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If you haven’t had the pleasure of owning a dog then this blog post might seem a little peculiar, heck, you might find this blog post peculiar even IF you own a dog! Why might it be weird? It might be off beat because you might not have had a relatable experience with your ‘best bud’ as we call our dogs… although I would LOVE to know if you have.
No, our animals are not child substitutes, and yes, we are aware that they are pets but still taking all those things into account, hands up who invents stories for their dogs? Just us then? Ho hum, I’m still going to share the story of Troy and why this painting was really important to me and how it came about.
Sometimes you take a photo that you have every intention of painting but for some reason, the right opportunity never presents itself and so it sits there on the computer as a constant reminder that you haven’t done anything with it yet. Here is that photo:
It’s not a great photo but it has deep significance for us. This is Troy, a dog that had a tough start to life and consequently has been difficult to own on occasion, but one day towards the end of the summer when we took him out for a walk across the recently ploughed fields, we were looking at him and we realised that he was so happy. He was enjoying the warmth of the sun and being alongside his brother Riley. We stopped in the middle of the field to enjoy one of those late August days when it’s still warm and lay down so the dogs could have a rest. Troy was standing on Beez’s chest and as we say, was ‘on patrol’ keeping an eye out for the first pheasant, deer or hare that may suddenly pop out of the stubble.
I took the photo and then put it away thinking that I needed to do something with it but not really knowing what, so it got filed for a couple of years. I came across it one day, looking for something else, and had a rush of memories about that moment and how happy Troy was. It made me think about him as he gazed across the fields and I wrote on a piece of paper ‘In the last of the summer sun he surveyed all that lay before them’ and suddenly I had this really clear image in my head of Troy standing on the edge of the stubble.
This is how inspiration strikes sometimes, it’s not about the actual photograph or the actual scene, it’s about what memory comes forward or the story that you weave to fit the situation. Now don’t get me wrong, it sounds all poetic now that I recall how the painting came about, but I have shouted at this dog more times than I care to remember, he’s destroyed things, beaten up his brother and on a good day has been a whining maniac but Beez and I invent stories for them all the time that make us laugh.
There was the time that we pulled back the sofa to find that Troy had been stealing things from the studio so we decided he was setting up a rival shop, he got called ‘Meat Nose’ for a week after trying unsuccessfully to lick the last of his dinner from his face and his other name is Bowling Ball due to him managing to trip us up on any given day.
It’s these narratives that constantly drive my work and most of the time it doesn’t matter to me that not everyone knows the back story, it’s what inspired me to paint. It’s not meant to be an in joke that only I can enjoy, what I hope comes across is the love of my subject and that I’m not simply painting something for the sake of it, I’m often doing it because I’m being driven to create a snap shot of a memory.
I hope you have enjoyed these insights, there will be more to come as tomorrow I will share Steve with you. Until then, take care, Ali