Brian & Millie – Why I paint dogs

My focus was drawing in school. I didn’t start painting regularly until 2008. My preferred medium is oil paint. My preferred subjects are dogs. Or at least, one I keep going back to paint.

For 5 years, I was a Chartpak/Grumbacher painting instructor for the Michaels store in Moscow, ID. If you don’t know the program, it offers 2 hour classes where you paint a 9×12 canvas, from start to finish, in one sitting. The interesting part is how they divided up the subjects into four categories – Still Life, Floral, Landscape, Seascape.

So that got me thinking – what do I love? What to I want to paint? It took a couple months, but then I realized that my passion was painting animals. Specifically, dogs. I’ve been painting dogs (and everything else with four legs or wings) ever since. You can check out some of my pet portrait commissions in my page section – I’d love to paint your pet!

I spend waaaay too much time on social media. (Why yes, I am on FB and Instagram @DanaAldisStudio)  But, in my (weak) defense, that helped me make art and family connections as well as follow different animal rescues. One that caught my attention was Leave No Paws Behind, Inc. They take the last chance dogs, the ones that have been often horribly neglected, or dumped because they were too old. As frustrating as it is to watch, there is a silver lining, these dogs get the care they desperately needed.

Brian and Millie were two dogs I followed on FaceBook. Their page, The Life of Brian, is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, Millie passed away in 2016, and Brian also passed last month. They are terribly missed. I’m not sure how it happened, but in the last years, Brian became one of my muses. Dana (Brian’s “mom” takes great pictures)

The Kiss, Brian & Millie. 16×24 Oil on Canvas

My tribute to Millie & Brian is this painting of the two of them sharing a tender moment, “The Kiss”. I offering prints of the painting, with 25% of the sale to a local rescue near where I live.  The 8″x12″ prints will be $45 plus shipping. They are fine art prints on beautiful printmaking paper.

And in non-art but all dog related news – introducing the new member of our “pack” – Dorothy the Goldendoodle. She’s 12 weeks old, not breed standard color, runt of the litter. She’s a little shy, and neither of us have had a puppy in our lives for over 15 years. All my friends expect to see paintings in the near future. 😉

Dorothy, The Goldendoodle @ 12 weeks

Below are links to some of the Animal Rescue pages I follow on FaceBook, as well as some of my favorite animal artist pages.

An Act of Dog – Artist Mark Barone created a a staggering 5500 shelter dogs

A great dog rescue organization – Big Fluffy Dog Rescue – also good for snarky commentary and imaginative breed descriptions

And I have a lot more, but my FB page froze up (because I have so many liked pages) so I will post more later.



The Artist in Summer – Plein Air calling

My friend Aaron Johnson and me trying to paint in the rain. Wasem Vineyard, WA

Spring has sprung here in the Pacific Northwest. The weather warmed up enough for me to venture out painting outdoors (aka plein air). My husband and I have been discovering and hiking the Whidbey/Anacortes/Skagit area since we arrived last September – mostly to tire out our active 3 year old. We thoroughly enjoy discovering all the amazing State Parks that dot this area. We see bald eagles, deer, rabbits, the occasional chicken, frigate birds, ducks, seals, even some small dolphins. Such an amazing area. And a year pass is only $30! (consider it’s $10/day otherwise, a year pass is a steal!)

My Plein Air paintings done in Early Spring 2017

A mutual friend introduced me to LaConner artist Nicolette Harrington. She is a painter/teacher as well and she is my plein air painting buddy! We usually meet up once on the weekend, and I often rely on her location choices, since she has lived in the area for at least the past 25 years. It’s fun to go with someone who knows the local secret spots! The great thing about the parks out here is you can literally park your car, walk 10 feet and start painting. Or you can trek a little ways onto the trail and be just as rewarded by the view. It just depends how far you are willing to go.

Lone Tree Point, View from Kukatali Reserve, LaConner WA

I have my gear streamlined quite a bit now. I don’t “pimp my ride” but I LOVE finding all the cool gadgets for plein air! In comparison my studio set up is super simple. I think the challenge of downsizing/condensing is part of the thrill of plein air painting – the lighter the load, the more exploring you can do. Also, setup/breakdown is quick.

So here’s my current set up:

PaintBox (or “pochade”) – I have a couple different options, and I have listed the websites at the end of this post. I use the Guerilla Painter’s ThumBox (6″x8″ish) with an insert in case I want to go larger (up to 8×10 wooo!). The cool thing is that this box holds your paints under the palette.  I just started using Joshua Been’s “Fly On The Wall” compact pochade box (approx 8x8x1.5 closed). He updated the Fly recently, making it even more efficient.  I also have Stephen Coulter’s plein air set up – though I mostly use the panel holder.  All attach to a camera tripod mount/screw.


