A Walk in the Park

When I painted my California Girl and Feet on the Beach watercolors, I knew they would be challenging for me, but compared to my most recent project, those were a walk in the park. Speaking of parks — and walks — I loved going to the park when I was a little girl. Even more, I loved taking one of our many dogs along for a stroll.

I love dogs. Always have. Always will. When I was growing up, we had — literally — dozens of dogs. Labradors, English setters, Weirmaraners, Russian Wolfhounds. Big, beautiful dogs.

Today, I still have lots of dogs, but now they’re the stuffed variety. We have them everywhere, all over the house, most of them doing some sort of “guard duty” — like Woof-Woof and Patch Puppy who guard the pajamas in the bedroom.

When I began learning to draw last summer, one of my first “live subjects” — if a stuffed animal can be considered a live subject — was Topsy. I sketched her as she sat in her chair in our living room. Her job is to hold mail or other important things my husband might need to take with him when he leaves for work.

At the time, she was wearing one of his scarves, you’ll notice, still left over from the winter before! She was also wearing an adorable dress one of our girls bought for her. Topsy, you see, has a twin brother, Flopsy. It was hard to tell them apart. Oh, she was wearing gloves, too, so that’s why it looks like she has floppy fingers.

I was pleased with the way my drawing turned out. Considering I’d only been drawing a week or two, I was surprised that I still managed to capture a likeness of my furry little friend.


Toward the end of summer, I sketched Scraps, another of our stuffed puppies. He’s the favorite of our oldest grandson — who, truth be told is actually getting a little too old to have favorite stuffed animals, but I won’t tell anyone. He still loves Scraps, so the only job Scraps has is being a favorite pet.

I adored my little drawing of Scraps. I liked it so much, I actually took it out of my sketchbook — the first time I’d ever done that — and left it sitting out where I could look at it. I was especially pleased when the oldest grandson saw it and exclaimed, “You drew Scraps!”

Yes, he recognized his furry little friend. That certainly made me feel good!


Later in the year, when I began working with charcoal, I did a quick sketch of little “Bowser” — complete with the bow around his neck.

As you can probably tell, I love my stuffed puppies, and I love drawing them.

Recently as I walked through the living room, I glanced toward the corner. Many of the doggies sit there, guarding the toys and games we keep for the grandkids.

At once, I knew. I had to paint their picture as they sat together. I even knew what I would call the painting.

Playmates. Three stuffed puppies sitting amidst the toys, quietly waiting for laughing little boys and girls to come hold them, hug them, and love them.

And so I got out my watercolors and made the painting. I realized that what I was attempting was far beyond my skill level, but I remembered what I hear so often. Paint what you love. It didn’t matter that I had no idea how to get all the toys in the right places, or how to create the “vignette” background I envisioned. The quilt on the old chair behind the puppies? No idea how to do something so detailed. But none of that mattered. I just wanted to paint these puppies and share them with the world.

So, here are Homer, Flopsy, and Hartley.

Playmates Watercolor

I let my colors get a bit muddy when I tried to do the toys — that’s the blotches of color between Homer and Flopsy — and I was at a loss as to what color to use for the background. I don’t care for the color I chose. Any suggestions?

One other question I couldn’t answer was how far to extend the back of the chair. Originally I had only a little of the back, but it was hard to tell exactly what it was. It looked better after I extended it, but then when I did the background…well, you can see that I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I’d love to hear suggestions on that, too.

After I’ve gained more experience with watercolor, I plan to paint these “Playmates” again, hopefully with clearer, brighter colors. Until then, I’m going to cherish this first painting. I do love these crazy stuffed critters, and I love that I was able to share them with you. The imperfections don’t really matter when we paint from our heart.




  1. Nope, doesn’t matter at all. 😊 I don’t think I’d change the background at all. It has the feeling of a small child’s room, soft and dreamy, and I like it! I think it’s cute that you have stuffed animals around. We lost both our cats recently…..I may just get a stuffed cat to keep around until we feel it’s time to get another shelter kitty. Sweet painting, Judith. I’m glad your grandson recognized his furry buddy. 💛

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    1. I think the background is a bit too rosy pinkish, maybe if it were a bit lighter I’d like it better. We do have one stuffed cat in our collection. Liz — the California Girl — figured we ought to have at least one cat, so she sent us “Meow-Meow”. We also have “Nada Dawg” — she’s really a cow, but she sits out with the puppies and thinks she’s one of them. We talk to our puppies — they have very distinct personalities, you know — and on special occasions we add another to the growing collection. As my husband says, they don’t shed, we don’t have to buy dog food, no fleas, and we don’t have to clean up after them. Perfect pets!

