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Students’ animal portraits support shelter

December 21, 2013
By LEVI PASCHER , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - Art students at Gloversville High School have been spending several weeks creating portraits - not of people, but of dogs and cats.

The students are using their art supplies, skills and creativity to make portraits of animals up for adoption at the James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society and of other pets in the community.

Their goal is to sell the portraits at an auction to raise money for the shelter.

Article Photos

Gloversville 11th-grader Leanna Langlois works on a purple cat drawing as part of a project that will raise money for the James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society.
The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher

In October, about a dozen of Deborah Deming's painting and drawing, advanced art and advertising and design students visited the humane society on Nine Mile Tree Road in Mayfield to take close-up photos of the animals. Approximately 50 art students now are painting and drawing portraits based on the digital images.

"I visited the site and noticed they had so many animals," said Deming, describing how she came up with the idea. "A lot of the pets that go there are abandoned and emaciated and basically left for dead. It was a heartfelt reason for me to make both the public and students aware of what is going on there and what people can do to help them."

In addition to taking photos while at the humane society, the students spent valuable time with the animals and learned about the organization, Deming said.

She said this is the first public-outreach art project she's involved her classes in, but in light of the students' response, she will try to do similar activities in the future.

"We would like to do this on a yearly basis," Deming said. "We chose this time of year because it tends to be the time when the most things are needed and people are more willing to give."

This week, several of the students were working on their projects, which range from realistic depictions of the animals to creative perspectives using a range of colors.

The students had the choice of a full arsenal of art supplies, including pencils, pastels, watercolors, paints, clay and scratchboards.

Tenth-grader Jazmyn Eberts had already completed a picture of a 6-year-old terrier at the shelter that is blind and was put up for adoption because the owners couldn't take care of it anymore.

Eberts said she wanted to make a portrait of the terrier because of the story behind it, but the most difficult challenge of the project was creating the right texture of the terrier, which has coarse hair.

Many of her peers agreed the small details were the most difficult challenge of this project.

"The challenge with this project is making it look realistic," 12th-grader Greg Perron said while working on a chalk rendering of a German shepherd. "It's also the best part, though, when you see it close to being done."

Perron also said his choice of material made the task even more challenging because chalk tends to smudge, but he was planning to have a background to cover the slight imperfections.

"The most difficult part for me was mixing the colors to get the right match," said 12th- grader Jordan Himpsl. "It's a process."

Students said they were happy to be working on a project that involves animals rather than the still-life they have had to depict in other assignments.

"Animals can give a lot of expressions in their face that doesn't always come out in other things," said 12th-grader Victor Olmeda, who was working on a picture of a cat.

Deming used her cat's portrait in a personal rendering of the famous Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

Deming said the students were given the opportunity to make portraits of pets belonging to people in the district and community because some people may want to buy portraits of pets they know.

One of the students is working from a photo of high school Principal Richard DeMallie's bulldog. Another student is working on a depiction of Tanner, a therapy dog who has been visiting the school and is owned by Latin teacher Charles Giglio.

"The high school is consistently looking for ways to assist our community and reach out to those in need, whether it be a person or animal," DeMallie said.

The students plan to sell the paintings at a silent auction at the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. Proceeds from the auction will go to the Brennan shelter.

Deming said all the artwork made by the students will be available at the silent auction with a starting price of $5.

She said the event also will feature a performance by the high school Jazz Band.

"We are very grateful and happy they chose us," said Humane Society Administrator Denise Feldle. "The money will go directly to the care of the animals, which is primarily medical cost."



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