Stacy Maeda

Shadow Tango (oil, 16×20) by Stacy Maeda ( was a finalist in the Animal/Wildlife category of the 23rd Annual Art Competition.

Background in art: “I’ve loved to draw and paint for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my mom went out of her way to find community art classes for me that went beyond the typical kids’ arts and crafts classes. Eventually, I went on to earn a degree in art from the University of California at Davis. Since then, I’ve done a lot of studying and learning on my own.”

Media and genres: “I work primarily in water-mixable oils, heat-set oils and graphite/charcoal. Occasionally, I’ll do a piece in pastel or collage. Horses, dogs and other animals make up the majority of my subjects, but lately, I have been expanding to include figurative, landscape and still life works as well.”

Inspiration for this painting: “I was intrigued by the light, the cast shadow and the unusual pose of the dog. Sometimes painting the background can involve a bit of trial and error when I’m trying to convey a certain mood. For this painting, the background color and texture expressed exactly what I wanted right from the start.”

Working process: “Since most of my paintings are of animals, I generally start a piece by taking many reference photos. I’ll then develop a fairly detailed drawing, which I transfer to my canvas or velour board (for graphite/charcoal drawings). Usually the background goes in first before I start the main subject. Each area of the painting is built up gradually with several layers.”

“Maintaining anatomical accuracy and doing all the veins and tendons is often both the challenging and fun part of a piece. For this painting however, the most challenging part was getting the color temperature of the dog’s coat just right. I used many glazes to make subtle adjustments and to balance the subject with the cool background.”

Why make art?: “I do what I do because I see art as a way to serve. When people commission me to do a portrait of their animal, it’s often the case that this animal has held a very special and significant place in their lives. Hopefully, I am able to go beyond the photograph to express something more essential and intangible about the animal, and the feedback I get about what the finished portrait means to my client is immensely rewarding.”


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