Artist Mangi paints pets

Mangi answers a question about one of her finished portraits, which stands just behind her.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

On Wednesday night, Johanne Mangi gave a demonstration of how she paints portraits of people’s pets. Presented in association with The Wellesley Society of Artists, Stray Pets in Need (SPIN) and The Wellesley Free Library, the show lasted from 6:30 to the library’s closing at nine o’clock.

How do you entertain a crowd through two and a half hours of drawing a dog? For many, it would be difficult, but Mangi had little issue keeping the crowd enthralled. On top of being an incredibly painter, she was legitimately funny.

For example, before Mangi began painting, Sue Webb from SPIN talked about all the animals the organization has saved and told a brief story about a neighborhood cat named Marmaduke. After fielding a question about what types of brushes she uses, Mangi talked about all the different ones a painter could use before noting: “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” She then smirked and quipped: “Sorry, Sue.”

When someone in the crowd asked about whether anyone had paid her to fly out West and put her up somewhere, to meet their pet and produce a portrait of it, she answered that while they had, she’s never accepted the offer. “I like it out West” she said, “but I like being married more.”

Johanne Mangi works on her portrait of Maestro towards the end of the demonstration.

Johanne Mangi works on her portrait of Maestro towards the end of the demonstration.

The animal Magni was painting for the demonstration was a yellow lab named Maestro. If any dog deserves a portrait of itself, it would probably be Maestro. A volunteer with Boston Medical Center’s “Healing Pups” team, Maestro’s introverted attitude and ability to lay still for long periods of time allow him to spend time with people in hospital beds - a characteristic that made him perfect for the demonstration.

Maestro needed to be present because Mangi doesn’t work on photographs alone. She likes to capture the dog’s personality (in her picture, Maestro’s head is tilted, because it’s something she picked up on that he often does while resting). She noted that “people are amazed at the differences you can see in a photo versus a live dog.” Then, to illustrate her point, she would stop various times and point out a subtle spot of color in Maestro’s hair or eyes before painting it on the canvas. Upon request, she also showed the audience of mostly artists how people tend to draw dogs’ noses as black outlined squares, before showing how she makes them with more vivid colors and true-to-life shaping.

Mangi knew she wasn’t going to have enough time to complete the piece, so on several occasions, she reached out to the crowd to see if there was any one specific element of the painting they’d like to see her work on. But, as usual, the very considerate move was topped off with a joke: “I can always make the painting great,” she quipped, “it’s just that you might not all be there when I do.”

While it might not have been completely finished by the time the demonstration was over, with everyone taking one last glance before leaving the library, it looked pretty good already. While she’s highly entertaining, Johanne Mangi’s art skills are no joke.

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