Louise Peterson of Guffey: Sculpting great danes

Article by Sunnie Sacks

Local Arts – September 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

“Danes are my love and sculpting is my passion,” says Guffey artist Louise Peterson. Peterson has used her Great Danes, Bella and Nandi (Nandi died earlier this year), as models for her award winning bronze and pewter sculptures.

But dogs were not always the subject of her work. More than a decade ago, Louise Peterson attended sculpture classes at several community colleges in Southern California, and her models were the more common, human variety. But after Louise and her husband Chris moved to Colorado, the artist was unable to find figure models to use in her work.

Louise moved to Guffey more than six years ago, and began to focus on creating miniature and life-size Great Dane sculptures. This passion has given her national acclaim and she has won more than 33 regional and national awards during the past four years.

Louise Peterson
Louise Peterson

Her latest life-size work, “Bella and the Bug”, will be on display at four different exhibitions during 2004, including the Sculpture Exhibition at Explorers Hall at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. and at Northglenn’s Art on Parade in Colorado.

The artist has shown work in more than 40 art exhibitions since 2000 and won at least 33 awards, and her work has been viewed at exhibitions in 12 states, including New York and Florida.

Louise works full time in her small 10×12-foot studio outside of Guffey. For each sculpture, she first decides what the pose of her subject will be from photos that she or her husband, Chris, have taken of Nandi and Bella. Peterson sees both the comic and regal aspects of her pets’ personalities, and tries to capture that spirit in each work of art.

Then Peterson sculpts in clay each limited edition sculpture in quarter, half, or life-size, paying close attention to the detail and accuracy of her portrayal of the subject — which is essential to the success of the sculpture.

A rubber mold is subsequently made of the clay form; then the mold is taken to a foundry and cast in bronze or pewter. If necessary the piece is then welded together. The final stage depends on how the artist wants the finished sculpture to look.

Over time, Louise has discovered that she is happier with the results when she takes her piece to craftsmen who specialize in the different steps involved in creating a sculpture. In her experience, the expertise of craftsmen specializing in each step from mold-making, to casting, to finishing far outweigh the convenience of a full-service foundry. The entire process takes her to Salida, Loveland and Ft. Collins, which keeps her on the road a great deal.

“This way I get the best of each field”, said Louise

Great Dane sculpture
Great Dane sculpture

The artist is also involved in organizations that are dedicated to rescuing abused or unwanted Great Danes. “People don’t realize that you can’t just get a Great Dane and put it outside. They are so big they almost think they are people. They are really a family dog. I can’t do rescue myself, but at least I can help financially,” she said.

LOUISE IS VERY PASSIONATE when it comes to the subject of ear-cropping on Great Danes, or any other animal for that matter. “Initially, the Dane was bred to hunt boars, and the ears were cropped so the boar could not grab the ear and rip it off. Now Great Danes no longer hunt boar. It is illegal to crop the ears in Europe and other countries, but it is not illegal in this country. The position of AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) opposes the cropping. Most of my sculptures are available with natural or cropped ears, but my preference is the natural ears. Cutting the ears is a cruel process, as they are cropped at eight months and take a few weeks to heal. In the show rings you are seeing more and more natural ears,” Louise said.

In 1987, English-born Louise Peterson came to the United States, leaving England and a career in ballet to do something different with her life. She became a massage therapist. Peterson offered to walk a Great Dane owned by one of her clients and soon fell in love with the animal. At one point, she also had a dog-walking business and exercised several Great Danes, which increased her love for the breed.

It was not long before Louise acquired her own Great Dane, King Shaka Zulu. She has used her second dog, Queen Nandi Zulu (Nandi for short) over the years as a model. As Nandi grew older, the Petersons decided to get a puppy, Bella (Bellatrix Gamma Orionis), who was welcomed into their household several years ago. After the death of Nandi, the Petersons decided to adopt a rescued Dane and found Rigel.

In her sculptures, Louise has captured the humorous and child-like sides of both Bella and Nandi. She says the Danes are a constant source of inspiration to her and she feels she has not even begun to capture all the poses she sees. “Creating these sculptures makes my heart sing and I hope to inspire smiles in anyone who has known the love of this beautiful breed”.

Louise Peterson can be contacted through her website: www.danesculptor.com, or at P.O. Box 67, Guffey CO 80820

Sunnie Sacks is a photojournalist who happily struggles to reside in Guffey.