A connection with animals has always been close to my heart. At age 4, in my little village of Johnswell, Ireland, I lost my first beloved canine sibling, Bobby, and my heart was broken. I regarded my dogs as best friends, and loved them deeply and completely. Along came my second dog, Mossy, and my heart was light again. He saved me from sadness.
For as long as I can remember, I have adored dogs and have also been an artist. My love of dogs came together with my art a couple of years ago when I began creating The Dog Project, drawing attention to the plight of dogs needing rescuing.
I have always been a figurative artist, passionate about the nude in particular. My background in effects animation for studios such as DreamWorks, Disney, and on The Simpsons brought an abstract, loose element into my fine-art painting, combined with my existing strong sense of composition and passion for color.
The Dog Project came about after I saw so many Facebook posts about dogs being abandoned or abused by cruel people. Some dogs needed adoption and foster homes; others were being saved by angels. All of that had an emotional impact on me daily. Instead of just letting the sadness overwhelm me, I decided to paint some of these dogs that particularly moved me. Sometimes I had only a blurry little photo. I have my own unique visual approach, so I study the chosen photographs very deeply to extrapolate detail, then often exaggerate and take great artistic liberty to make these images my own. The eyes are crucial to me as they bring the soul of the animal into relief. I don’t have an idealized take on my subjects but try to delve into their personalities, showing their beauty; easy in youth, deeper and more soulful in age. I like to use strong, often undiluted color and loose brushstrokes. I frequently use a large house painter’s brush until I get into fine detail.
I paint commissions for people all over the world. I create these paintings in oil on canvas and try to bring a truth to them. I am not satisfied to make a merely decorative piece, but want my patrons to have a true fine-art painting of their beloved animal. Most of my commissions are of dogs, but I have also painted birds, pigs, cows, and other beings. Humans, of course, also.
My aim in my art is always to bring about a dramatic pose but without sentimentality. I want to paint portraits of animals with as much depth and truth as great paintings of people. To me they deserve the same dignity, respect, and honesty.
Recently I lost my beloved Marnie, a terrier mix (and the greatest beauty) at more than 17 years. I am still not fully healed from the loss. She has been a wonderful subject for my work, and I feel that by having paintings of her around, she is watching over me in a sense.
Rosanna Lyons is a fine-arts painter in Brisbane, and she won the Beast of the Bay 2016 Best Pet Artist title. Her series, The Dog Project, hung at Nova Bar & Restaurant. Lyons is represented by Hilliard Gallery in Kansas City, and her work has been exhibited at City Art Gallery and during Open Studios at Hunter’s Point Shipyard Artists collective. Visit Facebook.com/DogPaintings and RosannaLyons.com to see more of her art.
Main article photo by: Rosanna Lyons