Sculptor of Deerhounds, Joan Creel



Sighthounds and in this case Scottish Deerhounds have been inspirational for artists, writers and poets through the ages. It is exciting that it is still so in the 21st century. I would like to introduce you to Joan Creel Winner of the Scottish Deerhound Club of America (SDCA) Art Competition at Lompoc California 2010.

Joan is the sculptor of this stunning bronze sculpture which is perfectly homed at Fernhill with Barbara Heidenreich and Richard Hawkins. How phenomenal  it is that an artist new to the medium of bronze sculpture would turn out such an outstanding piece as a relative novice. I should have asked Joan how many hours went into this piece, it probably would be astounding. I am reminded again that a latent passion to create should never be ignored; what a pity if a gift such as Joan’s were never to be realized. Thankfully Joan is creating new pieces and will continue to do so I hope.

I asked Joan to tell me a little about herself and her process, I am sure you will be interested to read Joan’s own words.

“After admiring and collecting Deerhound art for decades, retirement to Montana seemed the perfect time to explore a special interest — sculpture.  Having a foundry that casts bronze art pieces close by spurred me on, and after taking a short course class in the lost wax process, I started my first Deerhound sculpture, working in clay.

Casting in bronze is an interesting process.  First, a rubber mold is made from the finished clay and covered with a rigid shell to maintain the shape.  Melted wax is poured into that mold to create a wax replica of the clay original, and when it has cooled, the shell is broken off to reveal a wax replica of the original clay. A system of  wax rods called the sprue is attached to this wax replica to ensure that molten bronze will fill extremities, such as legs.  Next, the wax replica is encased in a heat-prooof material called the investment.  When molten bronze is poured into this investment, the wax burns out and is replaced by bronze.  Once this cools, the investment is broken off and you have a bronze sculpture, ready to be finished.  If the sculpture has been cast in pieces, they are welded together.  Then the sculpture is chased, or polished, to remove any rough spots, and the sculpture is ready for a patina.  Because the rubber mold of the original is not harmed by this process, a signed and numbered limited edition can be cast following the same process.

My first bronze, called “Dusk”  in honor of one of Isak Dinesen’s (Karen Blixen’s) Deerhounds at her Karen coffee plantation in Kenya’s highlands, turned out pretty well, so I donated one to the SDCA for a National Specialty fundraising auction.

Several people other than the winning bidder  were interested, and pieces from the edition of ten were cast to order for them.

Joan Creel's Dusk


Joan Creel's Dusk View 2

 Most important, Barbara Heidenreich and Richard Hawkins of Fernhill became my mentor/collectors, critiquing clays in progress as I moved on.

“Neil” & “The Chase”

The next project was for them — a larger outdoor bronze that now resides at Fernhill and can be seen on the Fernhill web site.   Step one in this process was to complete a small version, the maquette, or model, that an enlargement company used to measure data points that were entered in a computer-driven machining tool that carved a styrofoam enlargement  of the desired size. 

  After refining the styrofoam a bit, then covering it with a clay layer and doing the surface detailing,  two large bronzes were cast, one for Fernhill, the other for Mary Ann Rose, who joined Barb and Richard in supporting the project.   The maquette size piece became “The Chase” my second tabletop bronze.  Again, I donated one for auction at another SDCA Specialty.

For this year’s Specialty in Oregon,  my auction donation is a bronze from my newest limited edition, “I Know Where I’m Going”,  featuring a pup and named after a film beloved by Deerhounders.

I Know Where I'm Going

Deerhound on the Beach

Just completed in clay is “On the Beach”, a maquette for a piece initiated by Kris and Bayard Smith and Joan and Joe Giles after they visited Fernhill and saw my first larger bronze.  This maquette will be cast in bronze by Specialty time, where the Smiths and Giles will show it in hopes of generating subscribers for a Limited Edition of ten signed and numbered large bronzes.  The concept of sharing appealed to me, since dividing production costs among ten collectors makes sculpture far more affordable,  and it gives me another opportunity to work on a larger scale.

Deerhound on the Beach View 2

It’s been over six years now since I retired, and the time has flown, thanks to the most perfect creatures under heaven and the wonderful people who breed them.”


