Jimmydog`s Backyard

A few minutes with Todd

Why did you start drawing animals?

I have always had an interest in drawing animals, but I began to focus my work more on them during my last year of graduate school when I did a series of paintings, including penguins, cows, elephants and pigs. The primary reason for choosing these animals is that I liked the way they look - all of them have broad, simple shapes, which I like to incorporate into my paintings. Over the years, I became more interested in sleeker, more mobile forms such as dogs and cats, which I primarily paint today.

Todd with Freddie at Topsail Beach.

From whom did you learn?

I had a variety of excellent teachers in public schools as well at Appalachian State University who introduced me to a variety of working methods, media and styles of art. Varying sources of inspiration have led me to work in styles both representational and modern. Although my work can be characterized as realistic, I tend to use brighter colors and evident brush strokes typical of more modern styles. Familiarity in differing styles and methods is especially advantageous in satisfying individual client's tastes and expectations.

What are the most important influences that have affected you as a pet portrait artist?

Aside from my teachers and other artists as sources of inspiration, my parents, John and Edith Belcher, provided a pet-friendly environment for me to grow in. Our dogs were always integral parts of our family, and from this I learned to appreciate their devotion, intelligence and individuality. Each painting is approached in terms of capturing the characteristics of the animal as an individual. Each pet I had growing up not only looked different; each pet was different in terms of overall disposition or "personality."

If you could have dinner with any artist, living or deceased, who would you choose? Why?

Over the years, I have especially grown fond of the works of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists - especially the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. His use of bold color and evident brush strokes added another dimension to the subjects he painted. His works are full of energy and life; even motionless, inanimate forms bristle with energy.

What are your favorite animals to draw? Why?

I especially enjoy drawing dogs and cats. There is so much variety in the pets I draw and paint that I never grow tired of rendering them in pencil or acrylics. Each pet presents a new challenge, a challenge to capture an individual likeness in its own, unique environment.

What is the most important element to capture when drawing someone's pet?

By depicting an animal's likeness, its personality is captured as well. After I have drawn the subject I usually paint the eyes and work out from there. An animal's facial expression and posture are often indicative of its inner state and, if all the physical elements are correctly represented, then the overall disposition of the animal is represented as well.

Freddie helps Todd with a client's portrait.
What are your work habits? Your method of visualization?

Since I work from photographs, I usually begin by looking at the photos to see which is best to work from in terms of clarity and composition. Sometimes my clients want subjects from multiple photos combined into one scene or an entirely different background. After taking all this into consideration, I do a preliminary sketch to present to the client, usually via email. It is obviously important that the client be satisfied with the final product; one way to ensure this is to view a working plan before the actual painting is begun.

What do you enjoy doing?

My main interest outside of painting would be music. Since I was a teenager, I have spent much time searching for music at record stores, thrift shops and flea markets. I have thousands of titles, mostly rock and jazz, in a variety of formats. I recently set up a stereo system, complete with turntable, in my studio.

Do you have pets? What are they like?

I have two dogs, Freddie and Joey, both rescue dogs, from Iredell and Stanly counties, respectively. Freddie, mostly red in color, approximately 50 pounds, is a terrier-chow mix; Joey, almost solid white, approximately 60 pounds, is a terrier mix as well. Although Freddie is smaller, she is the dominant dog. Each day I take them to one of our local parks. Each night, they received stuffed-bone treats.

Todd enjoys drawing outside with Joey and Freddie by his side.

What causes do you support? Why?

My wife Stephanie and I are very involved in doing volunteer work for the Forsyth Humane Society. I have donated paintings and prints for various fundraising auctions. In 2006 and 2008, I painted three-dimensional dog forms for Art Unleashed!, an auction event to raise money for the local shelter. My whole life seems to be centered around my love of pets, whether it is painting them or helping raise money for them.

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The Chili Dog

The Jimmydog Design Group LLC, 740 Barnsdale Road
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27106-5530
Office: 336-201-7475  Cell: 336-978-3683