Engaging in any type of entrepreneurial pursuit – including creative professions such as being a fashion designer, writer, or an artist painting with pets😉 – is certainly fulfilling, but the line between one’s professional and personal life can get extremely blurry at times. The wisdom of adulthood enables us to recognize that even if we’re devoting untold hours to a creatively inspiring line of work, we still have to occasionally disconnect in order to prevent burn out. However, when the demands of our career are omnipresent, it’s not always as simple as dropping everything so we can tend to our emotional needs. While attempting to get to the bottom of this contemporary conundrum, we identified one reliable, perennially appealing cure-all:
Treat yo’ self!
Despite the fact that self-care has been touted by mental health professionals for well over five decades, it really entered mainstream consciousness in 2016. That consumeristic-justification buzzword made the manufacturers of specialty chocolates, plush lap blankets, and fizzy bath bombs undoubtedly rejoice since their ‘wellness goods’ were suddenly selling even more briskly than ever before. Alas, the endorphin buzz was short lived, and here we are – six years later – still hanging on by a thread. Myriad members of the art community are eager to find a more sustainable alternative, and quite honestly, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine wants to help.
Most of us know that acquiring more stuff really doesn’t cultivate inner zen. There are times when we can far more effectively transport our minds and hearts to a place of peace simply by gazing at inspiring artwork, or watching lighthearted videos, or reading thoughtfully researched interviews. In that spirit, we’ve chatted with ten different painters about the furry family members who enhance their studio lives and households in immeasurable ways. We’re certain that you’ll enjoy part one of this series and by the time you finish today’s installment, your spirit will be singing a happy little tune. Please do share this with someone who really needs a pep in their step…so yes, that probably applies to everyone that you know. ♡ ♡ ♡
Tex Buss // Penny
There is a dizzying possibility for disaster in the studio, but I’ve found that dogs make the best studio mates! They’re excellent company, they prevent me from getting lost in my work, and they offer very honest creative critiques. I’ve gotten really lucky with very mellow dogs. I currently share space with a puppy, Penny – a Formosan Mountain Dog – who is a rescue from Taiwan. My last guy was also a Formosan, so I’ll just go out on a limb and say that they’re the best shop/studio breed ever!
She is my only fur baby at the moment and extremely effective at her job. But she’s very skittish. One day while she was restlessly pacing in my studio, she brushed up against a painting that was leaning against the wall. The piece started sliding and the noise that it made while grating on the floor scared her so much that she bolted, knocking into my chair which then bumped the painting on the easel and my rolling cart with palette and turps! For a moment, it looked as if disaster would strike and the whole studio would come crashing to the floor. But miraculously, everything came to a gentle stop and stayed upright. No harm done. But it scared her so much that she only walks gently and delicately in the studio now. She’s awesome. We do love them even when they are monsters, don’t we? (Maybe even a little more.😊)
Christina Ridgeway // So So Many Cats
I was inspired to become a registered breeder of Norwegian Forest cats thanks to my kitty Sia, and even though we have just one litter a year, they’re my sweet and peaceful little companions. It can be a little chaotic when the kittens are mobile and scampering throughout the house, but 99% of the time, they’re actually pretty chill. They like sleeping underneath my easel or behind me on my chair while I paint. Luckily for me, they generally have a taste for Nerf bullets rather than paint brushes, although they are fond of knocking my brushes – which I store on the windowsill – down. All. The. Time.
I try to be really diligent about putting things away every time I complete a painting session. Linnea Strid’s awesome suggestion to store your palette in the freezer has been a game changer for me! In addition to preserving the paint, cats can’t walk all over your palette and track a rainbow through the house! This happened to me when I was creating work for a solo show. We had a litter of particularly rambunctious kittens and I made the mistake of leaving my palette out overnight, which they apparently found very interesting. I woke up the next morning to multi-hued footprints everywhere. On the furniture, floors, counters…to this day there is still yellow paint smeared on my living room floor where I missed a spot. They are too cute to be mad at, though. And of course, kitten cuddle breaks are a necessity at all times.
Andrea Guzzetta // Chuy
Chuy is an incredibly feisty Chihuahua/Rat Terrier mix who is approximately 12 years old. He ended up in my life because a former boyfriend – who really wanted to adopt a dog – took me to veterinarian-friend’s house under the guise of just grabbing a drink. The original owners of this cute little white dog with a black mask – who had a broken jaw – couldn’t afford to pay for his surgery, so they told the vet to euthanize him. She said she couldn’t bear to do it since he was so young and sweet, so she ended up using her own money to wire his jaw, which is still there to this day. I was hesitant to take on such a big responsibility since I had cared for pets in the past, but my boyfriend was persistent. As soon as we took Chuy on a walk, though, I fell in love with his spunky personality and he was mine.
