I can give back the love you invest in me.
I can double your return. Triple, even.
I can give back the joy you share with me.
Each belly laugh and snort of yours
rolls through my tail and dancing paws.
I will not give back the sorrows you share,
or the frustration or anger. Instead, I’ll help you
shoulder them. I will walk alongside you
as we carry them,
I am your mirror. I reflect
the best of you.
There is so much of yourself
you find hard to see.
Trust me to give back your sight.
Rhys, our fourth Great Dane, was my biggest muse and cheerleader for art. When I was with him, I was so comfortable and settled within myself that I could create things I didn't think were possible. He tethered me just enough that I could float around and explore before safely returning to reality.
Shortly after he died in February 2018, I began having flashes of artistic inspiration. These were completely out there ideas (like stained glass windows) and I felt I didn't have the skill or talent to do them.
If Rhys were here, he'd tell me to just get to work. Skill doesn't come from lament, you know.
I love his practicality..
I've always wanted to do something a little cartoony. Something just less than realistic. Something that was bursting with the heart and soul of the subject while retaining the simple, clean lines I adore so much in photography.
That something is here, and it's graphic art. It is bold and brilliant and fun. I love it.
We start with a photograph.
Rhys kindly helped me test every studio setup, even though he didn't really want to. That's this look. "I'm doing this because you are important to me and I am excited to return to the sofa."
And then something like this happens.
Normally I find cartoons to be a way to put more distance between myself and real life. An illustration feels like it dehumanizes the subject, which I know isn't the right term in this case. Derhysizes? Decaninizes?
I didn't want that to happen with these, and what I've discovered is that it is possible to create these portraits and maintain the vulnerability and heart of the original. In some ways, I see more because the lines are so simple - I have more of an opportunity to focus on my connection when there isn't as much detail to take in.
That said, there are definitely silly portraits in the works and I love those, too. This one of Rhys is my favorite. It speaks to his puppy nature that characterized most of his adult life while treating him with dignity.
One of my favorite things about these art pieces is that they can happen after loss. They can also evolve from photographs that are less than ideal in quality, so whether you have some on your phone or a box of prints from 20 years ago, we can probably make this happen for you.
We'll talk about whether your piece will look best on canvas, metal, or acrylic. You'll be able to see your love in this new way every day.
I'm Shannon, and I love and am loved by four Great Danes, four cats, and one horse (four Danes, one cat, and one horse are no longer walking this earth). Here I'll share stories of my adventures in grief photography for companion animals, my own grief journey, and thoughts on caregiving.