On May 6, The AKC Museum of the Dog is hosting a Zoom-powered dog watercolor painting workshop led by talented doggie painter Andrea Caceres. “In normal times we have had painting demonstrations that happen in the museum,” says Emily Brostek, Manager of Educational Programs at the museum. “So we wanted to do something that could be taught from home, that was relatively simple to go through.”
The annual online workshop, that first took place in May 2020, is a response to demand from members who are excited to keep things going despite the pandemic. Brostek met Caceres in 2020, and saw her unfussy-yet-striking dog illustrations as an approachable way to kick off an online workshop.
Capturing The Moment
Caceres has fused her natural talent for illustration and love for dogs into a business of painting pet portraits. The museum chose her as an artist to support for her ability to capture a dog’s personality in her art pieces. She describes her work as “whimsical and funny”: non-glossy sketches that aim not for photorealistic perfection, but to highlight the uniqueness of the dog.
Brostek praises her intuitive, amateur-painter-friendly teaching techniques, in how she guides members attending the class to focus to the contours of the dog’s body, face and ears. “It’s about really paying attention to the structure of the dog — I ask them to look at the dog sitting, standing and lying down,” explains Caceres. “Then we talk about the hair of the dog — the texture and the feeling — and how the light casts off the fur.”
With photos of their dog in various positions at hand, the painting then begins. “Andrea answers questions and really takes them step-by-step,” says Brostek. “The best part is the end when everyone gets to show each other their finished work.”
As artsy activities involving pets have become a trend — like TikTok’s viral dog painting challenge, involving a paint-loaded canvas inside a sealed Ziploc bag, smeared with gobs of peanut butter that attract a dog to lick away and create their own art — it appears the pandemic has pushed people to find camaraderie and joy in their furry besties. “More people are adopting dogs for companionship because of the isolation and loneliness of quarantine,” notes Brostek.
In turn, honoring pets by painting their portraits can be therapeutic for those seeking release from the stress of COVID and being cooped up indoors. “I know that right now a lot of people are looking for different healthy outlets to express themselves,” says Brostek.
In the age of COVID, a little unwinding distraction is always welcome. “This was a lot of fun,” said Diane B., a Museum of the Dog member who completed the online painting workshop last May. “Especially when we are all in such serious times.”
The online painting class is also a way for people to connect, bringing communities of dog lovers together at a time when closeness is prohibited. “I always get messages from people that my classes make the quarantine better,” reminisces Caceres. “People have a lot of fun, they get to chat and see all the dogs in the Zoom call on screen.”
The Look of Love
Michelle Lynch is planning to sign up for the upcoming painting workshop primarily for this community feeling. “We used to meet and talk to dog owners in parks, but now hardly anyone socializes and everything feels so ... disjointed,” she says, recalling how she and her husband always looked forward to meeting other pet lovers. She also cherishes how it will be a family affair, where her daughters will have the opportunity to dabble in capturing the coy cuteness of their wee Pomeranian, Daisy Lee.
Jane Chan, a 61-year-old with two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels she so treasures, feels that COVID is a jarring reminder of our mortality. The notion spurred her to want to paint a portrait of her dog and sign up for the Museum of the Dog’s online workshop. “I have to paint it. That would be so much more meaningful than asking someone else to,” she says. “No one knows Archie and Sir Hugo as well as I do.”
Chan thinks it is akin to immortalizing the memory of her dogs and what they meant to her, “an artifact of life that will go on long after I have passed.”
The AKC Museum of the Dog’s free Mod Member Watercolor Online Workshop is on May 6 at 4 p.m. Advance registration is required. Follow Caceres on Instagram @andreacaceresg and see her merchandise on her website.