Bella Learned to Paint!

Mar 6, 2024 | Courses, Workshops & Education

Last weekend, the brave folks at the Huronia Museum in Midland, Ontario hosted their first dog friendly workshop.

Combining the Indigenous storytelling experience with a collaborative painting class, this workshop was a fundraiser for the museum and Ontario SPCA designed to provide a new experience for humans with their furry friends while learning about Indigenous culture.

I’ve been keeping my eyes open for new creative experiences, and this one made me laugh when the ad popped up on my Facebook feed, so I had to give it a shot.

The workshop description explained that first step involved our dogs painting a canvas, setting the background for the story that the humans would later apply their own painting skills to tell.

Bella is generally a very good dog but she can be a clown and I wasn’t 100% sure that I could get her to focus on painting when she was in a room full of dogs that she may be more interesting in playing with. Plus, Old English Sheepdogs are notoriously herding dogs, so I had visions of her galloping around the museum, trying to gather the patrons together in one room, sitting on anyone who wouldn’t stay in place.

How do dogs paint?

It’s a four hour workshop. It has to be more than paw prints. Will they roll in paint? Should I try to teach her to hold a paint brush with her mouth or paws?

Our standard weekend routine involves going for a hike through the forest to tire her out, then curling up in the sunroom to do some painting. That means I paint while she supervises from behind her eyelids—but she associates painting with ‘Bella Days’ so she was excited when I told her about the workshop.

“It’s nice that people can bring their dogs and have a fun doggy date with them in a different way while supporting the community around you. Plus, you have something you can hang up at home that you created with your pet,” said Whittam.

Midland Today

Luckily, the woman hosting the event is an old friend—Nahanni and I were in the same Fresh Meat class when we joined our local roller derby league—so I offered to take Bella home if she decided to be a troublemaker and disrupt the class. Nahanni assured me that the class would likely end in chaos but as long as everyone had fun, she would consider it a success.

When we pulled into the parking lot, Nahanni and painter Paul Whittam were outside. Bella stuck her huge, fluffy head through the window and let out a couple resounding barks to announce her arrival. “Bark, Bark! Bella’s here!”

She had them laughing before we even got out of the car.

Puppachino!

We were ushered inside, and got settled in a room with a large table and walls lined with paintings. The museum has an exhibit gallery featuring tens of thousands of historic artifacts ranging from photographs, native archaeology, marine heritage of Georgian Bay and art by members of the Group of Seven, and others.

We were in the room with the Group of Seven collection. What could go wrong?

Bella introduced herself to all of the dogs but since they were all tiny, she quickly lost interest in them and settled down beside me. Thank goodness.

It turns out that dogs use their tongues to paint! The humans selected the colours and applied dots of paint to the canvas, then we put the canvas inside a clear ziplock bag and coated it with whipped cream. Bella’s eyes lit up. I lowered the canvas to let her lick the sweet treat off the bag, thus moving the paint around and creating the textured background of the painting.

Play Time in the Village

While that paint dried, we got a play break in the museum’s village before we returned to the workshop floor to complete the final art pieces. The museum’s village features a replica of a “pre-contact” Huron/Ouendat village, including a lookout tower, wigwam and a full-size longhouse.

Bella enjoyed exploring the village and making the humans laugh. One of her favourite games involved running full speed at a human’s legs, then dodging out of the way at the last moment. Paul especially found this entertaining. Like I said before, Bella is a clown and loves to make people laugh.

Once the doggos were sufficiently spent, we went back inside, dried off the muddy paws and settled back in for the human’s turn to paint.

Given today’s theme, I decided to add a silhouette of a dog howling over top of Bella’s colourful background.

“Art is subjective and there’s no such thing as a bad painting. It’s about expressing yourself and enjoying what you’re doing. The most natural thing in the world is to create,” added Born, encouraging people to bring their dogs to next year’s event.

Midland Today

Bella and I ended up having a great time! It was wonderful to see an old friend and try something new. The day was full of laughs and Bella’s first painting has now claimed an honoured spot on our mantle.

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Julie Bateman

Hi there! I've been a self employed graphic designer, working from a home office in Barrie, Ontario Canada since 2003.

In the summer of 2022, I decided to start an ink & watercolour travel journal to document an upcoming road trip from Ontario to Prince Edward Island with Rob, my husband, and Bella our Old English Sheepdog.

From there, I fell in love with drawing, painting and documenting my world in sketchbooks. That learning process inspired me to follow the dream of writing and illustrating a picture book for children.

That's where this blog begins.

If you're interested in collaborating or hiring me for freelance projects, please email me at julie@batemandesigngroup.com

 

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