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Art in Transit - Jumping for Joy

Updated: Apr 9, 2022

“Jumping for Joy” Acrylic on Canvas 24x36 inches

By Brenda M. Sylvia

Back in August, I entered a painting of my sisters’ dog James in the Art in Transit contest. The RAL Art Center and Bay Transit joined together to Celebrate the 25th anniversary of Bay Transit’s service to our community. This collaboration was the brainchild of local artist and designer Mike Stevens. The contest was open to all artists and entries were required to feature the concept of motion or movement. Because the winning entry was going to be displayed on the entire side of a bay transit bus, artists were also encouraged to do bright and colorful pieces with specific proportions. Because I love color and enjoy working on larger canvases, I decided to create a new painting for the contest. Despite being extremely busy with preparation’s for my Natural Colors exhibition at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, I started brainstorming for what to paint. I wanted to choose a subject that reminded me of life in the Northern Neck and one that felt happy. I also researched ways to express movement in paintings.

While looking through my reference photos, I came across some my sister had taken of her dog James. James is a dog refugee of the California fires.

He ended up in a Los Angeles animal shelter where he was picked up by a rescue organization and driven across country to the SPCA of Anne Arundel County My daughter in one of the managers there and she recommended James for adoption by my sisters. That’s how a west coast dog found himself enjoying life by the Chesapeake Bay three years ago. We were all shocked when he took to the water with abandon, especially when a DNA test showed him to be a mix of chihuahua, rat terrier, and poodle. It is impossible not to smile watching James jump and swim and splash in his home creek, in the Great Wicomico river, or in the Bay.

I started sketching my ideas and decided to paint him leaping into the waves at a private beach near my home in Reedville. It is a beautiful place and it has been featured in many of my landscape paintings. My canvas was 24 x 36 inches and to keep the energy high, I drew directly only to the canvas with acrylic markers using multiple reference photos of James taken at different times and places. As the painting progressed, I used large brushes to apply my acrylic paints and loose techniques such as splattering paint onto my canvas (and my walls), dripping paint, and even pressing bunched up plastic into my palette and using the plastic to apply the paint onto my canvas. The intent of my composition was to move the eyes of the viewer across the image to “feel” the jumping dog. I used transparency and color changes to give the sense that you are seeing only one dog at different stages of his leap. Some people see multiple dogs instead, and that’s okay, because all the dogs are all having a great time jumping into the Chesapeake Bay.

I am thrilled to have won the contest and seeing my painting actually on the bus was great. There were also monetary prizes for the first, second, and third placed winners. In addition to that, my painting was sold during the exhibition and 30% of the sale price goes to support the RAL Art Center and Bay Aging. It has a wonderful new home and the image will also be seen driving around the area for many more months. I hope James “Jumping for Joy” makes lots of people smile!

Brenda M. Sylvia

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