What’s it called when one animal takes its name from another?
Artist Dennis McGregor pondered that riddle one day, as he contemplated painting a turtle. He painted the underside of a turtle, to be exact. But to show the underside of a turtle, he had to put it on something–like a string of barbed-wire fence. Then, he painted a bird on the wire, looking at the turtle. The bird was a dove, a turtledove, to be exact.
He named the painting Turtle Dove. The Turtle Dove soon begat the Bull Frog, which–over the past three years–begat twenty more paintings of two animals, one bearing the name of the second within its own.
So what’s it called, when one animal carries the name of another? McGregor unveils the riddle of it all in his upcoming book You Stole My Name (said the Bull to the Bullfrog). The book comprises 18 of his paintings with a verse for each image. To give an example:
You stole my name,
But I really don’t mind.
After all, we’re two of a kind.
You like to jump, and I do too.
They say I even look like you.
The paintings are complete and McGregor is finishing work on the verses. The book will be launched in September via Kickstarter, where folks can pre-order their You Stole My Name books, prints and note cards.
He’s completed 21 paintings. Some of the newest ones were unveiled during the August Fourth Friday Art Stroll at Sisters Gallery and Frame Shop. The entire series will move to Sisters Library on September 1, where it will remain on display throughout the month.
Two years ago, McGregor had the first few You Stole My Name paintings framed and hung them on the walls of The Cottonwood Café in Sisters, when Jen McCrystal was opening her new eatery. Over their omelets and sandwiches, diners noticed the unique artwork and started submitting their own favorite dual-animals to McGregor, who continued to paint in the series.
“Having them in the Café gave them great exposure,” McGregor said. “So I just kept going. It wasn’t long before someone said, ‘You gotta do a book,’ and so I did.”
Are you an artist who is also a musician, or a musician who is also an artist?
“Yup. That’s right. I make my living with my artwork, but I have arrived at a nice balance of art, music and life and working the land. And I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to make a living doing that here in Sisters.” ˜Dennis McGregor
Over the past three years, he’s painted the Bull Trout, Chicken Hawk, Cow Bird, Elephant Seal, Mule Deer, Owl Monkey and Spider Monkey, Zebra Finch, Cat Fish, Dog Fish and Parrot Fish, Tiger Shrimp, Turkey Vulture, Rhinoceros Beetle and so on. You may notice that a lot of these creatures combine an avian or a fish with another critter. His original medium is gouache (opaque watercolor). Sometimes, the two creatures are painted in symbiosis, and other times they are looking quizzically at each other as if to say, “How did this happen?”
In true McGregor fashion, these paintings carry on his gift for using his sharp wit to convey subtle humor or indirect messages. Like the time he inserted his most popular Quilt Show poster, the Conestoga Wagon, as art on the wall behind his Quilting Bee painting (and the bee is busy using a Stinger Sewing Machine) or turned his band-mates into musical dogs for last year’s Hot Dogs Sisters Folk Festival poster. This year’s poster depicts the Statue of Liberty playing a parlor guitar and raising a strong arm.
Since the You Stole My Name book has room for only 18 paintings, McGregor will have a brochure available for his fans to vote on their favorites. The original paintings are for sale and prints can be ordered, along with books, prints and note cards. Starting in September, go online to kickstarter.com and search for Dennis McGregor.
You Stole My Name is McGregor’s second book. The many posters he designed for the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Festival inspired his first book, Dream Again, which came out in 2013. That book was inspired by the many quilt posters, especially the Conestoga Wagon, which led McGregor to write and illustrate the story of a young girl traveling west on the Oregon Trail with her precious family quilt.
McGregor has designed Sisters Folk Festival posters since the early 2000s and many Sisters Rodeo posters, in addition to scores of commercial and fine art projects. He’s donated countless works of art to the annual My Own Two Hands fund-raiser for the Americana Project. Rumor has it that he may next try his hand at a mural, somewhere in Sisters. Stay tuned!
A San Diego native, McGregor graduated from high school in the class of ’68 and started college as an art major. “I’ve been doing these things (art and music) since I was a young child … as opposed to sports and academics.”
After three semesters, he dropped out to join a band, and never looked back. He moved to Sisters in his fourties and that’s when he started painting. He didn’t play music for ten years, and then one day, he picked up his guitar and started writing and singing again.
Some days find him hard at work, painting in his home studio. Other times, he can be found playing a gig with his band, The Spoilers. He has released three CD’s and even though he’s not contemplating a fourth, he continues to write songs.
“CDs are really expensive [to make] and people can get their music for free,” he said. His musical inspiration–and his playlist when he paints–includes the classics of jazz, folk and blues: Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Nat King Cole and Ray Charles.
And, if getting the book published and launching a Kickstarter project isn’t enough to do in September, look for Dennis emceeing during the Folk Festival at the Sisters Art Works tent on Friday, and playing with The Spoilers at Angeline’s on Saturday evening, followed by the late-night jam, where he invites other musicians up to join the band.
Asked, “Are you an artist who is also a musician, or a musician who is also an artist?” he replied “Yup. That’s right. I make my living with my artwork, but I have arrived at a nice balance of art, music and life and working the land. And I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to make a living doing that here in Sisters.”
McGregor’s dual-animal paintings will be shown throughout September at Sisters Library, open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10am-6pm. (5pm Saturdays). Other art, prints and note cards are on display at Sisters Gallery and Frame Shop and his website,dennismcgregor.com.
The next Art Stroll is September 22 and every Fourth Friday, 4-7pm.
Sisters Gallery and Frame Shop
252 W Hood Ave., Sisters