Tripod: ManfrotoTripod

– At this point I have two camera tripods. One that came with the Stephen Coulter package – nice, sturdy, pretty light. Right now I am in love with a new tripod by Manfroto, with a swivelball head mount – you screw your pochade box/panel holder onto it. It weighs only 2 pounds! Caveat – don’t weigh it down a lot, also only extends to 40″. Neither is a problem for me, since I am 5’2″. But now ya know.







Paints – ideally up to 6 tubes, small if possible. But, that’s up to you. 😉 I just tried out Joshua Been’s limited palette – TW, CAD Y, CAD R, ULT B, BS. I couldn’t help but add Aliz C, and he even added Cerulean B. Inn plein air, less is more… a limited palette is your friend. 😉

Martha’s Beach, LaConner, WA, 4×5 oil on canvasboard

Brushes – whatever you like! I usually have 6 or 7, various sizes. Filberts are my fave, but I am starting to really like flats.

Medium – make sure you have your medium in a shatterproof/leakproof container! Gamsol is great, or a 50/50 mix linseed/gamsol, or the wonderful gel mediums like liquin/neomeglip…

Odds & Ends –

Paper towels (Viva is my personal fave, because I am a paper towel snob) I tear off 3-4 full size sheets and fold them. Easier to pack. Some artists like to bring full/partial rolls.

WATER! Sunhat/baseball cap, Sunscreen, Bug Spray, Cell phone, snacks, sketchbook/pencil (optional) 1or2 large ziploc bags, or a couple plastic shopping bags to hold your trash. Plastic pencil box to hold paints/short brushes. Wet Wipes are also very useful if you have space.

And some other cool stuff – composition cards etc. Hover over images for descriptions


And, in closing…

You have to start somewhere! My very first plein air – done in 2011ish -thanks to Martha Jordan & the Winslow Art Center, Bainbridge Island and  Instructor Jim Lamb. I was terrified of landscape painting before this workshop. Now, I might be slinging paint, some days are better than others, but the experience is always worth it.


Here are some links where you can start your plein air adventure –

Pochade/Paintbox options – All are excellent. I recommend you find something that works for you. There are literally dozens of options out there. Most of these will sell packages that include the tripod.

Paint, Brushes etc etc –  is the go-to online spot. Or your local art store. My favorite paint brands? Right now I am loving Gamblin and M Graham. Excellent color.






30 Owl Paintings & Time Management with a 3 year old

I finished my last set of 30 Paintings – A Parliament of Owls, last month. Right now, I’m finishing off a couple commissions before launching into the next couple projects. If I am able to follow through on my projects, I will have painted around 100 small paintings (6×6 or smaller) this year. Not including commissions.

There are over 200 varieties of owls. I painted 30 6″x6″ oil paintings of a handful of owl species. This time, I decided to handpaint the backgrounds – something I haven’t done in a while, because, though I LOVE pattern, I DON’T love painting pattern. I really enjoyed combining the colors and patterns with the owls, and I think I accomplished what I wanted to do – create works that weren’t just studies of owls. I am quite pleased with the results.

I have been a part of a couple types of “Art Challenges” over the past decade, usually involving a finite amount of time (30 days, 15 days) to create x number of artworks. I found in the more recent challenges, I was very interested in developing Series/Bodies of work, rather than a smorgasborg of different images. Painting in series helps me develop ideas, and help me power through the days when I really don’t want to go into the studio.

PicMonkey Collage

If you are interested making one of these paintings yours, please email me. $100 each. ( All paintings are unframed, unless requested.

When do I find the time? Well, I guess I just have had to buckle down and paint when I find the time. I am a new-ish mom – Penelope is three and a half now. We are able to afford daycare, so she goes for about 6.5 hours, four days a week. The commute, though, is a doozie – approx 45 min each way. So I lose at least an hour and a half driving. And since my husband works 4/10h days, I am usually in charge of dinner, groceries, household errands. So realistically, IF I do get into the studio, it’s around 3-4 hours of painting time. But, if I get my household things done efficiently, it can be up to 5 1/2 hours.

I used to paint at night for a couple hours but Penelope has been going through a transition phase, waking up around 2am or so and coming into our room. During the week I am the one in charge of sheperding her back to bed. Because I like to sleep, I tend to go to sleep around 9:30, and wait for the inevitable pitter patter of little feet tearing across the length of the house (she’s terrified of the dark, but more terrified of being alone). Yes, we could do the cry-it-out method. It could happen.

So, I do my very, very best to stick to “the Plan” – come home from dropping Penelope at daycare, and head into the studio, paint until I have to leave to pick her up. I sometimes leave NPR on, or more often, put on a podcast or an Audible selection. I use the ToDoist App to list what I need to do – because I LOVE ticking off checklists. Seriously, I really do.

I haven’t started the next series yet – I’m slowing down a little, but it’s happening. (Hint -Chicks,Bunnies, Flowers) Maybe Penelope will start sleeping through the night again.


