Kate Green animal portraits at the Royal Winter Fair

By Gesilayefa Azorbo

            Midland. Welsh. Dorset. Canadian.  Name the accent, and chances are Kate Green has sported it at some point in time. The Ottawa-based artist was born in Canada, but both parents are originally from England so for a portion of her childhood, spent in various parts of England, her accent changed each time she moved to a new place. Her broad range of accents is rivalled only by the diversity of animals she paints. Kate Green is an artist who does animal portraits for a living, and this year at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, she was speaking the patrons’ language.

            “This place has so many people that love animals, that are interested in animals, it seemed like a logical place to show my work,”    she said Wednesday, at the Direct Energy Centre in downtown Toronto.

            The annual Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is an indoor event that combines horse shows, dog shows, and vegetable-growing competitions with vendors selling everything from arts and crafts to equestrian fashions and buffalo burgers.

            Sitting in front of her booth, Green points to some of the portraits of various household pets she has done that adorn the wall of the booth.  Most of her work is based on commissions from people who have come to previous shows, or who have heard of or seen her work. 

            “This year I did a lot (of exhibitions), and last year I did a few, so it’s only been only been a year and a half that I’ve been exhibiting,” she says. In spite of this minimal exposure, the artist finds that the public response to her first outing at the fair has been overwhelmingly positive.

            “Most of my work is commission based, so people hire me to do specific animals.

I don’t have many for sale,” she explains, gesturing to the paintings on display. “It’s more promoting the commission, so I won’t know often for a year…how successful a show is for me. But it looks really good.” 

            Green studied fine art at the University of Toronto at Mississauga’s Erindale campus, and even as a young art student, her passion was always animals.

            “My whole sketchbook was full of animals. My art teacher was like,”Okay, could you paint something else?” ” she says, laughing at the memory.

            Although her works are of common household pets and animals, Green imbues each acrylic painting with a vibrancy and colour that seems to bring each creature’s personality to life. The animals range from an inquisitive-looking parrot, to a large-eyed, brown dog lolling on a Dominican beach, to a golden retriever whose perky face fills up the square portrait frame. The latter portrait had the dubious distinction of having to be painted twice, after the original was stolen at an art show. Green’s mother, Beryl, helping her manage the booth, remembers the incident. She can’t understand why someone would steal the painting, a commissioned work of a patron’s pet.

“They must have had a dog that looked exactly like it,” she suggests with a shrug, adding with a laugh, “Still, you shouldn’t do it!”

Security is not an issue for Green at this show, however. Although she leaves the paintings at the venue overnight, she explains that each booth is covered and the grounds patrolled regularly through the night by security guards. On the last night of the fair however, she will be staying overnight to “tear down” after all the fairgoers have left.