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It was an accident that a terrier/spaniel mix named Tiffany found herself involved with an artist’s legacy years after her death. The Blue Dog, in truth, has little connection to the Rodrigue family pet. Instead, its roots lie in a Cajun story, the loup-garou, a scary legend about a werewolf-type dog that lurks in cemeteries and sugar cane fields, haunting naughty children in the night. “If you’re not good today,” George’s mother used to tell him, “the loup-garou will get you tonight!” (pictured, Watch Dog, 1984, the first Blue Dog painting) From his earliest Cajun paintings, George Rodrigue painted from photographs.
He hunted through his mother’s old photo albums or posed his friends and family in costumes and vintage clothing, staging scenes from Acadian culture. After his return from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, he made a commitment to preserve the Cajun traditions. He saw his culture fading as the modern world encroached upon South Louisiana, and he recorded its history on his canvas with graphic interpretations of Cajun healers and fishermen, legends like Evangeline and Jolie Blonde, Mardi Gras parades and Crawfish Festivals, and myths such as the loup-garou.
In the beginning, the Blue Dog was no different than these other Cajun subjects, and Tiffany was no different than George's other models. Rodrigue has hundreds of pictures of her, snapped as she sat beside his easel late at night, keeping a Cajun artist company in the wee hours. "She was a mean little dog, always eating the furniture and chasing the neighbors. But we got along great." Tiffany was dead four years when Rodrigue chose her photograph as the basic shape for his first painting of the loup-garou in 1984.
As almost an after-thought, he painted her a pale grey-blue, an artistic decision, as her white fur reflected the dark night sky. Over time the Blue Dog’s meaning shifts like the moods of an artist. After several years as a scary phenomenon, sporting red eyes and spooky settings, the Blue Dog changed. At one point it became the ghost of Tiffany, lost and searching for her master, occasionally landing in the wrong studio.
(pictured, Right Place, Wrong Time 1992) Eventually, George abandoned Tiffany and the loup-garou altogether, and the image became synonymous with its creator, the Blue Dog Man. Rodrigue comments on life today with his paintings, reflecting his feelings and his thoughts on everything from his personal life to politics. (pictured, Wendy and Me 1997) The Blue Dog also reflects Rodrigue’s ongoing interest in strong design, bold color and abstract shapes.
If one were to ask him, “What kind of artist are you?” Most likely today, rather than the Primitive or Pop labels, he might respond, “I am an Abstract Artist who happens to paint things people recognize.” George Rodrigue’s most recent works includes large scale (up to fifteen feet) canvases for his new gallery space in the New Orleans French Quarter, as well as monumental public sculptures for the Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art and on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Metairie, Louisiana (a suburb of New Orleans).
In addition, he continues his philanthropic efforts through the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, promoting arts integration in schools through scholarships, art supplies and lesson plans. In Houston, he donated in 2010 the painting Cat Tie (pictured below) raising $180,000 for Friends For Life, a no-kill animal shelter. In truth, however, George Rodrigue's heart remains with Louisiana, where the Blue Dog was born and where the oak trees call him home.
Wendy Rodrigue This essay is for an article in an upcoming issue of the magazine, Houston Pet Talk Pictured above, George Rodrigue paints in his New Orleans Studio; the 250-year old oak in Youngsville, Louisiana is destined for demolition, and prints of Rodrigue’s painting will raise money in the coming weeks to save this Acadiana treasure For a detailed history of Rodrigue’s Blue Dog Series, see any of the posts listed under “Popular Musings” (to the right of this essay) This week in Gambit, I hope you enjoy the story of George Rodrigue’s 1974 award from the Paris Salon, along with the intrigue of John Singer Sargent’s Madam X in the post “American Artists in Paris”
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My second and third graders created this beautiful Winter Cardinal art lesson, but it would be appropriate for fourth grade as well. It’s very easy considering how stunning it is. I didn’t create a handout for this lesson because you really don’t need one; just a quick demonstration on the whiteboard is enough to get the kids drawing.Supplies: 12″ x 18″ white paper Blue metallic tempera paint (Michael’s craft store will have this paint) Pencil Black, red, yellow and white tempera paint Q-tips for snow Drawing a Cardinal This is the picture I sourced from the internet as an example of a cardinal.
It’s not necessary to draw the entire body, just the head and neck area. This is one of the few projects I encouraged children to use pencils. To be honest, I think it’s because I ran out of oil pastels! Start with a dot for the eye near the top and middle of the paper. Then, draw the beak. Once the beak is in place, it’s easy to draw the cardinal’s crown and head. After drawing the bird, draw branches and lines for twigs.
Painting the Background and Bird Set out the metallic blue paint and paint the background first. This takes the most time; painting carefully around the feathers and twigs.After painting the blue background, paint the red cardinal, then the yellow beak, brown twigs and then finally, the black mask and outline. Final step: snowflakes using a q-tip dipped in white paint. I think this is what makes the whole piece stunning! Note: I believe this idea originated from the fabulous Painted Paper Flicker Stream, although it may have come from a link.
I’m terrible at organizing my bookmarks, so I apologize to the creator of this beautiful lesson. Second and Third Grade Winter Cardinals…
Title: Blue Dog Art Lesson