Feature Artist – Mandy Bing

By Stephanie Dwarka

Photos by Hugh Doherty

When Mandy Bing moved to Trenton 10 years ago she found it difficult to say she was an artist when introduced to people. Although she had been drawing and painting most of her life she’d never considered herself a “professional”. But after entering a Spirit of the Hills show in Belleville, she sold the painting she entered, and her ambitions only grew from there.

Known for her pet portraits, she has also spent the last ten years working to master portraiture and figurative art. She has studied closely with Brian Smith, a classically trained figure artist and painter from Toronto. She takes life drawing and drawing courses whenever possible with local instructors such as Melanie Browne and Stephen Snider and has studied at the Haliburton School of the Arts.

“I realized in the last ten years that I just don’t love trees and skies as much as I like living things. They are more engaging subjects for me,” Mandy says.

Mandy started drawing when she was very young by copying figures from Archie Comics and other books and discovered the masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Van Gogh and Andrew Wyeth in her early teens.

Mandy lived in Ottawa and worked at Carleton University for 30 years but before she decided to pack up and leave, she mustered up the courage to ask local artist Debbie Milling if she taught classes. She didn’t, but she did invite Mandy into to her home so that they could paint together. Mandy knew she needed to learn and this was the perfect opportunity.

Debbie taught her a lot about colour and painting with oils as they worked side-by-side and by the time Mandy retired in 2008, she felt completely ready to pursue it full time.

Something else she wanted to do in her retirement was get a dog. She hadn’t had one since she was young and he proved to be a great subject to paint. She showed her piece to someone at work and she ended up painting her boss’s dog as a retirement gift. Dog portraits grew from there.

During the next few years she tried landscape and watercolour courses but it was a hit and a miss trying to learn how to paint herself. Currently she uses oil, acrylics and pastels as mediums but thinks a good drawing is the basis of a good painting.

“Drawing has always been my companion. Even though I grew up in a house full of sisters I think I’ve always been an introvert and drawing was something I used to entertain and express myself,” Mandy says.

When she arrived in Trenton she participated in many outdoor festivals in Northumberland and Hastings counties. Mandy would show a variety of landscape and dog paintings but people were always drawn to the dog portraits and she realized there was a message there. Mandy started displaying work at dog trade shows and festivals and quickly learned that even if she didn’t sell her sample paintings at those shows, they inspired people to get their own dogs painted.

When someone asks her to complete a painting and if the dog is still living, she will ask to do a photo shoot in person. This way she can get to know the dog in their own environment and observe the relationship with their owner.

“I take as many action shots as I can and I also take a lot of close ups. No two dogs look alike, just like people. I have tons of photos in my computer of noses, ears and eyeballs,” she laughs.

She also does many portraits of pets that have passed on using the owner’s photos as references.

Mandy has participated in numerous juried shows in Cobourg, Warkworth, Trenton and Belleville, winning awards for People’s Choice, Best Painting and Juror’s Choice, for both animal and figurative paintings.

When she is not creating for her clients, she works on her figurative work and also makes what she calls “memory boxes” of pets who have passed on. Instead of painting a portrait on canvas, she will paint it onto the memory box noting the dogs life span so people can put in their favourite toy or harness as well as the ashes of their pet. She has also volunteered for the last five years for the True Patriot Love Foundation, which raises funds for Canadian soldiers and their families by donating a custom painted helmet based on a changing theme for their annual silent auction.

To see any of Mandy’s upcoming shows or see samples of her work visit www.mandybing.com.