How a painting exercise became Blue Dog Therapy: Yesterday we painted in the style of George Rodrigue and his blue dogs. It became a form of therapy because depending on where you start, just putting marks onto a blank canvas is a way of putting yourself out there.

Observing the style of an artist and working in a similar way is a great tactic to learn a new method of making art. Remember, the old masters all learned by painting in the style of an artist before them.

What follows is a summary of how we created our blue dogs. You can follow these guidelines to create your own version of a blue dog.

You’ll need a regular HB pencil and 8 ½” x 11” copy paper. Use the tutorial from Art Projects for Kids, it shows you how to draw a simple dog line by line. Practice drawing a dog several times.

Starting a project with a practice piece takes out some of the fear of facing the blank paper-canvas. Repeat my mantra several times: “Do it imperfectly.” Don’t bother with an eraser, just move on to another piece of paper. I like to use recycled copy paper for practicing.

It’s fun to see the doggies take on their own unique characters.

Once your doggie drawing is acceptable (but not perfect!) trace over the lines with a soft pencil (4B) until the outline is dark and full of yummy graphite.

Transfer your line drawing to Bristol Board (or other paper suitable for painting) DOGGIE SIDE DOWN.

The transfer is done by retracing the doggie lines on the back of the paper (if you traced the front hard enough, the traced lines are dark enough to see on the back). Carefully peek to see if your doggie shows up on the Bristol Board. If not, press harder as you go over the lines. When the doggie shows up on the Bristol Board you have completed the transfer and are ready to paint!

This was an exercise in trying a new style of art. It was made easy by breaking down the process into small steps. And it certainly helped to practice making doggie marks until it felt better. With guide lines transferred to canvas it is much easier to start painting.

No, our little group did not make big art – but perhaps more importantly, it was a creative, shared moment. I think we all left feeling enriched, feeling better about ourselves, and feeling creative. That’s good blue dog therapy.

Not all of our doggies were painted blue. What color would you paint your dog? I’d love to see how your blue dog therapy turns out.