This is Matt the Dog, or, as he should be known, Matt the ur-Dog, the original, the primordial dog, the dog who began it all.
He joined our family in the late 1980s (hence the cassette tape in the photo), a wee sleekit, cowring, timrous puppy at the rescue centre, trying to hide from the attentions of his exuberant pen-friend. We should have taken her, the livelier, perhaps healthier pup – but we came home with “Caesar”, a name that was too obviously sarcastic to stay in place. So he was a thrice rescued rescue dog: firstly from whatever it was in his youth that had him hiding among chair legs when we first took him home, secondly from the company of a tediously over-optimistic companion, and thirdly, from a ridiculously classical name.
He ended up with another ridiculously ‘classical’ name, though (we were a household of book lovers after all): Dogmatix (from Asterix) or Matt the Dog for short. And from that moment on, my future destiny as dog-obsessed, embroidered-pet-portrait-maker, was signed and sealed (nobody thought to tell me of course, so the route was the teensiest bit roundabout, but hey, I got here in the end).
I have tried Matt the Dog a few times way back. His was, in fact the first dog portrait I ever did try, a Christmas present for my equally dog-obsessed brother – a little crude (the portrait, not my brother), but, if I could get it back, not irredeemable.
And then there were two more attempts, both dire, both binned. I’m not quite sure why the whole thing was such an epic fail. Perhaps I wanted the likeness too much. I gave it up as hopeless.
But there’s nothing like time passing, and a desk full of commissions that needed to be done, to make you return to the scene of the crime. I tried again.
Matt’s is quite a good portrait for a behind the scenes blog – you can really see how the picture builds up from the bare patches. And, quite apart from anything else, you can see how it can look quite hideously clunky for quite some time.
It’s about halfway here, and getting better, if a bit terrifying with those eyes boring into you:
Time for some highlights:
And here he is – Matt the Dog.
And my verdict? I like it, but somehow, and I can’t put my finger on quite why, I don’t love it. It doesn’t quite come to life for me. Maybe it’s the background. One day I’ll cut it out and try it against another background. Maybe that will make all the difference.
Or maybe, and I suspect this is the point, there’s nothing that will ever capture and hold my fondest of fond memories of Matt the Dog. He was my first dog, you see.
Perhaps a likeness, in those circumstances, is never quite the loveness one is after.
Postscript: Inevitably, having written this, I couldn’t resist having another fiddle with the background. I cut all round him, and now have my very own Matt the patch to play with.Here we go…
and the winner is …
(well, for now, anyway, but he’s not stitched down, and might well end up on my duffle coat one day.)