By Natasha Anderson
If you’re familiar with the Haywood County Arts Council (HCAC), in Waynesville, you probably know its members love pets. A visit to the HCAC gallery often means a visit with one of the docent’s small dogs or a chance to meet Birdie, the wirehaired pointing griffon that comes to work with HCAC director Morgan Beryl every day.
“Customers love to see the dogs when they come to the gallery,” says HCAC marketing and membership coordinator Lauren Medford. “We welcome them to bring their own dog while browsing and we even keep a water bowl out for them.”
Several member artists include commissioned pet portraits in their studio work. Wendy Cordwell creates whimsical and personal pet likenesses through collage using a variety of papers that relate to each pet based on information the client provides. Items incorporated include a map from the state they live in and descriptive words from old dictionaries. She covers the entire wood panel with paper, except for the eyes, which she paints.
“Customers often first comment about the eyes,” says Cordwell. “Then when they take a closer look they realize I’ve used painted papers for the rest of the piece and they keep looking to see what types of papers they can find.”
Painter Linda Blount considers pet portraits an opportunity to capture the spirit of the animal, studying it from different poses and in different lighting. Working from photos, Blount sketches until she is reasonably satisfied, before moving on to acrylic paints.
“I really want the customer to feel that I have achieved the look and spirit of their pet so they will enjoy looking at the picture over and over,” she says.
Mollie Harrington-Weaver aims to express the deep emotional connection people have with their pets through her colorful portraits. She works from photographs, sometimes taking her own, which provides an opportunity to obtain good, well-lit pictures as well as get to know the animal. If she does not meet the pet, she gathers information about their life and personality, then spends time studying the picture to feel her own attachment to the pet.
“Most people, including myself, have intense connections to their pets and research supports that losing a pet can be as hard as losing a family member,” she says. “I love attempting to re-create that loving feeling the owners have for their animals.”
Glass artist Gayle Haynie creates pet cremation keepsakes for those whose beloved pet has crossed the rainbow bridge. Like other glass artists she delved into the idea of fusing ashes into her work after noticing that people, including herself, were looking for ways to display the ashes of their pets other than putting them in an urn or box and placing them on the mantel. Her keepsakes include glass jewelry, plaques, hanging ornaments and suncatchers. Haynie loves doing custom work for clients and is always open to new suggestions for how to use the ashes.
“If they have an idea that they would like me to try, I will give it a go,” she says. “I am very conscientious of the work I deliver and pride myself in my craftsmanship.”
Learn more at HaywoodArts.org.