Pete, the 10K Rescue Dog


Sleeping, 10×10 oil on cradled wood panel

His full name was “Peter Pan, Peanut Butter Bean Burrito Supreme”

           At 2:45pm this past Thursday, March 16th, we helped our dog Pete cross the “Rainbow Bridge”. He was, we think, approximately 13 years old. His health, always moderately precarious, had taken a turn for the worse in the past week. Over the weekend, he stopped eating, started sleeping a lot, and could no longer walk. Food and Walks were his two favorite things. His hips had been causing him trouble in the past years, but he finally could no longer support himself. It was time. My husband made the call, the doctor came to the house. Pete enjoyed the rare winter sunshine before we brought him back in. He left us quickly, he was ready. He was a good boy. Our Malamute, Darcy passed about three years ago while we were still in Lewiston, so Pete is now with her.
         I write Pete’s story because he wasn’t the perfect dog, and before he became the gentle old soul that left us, he caused us much distress with his impulsive stubbornness. His learned behaviors could have made us return him, but we just couldn’t do it. We learned so much from him, and he was very loved, despite his issues. I stress this because, when we adopted him,  we assumed he’d be a “good dog” without baggage and issues, thankful that he was no longer in the pound. Dogs don’t think that way. He reverted to his old ways once he got comfortable with us. I blame his previous owners, but not him. We did everything we could to make his life better than his time before us. We were rewarded with a gentle, old soul. He tried so very hard to be good. In his memory, we will eventually venture out to the local shelter and find a furry friend to fill the holes Pete and Darcy left in our lives.
Yes, he was a “pitbull mix”. I had known two growing up, and they were strong, stubborn dogs, but not dangerous or mean. Pitbulls are some of the most common dogs you see abandoned in shelters. If you google “American Stafforshire Terrier”, you would see dogs that look very much like Pete. When we adopted Pete we not told about getting Liability Insurance. We were offered vouchers towards training sessions. Two things that we will be doing again when we find our next furry companions.
            We adopted Pete late 2009. My husband was in his last year of law school, and we really wanted a companion for Darcy. We did a lot of web surfing, craigslist, petfinder. We finally made the trip out to Kitsap County Humane Society to meet another dog, and found that the one we came for had been adopted. We hung around and checked out each kennel. Dan noted one dog that he thought was in foster care. He was a tan/white pitbull mix. He had literally shut down, lying on his bed, facing the wall. He looked up at us when we came to his door, but he didn’t bother to get up.
            Turns out, he had been returned. Twice. He HATED cats, they said. And he didn’t get along with one of the other dogs. He was approximately 5 or 6 years old. His teeth were chipped and never in great shape. He had what looked like scars on his tail and his lower back area. His muzzle was a little scuffed up. He had the worst breath, snored 18 different ways, and often had gagging/hacking spells. But he had those big, mascara’ed eyes, and kinda walked over like Eeyore. He would climb right up on your lap. All 70+ pounds.
            So we decided to meet him and see if he would be a good fit for Darcy, since we had brought her with us. Dan took Darcy out of the truck, and she completely ignored him. It was the perfect response. He seemed happy. The staff told us that if we didn’t adopt him, it was probably the end of the line for him. The hard sell. We filled out the paperwork and brought him home. He was a staff favorite, it seemed. A number of them came up and quietly told him, “Don’t come back”.
The Wubby Trio – 3 (6×6) oil on panel
          For the first couple weeks things were pretty good. We were very structured with him, making sure to correct him if he acted protective towards us vs Darcy; an attitude that subsided quickly. He was a follower and adored Darcy. He was happiest with a tennis ball in his mouth. He enjoyed headrubs and buttrubs, sleeping in his bed, curling up under or on a blanket. When we finally got a couch, he declared most of the couch his. He could not jump, we discovered. We had to theorize then his hips were probably not in great shape. He was never food aggressive and always loved to eat. I did notice he got nervous around teens/kids. He did start show aggression towards other dogs (never towards Darcy) but it seemed to be as if he was trying to protect us, or himself. People came up to us during walks to thank us for taking him in, being a pitbull.
         In the first couple weeks/month of the adoption, Pete got, what we think, was a tummy ache. We let him outside and he decided to “self medicate” and stood in our front yard eating as much grass as he could hold. I convinced him back inside, and later, Dan let him out, where he did it again. We were completely puzzled. Eventually we took him to the vet and he said that Pete had given himself colitis by eating so much grass. The cracked teeth? “A fence biter” the vet declared. Most likely he was left unattended in a back yard and was biting the wire fence to get at what ever was teasing him on the other side. Over the years, we determined he was probably neglected and maybe even somewhat abused. And maybe an evil cat that made his life hell. All guesses.
               Late Spring 2010 we walked Pete & Darcy to the local Starbucks coffee shop. We sat outside on that rare sunny day, the dogs on leashes lying on the sidewalk. Being Seattle, lots of pedestrians were walking by. One lady stepped, twice, very close to Pete’s head. He must have been startled, he got up. With no warning, to our horror, he reached out and nipped the back of the woman’s leg, causing her to yell out. I walked her inside to look at her calf. Pete had caused a “pinch bite” through her jeans. It looked like a bad scrape, a little blood welling up. I took a picture on my phone. I offered to call an ambulance, which she declined. I gave her my contact information. We offered to help pay for her out of pocket expenses. She seemed pretty level headed, even saying she had great health insurance. We left. We called animal control and they told us that the victim had to call before they would come out. She did, and once Pete was seen (“booked”), we paid the fine ($200+) and quarantined him for the requisite time.
             I could give you the whole blow by blow but I prefer just to say that by the end of that week, she decided to sue us. She hired a lawyer friend who called us negligent dog owners, irresponsible people and that our dog was a dangerous pit bull, citing all the bite statistics. She said we never offered to help pay for her care. We were served the formal paperwork a couple months later. We hired Adam Karp, Animal Rights Lawyer, to help us through the process. The suit was eventually settled for much less than the original amount, but causing us much grief.
                 With Pete’s health issues (A thyroid issue was diagnosed five years ago, along with the arthritis in his joints), emergency care insurance (he attempted to consume some of the wall to wall carpet in our rentals), Liability Insurance and the lawsuit, over time our $25 initial investment ballooned to well over 8 thousand dollars, possibly even hitting the 10 thousand dollar mark. We laugh quietly that he was, by far the most expensive discount rescue dog we ever had.
               Pete was never a model citizen but never hurt another person/animal/plant forthe rest of his life. We hired a trainer to help with his impulsiveness. It did some good. We got Dog Liability insurance to cover both dogs, since our Malamute was also considered in the “dangerous breed” category. Pete showed more stubborn behavior around women, and we had to theorize that he might have been abused by a woman, or, perhaps women tended to be more nervous around him, and he picked up on that. We always watched him very closely. We had few issues with him around men.  When he developed a bond with you, it was for life. He never forgot. He loved our daughter, who was born in December 2013, and showed much patience with her, under our supervision. When we moved back to Western Washington in the Fall of 2016, I looked into the backseat of my car and saw my daughter, asleep in her car seat, holding on to Pete’s ear. He was sleeping right next to her. He never let an adult do that, let alone touch his ears, without flinching.
              When Pete passed, Dan remarked that it was the first time in 17 years that he had been without a dog. The same for me. Memories of both Pete and Darcy linger with us, and they are sweet, sad, funny, and all good.
“Groovy Pete with Rose Colored Glasses”, 10×10 oil on fabric covered canvas

