I Am Not a Camera! A Great Dog Artist Shares His Secrets

AKC Gazette, “Times Past”—We go way back to 1926 for this excerpt from “A Dog Artist at Work,” an interview with Edwin Megargee. Among the leading canine portraitists of his time, Megargee was an AKC delegate, board member, and judge. His greatest claim to immortality, though, is his design for the Greyhound bus logo, which with some modifications is still in use today.

How do I produce portraits of dogs? Well, I suppose you are thinking that I am more or less a human camera, that I set the dogs up in braces like the old tin-type man, and put an exact likeness on canvas, paper or copper plate. If you are thinking that, you are wrong. As a matter of fact, I seldom employ the same methods to get what I want. Once in a while a dog will act natural and easy while I am doing his portrait, but more often I must catch fleeting glimpses of good poses. The actual work of painting, drawing or etching a dog is far less tedious and consumes less time than the taking of mental notes and rough sketches. Sometimes I start with a dog by making five or six rough sketches of poses that he assumes while moving around. Eventually the pose I consider the most attractive is evolved. Then the polishing begins. The artist must be a capable man. His lines must be quick and sure, for his model will pose for only hurrying moments. Personality is the hardest thing to put on canvas, and unless the portrait shows the character of the subject, the artist has missed his biggest bet. Every lover of dogs knows they are capable of expressing almost human emotion. Dogs are self-conscious. No animal seems to have a keener realization that he is having his picture made than the dog. Ordinarily I prefer to do dogs in their natural surrounding rather than in my studio. When at home they retain a certain amount of aplomb, no matter what takes place.

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