This series is brought to you in partnership with Purina ONE®. These stories highlight how pets have provided creative inspiration in the worlds of technology, education, business, and beyond. Read more about how pets—and the people who love them—can brighten lives and strengthen our communities at the GOOD Pets hub.
If you’re a fan of fine art, you may have seen David Hockney, Pablo Picasso, or Andy Warhol’s pet Dachshunds making recurring appearances in their artwork. However, did you know that some artists became famous because of their pet-inspired work? Here’s how five artists rose to the top, with some help from their furry friends.
You most likely are familiar with the Weimaraner breed through William Wegman’s video art and photography. Or, maybe you only know about the artist because of the Weimaraner dog. But do you know the story behind Wegman’s signature work with this breed? In the studio, he found that his Weimaraner puppy Man Ray wouldn’t let him be productive unless he paid attention to him. So Wegman developed a way of vocally communicating with Man Ray, which led to making comical art videos featuring the puppy. When his second dog Fay Ray came into his life, he noticed she responded to his gestures, so he started making video art that involved her watching him build or make things. Now, Wegman is the proud pet owner of other Weimaraner puppies and dogs, whom he dresses up in costumes, sometimes as human characters. His work has been displayed in art museums around the world, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum, and the Smithsonian. And now, he’s adding another book to his children’s series entitled “Flo and Wendell,” featuring two Weimaraner puppies.
George Rodrigue and Tiffany the Terrier-Spaniel Mix
Much like Wegman’s work, the Blue Dog is an iconic symbol that you may recognize. But do you know the story behind the wide-eyed blue dog? Artist George Rodrigue started painting after he was diagnosed with polio in third grade. Eventually winning local recognition for his landscape paintings and portraits years later in his hometown of New Iberia, Louisiana, Rodrigue was commissioned by a Baton Rouge investment group to create illustrations revolving around regional myths and legends. One story he illustrated was about the loup-garou, a ghostly French werewolf said to guard houses, who symbolized the importance of having a sense of right and wrong. Wanting inspiration for the image of the werewolf, he turned to photographs of his family’s terrier-Spaniel mix Tiffany, who had been a loyal studio companion. However, rather than making his work a commemoration of Tiffany, Rodrigue made his painting and now well-known “Blue Dog” series more about the legend surrounding the loup-garou. Rodrigue will now be honored for his pop icon with an Opus Award on October 26, 2013.
Photos of Maddie the Coonhound have been shared many times over on social media including Instagram and Tumblr, but do you know about the artist who owns her? During a 365-day photojournalism project called “This Wild Idea,” photographer Theron Humphrey took his adopted dog from Atlanta, Georgia, all the way across the United States, documenting regular people’s life stories. And, as he traveled, he noticed that Maddie had a keen ability to balance on top of things. Photos of her on top of a giant watermelon, two tree branches, and a basketball hoop went viral, so he catalogued all of them in his popular blog, which led to his book called “Maddie on Things.” Now, he’s traveling across America again in partnership with Purina ONE, to document the stories of people and their adopted pets in a series entitled “Why We Rescue,” showing not only the value of shelter pets, but also an appreciation for Maddie as a source of inspiration.
Mike Bridavsky, owner of Russian Recordings in Bloomington, Indiana, has mixed and produced CDs for musicians like Rogue Wave, and comedians Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro, and Todd Glass. Being a busy man with four cats, he wasn’t prepared to add another into his life until he saw a picture of a stray kitten born in a shed that needed a home. Now known as Lil Bub, whom he describes as “a real magic woman space cat,” she rose to fame when Bridavsky posted one picture of her on Facebook. Born with feline dwarfism, Lil Bub has shortened limbs, a long body, opposable thumbs, human-like eyes, and weighs only four pounds. To add to her unique look, she has an underdeveloped jaw that causes her tongue to stick out. But, she’s surprisingly healthy and it’s no surprise that with such a strong community of cat lovers on the internet, she has gone from lots of likes on Tumblr posts to having her own clothing line, talk show on Revision 3, and joining the ranks of other meme sensations like Grumpy Cat, Nyan Cat, and Keyboard Cat in a full-length film by Vice about pet fame. She and Bridavsky have also collaborated on a book to celebrate her photogenic qualities.
Seth Casteel and Buster the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Seth Casteel started as a volunteer photographer for shelter pets in 2007. Seeing that his photos were helping dogs get adopted, he developed a career as a lifestyle pet photographer. His work became most well-known in 2010 when he noticed one Cavalier King Charles Spaniel he was photographing preferred to be in the pool more than on land. So, Casteel jumped in the water to take some pictures. Now, his series of Underwater Dogshave been exhibited around the world and published in the National Geographic and New York Times. He’s also written the best selling photography book of 2012. Still serving pets in need of homes, Casteel teaches shelters how to take photographs across the United States, Europe, Australia, and Indonesia.