Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rare breed dogs I've known

I have a rare breed of dog staying with me this week. Inka is a Lagotto Romagnolo, a breed that is recognized by the AKC's Foundation Stock Service. This breed was first seen in the Mediterranean area of Europe around 1600, and was used to hunt truffles in the 1800s. She has a curly coat like a poodle. Inka is small, only about 25 pounds, and not much bigger than my sheltie.
She reminds me a little of a Bedlington terrier with her coat, color and shape. She is the sweetest, most gentle and quiet dog. When she does decide to bark, it is pretty sharp and shrill, so I'm glad she doesn't use her voice much. A single sharp bark once or twice is all I've heard in a week.

Another unusual breed that has stayed with me is the Spinone Italiano, a hunting dog breed. Luke was really big and active. Like many young active breeds, Luke was a chewer and took a corner off my couch cushion. He made a lasting impression here.

The last, and most unusual, is the Thai Ridgeback, also an FSS breed with the AKC. This dog, Rhino, was a pet sitting client's dog. He did not come to my house. He was very wary of me, and I could never get near him (hence, no photo). They are another hunting breed, but are members of the hound group. They have a ridge similar to the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Like most hounds, they are extremely independent.

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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A new pet portrait: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Meet Bella, a sweet cavalier who is now 12 years old. Her owner, Kim, wanted a classic style formal portrait of Bella, portraying her when she was younger. She gave me an example of what she wanted and a pile of photos.

My first challenge was the photos she provided. We can’t go back and take pictures of the young Bella, so I had to work with what I had. The best pose was in a photo where Bella was 3/8” tall! I scanned it and blew it up, but it still was only a little over an inch tall to work from. ACK!

I was amazed at how much detail I was able to get. Other photos showed me markings that were covered up by Jerry’s (Kim’s husband) hand. And the little red spot on her head didn’t show in most pictures, but I felt it needed to be included in order for it to truly look like Bella.

The hardest part is to start. I always do a wash of the basic colors just to get something on the paper. Once that is done, I can methodically start working. At some point, not too far into the painting, I have to sit back and be sure nothing is out of whack. In this one, one eye was too small, and one ear was too short. She looked totally out of balance. Those are major changes.

I love working in watercolor because you can lift the paint. I love pencil because you can erase it, and I love acrylic because you permanently cover up your mistakes! So it helps my confidence to know nothing is “unfixable”. My work is truly mixed media.

I used photos of other cavaliers to figure out the white curls on her chest, and I had Kim take a photo of Bella straight on so I could see her curls too.

When it was all done, I wondered if it truly looked like Bella, since I had only know her as an old dog. Kim said yes, definitely. And she loved the little “lozenge” on the top of her head.

The goal of any artist is to improve over the years. I have painted several cavaliers, and I think this one is probably the best one I have done. To see more of my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel paintings, visit their page on my website.

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© 2009 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

RIP, Stephen Huneck

The Stephen Huneck Gallery
A fellow dog artist, Stephen Huneck died January 8. The tragedy of the economic downturn has taken another member of my generation, and I am deeply sad. Huneck took his own life after having to lay off his staff and put his beloved farm up for sale. I have one of his prints hanging in my entry hall, just purchased a few months ago.

I admired his talent for years. His creativity was beyond anything I could imagine. I can't help but think about the tradition of tortured geniuses through history. Think of Van Gogh, Einstein, Rodin, and others who traveled to the beat of a different drum.

The creative life takes its toll on many of us. Huneck's death sparked a long discussion on one of the email discussion lists I am on. I was surprised how many people admitted to depression and years of struggle with its effects. I hope we are past thinking that depression is not "real." Their inner turmoil is very real, and those who suffer need medical help and support.

No success comes without a price. Some pay more than others.

Read more about Stephen's remarkable art here:

I am lost for words today.

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Artwork above © by Stephen Huneck. See his work at

© 2009 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year!

Wow, this is my first post of 2010. As I look back, I realize that between my two blogs, I have written 112 posts this past year. That says something about my love for pets and my love for writing about them. I have realized over the past few years, as I divide my time between artwork and writing, that writing usually wins out. I have a real passion for it, and hope that in 2010 I will have the opportunity to add another book to my professional credits.

Meanwhile, I continue with my artwork and pet sitting too. I finished several pet portraits just before Christmas. The first dog, Justin is a yellow Lab, one of my favorite subjects. It was fun to paint her picture as a puppy and now as a 12-year-old.

The second portrait is Max, a German Shepherd rescued from Coastal German Shepherd Rescue here in San Diego. He lives in his new home with Dena, a GSD I painted several months ago, who is also a rescue. They are two very lucky dogs, and I salute their owners, Jackie and Howard, for adopting from a rescue group!
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© 2009 Terry Albert. All rights reserved.