Art Attack - Nancy Schutt

Art Attack - Nancy Schutt
"Feel good" pet portraits


How do you transition from courtroom artist to general contractor to dog portrait painter in the relatively short span of 20 years? By recognizing your gifts and doing what you love, if you ask painter Nancy Schutt. Schutt received a BFA from Colorado State University and an MFA from the University of Oregon, before—in what some might see as a surprise move—decid¬ing to work full time in construction. With her construction paycheques, she’d take trips to paint with and learn from her men¬tor, Pat Ray. An unconventional choice, perhaps, but since then Schutt has estab¬lished a successful career as a full-time pet portrait artist, creating what she calls “feel good” art.

When asked the all-important question “Why dogs?” Schutt has a profoundly simple answer: “I am a natural optimist…and I think dogs are like that, so there’s a natural attraction to dogs for me.”

That dogs’ extremely expressive faces convey similar emotions to those of humans is further inspiration. “Dogs are like emissaries from the animal world,” explains Schutt. “They’re a gift to us that [allows us to] create a connection with life that’s not like us.”

Schutt enjoys creating images that represent something ironic or metaphorical about the human condition. As example, she relates the story behind one of her commissions in which the dog had “this little grin on her face, but the whole time I was sketching her, she was growling at me!” Her painting Out of Reach, winner of last year’s Mutt Lynch winery Dog Art Today wine-label contest, was inspired by her Chihuahua, Pablo, who, despite his size, will go to incredible lengths to get the tiniest crumb, demonstrating that what is almost beyond notice to one can be of paramount importance to another.

Schutt describes her work as folksy and Hockney-esque, and labours to achieve an understanding of colour as deep as artists David Hockney, Milton Avery, and Faye Jones. She strives to get a colour composi¬tion that sets off a “tinkling of bells” from within. “There’s something that happens that I can feel physically when it’s right,” says Schutt. When she gets that feeling like little bells going off, she knows she’s hit her mark.

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