good dog

I’ve been eyeballing this vintage picture for a few weeks because it’s been on top of a stack of pictures that keeps falling over. Or the cats are knocking them over which is more likely. It was going into my Daily Art practice sooner or later so I made it sooner.

One thing you should know about me, and will most likely admire, is that I am a SUCKER for old photos. Any old photos. Half developed, half out of focus, any kind of half-assed, really. Good ones hardly interest me any more then mediocre or damn bad ones do. It’s perverse, but secretly you know you feel the same as me. I mean, have you ever seen one of those old black and white pictures where there is literally NOTHING but a horizon? Like, you know it’s happened to you, too. There was some kind of awesome cloud or an amazing bird formation and absolutely nothing shows on the shot. Back in the day, some old duffer sees 86 birds way up there, spelling the word Geritol or something (it is 1950, after all). He’s all excited and can barely get the manual focus right and snaps that award winner, thinking, “that’ll show ole’ Howard back home.” Then the roll gets developed and the disappointment settles in. Where are the Geritol birds? And his wife Milly screams, “Wilford, what were you THINKING??” And Wil wonders as well. Photography can be a cruel, cruel game.

There is hardly a homeless photo in Pinellas County. Well, there might be now but not in my heyday. Boxes, people. I have adopted countless ancestors, it’s a wonder that I don’t have a bunch of haints up in here. But I don’t, because the departed are happy to be wanted.

Actually, if I might wax philosophical here, and I might, because if a tree falls in the forest does it make a noise? It’s like that here on the blog almost always except for a few stalwart readers, long-time friends and relatives that trip over and think, what fresh hell today? Anyway, looking at unknown ancestors and doing your own ancestry history can bring up many emotional and intellectual issues. My sister sprang for Ancestry.com a couple years ago and we got into researching our family history like nobody’s business.  It was just interesting. I have a relative on my paternal grandmother’s side by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte. I am not kidding. What kind of parents name their kid Napoleon Bonaparte? Well, the kind that I am related to. It explains a lot.

As a photographer myself and as a curious person, I wonder what provoked them to shoot the picture. Or to shoot it the way they did. Like sometimes, when the husband puts the wife in front of the pink flowering dogwood. Which does he want to shoot? Is he a proud arborist or devoted husband? Can he be both? I suppose, but that isn’t as interesting. Everyone ASSUMES he is shooting the wife. After she dies, the grandbaby, dandling on PaPa’s knee, thumbing through the scrapbook. Kiddie, “Ooohh, pwitty!” Thought bubble over PaPa’s head, “Yes, it was a fine pink dogwood…” I mean, really.

Anyway, I can think and talk about this for a long time and I almost have today. I started with the picture. I set it on the paper foundation in the spot it is now. I almost never center anything on a page. I use the Rule of Thirds which I have discussed on this blog elsewhere. The dog is small in the photo, it was shot wonky and tilted. It is odd which is likely why I’ve been attached to it. All those different planes intersecting at obtuse angles. Hmm. One of my favorite art practices is to draw a continuation of something on a page. Like in this case, extending the photo out with drawing. Sometimes I do it with a pattern (like a floral), and extend it beyond the border. I like the “realism” plus the “handmarked imagined”. It’s a fun way to take something you didn’t do, and make it your own art. It’s more than just putting the picture on the page.

I used Neocolor watercolor crayons to draw out my added content. The bottom was empty, so I added a strip of old text. Then I took a piece of drywall tape and rubbed PanPastels over the surface. The tape is pretty deep so it tore up the foam applicator but it had been used and those things don’t last forever. I liked the scale of the squares so I continued the stenciling further than I planned at first.

It needed text and I wasn’t sure what to add. I considered a short quote about dogs but it didn’t interest me. There wasn’t a lot of room, either. I tried thinking about dog names from the 30’s but hell, I ain’t that old. Spike. Lad. Spot. Fido. If this dog was any of those, it was Lad but I can’t even. Lad. A Dog. Now you do know how old I am.

I decided not to name the dog. Nobody calls their dog by their name, anyway.  You know you don’t. Sometimes they are just Dog, or Puppy. Around here, the animals get called “Mr.” or “Missy” or “Oh No You Didn’t” or a word with “-ster” after it. Our dog is named Junebug, but we call her Bugster, June-ster, Junie Bloom, Junie, etc. My late cat, Raven, we called Ravy, Wavy Gravy, Ravy Gravy, Scamp, Crazy Cat, Termite and Shit Foot, but I’m not talking about that.

I put myself in the shooter’s place. If I was trying to leave the porch, or if I walked up to shoot the dog, I’d say “Stay!”. Then, if the dog stayed, which I assume this one did from the general lack of interest on his face, I’d say “Good Dog.”

If I’d had more time than an hour, I might have explored the situation from the dog’s side. I like how he’s looking off to the side, all casual. Mr. Hollywood. Get my good side. He might be saying to himself, “look at this dufus.” Maybe there was a squirrel over there that needed watching. If this was my dog, he’d have a cool name, but we’d just call him Bat Ears most of the time.

 

 

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