Monday, June 13, 2011

Interview with Dog Art Today blogger Moira McLaughlin



Moira's blog, Dog Art Today is one of my favorite dog blogs out there. It's my first interview ever and it's a good one. I sent her 10 questions a got more back than I ever expected. Here, she talks about how blogging  and her dog Darby, changed her life.



1) When and how did your fascination with dog art begin?
It began at a low point in my life.  In 2000, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a mysterious disease that causes pain and exhaustion.  By 2005, my health had spiraled downward and so had my finances, so homemade gifts were in order for Christmas. Every member of my family has a dog so that was my theme.  I chose collage because I had always loved the medium and it's cheap.  A little cutting and pasting each day was really all I could manage, sometimes not even that. 
The finished gifts, presented in $5 matted frames from Ikea, were a big hit.  So I put the images on ebay and sold some.  I put them on CafePress products and sold more.  Along the way I discovered a whole world of artists focused on dogs as subjects, and consumers who are passionate about products with images of their dogs or even just their favorite breed on them.   
2) What got you interested in blogging?
 Three things:  
1.) As I researched what other dog artists were doing, I kept thinking why isn't there one place I can go and see what other dog artists around the world are up to?  I worked in Hollywood, so my reference point was Variety, a daily magazine that Industry insiders read religiously to track what's going on in the film business.  
 2.)  Marketing my own work.  With limited energy, I had to be very focused.  I found myself expending a lot of effort asking other bloggers to feature my work and getting nowhere.  So I just started my own blog.
 3.) I couldn't work in an office anymore and I desperately missed that social connection.  One night I went to a gallery opening, a group show of very talented artists (not specifically dog artists), and there was a dog in one of the pieces.  My blog gave me the opportunity to connect with the artist and with the gallery owner.  In Los Angeles, socially you are defined by your work.  My blog gave me a tangible project, an identity, when I didn't have much else.
3) Do you have a favorite art period or artists? 
Contemporary dog art is my favorite.  The mission of Dog Art Today is to show that dog art is not second-class art.  Dog art is fine art.   The greatest artists in history have included dogs, often their own beloved pets, in their work.  Art critics frequently use the word "sentimental" to disparage work they don't like, and often dog art gets lumped in that "sentimental" category and written off as corny.  But what I see and try to show on my blog is that dogs show up in work that is primal, conceptual, and evocative of the big questions that inspire artists: questions about love, life, joy, pain, violence, and death.
4) Outside of your blog, are there any resources for the dog art novice looking to find out more?  
Take a cue from your dog and dig.  My favorite thing to do is to discover a new artist, not a dog artist per se, and poke around his or her portfolio looking for dogs.  Or go to an art exhibition and look for dogs.   Last week, I went to a group showing of landscape artists and found several incredible dog paintings.   To me it's like treasure hunting.  And, you'll begin to notice how often dogs appear in art.  They are irresistible subjects to people who are sensitive and by the nature of what they do spend a great deal of time alone, aka artists. 
5) Any favorite dog art books?
Elliott Erwitt's "Dogs."  I consider Erwitt one of the greatest contemporary artists working today.  And he loves dogs.  This Erwitt Dachshund photo hurts my heart I love it so much…
I am a big fan of Alec Soth's "Dog Days, Bogota," that features photographs he took while waiting for the paperwork to process for his baby girl he was adopting from Bogota.  He wanted to capture the "hard beauty" of her birthplace.
I also love Catherine Johnson's "Dogs" which features 450 vintage photographs of people in love with their dogs.
(I really like photography books – hint, hint)
6) Where do you see your interest in dog art taking you in the future?
 I am focusing on my own art art again.  I am also interested in photography and publishing.  It's an exciting time for artists.
7) Tell us about your dog Darby and how he came into your life
There are several dirty secrets about Darby.  He was supposed to be a gift for someone else that I was sent to buy.  I did not like dogs and thought giving one as a gift was a horrible idea.  He came from a pet store and therefore probably a puppy mill. 
Basically, I saw him, fell in love and could not give him up.  My boss, Kevin Costner, graciously let me keep him and we found another dog to give as the gift to his wardrobe person, Barbara.  That dog, Lenny, became the love of Barbara's life, and was really a better fit for her.  At least that's what I tell myself to ease my conscience about keeping the greatest dog in the world.  I also try to shed light on the realities of puppy mills as a penance
8) In your blogging experiences, anything unexpected happen?
Downside:  I thought traffic would grow exponentially and more quickly.  It hasn't worked that way.  It's been much more of a plodding along.  But as Malcolm Gladwell explains in "The Tipping Point" it takes 10,000 hours or five years of working at something to become an expert.  March 3, 2012 will be Dog Art Today's fifth anniversary, so I will officially be a dog art expert.   
Upside:  Connecting with some of the most talented artists in the world.
9) Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently?
I definitely have "the cobbler's children have no shoes" syndrome.  My own portfolio and website are a mess.  This interview has been good incentive to get organized, so thank you for that.
Also, I have an ongoing debate with myself about how personal it get.  I am drawn to blogs that overshare.  But my blog gave me a chance to project myself as a healthy person, or just a person, and I clung to that and still do.  Oh man, am I oversharing?
10) How would you define the relationship that we humans have with our dogs? 
Cosmic.

Moira McLaughlin
Dog Art Today
http://dogarttoday.com


Thank you so much Moira, I really appreciate you taking the time and interest to share such a personal and heart felt interview. I look forward to seeing more of your art and your engaging blog posts in the future.
Best of luck,

-Andrew




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