Since there's no precedence in my work for a picture of a squirrel, I thought a little explanation here might prove helpful--and maybe even interesting.
Sometime in 1996 it occurred to me that since my dog paintings functioned--in some ways anyway--as comments on portraiture of people, I should come to terms with the idea that we're staring at another being who doesn't really have any agency over its own image. In other words, the dogs were (and remain) passive reciepients of our visual attention.
This is all well and good, after all--these are DOGS--they aren't really expected to have the same expectations for autonomy and free-will that humans (the traditional subject of portraiture) have. Additionally, in many of my dog paintings, the dog is looking right back out of the painting, and thus making the viewer as much an object of the gaze as its originator.
Still...there were times that the dogs were looking away from the viewer and I kept wondering what they might be looking at. I noticed that my own dog spent a lot of time staring at squirrels (duh, right?), so it seemed natural to paint one and give the dogs in my paintings something to stare at in the same way that we were staring at them. The effect was most pronunced when the dog and squirrel paintings were displayed next to each other.
While I enjoyed the cascade of shifting focus, with the viewer going back and forth from dog to squirrel, and the shifting sense of emotional perspective this created in the gallery-goer as he/she toggled his/her gaze from dog painting to squirrel painting, ultimately, I discovered something else: ideas alone could only get me so far as an artist. In order to continue this project, I'd have to paint squirrels, and frankly...I didn't really want to paint squirrels. Other than these two, I only made one additional squirrel painting. You can see it by clicking here.
On a side note, and much to my surprise: a lot of folks told me that they found the squirrel paintings upsetting or even revolting. Evidently, there's a sizable community of people who are just freaked out by the little nut-collectors. Who knew?