A unique project is taking shape in Tigard’s Potso Dog Park’s small-dog area: What were once ugly, weathered sheets of plywood separating the large- and small-dog areas are being transformed into an art gallery featuring – what else? – dogs.
And not just any dogs but the actual dogs who frequent the park along with their names. The project, which is partially complete at this time, features dogs, paw prints, even flowers painted by children, but the focus is dogs standing up along a long fence line with their faces and front paws showing above the fence.
“I was sitting around one day looking at that ugly brown wall and thought, would we get into trouble with the city if we painted it?” said Linda Handel, who is the chief instigator of the project, a retired psychotherapist and a photographer whose works are currently on display at Ultra Botanicals on Main Street.
After getting approval from the city, she, Maria Ochoa-Power and Regan Robinson went to work. “I sanded the panels by hand because they were pretty weathered to make a smoother surface,” Handel said. “Then this one came up (pointing to Ochoa-Power) and that one (Regan Robinson) came up, and we all started on this. Regan wanted to put frames around the dogs so she did that on one panel.”
Talking about the paintings of the dogs hanging over fences, Ochoa-Power said, “They are done in a cartoonist style rather than portraits, but you can still recognize the dogs.”
Robinson said that she was less sure about her artistic skills and started with stencils. Handel said she also started with stencils because they’re easy, and she helped the cause by creating some stencils and purchasing others. All the artists use acrylic paint and each time they come they bring quite a set-up of many colors of paint, brushes, rags and other items to use or for others to use, and they let each other know if they find paint on sale.
Ochoa-Power, who is an architect, first draws dogs on paper and then transfers the drawing to the plywood, going over the lines with ink before filling in with acrylic paint.
Of course, all three women are small-dog owners: Regan has a pug named Lulu; Ochoa-Power has Joey, a white Westie-poodle; and Handel has a chihuahua named Roxy Hart.
As an aside, they all dressed themselves and their dogs in costumes to participate in the city’s “Howl-O-Ween” dog costume contest held in Potso’s large-dog area, and when it was over, Mayor Jason Snider came over to check out the artwork-in-progress.
The three friends extolled the virtues of Potso’s small-dog park, with Ochoa-Power calling it “a little piece of heaven we all share” and Handel saying it has a magic spell.
“We all support each other,” Handel said. “I don’t know what I would do without this park and these ladies.”
Ochoa-Power said, “I met these lovely ladies last year when I started coming here.” Handel has been coming for a year, and Robinson has been coming for several years, and the dogs know each other as well.
“These dogs are a pack,” said Handel, and Ochoa-Power added, “Some of the dogs here are really good friends. They greet each other when they see each other.”
The trio estimated that probably 15 to 20 different people have worked on the mural, and they have a Facebook page they use to communicate. Some park-users send in photos of their dogs to be painted or donate paint to help the cause.
“It does take a village,” said Robinson.
Once a panel is done, it is sealed to protect it from the weather, but while it is being painted, it is covered in plastic in between painting sessions to protect the paint. And the artists sometimes work into the night by the light of headlights and lanterns.
While the ladies were painting recently, Madison Hayes walked up with her dog, “Oatmeal” or “Oaty” and said, “These paintings look like the real dogs. Can I do a stencil?”
And they set her up to paint, always welcoming new contributors while they are painting.
Everyone is invited to stop by and see the work-in-progress, which they hope to have completed by next spring.