, a former Hollywood star actor.
Beau was quite attached to his beloved companion. He trained Cooper to be a therapy dog to be used to put special education children at ease, as they spent time in a circle listening to a book being read to them in the classroom.
Each time Beau took Cooper, Cooper would select a child and spend his time bonding with the child. In one case, there was a 6-year old boy who had never spoken a word. One day, he started talking to Cooper. He struggled with his words, but continued to express himself around Cooper. Cooper would delight the children when he used his nose to turn a page in the book that my brother was reading. This is what made Cooper special. He could connect with children where people could not.
It is amazing how much dogs give and do for us. They open emotional doors for us by offering comfort and hope. They love us unconditionally and show that love with a wag of a tail, a licking tongue, or by crawling onto our laps or by snuggling next to us. All of this unconditional love comes at very little cost to us.
All in all, it is an honor to paint “man’s” best friend. I always get my batteries charged by their simple goodness and unabashed show of love. How lucky we all are. I actually have a similar feeling for any animal I paint. Below you can see a before photo of Cooper, and my after painting of Cooper.
If you have a companion animal that you would like me to paint, please contact us. Of course, you may also know someone whose companion animal has passed over on the rainbow bridge. A painting by Kathy Winkler could bring many fond memories back to that person on an ongoing basis.