Behind the scenes with Miss Penelope (Miss February, Artist Dog)

Greetings! Since February is coming up quickly, I wanted to share some of the behind-the-scenes action from our calendar session with Miss Penelope.

By now, you’ve probably had a chance to glance at Artist Dog… and some of you observant souls are noticing something a little awry with the end of the month. Its pretty subtle but a few of you have made a point to ask me about it so I thought I’d give you the story on our little addition to the days of February.

For February’s concept, we wanted to address the amazing artistic talent that is so prevalent in Asheville and it is one of the things that we LOVE about this town. I’ve met some pretty amazing artists here and each person has such unique style, taste and an awe inspiring sense of self. We thought that it would be really fun to have a dog represent the artistic side of town but it took some time to come up with how to convey our love for the artists here. Since some artists use their hands, we translated that to “paws” and the inspiration hit. After mapping out a general idea and finding the perfect rescue dog, our concept  took us to a super talented artist studio in the River Arts District where we met with a lovely woman named Court McCracken. Her studio was filled with amazing works and it honestly took my breath away when we walked in the door. If you’d like to see some of her work, please visit her web page here: www.courtmcCraken.

Court was so gracious to open her studio up to us for the February calendar shoot. We knew things were about to get pretty messy so we brought along plenty of wet wipes…I think we even brought a bucket and sponge in case things got REALLY industrial. The idea was to have Miss Penelope get a little bit of paint on her paws and create her own masterpiece with her tiny little paws. We brought some non-toxic poster pains and a few blank canvases and even had a very large sheet of paper on the floor in case the paint went rogue. Secretly, I was hoping that Miss P would pick up a paint brush in her mouth, but mostly I was praying that the paint wouldn’t end up on any of Court’s projects. As we rolled out the paper and set up the lighting, I started to get that excited feeling that this was actually going to turn out really well but it all depended upon whether Penelope would want to cooperate. Fortunately, we brought along some very tasty treats just in case. The last detail was to make sure that she didn’t get paint in her adorable little eyes so we brought along some bright red doggles for protection.

As the paint was squished onto the pallet, Miss Penelope started sniffing around the bright colors and we held our breath. Finally, she tentatively put one toe in the paint and started padding around the canvas. In my head, I was yelling “YAHOOO!” but one paw print does not a masterpiece make, so we waited to see what she would do next. As more colors went onto the pallet, she became more interested and finally started to really get into making a mess. Pretty soon, the first canvas was tastefully decorated and she moved onto the second. Before we knew it she had paint in her hair, her toes and I think she may have had some on her back  but it didn’t matter. We were creating art together, Miss Penelope and I! As the session wore on, uncertainly gave way to laughter and I knew that we had some shots that we could use. All in all, a very memorable session with little Miss Penelope.

Now, on to that conspicuous little sticker on the last weekend of February. As we were finalizing the calendar and proofing all of the content, I failed to notice one very crucial error. I can’t believe that I missed it. We looked at the calendar at least 20 different times and tried our best to proof for spelling errors. We made sure that we had photo releases for everyone pictured. We made sure that all colors coordinated. I went back and made sure that every letter “i” was dotted and every letter “t” was crossed. The calendar was even proofed a few rounds at the printer before it ever went into production and somehow this one tiny detail was missed in every proof. It wasn’t until 3,000 calendars were printed and being packaged up in boxes that I got the phone call. “Did you know that February 2014 only has 28 days in it? Your calendar has 31.” You can imagine how sick I felt. We debated and calculated the cost of a reprint but coming up with another five thousand dollars for a reprint wasn’t an option. We had already gotten an amazing deal from the printer but our luck had run out. We tried to get just one page reprinted, but that wasn’t an option. Everything had been stapled together. We looked at every conceivable option. We had no choice but to continue with the plan to sell the calendars. At the very last minute we found our “Hail Mary” pass and I *think* it was the only option under the circumstances. Since the spirit of the calendar was very “tongue-in-cheek” with all the fabulous holidays, we thought that coming up with one more was the only solution: National “Don’t let an artist proof-read” day. When I came up with this idea, I was strictly referring to myself. I think that by creating our new little holiday, I was owning up to the fact that I missed a major error. In hind-sight, I think that perhaps we could have come up with something a little more specific like “don’t ever let Sheryl Mann, (a photographer) proof read any of her work” but obviously space was limited. Now, I think that by labeling it simply “Artist” we perhaps offended a few artists in our audience and I certainly regret offending anyone by that little comment. Rest assured that when the next calendar comes out, it will be extremely accurate right down to the day.

So, now you know about that curious little sticker at the end of the month. Now you also know that I cannot count, proofread or spell. I can, however, take photographs and responsibility.

Here are some of the out-takes from our fabulous artist session with Miss Penelope.

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Behind the scenes with Buster, The Coffee Dog (Dogs of Asheville Calendar 2014)

Now that the calendar has been launched and at least a thousand copies have been purchase, mailed and gifted – I’d love to share with you some behind the scenes shots that didn’t make the cut for the calendar. Before I share, let me back up the truck and share a little bit of detail about how the calendar came together.