SDCA National Specialty 2010

The Scottish Deerhound Club of America National Specialty will be at the Basin Harbor Club- Vergennes Vermont May 11-16th 2010

If you have wondered about attending a specialty but have thought that a dog show all about one breed for that long would be terribly boring, I can tell you it isn’t at all! The days are packed with a lot of activities- Lure Coursing, conformation, seminars, agility & obedience events, meeting other deerhound fanciers  and to top it off to see, meet and get to know some of the best deerhounds from across the country. Take a couple of days off, find a sitter for the kids and the dog; treat yourself it’ll be fun.

The SDCA have two logos for the specialty this year. I particularly like the image of the sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (American Sculptor 1848-1907 )

For detailed show information and hotel/ camping info visit

Since Art featuring deerhounds is one of my interests I have seen Amy Romaniec’s work and was pleased to see that the organizing committee have commissioned Amy for trophies this year along with a raffle item of a biscuit jar featuring of course – Deerhounds. Amy is an artist from Pine Grove Mills Pennsylvania whose art is stoneware pottery.

For more about Amy her pottery and horses be sure to go to her site.

An eye of sloe with ear not low

Has there ever been a time when no stories were told? Has there ever been a people who did not care to listen? I think not.

When we were little, before we could read for ourselves, did we not gather eagerly round father or mother, friend or nurse, at the promise of a story? When we grew older, what happy hours did we not spend with our books. How the printed words made us forget the world in which we live, and carried us away to a wonderland,

“Where waters gushed and fruit trees grew
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey bees had lost their stings,
And horses were born with eagles’ wings.”*

*Robert Browning.    from

Many Celtic scholars assert that the Feinn are a mythic people analagous to King Arthur and his knights. There too is dispute over whether Finn is Irish or Scottish. Since it is legend lets just say he is Celtic.

FIONN or Fingal, King of the Alba-men (or Caledonians) in the land of the great mountains, is a traditional hero in Celtic folklore.  Ossian (Finn’s son) is the narrator, and supposed author, of a cycle of poems which the Scottish poet James Macpherson claimed to have translated from ancient sources in the Scots Gaelic. He is based on Oisín, son of Finn or Fionn mac Cumhaill, a character from Irish mythology. The furore over the authenticity of the poems continued into the 20th century.

Fingal was always accompanied by Bran “his famous and well-beloved hound.”It was while rescuing three children

from a giant’s castle that two puppies were found lying beside their mother, a large deerhound. Fingal’s

emissary stole the two pups, “these were the most valuable things which he saw inside.” Bran is one of the

immortal heroes of Celtic folklore; an old Celtic poem gives a description of his breed:

An eye of sloe with ear not low,

With horse’s breast, with depth of chest,

With breadth of loin and curve in groin

And nape set far behind the head-

Such were the dogs that Fingal bred.

In Ossian’s poems we find a description of Fingal’s joyous hunting:                                    

” Call,” said Fingal, ” call to the chase,

Dogs slim and choice in travelling the moo

Call Bran of the whitest chest;

Call Neart and Kiar and Lu-a;

Fillan, Ryno-he is in his grave,

My son is in the sleep of death!

Fillan and Fergus, blow the horn;

Let joy arise on hill and cairn,

Let deer start up in Cromala,

And by the lake of roes-their home.

The shrill sound rang throughout the wood;

A thousand dogs sprang over the heath;

A deer fell down to every dog:

Fell three to Bran alone;

And towards Fionn he turned the three,

To give great joy to the king.

Deerhound Poetry and Art

If you have never seen the work of Edwin Landseer you must seek out the works of this master.  One of the most revered animal artists ever, Sir Edwin Landseer was gifted with an extraordinary ability to capture the character of his animal subjects.  Landseer was fascinated with Scottish history and  the landscape of the Highlands where he visited Sir Walter Scott at his home Abbotsford. In his early work “High Life ” (painted in 1829)  the dog itself was once thought to have been Sir Walter Scott’s dog Maida, but according to some references the dog is closer to Landseer’s own deerhound. Of Maida Scott wrote ” and one of the hansomest dogs that could be found; it was a present to me from the chief of Glengary, and was highly valued, both on account of his beauty, his fidelity, and the great rarity of the breed.”

