Monday, February 03, 2014


Eyebrows rock! And dogs with eyebrows always make me smile. There is just something so wonderful about a dog that looks at you and raises her eyebrows, as if to say, Do you want to play fetch? 

As visual artists, we learn to pay extra attention to little things like eyebrows. A great pair of eyebrows can express rage, empathy, sorrow, amusement, curiosity and so much more.

In fact, studies show that up to 93% of human communication comes from non-verbal interaction. For animals that number would be even higher.

Thats great news for artists. Our illustrations dont just add a little color to the story. Through expressive characters, our artwork can develop deeper levels to the story in a single image quicker than words could convey in several pages.

Lately, I've been on a mission to capture character, and I find tons of astonishing personalities with each new animal I meet. So I gave myself a challenge for 2014 to paint a different animal personality every week.

Thus the Petburbia Project was born - 1 year, 52 pets, endless pet hair.

I limited myself to just pets with a distinctive personality, just ones living in the Twin Cities suburbs, and only a single pet per portrait with only one animal from any household. This meant I had to get the word out, and had to meet new people and new pets.

So far I've met a precocious puppy whose aim in life appears to be food and destruction, a guinea pig that believes in feng shui, and a keeshond Australian shepherd mix that survived for almost a year with a wild dog pack after being abandoned.

I also spent a delightful hour with therapy dogs at the library. Every month these volunteer owners and well mannered dogs descend on the children's section of the library and patiently sit as eager kids practice reading to them.  What an amazing program! I can't wait until its my book theyre pulling off the shelves and showing to the dogs.

Although the Petburbia Project didnt begin as a concept for a childrens book, I can see it becoming one or at the very least inspiring one.

After all, the reason anyone wants to get to the end of a book is to find out what happened to the character who captured our attention on the very first page.

Free smiles, fun newsletter, and the chance to have your own pet painted in watercolor at the Petburbia Project.

To learn more about Melissa Artomel Black and her other projects please visit

No comments: