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Can Artwork Help You Connect with Your Pet?

A couple of weeks ago I came across a drawing I did of our dog Petey in an old notebook.

Sketch of our dog Petey in a notebook - sketching to help connection between a person and their dog

Petey has since passed, and I have to say, having that drawing now means a lot to me. 

It is not a fancy drawing. He was asleep - which made it a LOT easier for me to draw him since he wasn’t moving.  I took some time to journal that morning soon after waking up. I find it easier to remember thoughts and ideas before the day gets rolling.  The journal notes just continued on around the drawing of him.

I never expected to use the drawing in any way.  It was just a nice way to capture a specific moment. 

But I was surprised how much I LOVED coming across this little visual of him.  Much like finding a beloved photograph, but yet somehow a little different.  When I came across that drawing, I truly felt happy and much love for our precious pup.

I think the drawing was impactful for a few reasons:

  • It was a simple, “no planning behind it” kind of activity… it was all just spontaneous.
  • I made a note at the top of the drawing of WHY I drew him. I was intrigued by the way his right ear was turned over.  The note reminded me of that endearing characteristic he would often have.  … And actually it was very helpful to see the note since his overturned ear is not completely clear in the drawing. LOL. 
  • Through the “act of drawing”, I believed I strengthened an energetic connection between the two of us. Seeing the drawing again revived and strengthened that connection.

Let’s explore these ideas for a moment…

Not Overthinking the Process

I recently came across the idea of not “overthinking things” but rather to be more spontaneous about what is front of you.  I could have gotten up and gathered more “official” drawing supplies – like a proper drawing pad and maybe some fancier pens, but just using the pen and paper I had in front of me was “enough”. 

“What is in front of you” is often where you need to focus.

Capturing the WHY

I originally came across this idea from a book by Kevin Macpherson [1].  I read several years back.  Kevin Macpherson is a fine art oil painter primarily known for his plein air paintings and portraits. 

The idea is that before starting a drawing or painting, take a few moments to jot down notes of WHY you wanted to capture a specific scene in the first place.  What are you hoping to capture or convey in your work? [2]  The notes can be quick thoughts or a longer description, but it is good to capture them because moments are very fleeting. Then, as you are working, revisit your notes once in a while to see if you have done what you had hoped.

 Capture the WHY you wanted to do something as part of the process

In my case, I LOVED how Petey’s ear was turned out.  It made him look “so darn cute” as he was sleeping.  And even if a piece isn’t exactly as you would like, notes will bring back memories of that time together.

You should also write down the day’s date.  I wish I had done that with this particular sketch.  Time passes so quickly and whether journaling or drawing, it is always helpful to know where you were at a specific point in time.  I can guess about the date of this drawing, but it would be nice to know.

Strengthening a Connection Through the Act of Drawing

The idea of creating and strengthening an energetic connection may seem a little odd, but I believe it is true…

In 2015, I took an amazing class from Jon Young [3] and Anna Breytenbach [4] on Connecting with Nature at the Findhorn Foundation [5] in Scotland.   Jon talked about the “rope concept” which he also explains in his TEDx Talk on Deep Nature Connection [6]  The "thread-to-rope" concept is introduced at about 5 to 6 minutes into his talk.

This is the idea passed onto Jon from native elders –

Each time we interact with, think about, tell a story about anyone or anything - we create a connection. 
A connection that starts as a thread…
and the more often we engage in any way with that person or an ancestor or our pets or something in nature, that thread becomes stronger and stronger until that connection eventually becomes like a strong rope between us.
Here is a screen capture from Jon’s talk to communicate the idea of going from threads to ropes:
String to Rope image from TedX talk on Deep Nature Connection by Jon Young

Because we spend so much time interacting with and thinking about our animals, the connections between ourselves and our animals also become very strong ropes.    

This connection is like a doorway to an ancient connection with all of nature and to all of existence – and from that - we become more fully present and loving in our world.  This is one of the many important ways our precious pets help us.  A rope of connection is strengthened when we think about our pets, even after they have passed.

And for some reason, to me, drawing feels like a way to tangibly strengthen that connection.  But I also believe spending any time with focused attention on your pet strengthens that connection.

Creating Artwork

If you are interested in creating artwork of your pet, there are lots of different options.  You don’t have to be a trained or skilled artist. 

Here are a few things to try:

Draw Freehand Directly from Life

I have been drawing since I was a kid, so drawing my pets freehand comes somewhat easily to me.  However, I still get a little nervous about it, and frankly the quality of the drawing is not that important!  All of my drawings are pretty rough.  I use a pen, scratch out lines I don’t like, start over if needed – but basically, I am not too worried about the final outcome.   I do try, though, to capture something that will let me know which pet I am trying to draw.  For our dog Petey, he had a big patch over one of his eyes – so if I put that patch in, I at least know which dog I was trying to draw :-)

Petey almost asleep - American Bulldog mix

And drawing the pups when they are sleeping is a lot easier.

Drawing also get easier with practice. There are certainly books and online instructions about “how to draw an animal”.  But again, I don’t it is necessary to get crazy over quality.  It’s really more about your intention.

Use a Photo as a Reference

Perhaps your dog has passed.  Or maybe you have a favorite photo of a companion animal that is still with you.  Here are a few ways to work with an image you have taken.