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      1. I hear ya. Ours too, for now. I really miss my girl though. She used to camp out on one shelf of one of our bookshelves…..and I could really use the space, but I work around her little blanket and toy that are there. She passed in September. I just … want to keep her around somehow. I love your idea of having something still, even if it’s stuffed, gives that comforting feeling.

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  2. It’s a delightful wee watercolour study. I don’t mind the fading out quality of the background at all. It helps focus the eyes on the subjects and it fits with your description of the piece as a vignette. I think the pink does detract a bit. It might be an idea to think in terms of complementary colours when deciding such things so a blue or purple might have foregrounded the yellows and oranges of the toys more.

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    1. Thank you for the suggestion on the background. Later, when I have more experience with watercolor, I do want to paint this scene again, so this is definitely a “study”. Next time I’ll try to draw the toys and games out a bit more and hopefully I can add more details on the quilt. What I’d really like, I think, is to have the background in an oval and have the rest of the paper white, more like a true “vignette”.

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    1. Thanks. The puppies are all so cute! 🙂 There’s a story behind each one, of course. Homer is the one we got to celebrate the KC Royals winning the World Series. Flopsy is Topsy’s twin, and their story is hilarious, but I’ll save that for another time. And little Hartley is one of the “Valentine’s Day” puppies in the collection.

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      1. O the grandkids play with them? My mom used to keep a box of toys for the grandkids. Mot was fun to see my nieces and nephews play with the toys my brothers and sisters and I did as a kid. Some of those toys were 20 or more years old at the time. The kids are a little older now, so mom took the toys to the dump!

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      2. Lol…sentimental. My mom has been cleaning out her house and getting rid of stuff. She has to do it when my dad is at work or else he pulls stuff out of the trash can. She says she is tired of all the stuff and when she dies in 30 years, she doesn’t want us to be cleaning out a bunch of junk as she calls it from her house. Very thoughtful! I told her she just needed space in her garage for that rebel truck she just traded her charger in for.

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    1. Than you, Jodi. It was a great experience to paint this, knowing that I couldn’t really do it justice, but knowing, too, that it didn’t matter. It wasn’t about creating a perfect painting. It was all about sharing something I love so dearly.

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      1. Yes, it truly is. I’ve never been so happy painting as I was when I did my “Playmates”. Now, of course, some of the other puppies think I should paint them, too. 🙂


    1. You’d probably get a fight from Spotz. He thinks he’s the “top dog” who is always in charge of everything. We have lots of big pillows piled up on our bed, and Spotz has to sit right on top of them. He bosses the other puppies around, teaches them bad habits, and he’s always to blame for any mischief.
      Yeah, my little stuffed puppies are very real to me, and to my husband, too.

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  3. I wanted to tell you YES! paint what you love….that is half that battle right there. By looking at your painting I see the love, sweetness coming through and this is not because of trying so hard but because you love the subject! All the learning how to…..the background, the chair “problems” will eventually be worked out if you try it again (and again). I am learning that I don’t have to have things perfect or whatever. The essence, love and feeling is what makes a painting sing….of course composition and color will help you make that image even better. I would say that doing this over again and allow your experience of painting it, the color will be chosen by instinct or worked out. That chair problem is not so much for me because the stuffed animals is the focus, that too will be worked out with work and experience. Anyway my two cents worth. 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Margaret. I really learned that day what “Paint what you love” is all about. I just adore my puppies, and I wanted to share that love. That’s what the painting was all about, and it felt so good. I know the next time I paint those “playmates” I’ll have more experience, but it’s the love that really matters.

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  4. Great post. I love all those drawings, especially the second one. But I think in all the drawings and in your watercolor, the character of these “animals” and also your affection for them shines through. From an artistic point of view, you could say that is mission accomplished!

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