An alternative dog portrait – Hounds in Verse

There are lots of amazing dog portrait artists out there and I am always amazed by the incredible variety of ways that you can choose to have your dog rendered as a piece of art, from collage to pencil, oils or charcoal, traditional or modern – the choice is endless.

But I wanted to create something a bit different and even more personal …The result is Hounds in Verse – an illustrated poem that celebrates the wonderful character of each dog and their special relationship with their human.

Each poem is written in rhyming couplets and is completely bespoke and unique to each dog. I create the poems from the wonderful stories that each dog owner shares with me in response to a special questionnaire that they receive when the poem is commissioned.

The poems are intended to be fun, whimsical, touching and humorous and each one is individually hand lettered and illustrated in ink on Japanese Hosho paper.

I feel very privileged to read about the wonderful relationship people have with their dogs and how it manifests itself in their everyday lives and it is enormous fun to recreate this bond as a poem.

Here’s the Hounds in Verse illustrated poem I wrote about my Portuguese Water Dog, Figo.

“A Portuguese name, Figo, we chose,
After a football legend (for those in the know).
And true to his namesake, he loves to play ball,
But the thrill of the chase is the best fun of all.

Squirrel and muntjac are hard to resist,
Dashing off through the woods, silent and swift.
Then, with a tail full of twigs and a coat full of burrs
He returns happy and panting, yet undeterred.

In Cornish coves, but once year,
His sandy paws a souvenir
Of endless beaches and summer days
Spent chasing gulls and jumping waves.

A sensitive boy who hates trouble and strife –
The peacekeeper in our family life.
He runs over, tail wagging, if voices are raised,
The perfect incentive to mend our ways.

When the biscuit tin opens, he’s straight through the door.
Though polite and persistent, we try to ignore
The quick poke of his nose and meaningful stare
That says, “Surely that food is meant to be shared”

He loves to join in the conversation
With an array of amusing vocalisations.
A printmakers dog, in the studio he’ll snooze,
Unaware that he’s an artist’s muse.

When it’s time to unwind at the end of the day,
He kneads his paws on the sofa in a certain way,
& while holding his “Mousey” (well loved and smelly),
He’ll nod off to dreamland, while we watch the telly.”

And here it is in the final pen & ink illustration:

Hounds in Verse Dog Portait

Figo poetic portraitPoetic Dog Portrait Lettering

To commission your own Hounds in Verse dog portrait or to find out more about the process visit The Enlightened Hound’s website.

 

 

 

Greyhound and Dachshund: New Dog Tag Prints

If you are not familiar with my “Dog Tag” series of prints, these hand lettered prints tell a quirky potted history of a particular breed of dog in the design of a dog tag. They are individually hand printed on my traditional etching press, with hand mixed oil-based inks, then each one is signed by me.

The Greyhound and Dachshund are two of the most requested breeds that people have asked me for at fairs and shows this year, so here they are (just in time for Christmas!)… they join the other 11 breeds in the series.

Dachshund Print

Despite their cute and comical appearance, Dachshunds are incredibly brave little hunting dogs that were bred to chase and flush out badgers.

Often significantly larger and heavier than a dachshund, badgers are a fierce and formidable opponent, yet the tenacious dachshund with its indomitable spirit is a fearless and efficient hunter. Their long, low body is perfect for getting into the dens of rabbit, fox, wild boar, badgers and other burrow dwelling animals that have gone to ground.

The origin of the dachshund is still debated as there are etchings and statues of similar long, low dogs dating back thousands of years, however 16th century German hunters were responsible for selecting and cross breeding dogs to create the dachshund we are familiar with today. The name Dachshund literally means “Badger Dog” in German.

Known affectionately as Sausage Dog, Hot Dog, Doxie, Dashie and Weiner, these adorable and amusing companions are a favourite the world over.

Greyhound Print

At least 4000 years old, the Greyhound is arguably the oldest purebred canine. Combining speed, grace and exceptional hunting ability with loyal and devoted companionship, the greyhound has been used in the sport of coursing (the pursuit of prey by sight instead of scent) since ancient times. It can reach speeds of between 40 and 45mph.

