TFK talks to author-artist William Wegman about Flo and Wendell, his latest children's book
William Wegman is a painter, photographer, videographer, and author. His work is well known and respected in the art world. Wegman has permanent art collections in three museums in the United States, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum. But of all the work he has done throughout the years, he’s best known for one thing: his dogs.
The dogs are Weimaraners—an active breed that likes to run around and play. This is part of what makes Wegman’s photos so unusual. Although his dogs are always looking to run, jump, and play, Wegman somehow gets them to stand perfectly still for zany photos, many of which have become famous.
This year, Wegman released a children’s book entitled Flo and Wendell. It is based on his real-life puppies Flo and Topper. In the book, Wegman uses images of real dogs but paints them onto bodies of people, making the dogs look human-like. Part of the humor is that you see dogs posed in silly human situations and settings. Wegman says the dogs are a good canvas for this type of art. "They're kind of a neutral tone and color—they can change who they become,” he told TFK. “I can change them into whatever I feel like almost."
Cast of Characters
Wegman has a long history of working with dogs. His first dog was named Man Ray. That’s when Wegman first started to toy with the idea of photographing dogs. “Man Ray was interesting to me through the camera,” said Wegman. He named his next dog Fay Ray. Fay Ray was the Weimaraner most often used in Sesame Street. In short videos, Wegman would give instructions, and Fay would help demonstrate everything from alphabet skills to math drills. After television appearances, the dogs became famous and Wegman continued to make more artwork with them. “They seem to like it because they're getting attention,” says Wegman. “It gives them a job, which they seem to like."
Wegman’s spacious studio in New York City doubles as a home for his family and a work office for him and his dogs. With scratchproof floors and couch slipcovers, the home has become the perfect space for his best friends. Over the years, Wegman has owned many Weimaraners and welcomed numerous visitors, reporters, and art enthusiasts into his home. All get a warm and friendly greeting from his current pups, named Bobbin, Candy, Flo, and Topper. And after a round of eager play, the dogs don’t mind crawling into a stranger’s lap for a nap on the couch.
Getting the Picture
Wegman got the idea for his latest book, Flo and Wendell, when he stumbled across old photos of the dogs and started to doodle on them. He realized he could make photos of his dogs more interesting by painting them into scenes with costumes and props. The book is Wegman’s first children’s book in more than 10 years. “Ten years ago, I had an interesting cast. When they moved on, I was left with a different cast,” he said. “I started to concentrate on painting, and through my painting I found inspiration for a new book.”
In the book, Flo and Wendell have a funny sibling rivalry. Flo is a stylish older sister who likes painting and wearing knitted sweaters. She teases her little brother pup, Wendell. They play hide-and-seek and dress up. Their parents wish they would get along and they try to sometimes. The story hits home for many kids who have siblings. And the illustrations provide laughter for readers young and old. For Wegman, creating the book is just as entertaining as the story itself. “The most fun thing is to have a moment of creativity that gets perpetuated,” he told TFK. “It’s kind of a dream for an artist to be able to communicate and have an audience.”
Watch William Wegman discuss Flo and Wendell in the video below.
To see more photos and videos by William Wegman and to learn more about his artwork, visit www.wegmanworld.com.