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Putting the Pieces Together – Art, Animals, and the Earth

April 2011 CoverCollage artist Sam Price goes green with his pet portraits

The cover portrait used for our April issue of Tails is a collage by Sam Price that features Maple, one of founder Janice Brown’s cherished animal companions. The thirty-year-old artist and San Francisco native spent the better part of sixteen hours on this particular endeavor. He essentially pieced together more than 1,000 tiny 1-inch-square scraps of paper to produce this thoughtful and—for those of us who know Maple—very accurate rendering.

“Maple is a gorgeous dog, and creating her portrait, like doing all dog portraits, has its own set of challenges,” admits Price. “The challenge is capturing the unique elements that make our dogs who they are and [that express] why we love them so much.” Maple’s portrait is just one example of Price’s inspired collages that his three major loves—art, animals, and the planet—motivated him to create.

An Artistic and Earth-Friendly Process

Sam Price PortraitPrice’s passions converged to serve as the basis of a unique form of artistry, as well as one that keeps him quite busy. This is evidenced by the fact that he is often working on as many as five commissioned collages of horses, dogs, and humans at any given time. Price is a self-taught painter, but, after running out of paint mid-project a while back, he listened to his creative instincts and broadened his horizons. He suddenly realized that he had plenty of alternative materials available in the form of the slick paper pages that are found in old magazines. Thus, the collage artist was born.

Price never considered canines a probable subject matter for his work until he was commissioned to produce a collage of Floyd, his friend’s dog. By doing that piece, he discovered he had a unique ability to visually create the essence and personality of a sentient being. So, his career further evolved, and he began his animal collage artistry. A seasoned recycler, Price also singlehandedly continues to save hundreds of trees by using magazine paper as his preferred medium.

“I have my friends and family contributing to my work”, he says. “They give me all of their old magazines. I’m their recycle bin.” Joking aside, Price makes for quite an effective recycling bin. According to ConservATree.com, more than fifteen trees are required to create one ton of coated, higher-end virgin paper that is found in publications like National Geographic. This equates to roughly 1,100 magazines. Price estimates that he works on his collages five days a week and uses at least twenty recycled magazines a day. That’s 100 magazines a week—or 48,000 in ten years. Based on these calculations, Price deduces that his artistic and ecological choices have saved at least 650 trees so far.

Finding the Muse in Fido

Sam Price Portrait

Price may not have to look hard to gather the materials he needs, but the exact opposite is true when it comes to getting the materials to do what he wants them do. This is especially the case when he begins a collage. Getting his subject’s eyes just right is the key to getting the collage just right. And to get to a pooch’s eyes, Price needs to get personal. Whenever possible, he therefore meets with his clients and their dogs to observe their interactions and the animal’s demeanor. When that’s not possible, he asks people to send him multiple photos of their pets.

“It’s always the eyes—that’s where the personality lives in every single dog, horse, and human being,” says Price. “That’s where I always begin. It’s the hardest thing to get right—[finding] just the right glint, just the right expression. It’s not something I can do in an hour. I need time, but when I ‘see’ it, I know it instantly. And then the rest of the collage falls into place.” Challenging as this may sound, Price delights in the process of creating fine art. And make no mistake—collage is fine art.

“There’s this misguided perception that collage is a craft,” says Price. “And nothing could be further from the truth. The required timing, delicacy, and attention to detail are the same as in any major artistic piece.” Yet, unlike Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Robert Rauschenberg—all of whom have included collage in their masterpieces—Price probably has a premium on fun when it comes to creative process.

He usually enters his studio alongside Buster, his best friend and a rescued Chocolate Labrador Retriever. Price next spreads out twenty to thirty magazines in a semicircle on the floor. He hangs photo(s) of his subject on a wall or easel near his canvas. Price then puts on some jazz (usually bebop) to set the mood. Once in his element, he patiently measures and cuts just the right pieces of paper that embody just the right colors and textures for his project. Price emphasizes that he spends hours putting each piece of paper in its proper place and can take up to a week to complete a collage.

The Philanthropist’s Finished Product

Sam Price PortraitPrice always feels an innate sense of satisfaction when he sees his clients’ faces light up—and their eyes tear up—upon viewing his collage of their beloved pet for the first time. What pleases him even more is donating his talent to fundraisers that benefit local nonprofit organizations, such as Rocket Dog Rescue, the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF SPCA), and the Millan Foundation. Based out of Burbank, California, this last group aims to promote humane education and rehome abused and abandoned dogs.

Exactly how much do Price’s masterpieces help these and other organizations? In many instances, his work fetches a pretty price tag. For example, one of his collages recently sold for $5,600 at a charity auction for the California-based Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

“Of course I was extremely flattered,” acknowledges Price. “But I was mostly grateful that I could raise so much money for such a worthy cause. I don’t [personally] have that kind of money, but it’s so gratifying to do something that I love and to know that it can make a real difference.”

To see more of Price’s work, visit MyDogCollage.com.

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