I make no bones about it, I LOVE wild dogs! When I made my first forays into animal sculpture some 20yrs ago, I felt compelled to capture them in clay. Struck by their raw beauty, their grace and gregarious personalities, I have never tired of sculpting painted dogs.
My first Africa trip was to Botswana, specifically chosen for wild dog spotting. I was there for nearly three weeks camping rough. We were privileged to observe an incredible range of animals, including rhino, sable and roan antelope and huge herds of elephants but no dogs. On the very last day of the trip we headed out on an early morning game drive and in the far distance I saw the unmistakable shape of curved bat-ears poking out from the grasses.
Choked up with emotion I could hardly see the dogs for the tears in my eyes. Nine painted dogs got up, made a display of pack solidarity and then trotted towards some red lechwe (antelope). Suddenly the mood changed and they ran like the wind, ears back, heads low and menacing. The hunt was on. My heart was racing, how would I feel if they caught one? Luckily for the red lechwe they made their escape crossing the croc infested river, a place the dogs were not prepared to go. The wild dogs almost shrugged their shoulders and trotted off.
The image of those Botswana wild dogs stayed with me. I remember being struck by the way the dogs shrugged off their disappointment. They took it in their stride and they looked happy, as if they knew they would succeed at the next opportunity.
I’d been waiting for the opportunity to capture this moment in clay, so you can imagine my delight when a client commissioned me to make a running wild dog. The painted dog sculpture I made for him has a ‘happy pant’ expression, loose limbs and relaxed ears. She’s a survivor. I made the wild dog sculpture to the client’s specific dimensions to ensure she would fit into the niche that had been chosen for her in her new home.