Cameron Woo is The Bark's co-founder and publisher.
June 7 2012
Whittling is a great pastime, and it’s easy to get started—all you need is a knife and a piece of wood. Follow these simple tips and you’ll be on your way to a satisfying summer project.
Your knife should have a sharp 1-1/2 to 3 inch blade, a standard pocket knife will do in most cases. Keep your knife sharp throughout your project. A dull knife is more dangerous because you will need to push harder to make a cut, with less predictable results—if you slip the added force can do some damage. You can also use a special woodcarving knife, specifically designed for whittling, available at most hobby stores.
For some fun patterns of dogs, see these examples from the 1945 how-to manual Whittling Is Easy, made popular by generations of Boy Scouts. When you finish your project, we’d love to see it—take a photo and e-mail it to email@example.com.
Check out the wonderful, miniature world of whittler, Steve Tomashek, in this video:
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
January 6 2012
A dog sprawls comfortably, relaxed despite the clatter and thump of a nearby printing press. The smell of ink fills the air as a skilled craftsperson rolls a layer of pigment onto the printing plate, then checks the position of the paper.
While this scene could be from the 16th century, it’s being enacted daily across the country as a new generation of artists and entrepreneurs embrace the tactile, handcrafted quality of letterpress printing. Similar to artisan movements in cooking, design and fashion, the craft of printing is experiencing a revival of traditional techniques. Dogs enter the picture—often literally—not only as shop companions but also as muses. At Hound Dog Press, BirdDog Press and Paisley Dog Press, canine-inspired cards, posters and stationery are carefully pulled the old-fashioned way, using a type of press that Benjamin Franklin would likely recognize.
When Johannes Gutenberg invented moveable type and the wooden printing press in the mid-15th century, he started a revolution, and the technology he created prevailed for four centuries. At its finest, the process combines metal, ink and paper to create a three-dimensional effect: metal type presses ink into the paper, depositing it only on the floor of the impression and leaving the walls clean. A rich texture of light and shadow gives letterpress printing its unique beauty.
With the invention of commercial offset lithography (the method by which The Bark is printed) in 1904, letterpress gradually fell out of favor as customers migrated to a faster, cheaper form of printing. But fine letterpress printing has never completely gone away. New practitioners, respectful of tradition, are bringing fresh aesthetics and inventive techniques to the medium, evolving letterpress into something new.
Many of their working presses were built over a century ago and are operated by levers and wheels; type is set by hand, one character and space and dingbat at time. Little has changed, including the shop dogs who keep the pressmen and women company. Like the lucky dogs they are, they remind us that sometimes, what is discarded or lost can find its way back into our hearts.
December 8 2011
We were saddened to hear that one-time Bark contributor Dugald Stermer passed away last Friday at the age of 74. Stermer was the art director of Ramparts magazine (1964-1970), the highly influential counterculture publication that contributed to the wave of New Journalism and inventive, powerful design and illustration. As an illustrator, Stermer became known for his classical drawings, ranging from Jerry Garcia to endangered animals and flora. He was the rare, gifted artist who used his creative talents for the public good. Stermer walked the walk.
Back in 2001, when The Bark used exclusively illustration for cover art, we sought out Stermer, hoping that he might find kinship with a fledgling indie magazine, and give us permission to use a drawing he had stowed away in a drawer. He insisted that he create a new drawing, a portrait of Spenser, his daughter Megan’s dog. A week later he sent us the drawing, an exquisite likeness of a grinning, bandanna-wearing mutt. “Spenser” was written in the artist’s trademark hand lettering below, and surrounding the portrait were references to Spenser’s proposed lineage—Chesapeake Bay Retriever? Poodle? Irish Wolfhound? It was both delightful and delicate in its rendering. We were honored to have Stermer’s work grace our pages.
As I read his obituary in the New York Times, and in more personal blog tributes and comments, one passage rang true. In a 2010 interview, Stermer was asked about his career. “As [San Francisco advertising legend who introduced Stermer to Ramparts] Howard Gossage used to say, ‘The only fit work for an adult is to change the world.’ He said it straight-faced, and while other people might laugh, I always have that in the back of my mind. I don’t walk around with my heart on my sleeve, but I do feel that using our abilities to make things better is a pretty good way of spending a life.”