Moon Chickens Poster!

Year of The Rooster Poster

It’s here! A gorgeous, 18″X24″ poster of my 31 Chicken paintings created in January 2017. $15 plus shipping. I LOVE it. I framed two – one for my home, one for my husbands office. My parents ordered 10, and 6 were given away at their Chinese New Year Dinner.

The poster was designed by my friend, Kelsey Grafton – her company is Blue Sky Mondays.

Order yours today – please contact me at:

The 31 Chickens for 2017 Year of The Rooster

During the month of January I painted 31 paintings of Chickens. All are 5x5inches on panel. The theme was the Celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year – Year of the Rooster. I matched my chickens with the Phases of the Moon during January.

You can see the full set on my FaceBook Page – Dana Aldis Studio. (only the first 28 are pictured above)

In late August 2016 my little family made a move back to the west side of Washington State. We settled in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. It’s been a good move. The past year was hectic for me. I was teaching more than ever and trying to create for two art shows, as well as balance family life with a very active toddler. I hope I am able to post more regularly to this blog this year, and share with you my adventures on the west side.


BE Square – Spring 2016 – Frog Invasion


These are my set of 15 acrylic paintings for the 2016 Spring Be Square Challenge, that was held at the Fourth Wall Studio & Art Gallery, Lewiston, ID. 13 of the 15 sold, very exciting!

The Be Square Challenge started with the (now closed) Creative Shop and Myndie from the Fourth Wall has continued the tradition. This will be the fourth year, and this Spring Challenge is the first of two this year – the second will be on Small Business Saturday in November (after Black Friday).

What is the Be Square Challenge? Artists are encouraged to create 15 artworks on 8″x8″ canvasboard. They have 21 days to complete the work, more or less. All artwork is for sale at a set price of $30.

I decided on frogs as my subject this time around. I adhered patterned cotton fabric onto the canvasboard panels, sealed with matte medium. I then transferred and painted the frogs using acrylic paints. I love painting frogs! Especially tree frogs and poison dart frogs.