Three months after my Longhaired Dachshund Darby died in December, I received an email from North Carolina dog artist, Clair Hartmann. Attached was an image of this portrait of Darby she painted as a gift to me. In her email she wrote:
"Your blog post 'What Happened' touched me so deeply, I knew I had to paint Darby. I put it off, but it just kept asking to be painted, and when I started, to be honest, it just painted itself. I would like to think Darby helped."
After I wiped my tears, I sent her an email attempting to convey how much I loved it. Then, I sent her another one asking if I could interview her about Darby's portrait.
Here is our Q + A:
Moira McLaughlin: What compelled you to paint Darby?
Clair Hartmann: When I read the post "What Happened" I had to get up from my computer, go to the bathroom, lock the door and cry. It was one of those uncontrollable, can't catch your breath, crying spells. I was so moved by your experience and the pain of your companion passing that I HAD to paint Darby and honor his life.
MM: What medium is the painting?
CH: Oil on canvas
MM: What photo(s) did you use to create it? Were you inspired by his blue blanket that I mention in the post?
CH: I saw some photos that were professionally taken on your blog with perfect lighting that really showed his eyes. That moved me. Originally I painted the blue surface he was standing on, but it just didn't seem right. I have this white down comforter that my Chumley loves and it looks like clouds when it gets fluffed up, so I used that instead which I'm really glad I did.
MM: Those photos were taken by photographer Grace Chon and I treasure them. See more here.
MM: In one of your emails, you mentioned you consider this piece a breakthrough for you, can you elaborate on that?
CH: I have been painting dogs for years, trying to perfect my style. I've moved through realism back to painterly styles and now I feel I've come to a nice middle ground. I feel this painting exemplifies everything I have been working towards for the past four years. The painting almost painted itself, taking only about two hours. It happened so quickly that I was sad to stop, but I knew in my gut it was done.
MM: Have you lost a dog before? If so, did you paint your pet after he or she passed away?
CH: I had a beautiful Dalmatian when I was a child, and I spent hours learning how to draw her sleeping. One day she ran away and was hit by a car. Thankfully I didn't see it and was told about a week after she had been gone. I didn't paint her after she died, but I feel she was an integral part of why I love to paint dogs.
MM: I know you have been following Dog Art Today for some time. Did you know that Pointy by John Singer Sargent is my #1-all-time-if-I-had-to-chose-a-favorite piece of dog art? Your Darby reminds me of it in many ways.
CH: I did not know that and surprisingly I have never seen that painting, but I love the style! And I am honored that you would compare me to John Singer Sargent.
MM: I can't tell you how deeply touched I am by this painting. It hangs in my kitchen (which is also the main room of my house) with an abstract by my niece, Layla Cameron, and another Darby by Heather LaHaise. I love how they look grouped together...
MM: Also, I have it as my screensaver. And it is responsible for the first photograph of my new dog, Tyler, with his predecessor...
Clair, this painting helped me heal on so many levels. And that healing made it possible for me to say yes to Tyler and help save his life.
Often I say on this blog, that "art matters." Receiving the gift of Darby, which gave me a chance to see him one more time in a new and beautiful light, brought the power of art home to me more profoundly than ever. Thank you. -- Moira McLaughlin
To see more of Clair Hartmann's work visit her website.