There is plenty of amusing greyhound behaviour terminology to learn. These big-hearted hunters like to alternate between the “Zoomies” (galloping with abandon on winged feet) and the “Snoozies” (lounging and dozing in comfort and warmth). Many delight in hoarding food and toys in their beds where they may practice “Roaching” (rolling onto their back and spreading their legs at odd angles in all directions, like a dead cockroach) and they may also enjoy a spot of “Roo-ing” (singing or howling).

detail of dachshund print detail of greyhound print dachshund print unframed greyhound print unframed  framed dachshund print framed greyhound print

hand mixed ink rolling out ink for printing pulling a print etching press

For more details and to buy (£40 plus shipping, worldwide) please visit The Enlightened Hound’s website

Border Terrier, Jack Russell and Cockapoo Prints

Been busy as a bee with 3 new prints in my “Dog Tag” series… The Border Terrier, The Jack Russell and The Cockapoo.

These prints are all hand lettered and illustrated and then printed individually by hand on my press in my studio, dutifully watched over by my Portuguese Water Dog, Figo.

First up the Border Terrier, printed in a soft blue-grey ink, inspired by the big skies of the Border Country.

Border Terrier Hand Lettered Print by Debbie Kendall The Enlightened Hound

These rough ‘tweedy’ coated working terriers hail from the area between England and Scotland called the Border Country, a dramatic hilly landscape of sweeping valleys, heather moorland and green forests where 18th century farmers and shepherds, in need of some help to control the local fox and vermin population, started breeding Border Terriers.

And the Cockapoo… printed in a soft apple green ink

Cockapoo print by The Enlightened Hound

The popular Cockapoo was probably the first deliberate cross breed with the first records dating back to 1960s, or possibly 1950s, America. The delightful result of this cross between a Cocker Spaniel and Poodle is a happy-go-lucky, smart and totally devoted companion.

And the Jack Russell (Parson Russell Terrier)… printed in an understated taupe-grey ink

Jack Russell Print by The Enlightened Hound

I really enjoyed researching these popular and feisty little dogs, with their long history of assisting people with hunting and vermin control. Their controversial and chequered past makes fascinating reading.

The story goes that the breed line was started way back in 1795 by the Reverend John (“Jack”) Russell, a parson with a passion for fox hunting and country pursuits. However he was vehemently against developing the Jack Russell to a standard as required by the Kennel Club for registration as he, and his sporting brethren, believed that developing a pedigree Jack Russell line would dilute the tenacious work ethic that these tough little dogs are known for.

But of course there were those who disagreed and sought to create a breed standard – now known as the Parson Russell Terrier – which is recognised by the Kennel Club.

Kennel club recognition aside, these larger-than-life dogs make great companions for people in all walks of life.

So this makes a total of 11 breeds now in my “Dog Tag” print series… the others are Labrador, Cocker Spaniel, Springer Spaniel, Pug, Golden Retriever, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Whippet & Portuguese Water Dog… take a look at them all on The Enlightened Hound’s Website.

Golden Retriever Original Print

Here is the 8th breed in my dog tag print series – the Golden Retriever. This well known and loved breed is also adored by over 160 celebrity owners including Martha Stewart, Ronal Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Taylor, Jerry Seinfeld, Jackie Chan and Christopher Reeve.

Golden Retriever Print

The  Golden Retriever was developed by the wonderfully named British aristocrat, Lord Tweedmouth, in the late 1800s, as a handsome and practical gentleman’s hunting companion. Tweedmouth was an avid hunter and well connected gentleman in Victorian society.

In 1865 Lord Tweedmouth bought the only yellow pup from a litter of black wavy coated retrievers and crossed him with the (now extinct) Tweed Water Spaniel, a rugged water dog with excellent retrieving abilities. He wanted to create the perfect sporting dog to retrieve upland game and waterfowl on his Scottish estate, but also an animal that was handsome and of a biddable, sweet disposition — an ideal a family pet.
Today’s Golden Retrievers are a testament to those early ideals.

