I first contacted Jonathan Aumen from Dog and Tonic in Norfolk, VA when I saw a gorgeous hand-drawn portrait that he created for Mallory’s dog, a classmate of mine from the ODU art department. Mallory is an artist as well and had commissioned a piece of her handsome cattle dog Wheeler from Jonathan. As soon as I saw Wheeler’s portrait, I was so intrigued. Most of you probably know this, but we lost Dakota to cancer in March of this year. I had been trying to find an artist to create a portrait of her because I wanted to have a piece to commemorate her in our home. The artists I had found online/through Etsy who specialized in dog or pet portraits just didn’t stand out to me — nothing was as unique as Jonathan’s work. Jonathan takes antique books and creates soot portraits of dogs (or any pet) and mounts the books on wood to hang as art pieces.
Process: Jonathan has always loved the element of fire. When he was playing around with matches one day, he became intrigued by the beautiful soot patterns the flames would leave on paper. This is the same process he uses to create unique portraits of your dog. After building up a nice coat of residual soot, he then uses different instruments to remove the soot and reveal the white of the paper. Finally a fixative is sprayed on the drawing, which keeps it intact and protects it from UV rays and other contaminants.
He uses FIRE to create these portraits! Seriously, how amazing and unique is that?
When I first contacted Jonathan about Dakota’s portrait, I knew I was making the right decision. I really wanted something spectacular to give to Adam for his birthday; I just wasn’t sure if we had enough time because when I initially reached out to Jonathan, it was approximately a month and a half prior to when I needed to have it done by. I figured something so beautiful would take months of advance notice and time, and quite frankly I was half expecting that he would be too backed up to fit me in. But to my surprise, Jonathan was very quick to respond and assured me that I would have it in more than enough time. Not only that, but he basically completed the piece within a couple of days of my initial email — that part was definitely unexpected as well. Jonathan was so thoughtful and kept me updated to make sure that this piece was everything I had hoped for since he knew it was a special gift for Adam, which was something I never expected or thought I would receive. On top of all that, I later found out that he had chosen a special book for the piece titled Tomorrow Will Be Better and had mounted the piece on a piece of wood that had three knots in it, symbolizing Adam, Dakota and myself. That was really touching and even more personalized than I could have asked for.
I’m not gonna lie — everytime I received an email update from him that showed her portrait’s progress, I got really emotional. Of course I had always known that no material possession or item I could ever give Adam would mean more to him than a portrait of Dakota, but actually seeing it come together was just… different. Jonathan has no idea about the deep love Adam held and still holds for Dakota. Losing her was honestly the hardest thing we have ever faced together in the 7 1/2 years we have been together. When I received her portrait in the mail and held it in my hands, I just broke down, right there in my driveway. Jonathan exceeded my expectations and it ended up being even more beautiful than I had even imagined.
Jonathan has a wife and son. Creating art is how he supports his family and his prices are extremely affordable. The beauty of his work is that Jonathan can create something so special and meaningful no matter where you are, simply just by seeing a single photograph. He is amazing and I highly recommend him to anyone who is looking for a gift for someone who has lost a pet or a gift for someone who simply just loves their pet like family, as they should. Be sure to check out Dog and Tonic‘s amazing work and see for yourself!
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