The "Mona Theresa Project"

To have one portrait painted is pretty special, but what about eight?

One original portrait is more than most of us have, so to be the subject of eight you have to be pretty compelling as a model. Comparatively speaking, Lisa only got one out of Da Vinci (that we know of) and for her time she was a real babe.

Spotlighting an adoptable pit bull terrier

My original brainstorm was just to get some more great press for Theresa, ball-toting-diva who lives at the Lodges at Best Friends. Well, that was the plan.

I was pouring over my August/September 2007 issue of Best Friends Magazine and read a story about artist Kimberly Santini. She had started an interesting art project called "Painting A Dog A Day." Her challenge was to complete a "mini-painting" each day, five days a week every week.

The paintings averaged 8" by 8" in size and also included an occasional kitty, horse and even a dog tag collection. Some of the paintings were commissioned works by pet owners, but one week out of each month an animal rescue was chosen and the week's paintings featured adoptable dogs. Even better, a percentage from the sale of the painting went to the shelter.

In the beginning, Kimberly was squeezing these tiny masterpieces into her busy day while painting commissioned larger-than-life portraits of people's pets. She considered it a break to clear her mind before returning to the larger painting. It didn't take long however, for this daily challenge to become her passion and the larger paintings to become the diversion.

The point of the story in Best Friends Magazine was that Kimberly had selected Best Friends to be the targeted sanctuary for a week of dog paintings-a percentage of each sale going to Best Friends. It immediately occurred to me that this could be Theresa's big break.

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I had been posting stories and photos of Theresa all over the Network trying to get Theresa adopted. What better choice for Kimberly's painting than an adorable black and white pit bull with a giant rubber ball in her mouth? Well, she would have been a good choice had the dogs not been chosen about six months ahead of time. Who knew?

The Mona Theresa Project

Not to be daunted, I emailed Kimberly with Theresa's story and some photos. She regretted that she couldn't squeeze Theresa into the Best Friends' week, but how about giving Theresa her own week? And not just one day, but the WHOLE WEEK! It seems that Kimberly had immediately fallen under Theresa's spell and was deeply moved by her story. "What if I do eight individual paintings, each with a different color ball?" she asked. Oh my, could this get any better for Theresa and all her fans?

We began referring to the project as the "Mona Theresa." I sent a message through the Best Friends' Network asking for photos of Theresa with a ball in her mouth. A steady stream ensued, photos shot from every angle and with balls of every hue imaginable. Kimberly ended up with a photo file an inch thick. So we waited for the creative process to begin.

We were all getting a little anxious when much to our delight, the first painting debuted on Kimberly"s website early August of last year. How fun! But wait. "Uh Kim, her eye patch isn"t where we left it."

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That's right, the very first painting reversed her glorious "black eye." Kimberly was inundated with emails critiquing Theresa"s debut. Not to be thrown off track from her original "perfect eight," more paintings were planned and so there were...nine!

Theresa's Rainbow painting collection

The complete collection was officially re-named "Theresa's Rainbow." The paintings that followed daily after the controversial debut were perfect and yes, the eye patch was appropriately placed.

Part of Kimberly's plan was to also create a limited edition giclee showing all eight paintings. So the final count was nine original mini portraits and a giclee.

To enter Theresa in a juried art show, Kimberly couldn't submit eight separate paintings. So, she painted all eight a second time, but on one large canvas. So then there were 10 original paintings and a giclee. Oh, and I almost forgot. Because I like my Theresa "neat" (sans ball) Kimberly painted Theresa without the ball in her mouth. So the final, FINAL count is 11 original portraits and a giclee, all featuring Theresa.

DaVinci, eat your heart out!

Donating to help animals at Best Friends

Kimberly celebrated a year of "Painting A Dog A Day" last October and has published a book with the entire first year's collection.

Kimberly continues to enter her paintings in juried art shows. Recently, Theresa's "Pink" won third place at the "Art Show at the Dog Show" in Wichita, Kansas-the only juried art show focusing exclusively on canine art. A percentage from the sale of Theresa's paintings and giclees will be donated to Best Friends.

"Pink" painting

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Photo by Best Friends staff

Artwork posted by permission of Kimberly Santini