On the rare bright and sunny day in Portland, Oregon, dog owners and their pups come out in droves. They flock to local off-leash parks to soak up the sun while the furrier members of the crowd get the chance to run and play with their fair weather friends. Behind the big dogs and little dogs having fun at one particular park, there’s also Mike Bennett. Mike doesn’t have a dog; he’s there for a different reason.
By day, Mike is a preschool teacher. But by night, he’s a freelance artist/cartoonist embracing his creativity. His portfolio is full of pop culture art including some stellar depictions of Star Wars characters and a few of his original creations. Recently, however, he’s been broadening his skill set.
He told iHeartdogs,
“I pass this dog park every day on my way home from work. Weather tends to be a big wet/gray in Portland; so on really beautiful days, dogs are out in huge numbers! When you see dogs all together like that, I think the personalities really shine.”
It’s the canine personality that first inspired Mike to put his paintbrush to paper in honor of the many pups in his town.
“My brain tends to pick out ‘characters’ in a crowd; characters totally deserve to be doodled.”
When the sun is shining and the dogs are playing, Mike makes it a habit to haul his art supplies to the local park and get to work. At first, he worried about being “that weird guy” that goes to the dog park without a dog. People taking their dogs out for extra exercise and socialization, however, haven’t had a problem with Mike observing the action.
“I always had this fear that as a non-dog owner, it would be inappropriate to watch the dogs at dog parks. Luckily for me, Portland tends to be very accepting of most types of behavior. I get lots of smiles and even a few ‘walk-bys’ from people who are interested in what I’m painting!”
The dogs are the center of Mike’s work, but his favorite part is handing over his finished portraits. When he picks a dog he wants to paint, he creates an image that expresses that dog’s unique personality. It’s always his goal to finish his painting before the owner leashes up their dog and leaves the park. Mike says the person’s reaction when he hands over his artwork is the best part of what he does.
“Dogs are hugely important, especially to their families. I think being handed a painting would be special, but a painting of your pet? That’s something really special.”
One of those special moments happened with a dog named Duke and his family. Mike spotted Duke, a senior Pug with a graying muzzle, sticking near his owner in the middle of the park. Despite his owner’s attempts to get the dog to socialize with other canines, all Duke wanted to do was sit by his person’s legs. Mike painted a portrait of Duke and gifted it to the dog’s owner. They were thrilled for the keepsake and seemed even more appreciative of Mike’s kind gesture. As their special boy ages, they know they’ll always have Mike’s portrait to cherish.
Despite his initial hesitations, Mike’s dog park doodles are becoming popular. Dog owners are impressed by his artistic talent, and they love having portraits of their furry family members. Mike’s Twitter and Instagram are testament to his talent at both dog park portraits and other kinds of art. He’s accepting commissions and is excited to meet more dogs with character. Check out his website for samples of his work and to get in contact with him.
Featured image from Mike Bennett