The effort is an enthusiastic mix of work and play. "I think a lot of the best art comes from the merging of those two impulses," he notes.
It's Hastie who determines when the work is finishedusually because it's about to be ripped apart. "There's a thin line between destruction and creation for her," he said. He grabs the board away, and she leaps after it like a circus dog, jumping head-high to snatch it back.
But once he's given her a tidbit of her favorite cheddar, Tillie ignores the picture even if it's placed directly in front of her. Like most dogs, she lives in the moment. Even when chasing squirrels, her other favorite activity, she forgets about it once it's disappeared up a tree. "It's like that with her work, too. Once she's finished, that's it," said Hastie. She's obviously much more interested in the process than in the finished work.
The resulting images are a brilliant frenzy of deep tooth marks and claw strokes in patterns of hard and soft parallel lines and crosshatches that are undeniably lovely.
Some of Tillie's creative drive probably stems from the fact that she falls into the category of "working terrier." The Jack Russell blood line traces back over 100 years to Devonshire, England. They were bred to hunt foxes, which sometimes means taking the chase undergroundand digging.
"They want to work," notes Hastie. "If they don't, they find something to dofrom guarding something to wrecking your couch. The artwork provides her with sanctioned digging, which she can't do much of in the city."
Tillie doesn't produce more than a drawing a day, and some days she doesn't work at all.
Is This Art?
Many questions have been raised about Tillie's pictures in the press, notably: Is this art? "It's obviously art," said Hastie. "Who is the artist may be a more difficult question. Arguably, it's a collaborative effort. It's inevitable that I impose some human will on it, but I try to keep it an expression of her energy."
He insists that Tillie is the creative force, and he is just her studio assistant. He uses the example of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Assistants told him when to paint and brought his supplies.
But Hastie's own aesthetic choices are present in some way in each picture, be it the choice of background and transfer color, size or display of the workand their titles: "Kite Flying in China," "It's the Stick I Want," "Furry Brancusi" or "Lily Pad."
He also acts as her agent and manager, booking press coverage and gallery shows.
Can Animals Be Artists?
But the big question requires a leap of faith. Can animals be artists? Creatures of many species have been heralded for their artistic efforts. Among those are cats and gorillas, notably the famous Koko.
Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, Russian-born conceptual artists based in New York, have given art classes to domesticated elephants; the elephant's paintings have been exhibited internationally in museums and have sold in select auction houses. Komar and Melamid have collaborated with animals for decades, including dogs and beavers.
So can a dog be an artist? "Why not?" says Hastie. "Once you accept that your dog is an artist, the possibilities are endless." Tillie seems to agree.
Dogs With Jobs
Viewers can tune in to Dogs With Jobs now in the U.S. and on our international channels. In its third season, Dogs With Jobs explores new and unusual jobs and sheds more light on the powerful bonds between working dogs and their human partners. Every episode stars amazing dogs.
This season of Dogs With Jobs sniffs out a truffle hound in Italy and goes to Florida to track down a bat dog and a termite buster. Fourteen breeds never before seen on the show make an appearance, including Japanese Shiba Inu, Gos d'Atura Catala (Catalan sheepdogs), Spanish water dogs, the Hungarian Pumi, and Karelian bear dogs.
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