Copper was my best friend and most inspiring companion.
He was an eye-catching shelter rescue, a GSD and Chow-chow mix, who joined my family when I was 12 years old. My teenage years were soothed by sharing time with him outdoors on simple walks. I would escape with him into invisible worlds of smell, humidity, motion, and sound.
When time came for me to move away from my parents’ home, Copper came with me. He was essential to my transition, a steady anchor point who eased my struggles with greater independence and adulthood. We got to experience the most sweet and healthy kind of family together—that unconditional trust, love and support; that occasionally stifling and repetitive responsibility.
I made a ritual of sketching him in the mornings, a simple drawing exercise. Eventually I began to draw us together in a symbolic illustration style. This style was influenced by my past as an abstract painter, refined by my traditional arts training, and rooted in the love we shared.
After his passing in the summer of 2016, I realized I could continue this practice to remain in touch with his spirit. I also knew that I wasn’t the only one who has loved a pet this way. That knowing was the seed for this project.
Today, I apply what I learned from being with Copper to paintings of the spiritual-emotional relationships that we have with our pets. Between Us Portraits are both visual art and social service, as I speak all the languages of a pet owner—gratitude, grief, bewilderment, delight—during an interview process with clients to gather material for the final painting. It is an honor and inspiration to hold space for these stories... Like Copper romping on the beach or breaking into the pantry, like my new companions, Theta and Wolfie the rabbits, foraging among the plants in our backyard... there’s much to explore and many rewards to be had.