This past August, over 100,000 of you fell in love with Ron Schmidt’s wonderfully witty dog portraits, making it one of our most popular posts that month. Today, we bring you 12 more photos from his collection, called Loose Leashes, as well as an exclusive interview with Schmidt himself, where he gives us the inside scoop on how he casts his “models” and what he believes is the best and worst parts of his job.
How hard is it to come up with new ideas?
The challenge of new ideas is not crossing that line from witty to kitschy. Although the photos are of dogs, I want to create images that are smart, believable and fun. Then it's a matter of me sitting at my idea book, developing concepts and designing the actual images as sketches. There are many that head to the wastebasket but I know when I hit upon one that works. Once I have a working image, we add another layer to the creative process since we like to think of these dogs as characters. My wife, Amy, and I brainstorm backstories and traits for our dog characters – with complete names and bios. Sometimes naming these dogs has been harder than naming our own children as we want the name to have a meaning that adds a fun twist to the image.
Where are most of the dogs in your portraits from?
When an image is sketched out, I am ready to cast for a specific breed or type of dog. I like to use models that look most common to the breed. We have found that fans want images where the dog in the photo resembles their dog. Because of this, I usually start my search for the right fit with local breeders but I also cast dogs from Craigslist postings, the dog park and dogs I see walking down the street.
What’s been your most popular photo and why do you think that is?
Lewie & Clark, the two dogs in the canoe. I think people are naturally drawn to the life-loving, perpetually happy (and sometimes goofy) nature of labs. I've actually developed a whole line of images with these two getting into all kinds of antics whether it be chasing their elusive green tennis ball or drooling over a gigantic cake. They are such a fun breed – it's easy to come up with material for them!
What’s the best and worst parts of your job?
Besides getting to meet a new dog every day, I would say the best part of my job is the complete creative freedom I have with these images. I can draw an image on a napkin and say this is the next image I will create which is liberating. I have the pressure of my own standards (which are very high) but it's rewarding to have my sole vision out there and see people's joy from what I create. I also love the platform that my work can provide to support charities that are important to us. As you may guess, I'm passionate about animals so we select a charity of the month and to donate a percentage of our sales to support all kinds of animal causes that are near and dear. One day, we'd love to use my work to partner with an animal welfare organization or start a foundation of our own.
The worst? That would be trying to balance the creative side with the business side. It's been very important to us to learn to run the studio as a business and to see it expand from our efforts. We have an ever-growing fan base through our Loose Leashes retail website, blogs, licensing agreements, children's books, social media pages and any other way people hear of my work. It's all very exciting and it is growing to the point where we'll need some help soon. I think Amy would say the worst part is her unfortunate allergy to about half the dogs that come to the studio. Thank goodness for Benadryl!