Michael Pratt was born in Roswell, New Mexico. A ceramist and painter, Michael co-founded Pratt & Larson Ceramics in Portland, Oregon in 1980. Pratt resides with his wife in Portland, Oregon with “two rescue cats that have control issues”. Their beloved toy poodle Kirby (AKA Benito Poodlini) passed away recently, but the “big and stocky with an attitude” pet was definitely the kind you could imagine gracing Pratt’s canvasses.
Tattooing is common practice in Portland, and whilst sitting at a café one day, Pratt couldn’t help but notice 50 or so tattooed men and women across the street, as well as a striking French Bulldog. Inspiration hit, and thus the images of dogs with tattoos were born, depicting an “almost iconic image of Portland”. Says Pratt, “Tattooing, at its best, is a narrative of a person’s experiences and preferences. They tell the story of an individual. We tell our pet’s stories all the time. We see the characteristics that strike us (as) cute, funny, mean, ironic… to combine the two seemed only a logical extension of the thought. Let the animals tell their own stories through their tattoos.”
Each dog has a name and a story to tell (like Lucy, who ‘had that street dog flair about her’ and ‘had been around the block a few times’) and some even have a sci-fi bent to them, although this is not necessarily a nod to the mysterious Roswell/UFO brouhaha.
A typical piece begins with the animal itself. Pratt will photograph a dog that catches his eye, draw it onto a panel, then paint with acrylic, channeling his own self, from his sense of irony to his humour, into the piece. He says, “The whole character of the portrait and the choice of the tattoos develop as the painting develops. The whole thing comes to life as the image develops. The story becomes apparent through my involvement with the painting.”
The reaction from the public has been an eye opener for Pratt, who has enjoyed observing their interest in the convergence of cultures — passionate or not. “It has raised my awareness of how people relate to their pets, and to art that suggests they see them in a different light” he observes.
Here are some of our favorite images from the Tattoo’d Dogs series…