This Saturday, August 14, Mutt Lynch Winery will celebrate their Dog Days of Summer event and unveil the wine they've paired with Kimberly Kelly Santini's winning entry in our 2010 Wine Label Contest. When Brenda Lynch (winemaker), Rae Huestis (label designer), and I (Moira McLaughlin, Dog Art Today founder) selected Rusty as the champion, we had no idea that for a bad dog who died more than 30 years ago, this would mean redemption. We also had no idea the depth of commitment Kimberly Kelly Santini has made to art, animals, and an online community of painters since before most of us ever heard the word blog. Here is my interview with her:
Describe your inspiration in creating Rusty.
Rusty had been my grandfather's dog back when I was a child. My grandfather passed away very suddenly this spring, which brought the Kelly family together from all over the country. Many great stories surfaced at his funeral and mountains of photos were shared. The stories always involved Rusty being outrageously bad, yet getting away with it, a testament to how much my grandfather, a strict disciplinarian, loved him.
The family photos were mostly grainy black and whites with Rusty being an inch or two high, or they were horridly faded Polaroids -- not the sort of material I was comfortable creating a painting from. But Rusty seemed like great fodder for a collage. And a collage could be a solid design concept for the label. I also liked the idea of a red dog highlighting a red wine. It seemed like a good fit all around.
Does Rusty know he is a celebrity? (note: this was before I saw the photos)
Rusty passed away some 30+ years ago. But the Kelly family has embraced the idea of him being on the Mutt Lynch wine label. My aunt declared that he had finally done something right!! And I'm looking forward to sharing a glass of Rusty wine with my grandmother and listening to more stories about the family.
You mentioned this painting/collage method is new for you. What inspired you to try something different?
I have led children's workshops on collage and mixed media, but tried to keep that process simple, using photographs, magazine clippings, and other items. We would work with things like a photograph of a dog's head with a tiara cut out of a magazine collaged over newspaper and tissue, creating a basic accumulation of images that, when coupled together, told a story. I looked at a lot of other collage artists as part of building the curriculum for my workshop, with one of my personal favorites being Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson who uses paper bits to shade and mold her subject.
With each workshop I fell more in love with the collage process. I wanted to explore possibilities outside of the classroom, incorporate my own painted papers, play with texture and allow the collaged materials to mold the form, carry the details and tell a story. Rusty was the perfect subject for this experimentation.
This year you will paint your 1000th dog in your Dog a Day series. How did you get started and how do you stay committed?
I started Painting a Dog a Day back in October of 2006 and thought I'd stick with it for a year or so. It was intended to be my own personal window where I could paint just for me. As a commission artist, one who works primarily life-sized or larger to client specifications, I knew that painting just for myself would feed my muse and keep my creativity strong, even if it were just for an hour a day on littler paintings. I never expected the project to take on a life of it's own, but that's what it did.
It's not that hard to stay committed to it, and it helps that I thoroughly love my job. There are days when I'd rather be doing something else. But I have a deep connection with the paint, and when I stand at my easel (even on a day when I'd rather be playing hookey), those reservations melt away and I become absorbed in the painting at hand.
But I also work hard at keeping my muse alive by trying new things (like collage!), getting out and looking at great art in person, working with children (talk about inspiration!!), volunteering in my community and mentoring emerging artists. And there is nothing like sharing that rush of emotion when a client holds their painting for the first time. I revel in the moment, knowing that only I could have delivered this cherished painting to them. And then I get right back to work, planning and building for the next portrait.
Tell me about you upcoming solo show at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah.
Back in 2007 when the daily paintings were relatively new, Best Friends Magazine (Best Friends Animal Society's monthly publication) did a feature article on my artwork. This exposure was formative in creating the early core of the Dog a Day community - a group of collectors, artists, animal advocates and all around amazing people that now numbers over 1000. It seemed especially meaningful to be invited, three years later, to hang my work in the heart of the Best Friends Animal Society.
The show, which opens August 27 and runs until October 15, is titled "Happily Ever Afters." This is my first solo exhibition comprised entirely of daily paintings. My muses were especially selected because they were each rescued themselves. The paintings will be accompanied with real life stories of other animals who found their own "Happily Ever Afters." I want the show to convey names, faces, and unforgettable details of a population that is forgotten, discarded, and treated unfairly.
Here are some paintings that will be included:
After winning the Mutt Lynch - Dog Art Today contest and mounting your first solo show this year, is this a new level for you as an artist?
They are definitely key moments, specific points where I can reminisce upon my journey to date. However, I view each new day as a turning point - an opportunity for me to pick up my paintbrush, go a little further as an artist and a compassionate person. I love my life.
And we love your art as much as your creative spirit, your drive, and your inspiration, Kimberly. Congratulations!
For more on Kimberly Kelly Santini:
Mutt Lynch Winery's Dog Days of Summer:
Date: August 14, 2010
Time: 11:00am - 5:00pm
Cost: $10.00 (100% admission fees and 10% of sales benefit the SF SPCA)
Location: 602 Limerick Lane, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Dogs are welcome
To order a bottle or case of Rusty click here.