More than two decades ago, Atlanta native Mitzi Canter Rothman took her daughter’s advice to paint a pet portrait as a gift. With a bachelor’s degree in fine arts / drawing and painting, Rothman had his pastels close at hand and rallied to the challenge. With her own dogs: Iddie, Oliver and occasionally the Great Dogs Stretch and Genny, Rothman has since perfected the best way to photograph her subjects for the reference images she needs for portraits that have pleased hundreds of pet owners. animals from Florida and Ohio to West Virginia. Rothman said, âI have wonderful memories of capturing beagles, corgis, terriers, chihuahuas, labs and everything in between. There are Lola, Zorro, Edna, Pancake, Sarge, Sapphire, Winston, Bama, Millie, Rags and Roxieâ¦ â
Grandmother and resident of Decatur, Rothman is known for her interpretive style rendering her subjects with “wit and charm”. Note that these words were coined on her booth at a festival when she was approached by a disheveled, hippie-looking man who was muttering “talking about art” and noted that her work captured animals with wit. and charm. Her memory woke up and she was shaken by the fact that he was her former teacher.
His use of colored background papers ranging from mustard to scarlet and indigo is particularly striking. Some of his most poignant works are several family dogs in one sight. His cat portraits are known to capture a detached elegance and impenetrable attitudes.
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Rothman got his start renting booths at festivals like Virginia-Highland, Inman Park, and Congregation Or VeShalom’s Annual Bazaar. She hung samples in dog-centric boutiques and places to get new orders. She has made parrots on a branch, an occasional horse and a handful of cats, and is particularly passionate about her canine subjects. She prefers to work from her own photos, which allows her to control the conditions.
She said, âIt’s best to put them in the ‘sit’ or ‘down’ position looking at the camera when I’m at eye level. Dogs are normally curious and cooperative. Some even sit on my lap. Most are trained to sit and lie down, so it’s easy to fill the frame with a command to stand up, hearing the car keys ringing. Some people see me as child’s play and misbehave completely. (For city dwellers, it will work from the owner’s photo). âFor dogs, it’s about their exuberance, consistency and awesome vitality,â she reflected.
With the image to the left of her easel, she doesn’t plan or draw in advance. She has just “touched the paper while running”, starting with vine charcoal, to move on to pastels. If she doesn’t like how it’s going, she grabs another piece of paper and sets off. Rothman laments, âIt can take about four to eight weeks. On rare occasions, if I don’t feel like I can deliver something that I am proud to hang on the wall,â¦ I return the deposit.
Rothman has enough fun episodes to fill a TV sitcom. She once âphotographedâ two of the best-posed corgis without film in the camera. She has tracked cats under tables and been on a bridge with a seemingly perfectly bred retriever whose owners neglected to disclose to be a “biter.” She summed up: âThe dogs climb onto your lap while the cats climb into the camera bag. I’ve been happy to have references from happy pet parents and loyal customers over the years when they unfortunately had to say ‘goodbye’ to a beloved pet and welcome a new one.
Rothman charges by the animal and the art is unframed. âI loved every minute of capturing people’s pets, but right now I’m not taking on any new projects to get caught; and I plan to switch from pastel to watercolor as a new, less messy medium. Some lucky Rothman owners had their original designs done with the child / owner next door.
Visit Rothman and learn about his art at www.mitzirothman.com.