Seattle-based artist Nancy Schutt is the winner of this year's Mutt Lynch Winery - Dog Art Today Wine Label Contest with her entry "Out of Reach." Nancy has a BFA from Colorado State University and an MFA from the University of Oregon. Before devoting herself to painting dogs, she was courtroom artist, a drawing instructor, and a general contractor. She will be joining us at this year's Mutt Lynch Winery Dog Days of Summer event in Sonoma on August 6, 2011 to unveil the wine that was inspired by her winning entry. She will also be selling prints, sketching dogs, and signing bottles of "Out of Reach." To me, Nancy is one of the most inspiring dog artists working today. I think her use of color, composition, and, most of all, humor, are simply brilliant. I am so pleased to share her work and her process with you in this studio spotlight. -- Moira McLaughlin.
How did you get started as a dog artist?
If one wants to be an artist, it's very difficult figuring out what to do with that desire and how to make a living with it. I started out painting metaphorical images that came to me (some of which are in my Early Work Gallery on my website), but one day I did a watercolor of my sister's dogs, and my mother said, "Honey, you could make money doing this." Magic words to an artist! I painted the dogs of my friends and had a show at a small gallery in Seattle, and people called me asking for paintings of their dogs. I showed in cafes for years to get commissions. Now I primarily get business through my website, and often never meet the dogs or people.
Tell me about your studio.
I built this studio in my backyard ten years ago. I mean I built it with hammer and nails and the help of two teenagers. No rent!
What is your favorite medium and why?
Acrylic on canvas or board. I like how it dries quickly and I can rework an area fairly soon. I like the vividness of the color. I like that though it is not entirely benign, acrylic paint is fairly non-toxic, and because it is water based, I use no solvents.
How would you describe your art?
Colorful, playful, humorous. Hockneyesque. David Hockney is my favorite painter. My initial goal was to paint dogs like David Hockney paints interiors, or swimming pools, or landscapes. It shows, but now the paintings dictate themselves rather than strive to be similar to those of another artist.
I am most concerned with color and composition. The dogs are a wonderful vehicle for allowing me to create color compositions that have meaningful content as well as energetic color relationships. For me, the dogs are important and portraying them in all of their uniqueness is the main purpose of the paintings, but I spend most of my time on a painting working out the color composition. Colors are capable of creating a three dimensional illusion just by their relationships to each other. To the human eye, colors may reach forward or extend back into a painting, and this motion creates a pulsation of energy in the painting. That is the heartbeat of the painting, and making it visible, rhythmic, harmonious, enticing, is the ultimate objective for me.
Please share three of your favorite pieces and why you chose them.
I chose these three because they are some of my most recent works, and two of them incorporate people, which is a new direction for me. Also, the one entitled Bob, Fay, and Polo is a portrait of one of my favorite artists, Fay Jones, who lives and works in Seattle and whose work I greatly admire.
You have over 30 "bad" dogs on your website. How did you select which one to submit to the Mutt Lynch Winery - Dog Art Today Wine Label Contest with the theme of "naughty" this year?
I was working on a series of paintings of dogs doing things that I found humorous, though to them they are just being dogs. Then, I actually painted Out of Reach specifically for the contest, based on a similar painting I did previously. Of course in Out of Reach, the dog isn't after the wine, which kind of amused me too, since we humans would find the wine a more valuable prize. So it's just a bit askew that this image is for a wine label with a dog theme, but to the dog it's all about the butter.
My Chihuahua, Pablo, always amuses me how he tries to get his nose up to counter top level where things are happening. But, no matter the effort behind the stretch, he can only reach so far. That doesn't stop him from trying again next time! Dogs are pretty hilarious really, so like us in their behaviors but with none of the subterfuge, or shame, or concern for polite company. Their blatant efforts to get what they want without hiding their true intentions can be very funny. To a human, crawling under a table for a micro-crumb of cookie or rummaging through garbage might feel a bit degrading, even if we really wanted something that was there. To a dog it's the most sensible thing in the world to just go after it. I had a dog before Pablo who was CRAZY for balls. I can't imagine having to be so forceful in my NO MOREs with a human who was after me to do something for them. It used to crack me up how insistent she was even after strong rejections.
What are your thoughts about winning the contest?
So fun! What a treat to have one's artwork on a wine label! And as a person running a small business, it's wonderful marketing and exposure for me. The wine isn't available in Washington State, so I will do what I can to help find a distributor and hopefully see it on the shelves of some of my favorite shops. And many thanks to you, Moira, for the brilliant idea of having this contest and to Mutt Lynch Winery for making it a reality. The contest has brought many artists out into the public eye.
Would you like to share any upcoming projects or goals for the future?
I have recently been interested in painting multiple dog portraits that include the humans in the painting. Personal environments have always been a part of my paintings, which I think it part of what makes my work unique. The humans are certainly a part of that environment too, and including them brings another level of interest to the piece.
Otherwise, it's always the same project -- trying to make a living as an artist. I will continue primarily doing commissioned paintings, but I will soon be offering a new line of prints on my website which will be much less expensive than anything I am currently offering. It would be wonderful to create more wine labels! And always in my mind is the idea of a book, but it's still brewing.
And finally, is your Chihuahua and muse, Pablo, named after a famous artist?
Yes, a verrrrry famous artist.
Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your work. You are a true inspiration to all dog artists, including me.
Date: August 6, 2011
Time: 11:00am - 4:00pm
Ticket Price: $20 if purchased online here before August 4. $25.00 at the door. A portion of admission and sales will benefit the Healdsburg Animal Shelter
Location: 602 Limerick Lane, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Dogs on leashes are welcome
For more information visit Mutt Lynch Winery.
To order a bottle or case of Out of Reach after it is released on August 6, 2011 click here.
Photo of Nancy and Pablo by Seattle family photographer Anita Nowacka.