The illustrator Sharon Tancredi says that she's always loved the anthropomorphic images of dogs portrayed by C.M. Coolidge, the artist best known for his depictions of canines playing cards while doffed up in human clothes. Born in the United States but now based in the United Kingdom, Sharon's own work might not showcase her hounds enjoying quite such old-fashioned gentlemanly pursuits, but she says that she strives to take an equally stylized approach to the medium as she attempts to bring though the inherent character of each of her furry subjects.
Key to the canine chamber of Sharon's portfolio is the 100 Dogs project, which as the title suggests involves her illustrating her way through a literal ton of different breeds. Taking a break out from rounding up pups to portray, here's Sharon's take on the art of canine illustration.
Dogster: What inspired the 100 Dogs project?
Sharon Tancredi: Well, I've always loved dogs -- all animals in fact -- but I've always found it extraordinary how much variety there is within one species. Also, there is so much opportunity to create character in a dog illustration -- many of the breeds have such extreme features that are fun to draw, as well as them being aesthetically beautiful animals. Before I got my own dog I researched breeds for ages, I went to loads of dog shows and bought loads of books, and I ended up becoming something of an expert in terms of being familiar with all the different breeds. I actually became a bit of a dog-bore: When I meet people with cross-breeds I really enjoy being able to guess at precisely what the mix is! So 100 Dogs just seemed the perfect project for me.
Which breed has proved the trickiest to illustrate?
It depends on how you define tricky: Certain breeds can be terribly time-consuming in that there's lots of hair to draw and it can take ages, whereas some short-hairs don't require so much labor in that respect. Some breeds in the first instance seem as though they will be much easier than others, particularly dogs with extreme features, like, say, a Pug or an Afghan. Sometimes I think it's going to be difficult with a certain breed, for example an Akita or a Rhodesian Ridgeback, because their features are very even and maybe not as distinctive, so there's the challenge of making it completely obvious what breeds they are.
What was tricky was the selection process. There are obviously many more breeds than 100, but I wanted to make sure that each dog I chose to illustrate was as different looking as possible from all the others. There are some breeds that, to the untrained eye, look quite similar, like a Yorkie and a Silky or a Westie and a Cairn. In these instances I had to decide to go with the more popular breed. Plus many terriers can appear similar looking to one another, especially without their show cuts.
Did you come across any bizarre or strange breeds while researching the one hundred dogs for the project?
Yes, I did, and a few that I wasn't very familiar with. For example I hadn't heard of an Azawakh! And one thing that I didn't realize before I started researching is that apparently a Pit Bull is not actually a breed of dog: Pit Bull is a generic term used to describe a number of breeds and crosses that have similar physical characteristics and original functions.
Then there are a few anomalies with American versus British breeds, and in this case I decided to do a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Again, this is not a breed that is recognized by the American Kennel Club, as there is an American Staffordshire Bull Terrier which is similar but larger with slightly different features. As I'm in the United Kingdom I've decided to focus on breeds recognized by the British Kennel Club, but fortunately there are more similarities than differences in the recognized breeds of both clubs.
I've also decided to do illustrations of dogs with undocked ears, so the Boxer and Doberman will have their ears intact! I much prefer the way they look as nature intended.
Any ideas on what the 100th dog will be yet?
Yes, I know exactly what number 100 is going to be -- but I'm keeping that a secret!
I also noticed an illustration of Beyonce on your site. What dog do you think would most suit Bey and Jay Z's lifestyle?
Well they seem to be a very private couple despite being huge celebrities, so I can only surmise. I can't imagine Beyonce choosing a dog for his cachet -- she's not the type of celebrity that would even think about wanting to be seen wandering around Beverly Hills with some toy breed peeking out of a designer bag. Plus they have a little girl, so I expect that getting the right sort of dog that would make a great pet for their daughter would be the most important thing. So I think a Cocker Spaniel would be a nice choice -- sweet and gentle natured, adorable, and not so delicate like many of the toy breeds. I think it would make the perfect family pet. So if you're reading this, Bey, that's my advice!
Finally, do you have any dogs yourself?
I have a little Papillon called Wolfie who is seven years old.
What's Wolfie's personality like?
Well, I get tired just thinking about him -- there is no off switch! He is a bouncing, barking, happy little dog that just lives to play, play, play! There is no other reason to be alive in his tiny little head other than to play and have fun. Food? Not bothered. Treats? Take them or leave them. Games? Now you're talking!
When I was researching what dog to get, I went to a few dog shows and I was struck by Papillons' faces and the way they "bounce" all the time -- other Pap owners will know what I mean by that. I've seen and scrutinized a lot of dogs, but I've never seen a more joyous smile on a dog than that of a Papillon. I could be having the most horrible time and I just need to look at his grinning face and it makes me smile.
Wolfie is the first thing I see when I open my eyes in the morning and the last thing I see when I close them at night, and I really can't imagine a life without him. I've had pets all my life but this little creature has gotten under my skin like no other. Basically, he is a four-pound furry ball of joy, and although dogs come in many sizes and shapes and each individual has a different personality, anyone who really loves a dog knows all about the sort of love I'm talking about.
Read more on dogs in art:
- Seth Casteel Tells Us About His New Book, "Underwater Puppies"
- Eli Falconette: On Tattooing Diehard Lovers of Bully Breeds (Like Me)
- Photographer Sophie Gamand Shows Us Dogs Can be Guard Dogs at Any Size
- A Homeless Man Draws His Dog and Is Embraced by the Art World
- Dogster Obsessions: Kenneth Moore's Batik Paintings of Dogs
- We Chat With Artist Eric Ginsburg About His Fine-Art Dog Paintings
- We Interview Sophie Gamand, The Photographer Behind the Wet Dog Photo Project
About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world's foremost expert on rappers' cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it's not quite what you think it is.