Normally, when we hear that an artist makes pictures of dogs, we have to stop ourselves from scoffing. But painter Ally Glowacki, who recently graduated from ASU's MFA program, has us re-thinking our canine imagery prejudice. In her latest solo exhibition, "Dog Days of Summer", currently on view at Tempe's Night Gallery, Glowacki presents a series of dog portraits that convey an unexpected depth.
We spoke with Glowacki over e-mail to get a better feel for her artistic process and to find out what she likes about working with pups.
What draws you to painting animals? I have always been fascinated and inspired by animals ever since I was little. For the dogs, specifically, I have always felt closer to them, like I just get them. I often think they are easier to understand than people!
Do you model your artwork off of live dog models? All the dogs in my "Dog Days of Summer" exhibition are dogs that I know and have spent time around. When I want to start a piece, I like to meet with the dog first and have a "doggie play date". During this time, I try to understand the dog on a more personal level and really focus on understanding who the specific dog is and what their personality is like. During this time I will photograph the dog as well. Once I get back to my studio, I use my photos for the anatomical reference and use my imagination for the composition and color placement. For me, it's more important that my paintings express the soul and spirit of the dog more so than its actual likeness.
Can you talk a bit about the technique you use when creating work? I start my paintings with large light gestured sketches. Once my sketch in finished (and I'm happy with it) I start with a light watercolor wash. Depending on the nature of the dog I'll go with more or less pigment. The wash is free flowing and I try to let the colors bleed and flow together. During this stage I like to let the watercolors act as more gesture. After the watercolor, I add the pen and then the colored pencils. The pen adds back my detail that I lost during my watercolor stage and the colored pencils bring out the vibrancy I strive for.
How many dogs do you have and would you ever consider painting cats? I do live with one puppy currently, however (funny enough) she is not in any of the paintings at the Night Gallery. The German Shepherd mix dog with the floppy ears was my family dog from back in Maryland who recently passed away. Many of the paintings dealing with him specifically are also about my own understanding of family, loss, grief and spirit. As for other animals, I have recently painted cats, horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and other exotic cats, like tigers and lions. Soon, I'm going to be moving back to Maryland for work, and once I get back I'm going to start working with local animals and insects (robins, squirrels, bees, fireflies, etc.).
"Dog Days of Summer" will be on view at the Night Gallery through August 31. For more information, visit the Facebook event page. To read more about Glowacki's work, visit her website allyglowackiart.com.