From Paw Prints To Art Prints: Using Our Furry Friends As Creative Muses


A recent visit to San Francisco’s The Mill introduced us to the work of artist Earl Gramling. On exhibit at the coffee shop through the end of November, Gramling’s “Friends of Friends” portrait series depicts the relationship humans share with man’s best friend. We loved seeing how Gramling’s gallery made the “dog people” in the room grin from ear to ear and fill with warm fuzzies. It inspired us to spread the adorableness and share his work, along with the work of other talented artists who also use animals as muses for their art.

Earl Gramling: Painter

Earl Gramling started his career recreating the landscape and wildlife of North Carolina. Gramling, a self-taught painter, has always been infatuated with his surroundings, so it came as no surprise to him (though we can’t speak for his perplexed friends) when he started paying more attention to his friends’ dogs than his pals. In his portrait series “Friends of Friends,” Gramling explores the connection he establishes with man’s best friend by first being friends with their owners, then immortilizing their pets with paint. “All of the dogs are the sidekicks of people who I have an intimate relationship with. I wanted to pay homage to some of my best friends that I have made over the years. I liked the idea that as I got to know and love certain people more, I also came to know and love their dogs as well.”

When’s black and white line drawing series was created with fine lines and gold watercolor.

Thailan When: Mixed Media Artist

“The common thread that links my work is nature,” mixed-media artist Thailan When points out. “Nature is my lifeline, my inner voice; everything I want to say in my art are visions and whispers from her.” In When’s “Animal Line Drawings” series, she draws inspiration from her childhood and her love affair with nature and its creatures. “The animals I chose to illustrate are native to Northern California and most of them are familiar to me from [growing up] in the country,” said When. When represents the animals in a light that does them justice. “I believe every animal has a story that is worthy of being heard.”

On why Montrose doesn’t care if people call her work cute: “I think the word cute gets a bad rap. People describe my work as cute all the time–I’ve grown to accept it and reject the notion that it’s a bad thing. However, I do try hard not to be ‘cheesy.’ ”

Sharon Montrose: Photographer

Los Angeles-based photographer Sharon Montrose understands her animal subjects. Having shot almost every type of animal imaginable (with the exceptions of a panda and a koala), Montrose’s unique approach to animal photography keeps her in high demand. She credits her ability to capture authentic emotions in animals with her early experiences as a photographer. “Many years ago when I was struggling to get a foothold, I discovered that having an authentic connection with my subjects was key,” said Montrose. “That connection drives me to push harder at my craft. So whenever I get to experience a connection with my subject, that’s very satisfying.”

Gramling’s “Friends of Friends” show runs through the end of November. The Mill, 736 Divisadero Street, San Francisco. Open every day, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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