Minneapolis woman's art captures spirit and intelligence of our dogs

Jessie Marianello, with each tiny brushstroke, paints with purpose, capturing that “thing” that makes dogs so special. For a while now Marianello has been making a living painting portraits of other people’s dogs.

"I am first and foremost trying to capture their spirit and their intelligence," said Marianello.

Marianello believes that dogs’ eyes often hold the key to representing that spirit.  It's a level of detail that often goes unnoticed, but to anyone who's ever loved a pet, it's the kind of detail you never forget.

"She captured the fact that he just loved swimming. And he loved his momma. And so it was the picture of him in the water and just kind of looking up at me like -- I love this," said Fox 9’s Dawn Mitchell who has a painting by Marianello.

It was seven years ago in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis that an unassuming Dawn Mitchell and her golden retriever, Wilson, were approached by Marianello.  

"Wilson just always commands the sidewalk. So he was just laying down and Jessie came over and said would you mind if I painted your dog. I said excuse me?" Mitchell said of the encounter.

Mitchell agreed - having no idea just how profound that encounter would become. Several years later, she'd lose Wilson to cancer. But the painting remains.

"And now that I don't have him anymore, it's [the painting] beautiful. And so now every now and again when I take a look at it, I just really... I'm like, oh that's my boy.”

It began just like that, on the streets of Minneapolis, with awkward offers to paint random dogs. And soon the passion for pooches and painting grew into a business called Stray Dog Arts that now boasts a two year wait list.

"One of the coolest things is that I've been able to travel internationally quite extensively on a Stray Dog Project where I photograph and then paint stray animals. And then in doing so help raise awareness and help raise funds for those animals. That is something that is near and dear to my traveling, adventurous, animal-loving self," Marianello said.

So in a full-circle kind of moment, Marianello wanders the streets of places like Mexico and Morocco, finding inspiration in random dogs she finds on the streets. Only these dogs have no owners, and little hope of survival.

Back at her art studio in Northeast, Minneapolis, Marianello slowly brings a dachshund named Bruno’s 'old soul' to life.

"He just, he looks wise and contemplative a lot. And I think she really captured that in the photos that she took," Bruno’s owner Sharon McFadden said.

A week later, and the painting of a wise and contemplative Bruno, is finished. .

"My favorite reaction is tears. It happens quite often. Also it's really fun to see the dog's reaction. Some dogs are more visual, but there's times when a dog's like 'me?! seriously?!' It's so cool, it's so cool on so many levels," Marianello said.

Bruno's likeness will be part of a larger art show set for this fall called I Love You Minneapolis - a nod to the city and the clients who've given Marianello so much.

For more information of the show, click here.