National News

And Now, Whistler’s Schnauzer

Posted May 26, 2018 4:29 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — At the dog-friendly cafe Boris & Horton in the East Village, photographs of beloved pets had been taped to the walls for a Friday night event.

About a dozen people and six dogs sat around several tables supplied with pieces of cardboard, as well as watercolor paper, graphite-covered tracing paper and, last, high-quality, perfectly replicated sketches of each pet.

The sketches, based on the photographs, had been drawn a day or two before by Michele Cahill, the founder of Pet Portrait Fun.

Participants trace the sketches, then use watercolors to paint their dog’s portrait. “Sometimes they’ll request I superimpose an image behind them, like the Brooklyn Bridge,” said Cahill, 41.

Cahill spent 15 years as a graphic designer working for companies like Disney and Nickelodeon. She gave her first watercolor class last September. “At first it was once a month. Now it’s up to three,” Cahill said. “With summer, it will become more often.” The classes cost $65 and usually take place on Sundays.

Melina Metalios, 46, who brought Bolt, her American Eskimo shepherd, was here for the third time. Gabrielle Hurwitz, 26, who arrived with Riley, a mini-Bernedoodle, and Kylee Yee, 35, who came stag because her French bulldog, Portra, had “the puppy flu,” were both first-timers. Michelle Gilson, with her fiance, Andrew Fontanese, and Bear, their bichon-Shih Tzu, came to the class on a family outing.

“She’s been after me for weeks to set up a date,” said Fontanese, 28, who works in finance. “The challenge in doing that is we have to leave Bear at home. This is the best of both worlds.”

He then looked at the sketch Cahill created. “I can’t believe how she captured Bear’s emotion,” he said, “which I thought was impossible.”

It was true. Just as in the original picture, Bear’s perky personality leapt off the page.

A short demonstration kicked off the evening, and Cahill gave tips throughout the two-hour session, as she took thoughtful laps, checking on people’s work and connecting with the dogs.

“This is the kind of class where you’re not going to paint a moon or flower and then leave it in a bar at the end of the night,” Cahill said, alluding to various paint-and-sip classes offered throughout New York City. “People take the time to paint their dogs and are proud of their work. They’re not going to throw it out.”

Wine was offered, and so was cheese, and soon enough participants had bonded with one another. Each had a watercolor kit, a plastic plate for mixing and a paper towel for blotting. Dogs seemed somehow to purposely pose on the floor or sit in their owners’ laps and watch as they became colorized. Some pet owners went bold, opting for bright, heavy strokes; others chose faint pastels.

Maggie Finales, 49, a graphic designer, finished first.

“My dog Luli passed away 10 years ago,” she said. “This is a tribute to her.” Finales chose to paint her Yorkie from a photo taken in Puerto Rico. “It was the ‘90s. She was very happy lying in the sun. I’ve had a portrait of her done before, but I’ve never drawn her. She was with me for 17 1/2 years. This is a way of remembering her.”

For Metalios, a dog groomer, the evening was an opportunity to tap into a different creative side, while spending quality time with Bolt.

“I love being in a place where I can bring him, and I like to paint,” she said. “It’s nice to have multiple paintings of my dog.” Her first portrait of Bolt was placed prominently in her wall unit. “I might replace that one with this one,” she said. “My first was amateur. Now I’m like a pro.”