Kathryn Wronski, the artist who painted the dog painting on the set of "How I Met Your Mother" lives in my town of Grass Valley, California (population 12,840). I frequently get visitors here on Dog Art Today searching for her, so I wanted to get that information out of the way. You can purchase a print of the dog with the green nose painting in Lily and Marshall's apartment here.
The alternative title to this post is:
"How to be the Alpha Dog Artist in Your Town"
Kathryn Wronski is as talented at marketing as she is at painting. Her work is ubiquitous in Grass Valley and neighboring town, Nevada City (population 3,064), and her name is synonymous with dog art. In fact, it is rare when I meet someone and tell them what I do that the person doesn't respond, "You must know Kathryn Wronski." I did know her through her high-profile presence at Nevada County art openings and marketing seminars, but I decided I needed to get to know her better and find out how she has cultivated her dog-art eminence in a place with more artists per capita than any county in California.
We met for coffee and an interview at the dog-friendly Broad Street Bistro In Nevada City.
Moira McLaughlin: How did you begin you career as an artist?
Kathryn Wronski: I actually got my degree in business and tried to make that work for some years. But I wasn't happy in that world. I think I wasn't suited for it because I grew up helping out in my family's flower business in Boston, making bouquets and learning about color and composition at a young age. I missed being creative. So, about 15 years ago after moving to California and raising two children, I started taking private painting lessons and really responded to it.
I knew I needed a solid foundation to pursue being an artist, so I began taking art classes and studied for four years our community college, Sierra College, which has some excellent courses by the way.
MM: Did you begin your studies painting dogs?
KW: No, but when I did, I felt very silly. I was taking an oil painting class with highly-regarded local landscape artist, Phil Brown, and everyone was painting bowls of fruit or the river, and I walk in with this large portrait of my parents' dog, Maggie. I felt like I wasn't being a serious artist. Phil noticed my discomfort and took me aside and told me to only paint dogs for the rest of the semester. He could see in my painting my passion for the subject, and I credit Phil for giving me permission to pursue what made me happy.
MM: It seems that everyone in our county knows you or your work. How have you established yourself as the premier dog artist in our area?
KW: The most important thing is creating a connection. People want to feel connected to the work and to the artist. I've learned to pay attention to exhibiting my art in places that want me to flourish and that means I had to get over the idea that my work necessarily had to be in a prestigious gallery to sell. For example, being in vets' offices has been great for me. And one to the best outlets for my work has been The Gray Goose in Nevada City, a gift shop that allows dogs.
Also, I have a painting behind the front desk at the Emma Nevada House bed and breakfast, so out-of-towners see my work. I'm very active at two galleries in Grass Valley, ASiF and Art Works. This year I participated in the Soroptmist International of the Sierra Foothills' garden tour. And recently I began showing my work down the hill in Sacramento at Gallery 2110.
MM: I am in awe at how prolific you are. How often do you paint?
KW: Usually six hours a day. I like to paint at night when there are no interruptions. Also, if there is a day when I don't feel like painting, I make myself go into my studio and just work for 20 minutes. I usually find that gets the creative juices going and I stay.
MM: Do you work on more than one painting at a time?
KW: Yes, I usually have ten going at once.
MM: In terms of the products you offer, what are your biggest sellers these days?
KW: Greeting cards at the galleries do well especially for collectors who are obsessed with a certain breed. Prints are harder to sell because people want to buy something that looks exactly like their own dog. My magnets are not big money makers because I make them by hand and they are time consuming, but they are invaluable for commissions. People don't usually decide to commission a piece of art on the spur of the moment. They need to think about it. So, if a magnet of my artwork is on their refrigerator, it's a constant reminder of who I am and what I do.
MM: In addition to people seeing your work all over town on their daily errands.
MM: Do you know there are people who have been searching for you ever since "How I Met Your Mother" began airing? I searched myself when I lived in Los Angeles and I saw your painting on the set of the TV show. I wanted to know who painted the awesome dog painting, and I couldn't find you. I am hoping this post on Dog Art Today changes that.
KW: It's so funny. I've never even seen the show.
MM: How did your dog painting end up on a hit TV series?
KW: The set decorator saw my work and bought some paintings when she was visiting Truckee.
MM: At a gallery?
KW: No, it was a dog grooming place.
MM: I see what you mean. Retail might be a dog artist's best friend. Do you have any other pieces of advice for dog artists who are trying to establish or grow their business?
KW: As artists, it's hard not to take things personally. So make "the personal" work for you. Find places to exhibit your art that want you to flourish, and remember that the connections you make in your daily life have have a huge value for your business.
MM: After so many years, are you still happy painting dogs?
KW: Yes, but I love farm animals too. A pig is a dog with a better nose.
Thank you, Kathryn. You are a dog art star.
Visit Kathryn Wronski's website.
P.S. Today, September 29, 2012, Sacramento's PBS station KVIE is presenting one of Kathryn Wronski's dog paintings in their annual fundraising auction. You can view it here, number 14A Babs and Bubbles. And you can bid on it live on KVIE at 2:30 pm - 3:00 pm, PST.