The work of a Platteville artist was the first thing thousands of readers of a sporting dog magazine saw when their magazine reached their mailboxes.
“Just Doing My Job,” a painting of a black Labrador retriever by Marie Fritz Perry of Platteville, was the cover photo of the December issue of Gun Dog Magazine.
Gun Dog’s feature on sporting dog art included the work of New York Times illustrator Paul Chianelli, New Mexico bronze artist Stan Bentall, and gun dog artist Ross B. Young.
Perry is a pastel and oil artist who paints animals, mostly dogs and horses. The black Lab painting was commissioned for a Michigan chapter of Ducks Unlimited to defray medical expenses of a girl with Hurler’s Disease.
Perry describes her work as “the scenes and animals that people most cherish. I want to spend my days giving a ‘gift’ back to my clients in the custom portraits I do of their dogs and horses and people. … I take in the love and memories that they express about their dog, or horse, as well as a scene that they can feel, taste, touch, remember.
“I listen very closely to their words and study the photos that they share with me and I create their vision on paper or canvas (depending upon whether I am working in pastel or oil) whether it be a favorite hunting scene, the blue ribbon they won with their horse at a Regional competition, or a portrait of their family dog. It becomes a gift of their memories and love that allows them to cherish something very personal to them for years to come. In this way, I like to think that I paint other peoples’ visions.”
Working to make those visions become a tangible image motivates Perry.
“I am passionate about using my gift as an artist to produce works of art for people who are passionate about the animals and people they love,” she said. “Being able to see the final work received by my clients and the emotions it evokes is an incredible experience. This Christmas, I hardly had time to get my own shopping done because I was working from Thanksgiving on solidly in the studio on custom portraits that had been commissioned by clients far and near.
“I had a very large piece headed to a client in Maryland and I had to keep the time frame for shipping constantly in mind as I structured my workflow. The joyous emails and calls I received from these clients upon Christmas morning when portraits were revealed to their loved ones for the first time was enough to energize me to head right back down to the studio. I love my career!”
Perry grew up on a small farm near Northfield, Minn. Her mother was a fashion illustrator who worked at home.
“I was surrounded by animals and art from a very early age and a wonderful collection of children’s books,” she said. “I spent time roaming the fields and open areas of our farm studying wildlife with my dog and my horse and took it all in — it became a permanent part of me. From a very early age, I aspired to be a children’s author and illustrator, and after the completion and publishing of my second children’s book, I really felt compelled to explore my pastels and oil paint again, but focusing on canine and equine scenes.”
The painting process starts with a conversation with the buyer.
“Through that first conversation, I am able to guide them to the photos that I need to accomplish their custom portrait/painting,” said Perry. “Once I receive their photos, I begin the sketching process. I work in charcoal to give them some quick positional concepts. These sketches are emailed to my client and I ask for their reactions. This is the critical phase as I can learn what they are liking, what changes they wish to make and from this feedback, I move into the final work on canvas if they have chosen an oil painting or paper if they have chosen pastel.”
Perry wants to expand her work to another group of dogs.
“I have a strong desire to do some future portraits that involve K-9 Veterans as well as dogs who are first responders,” she said. I think these animals have a very special place in our community, and I’d like to honor them when opportunities arise in this area for me as an artist.”