Of the portrait ‘Head of a Deerhound’  Cosmo Monkhouse wrote: It is fortunate that Landseer’s favourite deerhound ‘Hafed’ of which we here have a portrait, did not in all ways resemble Sir Walter Scott’s celebrated dog of that breed, Maida, of which we are told that he could not endure the sight of the artist and would frequently show his displeasure forcibly. Belonging to the majestic old breed of Scottish deerhounds, Hafed was well worthy of Landseer’s pencil; and the portrait is lifelike to a degree. The picture was painted in 1834, and a print of it subsequently appeared in the Sportsman’s Annual.

Head of a deerhound.

Landseer's Head of a Deerhound

From 1824 Landseer was a visitor to Sir Walter Scott’s house in the Scottish Borders, Abbotsford. The colouring of Maida illustrates the state of the breed which neared extinction and was becoming quite dilute with intermingling with other breeds.

Scene at Abbotsford

Sir Edwin Landseer, A Scene at Abbotsford

Enjoy Thomas Gent’s homage to his work and the deerhound subject.

On a Spirited Portrait in my album, of a Favorite Deerhound belonging to Sir Walter Scott by Edwin Landseer, Esq.

Thomas Gent Poet early 1800’s

Who in this sketchey wonder does not trace

The fire, the spirit, and the living grace,

That mark the hand of genius and of taste?

Who does not recognize in such a head

Truth, vigilance, fidelity, inbred,

Sagacity that’s human, and a waste

Of those high qualities, and virtues rare,

Which poor humanity has not to spare?

Then, faithful Hound! thy happy lot is cast

In pleasant places—and thy life has pass’d

In the dear service of a Master—whom

The world’s concurrent voice has yielded now

The meed of highest praise—and on whose brow

Th’ imperishable wreath of fame shall bloom;

Nor is this fate less happy than the rest,

That he should paint thee, who can paint thee best!  One of many online resources for ordering Landseer prints

A treasure trove of information for the ever curious is the free online books available from Google

Deerhounds in Art Part III

Whether your ancestry is Scottish or not, having a Scottish Dog might predispose you to be interested in this post. Coming from good Scottish stock as I do who settled in the U.S. before moving to the Great White North I am always interested in the early days of Scottish Immigrants.

From Brookgreen South Carolina a 10 hr. drive up the I-95 past Washington 582 miles to the outskirts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  to see the award winning sculptures of Terry Jones. Terry’s works are part of the private collections of some pre-eminent collectors world wide, including Prince Phillip of England; Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands; President of Kenya; President of Tanzania; US Natural History Museum, Washington, DC; British Museum, London, England; Marine Corps Museum, Parris Island, SC. ….

The St.Andrews Society of Philadelphia has been in existence since 1747.  According to the Society’s Charter, the sole purpose of the organization has been the relief of distressed Scottish immigrants. Since its inception the society has reached out into the community to give a helping hand. Hundreds of Scots benefited from the largesse of Society’s members in the second half of the 18th century. This generosity continued during periods of steady migration of the 19th century and particularly during the Great Depression in the 1930s when the chief purpose of the Society was to provide food, coal, clothing, and work to scores of distressed Scottish families. Of course, with the migrations through the years, our land has been enriched with Scots bringing their culture and many various skills to America.

The St. Andrews Society has taken it upon itself to commission a monument to mark  the importance of the contribution of Scottish Immigrants to the foundation & character of America. The monument shows a Scottish family led by the patriarch of the family or clan with his faithful Scottish deerhound. Funds are being raised for the completion of this sculpture which when finished will be somewhat larger than lifesize on a granite base 4X6X6. The setting will be a landscaped garden featuring Scottish plants.

Pictured here is the scale model of the Highlander & Scottish Deerhound part of the Scottish Memorial.