Almost exactly a year ago, my creative partner Jenna (owner of Patton Avenue Pet Company in Asheville, NC) and I sat down and started brainstorming concepts for this calendar. We wanted something that was going to take the world by storm and we wanted it to be unlike any other calendar out there. We also wanted it to be a fund raiser for Brother Wolf Animal Rescue and we felt that it was absolutely important that this be a labor of love and not profit for us.  Coming into the meeting, I knew that I had always wanted to do a calendar of some sort but I had no experience. Naturally I was pretty nervous about creating a project of this scope.  As time went on, it became one of the most important and (eventually the most stressful) projects of my entire year…but I’m getting ahead of myself. At the meeting, Jenna had the brilliant idea of creating each month based on certain things that we loved about Asheville. Since we were in a coffee shop at the time, the first month that popped into our heads had to do with coffee. We knew that this was going to be a rescue calendar and we knew that we loved at least 12 things about Asheville – so the next logical step was how to incorporate Asheville, Coffee, and Dogs. Looking around, we saw such amazing culture in the people that were enjoying the coffee and our concept was born. Coffee Dog.

We also knew that we wanted this calendar to be all about the dogs who needed homes through Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, but we knew that some of the concepts that we wanted to capture were going to be difficult for dogs who didn’t know us as friends. Since my dog Buster is a rescue from Brother Wolf, we decided to test our coffee dog concept with Buster. Even though he was already adopted, he was incredibly laid back and didn’t have a problem with wearing a hat, glasses and a flannel shirt. (Yes, he’s a pretty incredible dog.) After a trip to Goodwill for props, we went back to the very same coffee shop were our project was born and began shooting.

Now, I’m not sure how many of you have tried to get a shot of your dogs doing something really cute and ended up getting something less than spectacular but my guess is a few of you. I was no exception. We had several different plans on how to get the shot we wanted, but found out that it was a bit more difficult that I had imagined! By the way, safety is my number one concern so we had a few assistants on hand to make sure that Buster was comfortable and not stressed. Once he got comfortable and realized that the coffee mug had some really high value treats in it, we were ready to shoot! As I started shooting, I realized that even my precious dog who was perfect in every way – had to blink, turn his head, scratch his shoulder, roll over, get more treats, sneeze, kiss the assistants and want more treats again (all at the same time!)  I realized that patience was the answer and we just relaxed and had some fun. Mission accomplished!

Once I got back to the office to look at the proofs, I saw that in some cases, the out-takes were WAY more funny than the final shot. I’ll let you look through these and see for yourself. By the way, many many thanks to Waking life Espresso in West Asheville for hosting our very first calendar shoot. They were very gracious in letting us shoot there and they have some really excellent coffee. I’ll share more behind the scenes shots for each month as time goes on. Some of them are absolute doozies!

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Kohl needs your help

I got a call yesterday from a fabulous foster mom asking if she could stop by the studio for some pictures of her foster dog. You know I’m always ready to help with a free mini-session for foster parents of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue dogs so of course I said, ABSOLUTELY!  As the foster mom was sharing this dog’s background, I discovered a heartbreaking story  and I’d like to share it with all of you. It turns out that Kohl was slated for euthanasia and a foster family came through last minute to save his life, (of course I cheered when I heard this…) but as he was being checked out at the vet, they discovered a growth on his foot. After testing, he was determined to have cancer and the toes would have to be removed. I HATE hearing about stories where the dog had been saved only to find out he might die after all. After hearing all about this dog, I had the pleasure of meeting Kohl this morning and instantly fell in love! He’s a little over 10 months old, but he hasn’t lost his puppy playfulness. He was sweet and adventurous and LOVED my chicken treats. I’m having a really hard time thinking about the fact that he will lose his toes and possibly his entire leg or quite possibly his life. The good news is that he is young and will recover and go on to life a full and happy life. The bad news is that he needs funds to pay for his treatment and surgery. Brother Wolf Animal Rescue has stepped in to help and is willing to help with his surgery through their “Help me Heal” campaign, but they need funds to be able to pay for the entire surgery. They are asking for cash donations to help pay for Kohl’s treatment and that’s where you come in. If you can help donate (no matter how small the contribution is), they would greatly appreciate it! I would love to see Kohl get the help he needs before it’s too late. Please contact www.bwar.org and contribute to their “Help me Heal” fund.  I’ll try to follow up with his progress and update you as his treatment continues.

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Ollie and Jonah

Greetings!

It’s been ages since I’ve posted a blog entry, but I couldn’t stand not sharing this session. It was the most delightful session that I’ve had in a long time. I rolled around in the leaves with these dogs for a few hours and had the best time! I think I got a few bug bites too but once I saw the proofs, I totally didn’t mind the itchy spots. Without any further ado, I give you Ollie and Jonah.

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