Original on 16" x 20" canvas
This is Zooey. She's named after Zooey Deschanel. <3
Airedales and Zooey Deschanel have a lot in common. They are known for being smart and a bit wry, endearing clowns, loving, fiesty, and all about business when it's time to be all about business - they get stuff done. This Zooey is all of those things.
She came to her family as an expander, and that is her gift. She is a large presence in their home with abundant energy. She shifts seemlessly between work and play, and she strongly prefers play.
Zooey demands to be connected. She demands to be seen and acknowledged and involved. For many families, this intensity would be too much. For Zooey's family, it is the expansion they needed - before Zooey came to live with them, their beloved Beagle, Salem, had died. Having so much life in the home again was just right.
She watches over the children while at the same time playing along side them. She frolicks away on adventures (where she needs to be chased down in the car with treats) and patrols the perimeter of her family's space. These things don't go together and yet they do. That is her magic.
In Zooey is this incredible blend of doing what needs to be done and totally cutting loose and enjoying life. Work and play aren't separate categories or opposite ends of a spectrum. In Zooey's world, they are simply different areas of something that must like like a möbius strip. It's all the same, just different.
Her people told me that they've learned to appreciate spontaneity, living in the moment, and playfulness with Zooey's guidance. They also admire her ability to focus and work; in a world where we tend to think of playfulness as being anti-work, this is especially wonderful.
Zooey's message is about a full life, and her take is that integration is necessary. There is no balance, there is blending. It's finding ways to bring joy to tasks and being fully attentive to open play when the time is right. It's being aware of here and now and living in that place.
"Be here. With me. And do fun stuff."
Thank you, Zooey.
Now for a few artist's notes.
I had the pleasure of seeing many photographs of Zooey, and when I came upon the one I chose to use it had some Zooey magic to it. On the right of the image (to Zooey's left), was a large window that cast soft light on her. I could see her eye so clearly and perfectly, and this light bath seemed it was screaming for something sunny in pop art.
So Zooey is almost two-sided in this piece, and that is so much of how she lives her life. Except that there isn't a hard line - one part fades into the other. Because Zooey is all about blending. Her yellow background intensifies into a darker orange and then lively pink, because that's how she would do it if she had opposable thumbs and an interest in graphic art. <3
Original on 16" x 16" metal
This is Jackson.
Jackson's is the first portrait I created for this project, and he inspired this series to become more than I imagined. Initially, I thought these would be portraits for the greeting cards with a little bit on the back about the animal.
Jackson wrinkled his forehead and shifted his eyebrows around. You know that little tufty part on a dog's brow ridge? Jackson is a solid color and still his eyebrows are prominent because they are billboards for his parades of emotion.
"We have more to say than that," he told me. This is why I adore Jackson - he is always honest with me, even when it's hard.
He stepped up and spoke for every animal in this group. He pointed out that seeing the messages in print might be what people need. "Their animals silently mentor them every day, and still people talk themselves out of hearing or acknowledging these messages because they think animals can't do that. Please validate our teachings. Please validate our humans."
I love working with Jackson because of conversations like this. He is intense, and being with him in this way can be exhausting. I also know it is purposeful and enormously valuable. He practices the patience he needs to stay with me until I "get it."
Thank you, Jackson. You have made this project more connected and impactful than I imagined it could be.
Now, on to Jackson himself. You already know he is thoughtful and pensive. He is also perpetually anxious.
Here is the magic. Jackson isn't bothered by his anxiety. It doesn't make him any less, and it's just one part of him. He's okay with that. He likes himself as he is.
When he can be comfortable with his discomfort, it becomes . . . comfortable. This is the best way he has found to live with his anxiety.
Jackson's message isn't about anxiety, really. It's much bigger.
"I have made peace with myself."
This is something I can aspire to in each moment of each day. Thank you, Jackson. ❤
Just a few artistic notes about Jackson. As a Weimaraner, his color is solid. Most people would look at him and see grey or steel or blue. Pop art can't be solid, though, and I had the challenge of seeing all the colors of his coat and bringing them together in a way that felt like Jackson - lovely and yet kinda . . . well, anxious. Jackson is here with blue, purple, pink, white, grey, and brown and a bit of a feeling that he is moving.
This is Jackson's starting photo, courtesy of Tara Bosler.
The 2019 Pop Star Project is a collection of 15 animals who are perfectly ordinary (and often extraordinary) ambassadors of connection. Each animal has a deep connection with a human, and my intention with this project is to celebrate and honor those connections while inspiring others. These portraits are the artwork for a limited edition line of greeting cards that will be available through Slobbered Lens and select retailers.
When you see these portraits, I hope you'll feel something. I hope you can experience a twinge of the animal's energy. Maybe you look at it and feel pulled in. Maybe it reminds you of someone. Maybe you think about your own animal family. Then you'll read the short narrative that goes with the portrait. Perhaps you'll feel like that's a message you need today. Maybe your friend needs the message. You choose the portrait and message that is most appropriate for her, write your message, and stamp and seal it for the post. When she receives your card in the mail, she feels connected to you because she knows you were thinking of her. Then she takes in the message. And maybe she thinks about her connection with her animal family or friends who could use a similar message. So she buys a card and it starts again.
Little things matter. They ripple and expand. Animals are such masters of this principle, and their lives are stacks of these small events that leave indelible marks upon us. We don't expect them to be superheroes or overachievers. They exist in the way that makes the most sense and is the most comfortable for them, without much regard to what others are doing. They express how they feel. They live honestly and earnestly, in small ways, every day.
Let's celebrate each other.
The Pop Star project has another purpose: to raise money for a service dog for a six-year-old boy who lives with epilepsy. It's a cause close to my heart because this little boy also happens to be my little boy. The proceeds from these cards go to the first two years of expenses of this service journey, which will be around $20,000. Pop art commissions inspired by this project will also go toward this fund (and are available starting at $250).
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.