Golden Retriever Art Print

Handsome as a Hollywood movie star, sensitive and intelligent companions, with smiling faces and heart-melting eyes, its hard to resist the allure of a Golden! Their inherent retrieving instinct and strong desire to please their people means that they love to carry things in their mouths – shoes, underwear and soft toys rank high on theirs list of favourite things to collect and present as gifts to their cherished family.

Framed Golden Retriever Print

Yet these dogs are so much more than a pretty face. Behind all the glamour lies a versatile and accomplished hunter who loves to be at one with nature. I always smile when I meet a mud-covered Golden out on a walk, fresh from romping through the undergrowth, wallowing in the mud and rolling in all manner of unmentionable substances. They simply love to have a good time with their people. What more could you ask from a dog?

The print combines my hand drawn lettering with illustration and each one is hand-printed on my press in a rich yellow ochre ink, then individually signed.

Prints are available both framed and unframed from my online shop

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Print

The popular Staffy is much misunderstood, frequently feared and often unfairly maligned by the media. They are (according to Kennel Club statistics at the time of writing) Britain’s 5th most popular dog, yet they also top the list of breeds in rescue centres and shelters in the UK. The truth is that while the Staffy might look like a tough dog, they are actually big softies – a loving, reliable and affectionate family dog, devoted to their human companions.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Pen and Ink Drawing by Debbie Kendall

So where do they get their bad rap from? Stan Rawlinson, the Dog Listener has written an excellent article on why this breed (the only one to be described by the Kennel Club as being ‘totally reliable’) has such a fearful reputation. Part of the reason is that the Staffie resembles many other of the so called ‘bully’ breeds that can be aggressive towards humans. In addition, staffies are often crossed with such breeds and this can alter or dilute the reliable Staffy anti-aggressive human bond.

Their tough looks and similarity to other more human-aggressive bully breeds, combined with easy availability from unscrupulous breeders, has sadly resulted in the Staffy becoming a status symbol dog amongst street gangs – a kind of ‘pseudo pit bull’.  These owners sometimes beat, torment and neglect  their dogs to try and make them into the ultimate aggressive accessory, to boost their street image and terrorise other gangs. They may also breed from their dog to generate income by selling the puppies. These puppies do not generally have the best start in life and are rarely properly socialised or appropriately trained. Indeed any breed of dog that is treated badly is likely to show aggression towards humans.

This is the key to why rescue shelters have a disproportionate number of Staffies. Many of the irresponsible owners who have acquired a Staffy to enhance their street credibility find that they are too much bother to look after, or having mistreated them are unable to control them. Neglect, inappropriate training and a poor understanding of a dog’s needs leads to many Staffies being abandoned or rescued by charitable organisations.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Print by Debbie Kendall

Created in England in the late 18th and early 19th century, Staffies were a cross between Bulldogs and Terriers, bred for the ‘sport’ of dogfighting by working class men. Staffies were expected to live harmoniously with their families, often in small spaces with lots of children. No aggression towards humans was tolerated and it is said that any dogs showing even the slightest signs of ill will towards their family members were ruthlessly weeded out.

As with all dogs, but particularly so for Staffies, they do have to be well socialised from an early age with other dogs and  animals in order that they do not develop aggression towards other dogs.

Hand lettering by Debbie Kendall

The Kennel Club recommends the Staffordshire Bull Terrier as being particularly suitable for families with children – one of only 2 breeds to deserve such a high accolade – and they describe the Staffy as:

“Extremely reliable, highly intelligent and affectionate, especially with children.”

Their reliable, loving nature and affinity for children is the reason that Staffords have earned the nickname “The Children’s Nursemaid” or “Nanny Dog”

My latest print celebrates all that is good about the Stafford. Hand lettered and illustrated, each print is hand printed on my press in a deep inky green – and individually signed.

Framed hand printed Staffy dog art by Debbie Kendall

Available from The Enlightened Hound’s online shop from just £40, unframed.

