Pet Portraits and Designer Homes

by Emily Zulz

From October 10th through November 15th, the Peoria Art Guild will present an exhibit entitled “Pet Portraits,” featuring local, regional and national artists displaying their talents with pet portraits, designer doghouses and more.

Participating artists displaying their portraits will include local artists Genevieve Schlueter, Mariam Graff and Ken Hoffman. Schlueter uses graphite pencil to make detailed renderings of pets. Graff, who paints in a realistic “Old Masters” style, has been commissioned to paint dogs of all kinds, including Danny and Foxy, beloved pets of Hollywood actor Kirk Douglas.

Hoffman, recently retired from Bradley University, has been working on his pet series for more than 20 years. His work is different in that his renderings are often not realistic. He looks for humor and expression and draws inspiration from famous people when making his portraits—looking to Sylvester Stallone for his bird drawings, for example. “A lot of cats are based on the model Kate Moss because I think she has cat-like features,” he continued. Hoffman also does commission portraits, in which someone sends a picture of his or her pet and he works directly from the picture, but puts the pet in a suit and tie.

Hoffman will display one large piece in the Art Guild’s exhibit. Titled “Dog Man (Max),” the portrait, which depicts a bulldog in a tuxedo, was inspired by the German painter Max Beckmann.

Other artists in the exhibit include Larry Welo, an award-winning artist from Wisconsin who will provide etchings of a series of cats; Atlanta-based Angela Bond, who specializes in animal motifs and Pop Art paintings; and Victoria Mimiaga, an artist from northern California whose pet portraits have been published in numerous magazines.

Also in the exhibit will be ten designer doghouses.

Artist Sandra McKenzie Schmitt, of Washington, Ill., has plans to make a doghouse in the gothic style of architecture. This will be her first doghouse, but she has a long history in the art world. Her functional pottery and sculptures, handmade with stoneware clay and fired up to 2,300 degrees, have shown in more than 200 major galleries around the United States since 1975. The pottery is microwaveable, oven-safe and dishwasher-safe, and the sculptures can be left outside in the garden. Schmitt’s customers include the likes of Julia Childs, Liz Smith and several soap opera stars.

The inspiration for her doghouse comes from the house where she used to live in Frenchtown, New Jersey. For eight years, she inhabited a gothic-style house that was at least a century old. A sculpture of an English bulldog, like one that might be placed on top of one of her casserole dishes, will sit inside her doghouse.

Jackie Gillam, owner of Fairchild’s and Her Majesty’s Tea Room in Dunlap with her husband, is another doghouse designer. “We love animals more than anything…and when we heard about [the exhibit] we were absolutely drawn to it,” she said. Her doghouse will have a Scottish cottage theme. She wanted it to look like it came straight from the English countryside, with a thatch roof and all. “We love everything to do with England,” explained Gillam. Both of their businesses reflect that, and, appropriately, so will their doghouse.

While they have not made a doghouse before, the Gillams have done a lot of design work. “We’re up to the challenge,” she said. “We have a saying at our tea room: ‘Royalty is a state of mind,’ and we think that applies to dogs too,” Gillam said. “We think dogs should have the royal treatment.”

Others making designer doghouses include: Margee Cullinan, Terry Benningfield-Ryan, Art Laine, Dan Moore, Darin Wright of Ultimate Interiors, Caius Jennson of Farnsworth Group, Ed Barry of APACE Architecture Firm and Ellen Putnam of Henricksen & Co. My Dog’s Bakery and Three Dog Bakery are making edible doghouses.

The opening reception for the exhibit will be held from 5:30 to 7:30pm on Friday, October 10th. A fundraiser will be held on Saturday, November 15th, at which the designer doghouses will be auctioned, a doggie fashion show will be held, and one of the participating dogs will be adopted from the shelter. Proceeds from the auction will be shared with PAWS, the local animal shelter. a&s