September 6 2011
Frans Hals (1582 – 1666), the celebrated portraitist and genre painter, together with Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer comprise the pantheon of Dutch painting’s “Golden Age.” Hals’ subjects were the bourgeois of Haarlem, a hub of a new 17th-century Dutch economy. His colorful characters were painted with a vibrant palette and bold brushwork unseen in realist painting. Unlike the somber dignity found in Rembrandt or the contemplative interiors of Vermeer, Hals paintings radiate an exuberance in style and composition. He is at his best when he combines portraiture with genre painting, as he does in Young Man and Woman in an Inn (1623). Popularly known since the eighteenth century as Yonker Ramp and His Sweetheart, it is one of Hals most important works, an examination of “everyday life” or the depiction of modern manners and mores. The painting shows a brief encounter in a tavern between a young man and woman. Yonker is an English rendering of Jonker or Jonkheer, which means “Young Gentleman.” The young man depicted here was considered to resemble Pieter Ramp, the ensign in the background of another Hals painting Banquet of the Officers of the Saint Hadrian Civic Guard Company (Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem) of about 1627. The Yonker here raises his glass in celebration as the woman, arm around his shoulder vies for his attention. Her rival is a dog (resembling a Griffon), the canine’s muzzle cupped in the hand of the Yonker, perhaps enjoying a morsel of food. The immediacy of the scene and the dazzling brushwork are remarkable. The facial expressions exude a raucous gaiety verging on caricature, while Hals’ painterly skill is in full force with his virtuoso handling of flesh, fabric and lace. The painting recalls a contemporary Dutch adage: “the nuzzle of dogs, the affection of prostitutes, and the hospitality of innkeepers: None of it comes without cost.” As demonstrated in this masterwork, Hals was not shy about portraying his subjects foolish behavior or showing the crass side of the new gentry class. Few paintings capture the personality of its subjects with such vitality and unvarnished joy—it’s as if Hals joins the Yonker and his lady friend in winking at us from the canvas.
Charming Jack Russell shares the screen with Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer
April 21 2011
Escaping the office mid-week to sit in a movie theater and watch a film—what a rare treat! Claudia and I did just that one week ago, for a special screening of a new film Beginners, written and directed by Mike Mills, and starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Mélanie Laurent. This gem of a film opens the San Francisco International Film Festival tonight, before its commercial release in early June.The fact that a charming little dog, a Jack Russell Terrier named Arthur, appears in nearly every scene is the reason why Bark was invited to the screening. The film is not about Arthur or dogs specifically, but people who love and live with a dog. The dog is not there for laughs or a plot device, he simply is an important part of the characters’ lives, and this natural portrayal is rare among films. McGregor plays the son, and Plummer, the father with Laurent the son’s love interest. Beginners is an intimate, understated story of self-discovery, life, love and death … and Arthur the dog (performed by Cosmo) is omnipresent for it all. His is a sweet, affectionate performance—coaxed by Mathilde De Cagny, the trainer who gave us that other thespian JRT, Eddie of “Fraser” fame. Claudia and I loved Beginners, it is one of the most honest and joyous films you’ll see, but also one of the quietest and most restrained. Oh yes, and thought provoking. We have the good fortune of interviewing the Mike Mills and Ewan McGregor on Friday, and we’ll be sharing our conversation with you in our summer issue. Check out the film’s trailer, and get a taste of their magic:
Remembering Robert Radnitz
June 14 2010
The quiet passing of Robert Radnitz last week, a onetime English teacher turned movie producer should not go unnoticed. Radnitz is responsible for two fine films that prominently featured dogs—A Dog of Flanders and Sounder. With the release of his first film, A Dog of Flanders in 1959, Mr. Radnitz established his reputation as a maker of high-quality movies for children and their parents. Based on the venerable novel by Ouida, the bittersweet story of a poor Flemish boy and an abandoned dog is a classic tale of adversity, a theme that would appear often in the producer’s films. Radnitz’s greatest success was his production of Sounder in 1972, directed by Martin Ritt, and nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Screenplay, Best Actor (Paul Winfield) and Actress (Cicely Tyson). By today’s standards, Sounder may appear a tad sentimental in portraying the harshness of the subject matter—the cruel racism of 1930s American South—but the film introduced mature subject matter, intelligently and compassionately, to a young audience. I remember seeing it as a young boy in my local movie theater and being moved and angered by the injustice the film depicted. Radnitz went on to produce many films, including Island of the Blue Dolphins, My Side of the Mountain, Where Lilies Bloom, among others. As part of a joint resolution by the U.S. Congress honoring his work, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas paid him this tribute, “The films Robert Radnitz has produced touch the common thread of humanity and that’s why he’s made such a great and glorious contribution to the thing that makes our society a viable, living, vibrant whole.”Robert Radnitz passed away at the age of 85, Sunday night, June 6, at his Malibu home, surrounded by his devoted wife Pearl and his beloved dogs, Coco, Junior and Rosebud.
J.R. Ackerley’s classic memoir adapted masterfully to film
April 27 2010
I had the good fortune of viewing a very special film at the recent San Francisco International Film Festival—an animated adaption of J.R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip. Ackerley’s memoir, first published in Britain in 1956, revolves around his 14-year relationship with an Alsatian named Tulip. The book’s perceived raunchiness, highlighted by the author’s mediations on “defecation and mating” caused quite a stir when it first debuted but over the years has found its place as one of the “greatest masterpieces of animal literature” as proclaimed by Christopher Isherwood. This humorous and often moving book is a poignant observation of a friendship that proved to be the happiest years of author’s life. The masterful animation team of Paul and Sandra Fierlinger (Still Life with Animate Dogs) have created a rare achievement, an imaginative and faithful interpretation of a literary classic. The story is firmly rooted in a time and place (postwar England) but the simple routines of man and dog (walks, poop, pee, barking) are a source of examination that dog people will truly appreciate. The complexities of the human-animal bond are explored with a thoughtfulness rarely seen. Fierlinger’s drawing/painting style is magical and surprising throughout, making the characters come to life in the most imaginative ways. The film is a refreshing break from the hyperrealism that dominates today’s animated features, with the art showing the hand of the artist in all its quirky, lively expressions—and is better for it. The Fierlingers pulls off an amazing feat by depicting different levels of reality with distinct drawings styles, thus the imagined scenes in Ackerley’s head become delightful pixie renditions executed as stick figures, but for all their simplicity are absolutely hilarious. In short, the film has soul, something I find missing in much of today’s animation. Christopher Plummer lends his superb voice to the author’s character, and the late Lynn Redgrave, as the author’s protective sister, and Isabella Rossellini, as Tulip’s comforting vet, round out a first rate production. My Dog Tulip is set for a fall release, and should be on the list of everybody who loves a good dog tale. View the trailer here.