Cocker Spaniel and Springer Spaniel Dog Tag Prints

Here are 2 new additions to The Enlightened Hound’s series of Dog Tag prints which tell the story of a particular breed in a dog tag design. For those of you who are new to this series of prints, you can find out more about how they were developed in an earlier post.

The new breeds in the series are Cocker Spaniel and Springer Spaniel

The spaniel is widely assumed to have originated in Spain, with the word “spaniel” thought to be derived from the old French word “Espaignol” meaning “Spanish”. It may have been the Romans who were responsible for bringing these ‘Dogs of Spain’ to other parts of Europe.
However another theory suggests that the name “spaniel” may come from the French verb “espanir” meaning “to crouch or flatten” (which describes a style of hunting involving crouching and springing).

Springer Spaniel Print Dog Tag print by Debbie Kendall

I always enjoy researching each breed for the dog tag prints. When I spoke to Springer Spaniel owners about their dogs, the most frequent word that they used to describe them was ‘mad’! The next thing they invariably talked about is how they just love to be with you, whatever you are doing and wherever you are going. The phrase ‘Velcro Dog’ (as in ‘sticks to you like Velcro’) also cropped up quite frequently.

Hand lettered Springer Spaniel print by Debbie Kendall

I was delighted to discover that the nickname for the happy little Cocker Spaniel is the “Merry Cocker”
With their soulful eyes it’s easy to see where the phrase “spaniel eyes” (as in “Don’t look at me with those spaniel eyes!”) came from.

Hand printed Cocker Spaniel Dog Tag Art by Debbie Kendall

I was interested to discover how closely Cockers and Springers are related. Originally these were just different names given to pups of the same litter — the smaller ones called Cockers and the larger ones, Springers.

Hand lettered cocker spaniel print by The Enlightened Hound

The prints are hand lettered and illustrated and then each one is printed by hand on my press.

I am using photopolymer plates for these prints which are often used for letterpress work. I like how the image is reverse- embossed on the back of the print after it has been through the press.

Photopolymer plate 'debossing' by The Enlightened Hound

The prints can be bought online from The Enlightened Hound’s shop

Also in the series are Labrador, Whippet and Portuguese Water Dog.

The Whimsical Whippet Print

Here is the latest print in my series of Dog Tag prints that celebrate the story of a breed. This time it is the Whippet, and although I do not own a Whippet I do have rather a soft spot for them! I sometimes see a Whippet tearing across the common in my village and I love to see him, literally running like the wind, with reckless abandon.

The Oxford dictionary defines ‘whimsical’ as ‘playfully quaint or fanciful, especially in an appealing or amusing way’ and I feel that it sums up the Whippet perfectly. The Whippet has a wonderful history and, although there is no specific proof, it is thought to be an ancient breed, as Whippet-like dogs were depicted in the art of several ancient civilisations including the Romans and Ancient Egyptians.

Whippet Print by Debbie Kendall, The Enlightened Hound

As they are the fastest dogs, for their weight, they are the consummate sprinter and as such were prized by the British working classes  as racing dogs. At the end of the 19th century in Northern England and the Midlands, Whippet racing was taken extremely seriously, as a good racing Whippet could top up the family’s income quite significantly. Easier to come by and cheaper to buy and look after than a Greyhound, the Whippet was nicknamed the ‘poor man’s racehorse’.

Hand Lettered Whippet Print Detail by Debbie Kendall, The Enlightened Hound

They also made a useful poacher’s companion, being extremely adept at catching rabbits, yet small enough to hide under a coat. It is easy to see why these dogs were cherished by their families and were always given the choicest cuts of meat, even if the family had to ‘go without’.

Framed Whippet Print by The Enlightened Hound

Officially recognised as a breed in 1891, the Whippet with its affectionate, gentle nature, sleek, elegant lines and wise, soulful eyes is for me, a truly lovely dog.

Combining hand lettering and illustration and printed by hand on my press in a deep smoky blue/grey ink, each print is individually signed.

From The Enlightened Hound’s website.