There are whole days when I might not speak out loud to anyone but Chuy. Seeing that wagging tail is the reason why my 250 square foot apartment feels like a home. He often shows up in my reference photos, very “over it” but still wanting to be close to me. My tiny dog – who often insists on sitting in my lap while I paint or record my radical art history podcast – has seen me through several difficult break-ups, my move to Los Angeles, and various other ups and downs in life. There have been days when the only reason I get out of bed is because I know he needs a walk, and I’m better for it. I can’t imagine a life without him, and I’m hoping for at least 5 more years with this old man. I love having him around.
Sandra Yagi // Lacey and Nimbus
Lacey (who is now 11 years old) and Nimbus (who is 4 years old) are Tonkinese cats. They have the attributes of both Siamese and Burmese breeds, so as a result, they’re both intelligent, curious, active, and affectionate….plus they’re both are extremely devoted to each other. Lacey – who is a little older, wiser, and definitely calmer – always wants to be close to me. She’s just not the type of cat who gets right in front of my computer screen or walks directly on my sketchbook. Nimbus, however, is my younger, more active boy kitty who – in his earlier days – rocked my flat screen TV back and forth due to his rambunctiousness, plus he nibbled everything in sight (lampshades, sketchbook covers, etc.).
I’m an oil painter, so having a young cat jump onto my palette with toxic materials has always been my greatest fear. Since Nimbus has finally calmed down, I’ve been getting him accustomed to the studio environment. Whether I’m working on a sketch or watercolor painting, I’ve had to take precautions to prevent him from walking all over my art. I made a habit of using palettes that have covers, plus I set pieces on a small table easel or in high places that are well out of reach.
Lacey and Nimbus make me laugh and smile every day. We try to spread that good cheer to the community by visiting assisted living and mental health residences. Both of them are certified through San Francisco SPCA as therapy cats. I love having Lacey and Nimbus hang around while I’m drawing and painting – even if it’s occasionally frustrating – because they are instant mood boosters.
John Walker // Guinness
We drove in my 1965 Impala – a special car for a special day – to pick up our new Golden Retriever pup, Guinness, who wasn’t much more than a trembling ball of light gold fur. Nearly a decade later, he’s been my near constant companion…my “Good Boy”. We’re early risers, Guinness and me. Our daily routine kicks off with coffee for me and a bowl of chow for him, followed by our long walk – which, years ago – was a good two plus miles. It’s less these days. Midday brings the short walk, and if schedule and weather allow, we’ll sometimes loaf underneath the branches of a huge old cottonwood tree. It’s during this time – when the drab curtain of daily life is drawn aside – that I often experience freedom of thought which gives way to colorful ideas.
Guinness usually occupies a place in my studio next to my flat files, by the street facing window, through which he surveils the neighborhood, never barking but always with a keen eye. His alternate parking spot is just outside the double doors, a cleverly chosen locale that prohibits me from sneaking out unannounced. There are times when my full concentration is required, particularly when painting sessions become intense or even frustrating. Seemingly instinctually, Guinness will appear with a toy in his mouth, his sad please play with me eyes dialed all the way up to eleven. He understands the power of break time better than I.
Most of the time, though, Guinness’ support of my artistic efforts is second to none, including loud snoring while napping, releasing huge clouds of noxious gas, and perpetually tossing off haystack-sized tumbleweeds of fur, the strands of which appear in the most tightly sealed containers and freshly painted surfaces. It’s been scientifically proven that Golden Retriever hairs are electro-magically drawn to a painting’s newly applied varnish, particularly those areas which will receive the greatest scrutiny and interest, where they will shine out like the beam of a lighthouse slicing through a foggy sea. I actually envision a future where you’ll be able to scan a painting’s surface using your phone’s DNA app, establish the presence of Guinness’ hair, and confirm the painting’s origin. Let’s call it a certificate of dog-thenticity.
He portrayed my vision of a rough (ruff?) and tumble sheriff of a gold rush era town in my painting, North Star. A soft-hearted hero wrapped in a steely façade. I recall the day I costumed Guinness in a fur trimmed bomber hat so I could take reference photos. As if on cue, he curled his lip, playing his tough guy role to the hilt – an Oscar worthy performance if there ever was one. What a ham.
There are, of course, those who wonder why anyone would put up with such irritation and distraction. I imagine them being grey around the edges as a result of missing a fragment of their hearts and not yet being in possession of a fully formed soul. I often think my paintings tell stories and just as every proper story has a beginning, middle and end, so will ours. I’ve been fortunate to spend a decade with Guinness, but ten years of age is senior time for a Golden Retriever. As the years have passed, our long walks have grown shorter, our time under the cottonwood more infrequent, and his once gold fur has now gone white. Such is the way of life. But we’ll continue to play out this narrative together for as long as we’re allowed and see where the next chapters lead. I’ll be the one with a brush in my hand, and my constant companion – Guinness, my “Good Boy” – will be right by my side.