Tahoe is full of dog lovers, so it’s no surprise there are a myriad of artists who focus on man’s best friend for their inspiration. What could be better than memorializing your fur baby in a painting, photograph, or drawing? The common thread that connects Aimee Had, Danielle Hankinson, and Emily Reid, is that these three creatives share a love for their subjects, whether it is dogs, humans, or — in the case of Reid — chickens. They express themselves through their art, and want to share their love of that with the world.
Aimee Had: Seeking Inspiration from Nature
Truckee-based artist Aimee Had grew up riding and showing Welsh ponies in her home state of Ohio, and the connection with her horses is what informed her creativity early on. “That’s what got me drawing,” said Had, who began in the third grade. “When I wasn’t with them, I still wanted to be with them.” An avid animal lover, Had loves painting animals, from horses to dogs to owls. Similar to method acting, Had immerses herself into her art, temporarily “becoming” her subject.
She recalled an encounter she had with a Great Horned Owl on the Truckee River one summer morning. Had heard the owl and its partner exchanging calls during the night, and then spotted the same owl out on the trail the next day. She was captivated by the creature, and pulled from that experience, her time at Burning Man, and a Greg Brown ballad, to create “He Was Always a Painter,” which showcases a magnificent owl sprouting a spring from its head, lights shooting out from its body, and paint brushes as its talons.
“I try to become that owl in my head and my heart. The reverence is how I felt, and on the easel I’m trying to feel that way,” Had said. Her method is the same when painting dogs for her clients. She seeks inspiration from live encounters with her subjects and the natural world around her. Whether it is spotting a beautiful vista or a dog sprinting, she likes the challenge of freezing that image in time and making it her own.
Danielle Hankinson: Using Photography to Spread Joy
Hailing from Australia, Danielle Hankinson has climbed cliffs, waded in rivers, hung from boats, trekked through snow, and endured dog slobber — all in the name of the perfect shot. As a photographer of 12 years who has been certified with Professional Photographers of America for five years, she loves to capture relationships and celebrate families. She also appreciates how a single photograph can empower people.
“Many people are afraid that it’s vein, yet when they are photographed, they are empowered,” Hankinson said. “It makes me feel good that I’m helping to spread love and joy in the world through art that happens to be you.”
Hankinson, who runs Kindred Soul Photography in Kings Beach, said she enjoys photographing dogs because of their expressions and their ability to just be free. They don’t worry how they will look in a photo, after all. Trying to capture the true essence of a dog in the moment can feel like chaos, but the end product always produces photos her clients love, she said.
“A painting allows for artist interpretation, but a photograph is more true to life. It feels real and authentic,” Hankinson said. “I care deeply about creating something you will love just for you.”
Emily Reid: Artist and Zookeeper
Two alpacas. Two emus. Two donkeys. Three pigs. Three goats. Three dogs. A horse. A house pigeon. A turkey. And, oh yeah: 20 chickens. This may sound like a prelude to a Noah’s Ark story, but in reality these are all the animals that Emily Reid keeps on her farm off Mt. Rose Highway in Reno. And it is this menagerie that she credits with giving her inspiration to draw.
“I always wanted a bunch of animals when I was a kid,” Reid said. “I also wanted to be an artist.”
Reid, an art teacher, got her dream when she became a full-time artist four years ago. She uses acrylic and colored pencil on wood to capture her subjects, which are mostly animals. Her portfolio includes a blue cow, a pink cat, a yellow hippo, and a spotted alpaca, among other colorful animal concoctions from her brain.
She loves to draw animals found locally near her home, as well as people’s “spirit animals.” And when drawing dogs, she wants to make sure she captures their personality and what their owners see is special in them. “When people ask me to paint their animals, I think about how much they love their animals,” Reid said.