Deerhounds in Art Tour cont’d

From the AKC Museum of the Dog about 350 miles to Lexington Kentucky and Rosalind Trigg; the next stop on our Deerhounds in Art Tour is about 585 miles to Brookgreen Gardens near Myrtle Beach South Carolina

1931 Brookgreen Drive, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington bought Brookgreen Plantation & 3 adjoining properties in 1929. The property  is an incredibly vast 9,127 acres of forest, swamp, rice ields and beach front. America’s largest and oldest sculpture gardens with well over 550 examples of Figurative American Sculpture.

Anna Hyatt Huntington was one of America’s most gifted and prolific sculptors. As if Anna & Archer Huntington weren’t fascinating in & of themselves; they are doubly interesting as founders & owners of one of the earliest Scottish Deerhound Kennels in N.A. Unfortunately where it is possible to research & find information about almost any subject online, it would appear that once records become part of a private collection they are often preserved for posterity in university libraries virtually inaccessible to the average person. Syracuse University Library holds archives of many of the Huntington’s papers and correspondence. Well worth seeing I am sure are their Deerhound records (1902-1957, 5 Boxes) of which is summarized- Scottish Deerhounds were a long-time hobby of Mrs. Huntington. In the early 1930’s, she became interested in introducing the breed of Scottish deerhounds into the United States. She maintained extensive kennels (Stanerigg), bred the dogs, and showed them nationally. Her dogs won many championships, and her kennels remained active until the 1950’s. This series includes subject files (American Kennel Club material, Deerhound Club information, extensive records of Mrs. Huntington’s kennels, scrapbooks, and other material) and published material (magazine articles and clippings about deerhounds and publicity material relating to the kennels).

One day I hope to mine at least some of the archives that are accessible for Scottish Deerhound lore at risk of being forgotten forever.  A rather long preamble to the Sculpture I am about to present- Scottish Deerhounds at Play by Anna Hyatt Huntington.

Deerhounds at Play - Anna H. Huntington

I am grateful to Leslie Kathman equine artist & ceramicist for allowing me to use her photographs of Deerhounds playing from her last visit to Brookgreen Gardens

The reading list suggested on the SDCA website is a starting point for all enthusiasts of the breed and truly is a treasure trove of information which I fully intend to get through in my quest to learn all I can about you know who.

Deerhound Art

Dogs have been artists subjects dating back to earliest times. Very early images of dogs can be found in cave paintings in Spain dated at 12,000 years.  Egyptian wall paintings and hieroglyphics were being produced 6,600 years ago, in classical Greek art, stylized images of dogs appeared on pottery and sculpture. Today dogs are a part of every art form & inspire some of the greatest art of the day. It is fair to say that the Scottish Deerhound has one of the most pleasing forms of any canine and it is no wonder that it has appeared in paintings and sculpture by some of the finest artists from every era in recent times.

I would like to feature on this blog the works of some of the finest deerhound artists. It is not possible for me to showcase every artist that has had deerhounds as their subject, or for me to know of all of them. If I leave someone’s work out it is not a reflection on the talent of the artist. I respect and revere anyone with an artistic gift. As I learn more I will share with you.

There is one place I have been fortunate enough to see that holds what may be some of the worlds finest examples of dogs in art. That place is the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog. The 2009 Deerhound Specialty in St. Louis Missouri had as part of its roster of activities planned for attendees, a visit to the museum. Once could never be enough, it was fantastic and inspiring!

Visit the site for more info: AKC Museum of the dog

It may sound absurd, but it would be entirely possible to plan a trip who’s main itinerary would be visiting artists, galleries and gardens that feature outstanding specimens of deerhounds in art. The next artist I would like to show you is Rosalind Trigg. Rosalind’s work will be featured at the AKC Museum of the Dog as part of a 3 man show in May 2010. Rosalind has been good enough to allow me to  share some images with you. Enjoy these lovely works that so eloquently capture the essence of the deerhound character that we love. Visit Rosalind’s website Trigg Studio for many other  artworks and dogs including some Borzoi paintings I particularly love.

A Brown Study - Rosalind Trigg copyrighted

Foghound Rosalind Trigg copyrighted

Scottish deerhound Rosalind Trigg copyrighted