Spotlight: Dogs act as student’s art subjects

BY AMY TIFFANY | MARCH 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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A white dog with elongated, red-orange ears is lazily perched on a dark green Oriental rug.

But this dog is only one dimensional — the scene is just one of many canine-centric paintings by University of Iowa senior Kelly Jones. Meanwhile, the real dog, Patsy, sat calmy and quietly in Jones’ arms.

The 23-year-old Jones opened her Bachelor of Fine Arts showcase in the Studio Arts Building — which displayed her series of paintings of dogs called Under the Watchful Eyes of King Charles II — on Feb. 15.

The paintings primarily focused on Jones’ family’s 11 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, which she grew up with. The family bred Cavalier King Charles spaniels for 30 years.

Besides the dogs — of which the family has had as many as 16 in the house — Jones also grew up around art. In fact, her parents even allow her to paint on the walls as a child.

“If you see your children enjoying an activity, you pay attention to that, and you give them more of it,” her mother, MaryAnn Jones, said.

For Kelly Jones, there was never any question about what she would paint for her showcase.

“I was drawing them way before I even started painting,” she said of the dogs.

Jones has worked on the pieces in Under the Watchful Eyes of King Charles II for three to four years.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are elegant, happy, and extremely gentle dogs, Jones said. She tried to recreate those qualities in the paintings by elongating their leathers, or ears.

“I really had this urge to paint them with long flowing ears and idealize them,” she said. “They’re basically just exaggerated.”

UI Associate Professor David Dunlap, who taught Jones in a painting class, said it can be tricky give a painting or drawing volume, something he picked up in Jones’ art.

“Her [paintings] … it’s this beautiful, awkward battle,” Dunlap said. “And that’s what I really love.”

Jones also tried to illustrate the royal and mannered attitude of the King Charles breed in her paintings. As she described it, if one were to sit on a couch, that wouldn’t be good enough. A throne consisting of a pillow and blankets would be more preferable for dogs of the breed.

These dogs don’t run around outside or do tricks — they’re dogs of luxury.

“I think that’s the other thing Kelly kind of shows in her paintings — these dogs are a very important bloodline and we cherished it,” MaryAnn Jones said. “And that’s why we were able to get quality dogs … people knew we would handle the lines very carefully.”

Dunlap said Kelly Jones’ paintings are technically incorrect —for instance, she exaggerates the ears.

And while she’s had the training of a traditional art school, known as “mainstream art,” Dunlap described her style as that of a self-invented artist.

Branding her style while working on the paintings has been a continual process, as well as a study of herself, her personality, and how she grew up.

“She’s a quiet person. That tells a lot, which means to me she’s so involved in this; she has a lot to say,” Dunlap said. “I’m crazy about this painting.”

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