  • Draw onto a piece of paper using the photo as a reference.
  • For a more digital approach, I have used this online tool to create an outline from a digital photo.  Rapid Resizer:  
    This is just a partial screen shot of a result to give you an idea. 

Rapid Resizer result from using a photo of Petey

You can then print out the outline.

Once you have an outline, you may want to 

- Leave the outline as it is

- paint or color it in using paints, watercolors, watercolor pencils, pastels – there are all kinds of different media to choose from.

- or maybe you want to fill in the outline with a technique called Zentangle.

I took a Zentangle course a few years ago and really enjoyed this relaxing methodology for "structured doodling".  Here are the samples we made in class.

Samples of Zentangle artwork as inspiration for drawing your pet

But whatever you decide to do... 

Be Mindful of How You Are Feeling When Creating Your Piece 

Here is an example of why this is important.

After I finished my course in Findhorn Scotland, I was supposed to fly home out of Edinburgh, but my flight was delayed by 5 hours.  Instead of going directly to the airport, I went to the National Galleries Scotland museum to see a retrospective exhibit on the work of Roy Lichtenstein [7]. I really enjoy his work so I was interested in attending. 

I walked through all of the rooms and the paintings were amazing, however, I was totally taken aback when viewing his “jazz composition paintings”. So much so I took these photos of them.  I had never seen these works of his before.

 Roy Lichtenstein paintings - jazz composition 1

and when I stood in front of all of them, and in particular this one...

Roy Lichtenstein paintings - jazz composition 2 

I could not help but feel INCREDIBLE JOY.

It was absolutely amazing to stand in the presence of these paintings.  I really did not understand why I felt that way, but I did savor the time with them.

When I got home, I did some more research on the paintings and found out that Lichtenstein did these paintings later in life.  He also was very passionate about jazz music and I did read somewhere that he “was VERY HAPPY” when he was making these particular paintings.  I can no longer find that exact quote, but here is some information that speaks to his passion of music and particularly jazz.[8]

“What I really want to do is music,”
joked in a 1997 interview. “But I won’t give up my day job!” The son of a gifted piano player, the Pop artist grew up surrounded by music, playing a variety of instruments as a child and attending concerts at the Apollo theater as a teenager. Lichtenstein hints at his passion for music in his early print The Melody Haunts My Reverie (1965), which portrays a blonde singer performing Hoagy Carmichael’s famous jazz crooner, “Stardust.”Lichtenstein was especially drawn to the improvisational style of jazz, and he often painted in his studio to the tunes of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. When Lichtenstein turned 70, he even began saxophone lessons with the renowned jazz saxophonist Hayes Greenfield as his teacher. In 1995 and 1996, just a few years into his studies, the Pop artist released a series of silkscreens featuring musical staves and notes swirling across the paper, celebrating the freeform spirit of jazz.

The last sentence of this quote speaks to the paintings I saw that day in Edinburgh.

Why This Matters

I really do feel that the feelings you have when producing ANYTHING comes through in the final product.  Whether it is artwork or a meal you are preparing, your love and intention becomes imbued in the physical pieces themselves.

For me, the time I spent looking at those paintings was a highly discernible experience for which I am very grateful to have had.

And I also feel that the love I had for my dog Petey at that time I drew him was also imbued in that simple drawing of him.   And it was that LOVE I got to “re-experience” when I came across the drawing again. 

So if you decide to create a piece about your pet, be mindful of how you are feeling as you are doing it.  That feeling will be imbued in the piece.

And again, don’t worry about the ultimate “quality” of the piece itself.  Just enjoy the process.  And remember it is really about your intention and the fact that you are strengthening that rope between you and your precious animal companion.

 Summary

  1. When you spend focused time with your animal companion, know you are creating and strengthening a connection between yourself and your pet – moving from a thread to a rope.
  1. If you are creating artwork, capture “the Why”. Write down what intrigued you about the moment.  Even if the piece doesn’t come across visually exactly as you would like, write down your thoughts and have it somewhere accessible so you can remember the experience you wanted to capture. This information will be VERY HELPFUL especially after some time has passed.
  1. Create a piece in whatever way works best for you! 
  1. Be mindful of how you are feeling as you are creating the piece. That feeling will be imbued into the final product.

References

[1] Kevin MacPherson
Kevin MacPherson Fine Artist

[2] Macpherson, K. (2006). Landscape Painting Inside & Out: Capture the vitality of outdoor painting in your studio with oils.  North Light Books. Pg. 60.

[3] Jon Young
Jon Young | Connection First

[4] Anna Breytenbach
The Animal Communicator | AnimalSpirit

[5] The Findhorn Foundation - Spiritual community, Learning centre, Ecovillage
The Findhorn Foundation

[6] Deep Nature Connection TEDx talk by Jon Young
Deep Nature Connection

[7] Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein - Wikipedia

[8] Information about the Jazz Compositions - look at the "About the Work" full description
Lichtenstein Jazz Compositions

Gina Anderson...

Gina Anderson founder of Good Paws Bakery and Gifts

founder of Good Paws Bakery and Gifts, LOVEs to make dogs and their people HAPPY! Prior to starting Good Paws, she was a human factors engineer making software easier for people to use.  She is a fine artist, loves metaphysical studies as well as learning all things dog. She also enjoys helping people understand things from a dog’s perspective.  Connect with Gina on Linked In

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