Original sketch to Final Painting
When I am approached by someone to paint their companion animal(s), I am touched on two fronts. One is the fact that they would trust me to capture the spirit of their companion in a painting, and the other is the opportunity this provides to me to experience yet another companion animal’s spirit as brought forth by their guardians. The challenge to me is to capture that spirit in a painting.
So, how does this process begin. I love to talk to people about their companion dog, horse, cat, and bovine (especially, longhorns). Their stories show their connection and their love for their companions. Everyone has a story to tell about either their existing companion animal or a remembrance of one who has crossed over the rainbow bridge. It is a very powerful experience to hear about these connections. Through these stories, I learn so much about the animal I am being asked to paint, i.e., what they are or were like. I feel as if I have been invited into a sacred relationship.
As I approach a new painting for the first time and ask questions of the owner to the character of his/her beloved companion, the animal really becomes alive to me. It is an honor to get to know each of them from the beginning to the sometimes after they have crossed the rainbow bridge. For me, it is a very spiritual experience to paint any animal, because of the connection I experience when creating a painting. You could say that I begin to experience Dharma about each subject every time I start with a blank canvas. Painting becomes effortless without awareness of time. When I am finished, I look at the animal that I had just produced on canvas with utter amazement - like, someone else must have done this. Where in the world did it come from?
It is not only greatly satisfying and gratifying to say that when I experience this Dharma, it is my mind that gives into the flow, while my eyes see and I still experience all the other senses. I always give thanks to my subjects when I paint them, both before I start sketching them in a silhouette, and all the way to the finished painting. I never paint the eyes until I am satisfied with the animal and I think I have done him/her justice. It is then, and only then, that I paint the eyes to give the animal life. I am then able to look into their soul and give them thanks for the privilege of letting me experience their spirit.