with Justine Osborne
Tell us a little bit more about yourself! How did you start
painting, where do you live, how many dogs do you own, do you have other
My grandfather was an artist, so it was not unusual to see paintings
in progress, brushes and palettes around. I began studying from the
life model seriously at 17, and this education led to a degree from
Central Saint Martins College of Art, London in 1998.
I stayed in London for many years , but as my family of dogs grew, we
moved to the Cotswolds in the Gloucestershire countryside. – I
have two basset hounds, Minnie and Morris. I am now 33 and have been
painting dogs seriously for nearly 10 years.
you so fascinated with your subjects? What so special about dogs that
you cannot find while painting other subjects?
I think one of the biggest hurdles for a painter who decides to paint
animals is the preconceived notion that somehow the subject matter is
not ‘worthy’. I make no excuses for choosing dogs as my
I think the relationships we have with our animals, says a lot about
us, in today’s world dogs as companions get us through the hardest
times, and through their unassuming nature put our own lives in perspective.
So whilst I may not paint people, the painting of the dogs say a lot
about “their people”.
Painting dogs offers such a variety of shapes, colours and sizes than
I never fail to find each portrait a challenge. Dogs are beautiful beings
and are fascinating to me.
of techniques do you use?
I use oil on canvas. A traditional medium, but the paint is workable
for longer than acrylic and allows for more manipulations of the paint
surface. I paint the dogs with more energetic strokes, and the backgrounds
in contrast are flat, smooth areas of paint, generally with a single
you describe the style of your paintings?
So much of my work is from photographs, that in order to give the work
life, rather than a faithful copy of the photograph, I use my life-drawing
experience to inject life into the paintings. Sketching is a wonderful
way to tune in to your subject matter and I often sketch my bassets
as they sleep. Sketching allows for a sense of urgency, demanding the
use of fewer lines to convey much more.
My work combines the urgency of sketching with Photography’s ability
to capture a moment in time. This results in unusual and candid compositions
and energetic brush strokes.
you discover about dogs while painting them?
I have discovered how much people love their dogs, how these noble hounds
looking back at me from the canvas are able to enrich their owners’
lives so much. I have utter respect for my subject matter and want to
create portraits that portray the soul of the dog. At lot of my work
involves the dog looking up or gazing intensely into the camera lens,
accentuating this bond between owner and dog.
has a particular personality, even amongst one and the same breed. How
do you ‘read’ the personality of that particular dog that
you are painting and how do you express that in your work?
I look into the eyes of the dog, I look perhaps at several pictures
of them in their surroundings. I don’t treat the portraits as
breed studies. When I’m lucky I get to meet the dog. I think now
after so many paintings it has become instinctive .It is the small differences
between dogs, even of the same breed, that make it interesting. I love
the components that make each dog individual. People give me a paragraph
or even just a few words about their dogs, but revealed in these profound
words is always a great affection. It’s this kind of invaluable
information that helps create a very personal portrayal of each dog
and makes every painting one of a kind.
imagine the perfect surrounding for one of your paintings, how does
it look like?
I have paintings in New York apartments, a San Francisco beach house,
a modernist house of a London record producer....Dream houses! But of
course the paintings are not just fashion accessories and are very personal
to the owners. I am just happy that they can be in a place where they
are looked at and loved on a daily basis. I have one painting placed
above the dog's bed - this is perfect!
paint people and their dogs together as well?
No. It is not a conscious decision, but more of an aesthetic one. I
like the images to be a snapshot of the dog’s life, almost as
if the owner is the viewer, looking at their dog. Although, it certainly
would be interesting to try!
the largest painting you ever made?
4 ft x 3ft, a portrait of a chocolate labrador from the USA. My canine
subjects often become larger than life with large scale works. Despite
the obvious impact, large scale work allows for detail, expression and
fun. There are no canvas constraints so you do need to be confident
and bold with your brush. I love working large, every mark, every hair
becomes monumental and oil paint is such a rich medium.
by Angélique Vindevogel for Zino Magazine, Belgium (April 2007)