“Painting Companion”

“Painting Companion”,
by Robert Leedy, 2010,
watercolor on Arches 140 lb. Hot Press paper,
(work in progress)


Indiana artist, Lou Posner, & I were recently in Puerto Rico on a painting trip. We decided on a road trip and very soon stumbled upon a remote  beach near Yabucoa. “Painting Companion” refers not to Lou but to his painting companion, a small, brown, homeless, female dog who wandered up as we sketched the scene before us. She was a bit skittish and was looking for food.


Our first friend who approached looking for food; such a sweet face!


 Unfortunately, we had nothing to give her but she stayed anyway and seemed to enjoy our company. From that moment on, I made a point to have a bag of dry dog food with us at all times.

She sat down next to Lou and I caught a quick sketch of her knowing that she would most likely move on in the next few minutes. I included her in my composition and she created a key element in the design. She was not alone: several other dogs wandered up and gave us a look that they were very hungry, did we have any food? It was painful not to offer them anything but like the first dog, these dogs didn’t seem to care – they just liked being in our company and were content to gaze out at the ocean as Lou & I painted.

Sadly, these dogs are not alone either: Puerto Rico has a stray animal problem that is approaching a national disaster. It was bad when I lived there in the 90’s and it seems worse now. Perhaps some of the problem is related to the bad economic situation which has hit Puerto Rico harder than here in the States. But I think the problem is a little deeper and more of a situation where people need to be educated about the importance of spay and neutering pets as well as realizing that dropping off an unwanted pet on the side of the road is not a humane thing to do – especially for dogs. Cats are a little more in touch with their wild ancestry and are able to adapt to living on their own a little easier while dogs are totally domesticated and totally dependent on humans for care; life in the wild is very tough for them. Yet this is certainly not an excuse for dropping an unwanted cat by the side of the road…



Like the other dogs, this little girl was not concerned we had no food for her; she was perfectly content to sit next to us and share in the enjoyment of the afternoon.


There are so many rotting animal corpses on the side of the island roads that I cannot help but think there is a general disregard towards animals  – at least maybe among a segment of the population. It might be that many Puerto Ricans simply turn a blind eye away from the problem; they refuse to  face the problem straight on because it is a very sad situation and one where just about anyone would feel helpless to a problem with no real solutions in sight.

But there is a solution and education is the starting point. An aggressive, no-cost spay and neutering program is a good next step. And more shelters are needed. But perhaps the most important step is educating children from an early age on how important it is to care for animals who cannot care for themselves. This is most likely a generational problem that can easily be reduced or eliminated by educating future generations.

I’m not saying that most Puerto Ricans don’t care – I was coming out of a large supermarket in an affluent neighborhood of San Juan one day when I spotted two dogs that were homeless. As I fed them in the parking lot, a man drove up and thanked me for what I was doing. He told me he did the same thing: he carried a bag of food in his car for such situations. “Bendito,” he sadly said as he watched the hungry dogs eat.

Several days later, we encountered the same group of dogs down the beach; this time we had food. These two dogs looked to be purebred Labs and were most likely brother and sister - either born in the wild or dropped off as unwanted pups.


Puerto Ricans are a people full of pride. I would like to think that within this pride, they can one day be proud that the stray animal problem on la Isla del Encanto is minimal or even non-existent.


On a more positive note, this blog is entitled “Robert Leedy Watercolors” and I should give some attention to my painting!  OK, so the painting went fast and I used an underlying value pattern to unify the painting. I got some nice color mingling and some interesting grays. I was happy with the figure study of Lou and the gestural mark of his canine companion does its job. The work is not complete and I will probably go back in with some color glazes and spots of pure color. The painting has a nice feel and is well on its way. This may be another one that warrants a larger studio version.

Lou & I enjoyed the uninterrupted afternoon of painting.


A few municipal workers who were cleaning up palm fronds came over to see what we were painting and a Brazilian woman sunbathing near us decided to go topless. Other than that, it was just me & Lou and our new canine buddies chilling out beside us.

I guess you could call it a dog day afternoon…


Where Google Earth says we were

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