When I was teaching Foundations Drawing at the Columbus College of Art & Design, I used to give my students a semester-long assignment: draw daily in a sketchbook. The students were free to choose their own subject matter, style, and length of time spent on the drawings, as long as they engaged in regular, daily practice. In the fall semester of 2012, frustrated with the increasing amount of time I spent on my teaching duties and away from my own art practice, I decided to join my students in committing to draw daily. I chose to restrict my subject to my dog Dignan, who at that time was 16 months old.
Dignan was fascinating to draw: his long, elegant legs, the difficulty of the myriad folds in his velvety-soft ears, the puckering of his mouth, his spotty nose and wise eyes, and oh, oh, those beautiful paws. After the semester ended the habit of drawing Dignan stuck, and although there are large gaps in time without drawings (I pre-dated the sketchbook pages at the beginning of the semester, but many dates are crossed out and replaced by later dates, clearly showing how often my self-discipline failed), I continued the practice through the subsequent years.
In early 2017, at the unfairly young age of five, Dignan was diagnosed with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and lymphangiectasia, conditions which did not respond to even the most aggressive treatment. In those final days, drawing him daily felt like praying for his life. After a long fight to save him, we helped him die peacefully on May 18, 2017. There are too many empty pages at the end of his sketchbook.