09 November 2009

The Alex Gard of the Dog Run

It’s considered impolite, yet everyone slips up occasionally. How can anyone be blamed for mixing up the name of a dog with that of its owner, especially when the dog is Henry and his owner goes by Rags?

Even still, Dick Sebastian resolved he would not make that particular mistake, or any similar one, at the small-dog run in Washington Square Park he started frequenting a few years ago with his wife, Susie, and his dog, Kitty (grounds for more confusion, but that was someone else’s problem). He whipped up cartoony illustrations of all the dogs at the run who, like Kitty, arrived like clockwork for the morning shift, and turned them into a chart labeled with their names. Mr. Sebastian sometimes brought the work in progress to the dog run, and over time, even owners who were not part of the regular crew — many of them part of a downtown, arty scene — asked if their pets could be included, or agreed when approached by Mr. Sebastian.

From there, Mr. Sebastian, a retired surgeon who is now 71, started experimenting with more serious portraiture, sketching some of the dogs he had come to know better than many of his friends’ grandchildren. He started with Sidney, an aristocratic, standoffish pug belonging to Roberta Bayley, a former punk-rock photographer turned dog photographer. Everyone marveled at the images.

“I thought he really captured her weirdness,” said Ms. Bayley, sitting, as she always does, beside her sedentary, aloof pet on a bench. “She’s very into herself and quiet and serenity.”

Mr. Sebastian estimates that in less than a year, he drew and presented around 50 dog portraits to their owners, as gifts — in most cases, to great appreciation.

To read the full story, and see some of the drawings, head on over to [Source: The New York Times.]