Rory Mackay is a classically trained artist with penchant for painting pooches! While he may not have predicted that the four-legged set would so thoroughly become his inspiration, this canine Caravaggio found his calling in capturing the energy and spirit of our furry friends on his canvas. Born and raised in London, Mackay is now based out of Palm Beach Florida, though he maintains a space in New York City. Mackay currently works exclusively on commissions from doting pet parents that are looking for an aesthetically acceptable way to proclaim their Puppy Love. Rory Mackay embraces the inexplicable quality that makes dogs the perfect subject for a work of art. With exaggerated colors and a dog’s-eye-view perspective, Mackay has truly stumbled into a niche with an untapped yet hefty market.
Animal Fair: What inspired you to start painting dogs?
Rory: In all honesty, it was largely by chance that I came to do it. There was an ex-girlfriend’s dog that I painted for Valentine’s Day, and I was struck with how much ease that the painting came to me, how much more natural it was for me to paint the dog than it was a human form, which, up until that point, was largely all I had been doing.
Animal Fair: (referencing an image of Labradors in front of lush tropical foliage) So whose painting is this?
Rory: This painting belongs to Pepe and Emilia Fanjul who are a big family down in Palm Beach, Florida.
Animal Fair: The Colors are Really Breathtaking. How did you ever get the dogs to sit still together?
Rory: You can see in each of the dogs, they are not just black Labradors. There are very much blues and purples and, you know, some funky colors going on in there. And I also applied that to the background with this hyper-realistic, green foliage going on. I photographed each Lab individually. Trying to capture this sort of scene by itself would have been quite daunting. So, each one of them I photographed individually.
Animal Fair: What is your favorite breed of dog to paint?
Rory: Funnily enough, I used to think it was Labradors. I do love Labs, as a dog owner, but there’s no real preference as to which one I like to paint. I love the challenge of every new breed.
Animal Fair: How much time does it take for each painting?
Rory: So, usually what I try to do is have the dog being very traditionally done in oil paint, and the background in a sort of thick, textured, mixed media. Often it’s acrylic gels and things like that. So, this was a good month and a half of layering and just going over and over. But I was very happy with it, very proud.
Animal Fair: Do you have any celebrity clients that you can share with us?
Rory: (referencing a portrait of a regal little pup sitting in a silk chair) So, this painting here was actually commissioned by Ivanka Trump for her mother Ivana. And this here is little Tiger Trump, and Tiger perched beautifully on his little, silk chaise. Tiger was a lot of fun. He was one of those very charismatic dogs that was leaping all over the place. And that’s exactly what I want, that’s exactly what I always try and capture, that boundless energy in a dog. When you’re working with a dog that’s maybe a bit shy and timid, it’s a lot harder to get that sort of boundless energy out of it. So, he was great. As you can see he was posing rather regally for us, so he was enjoying it a lot.
Animal Fair: Many of your paintings seem to come at the subject from a “dog’s-eye-view” so to speak, is this a conscious decision?
Rory: I like to have them done at a dog’s eye view to break away from traditional portraiture. I don’t like that chocolate box feel that a lot of portrait artists put into their work. Especially when you’re doing dogs, you want it to be about their life, their environment, their energy.
Animal Fair: And if you could only be remembered for one painting that you have done, which would you choose?
Rory: I’d have to say, so far, it’s my Greyhound. The Greyhound really was a new piece for me. It was a bold endeavor. It was getting away from the more traditional side of things. I included this photo transfer background, which was something I had used many years ago when I was at school, and had largely forgotten about, and I thought, “Why not try this with dogs?” So, I put this background down, painted the dog over the top, three times life size—as you can see, it’s an enormous piece. It’s actually since inspired me to try my hand at designing wallpaper.
Animal Fair: What is your favorite thing about having dogs as your subjects?
Rory: Dogs don’t have the ego. They don’t suffer from the same self-conscious egos that we do as humans. So, you get a far more naturalistic painting, I feel. You know, in the past, when I painted people, nobody is ever happy with how you make them look, no matter how good you make them look, in their opinion their own self-image is completely different from what you see. So, I always felt that those portraits were very staged, whereas with dogs they don’t care about that, they have no inhibitions. So, it’s a very much more raw, energetic, charismatic piece that you get from a dog, or any animal, than you would from a human.
If you’d like to commit your canine to canvas and get your paws on a Rory Mackay original visit his website and send a bark in his direction.