January 13 2009
A chance to experience first-hand the wonderful paintings of the preeminent California painter, Roy De Forest, is not to be missed. His surreal mindscapes filled with dogs, horses, birds and people resonate with bright colors, thick paint and mythic tales. De Forest is loosely grouped together with 60’s Funk art, yet his vision stands alone in its originality. His paintings attain something rare—inspiring joy, laughter, awe and sheer delight.
DETAILS: Painting the Big Painting runs January 8–February 28 at Brian Gross Fine Art, San Francisco, Calif.
Discover nine more not-to-be-missed exhibits in 2009.
January 8 2009
The convergence of art and canines can yield thrilling results—a visual feast, an engaging tutorial of ideas, unadulterated fun. The new year brings a host of intriguing exhibitions to museums across the country—There’s something to satisfy every taste: the traditionalist, the modernist, the academic and even the I-don’t-like-museum types.
1. Vernacular Photography Fair; January 10–11; Santa Monica, CA
2. Roy De Forest: Painting the Big Painting; January 8–February 28; Brian Gross Fine Art; San Francisco, CA
3. Pets in America; September 13, 2008–February 1; Stamford Museum & Nature Center; Stamford, CT
4. The Beauty of the Beasts: Artists and their Pets in 20th-Century Art; January 7–March 16; Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago, IL
5. Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors; January 27–April 19; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New York, NY
6. Dog Days Auction Sale; February 10; Bonhams New York; New York, NY
7. Paws and Reflect: Art of Canines; January 31–March 29; The Spartanburg Art Museum; Spartanburg, SC; April 26–June 14, 2009;
New Visions Gallery, Marshfield, WI; July 4–August 30, 2009;
Elizabeth de C. Wilson Museum, Southern Vermont Arts Center,
8. It’s a Dog’s Life: Photographs by William Wegman from the Polaroid Collection; January 18–April 12; Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art; Tarpon Springs, FL
9. Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective; May 20–August 16; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New York, NY
10. Darwin: Big Idea, Big Exhibition; November 14, 2008–April 19, 2009; Natural History Museum; London, England; November 7, 2009–February 28, 2010; San Diego Natural History Museum; San Diego, CA
Have a recommendation for a dog-themed exhibit? Share it with our readers by posting a comment below.
News: Guest Posts
Cameron Woo | July 27, 2011
How would you like a Lucian Freud painting on the cover of The Bark? Our foreign correspondent, Susie Green, posed us the question in the fall of 2002. With the passing of the artist Lucian Freud last week, I recalled our brief but lasting encounter with the legendary painter and the beautiful portraits of his dogs Eli and Pluto. They are among the most magnificent paintings made in recent history. A Lucian Freud painting on the cover of The Bark?—By all means, yes! We were in the midst of planning for our holiday issue, and Christmas had come early.
Freud was preparing for a historic retrospective at London’s Tate Gallery, organized by his friend and critic, William Feaver. It turned out that our reporter Susie and the painter frequented the same pub, and she thought he might be sympathetic to Bark’s take on dog art and culture. The connection led to Feaver, who found our publication to his liking, and graciously arranged permission to publish a new painting by Freud of his Whippet, Eli. We were astounded at our good fortune. It debuted in America on our cover, while hanging in the Tate, still wet from its recent creation.
Inside the issue we published a selection of Freud’s portraits—his earliest painting of a dog from 1951-52 entitled Girl with a White Dog (which we caught some heat from because of its partial nudity), and double and triple portraits featuring his beloved Whippets, Eli and Pluto with human companions. Plus, a photo of the real Eli, standing next to his painted portrait. “I’m really interested in people as animals,’ Freud told Feaver. ‘Part of my liking to work from them naked is for that reason. Because I can see more and it’s also very exciting to see the forms repeating through the body and often the head as well. I like people to look as natural and as physically at ease as animals, as Pluto my whippet.”
We were thus honored by Lucian Freud’s Eli gracing The Bark. Besides this lovely cover, his contribution to our magazine also opened the door to other artists, galleries and museums—what a calling card we now held—to say that Lucian Freud had appeared in The Bark. We will always be thankful for his generosity, and the privilege to share his paintings with our readers.
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