An Artist, An Influence

“Learnin’” by Robert Abbett.

Two years ago come October, I had the opportunity to write an article for the Peninsula Pulse, entitled “Art – Gone to the Dogs:  a history of dog portraiture.” Because of my life-long interest in painting animals, especially dogs, the subject was one that I felt fairly comfortable writing about. Within the piece there came an opportunity to discuss some of the more prominent dog painters, both past and present. My hands down favorite in either category, was and is, Bob Abbett, someone whose life and art have influenced my own work. Naturally, in writing the article I had some favorable comments concerning the artist.

Ordinarily I do not consider myself the hero-worshipping type, yet it seems I was gushing throughout the article. You’ve got to understand, for someone who is totally fascinated with dogs and their portrayal in paint as I am, Abbett’s dogs are perfection:  their coats and expressions flawless, their anatomy always perfectly accurate, every bone, every hair, muscle and sinew, right there where it needs to be – dog, setting, everything, totally believable and beautiful.

Anyway, a week or two after the article came out I got a letter in the mail from none other than, Bob Abbett himself, who thanked me graciously for the “good words” as he put it. My friends, Jim Ingwersen (another serious, world-class painting icon and Door County resident) and his dear wife Phyllis, had quietly clipped out the article and sent it to Bob, who happens to be one of Jim’s old classmates and friend.

Today, because of the Ingwersen’s thoughtful actions, I now have a pen pal in Bob Abbett and always enjoy hearing from him. He is a great painter and a generous mentor to many artists who profit from his expertise and his important writings on art and the business of being an artist.

Wayne Simmons has been an artist most of his life. Sporting Art, portraits of people, people and their pets, wildlife and landscapes all have their place in his art but it’s his dogs and their antics afield that offer recurring themes throughout his work. You can visit his website: or see his artwork firsthand while in Door County at Simmons Studio/Gallery, 1375 County ZZ, Ellison Bay.