When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or in the case of Rafael Mantesso, when life gives you blank walls and a dog, make art. The Brazilian artist came back to a deserted house after his ex-wife left him—the furniture was gone, the walls were bare, and all that was left was the couple’s Bull Terrier, Jimmy Choo. Mantesso channeled his emotions into art, doodling against the white walls and strategically posing Jimmy to be part of the action.
Mantesso’s creative images soon gained international attention, and have since resulted in a popular Instagram page, a shoe collection with Jimmy’s namesake Jimmy Choo, and a book: A Dog Named Jimmy. Here’s what Mantesso had to say about Jimmy, his viral climb, and his creative process:
TAILS: You have a very close relationship with Jimmy. What does he mean to you?
Mantesso: He is responsible for my emotional restructuring, for making me happy every night when I come home, for maintaining an already healthy me. He is the best company I could have.
What is the process like for each piece?
The most difficult part is drawing on the floor and on the wall. The shoots are fast. I put Jimmy on the scenery and take hundreds of photos in lots of angles.
How does Jimmy pose so well?
He loves to be the center of my attention, and we have lots of love and respect for each other. He knows [when] I need him to freeze in a specific position. After each photo sequence I give him a cookie.
How do you communicate with him?
With love. He reads my hands, my voice, my calm, my eyes. I don’t need words to talk to him.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
From everything. If I see a movie that I like I think of how to get Jimmy to do a photo like that. My girlfriend is a florist, so I’m inspired to do photos of Jimmy with flowers. She also dances ballet, so I do photos of Jimmy as a ballerina for her.
Do you Photoshop your work?
No, I just do some light and color corrections.
What do you think your art brings to other people?
It makes people happy. Also, people have too much prejudice about Bull Terriers. I think I have an obligation to change the image of the breed.
What is the best part of your relationship with Jimmy?
He gives me pure love. He doesn’t care what issue I have or what clothing brands I wear. I just give my heart to him and he gives me his. How many people do you know that make you feel that special?