Puttin’ on the dog

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, May 30, 2009

Larry Godwin’s art is going to the dogs. Literally.

Godwin grins slyly when he talks about his latest works of art. As he talks, cars slow, then stop at Art Acres to view the designer doghouses on display along busy U.S. Highway 231 south of Brundidge.

Colorful, funky, expressionistic, folksy, impressionistic, wild, wonderful. Wow!

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The folks who stop to view Godwin’s Artbark Doghouses find a bushel basket of adjectives to describe them. Some stand, looking, admiringly, for just the right descriptive term.

“German expressionism. That’s what it is,” one man said as he stroked his chin. “The rapid strokes. Yes, German expressionism.”

What the man’s dog will think about the designer doghouse, no one will ever know. But it’s a certainty that there’ll not be another doghouse like it on the “bark, ah, block.”

Godwin laughed. Bau Haus means House of Art and that describes the doghouse of German expressionism to a tee.

“On the front is the image of a shepherd – I guess a German shepherd,” Godwin said with a smile. “The other dog is a poodle or some other small dog.”

A bulldog and a greyhound grace one side of the doghouse, depicting a dog show complete with a judge and a winner’s ribbon.

“Each doghouse is different with some more colorful than others, the Brundidge artist said. “But dogs can’t see colors, or so I’m told. The colors won’t matter to them.”

Godwin said his preference of doghouse designs is the one with linear lines.

“It’s somewhat abstract and I first painted it with spray paint to get kind of a psychedelic background. Linear lines are very interesting.”

While the linear-look might be his preference, the doghouse with the folk art designs is of his heart.

“I replicated the artwork of my daughter, Selena, when she was a young girl,” Godwin said. “These designs are colorful, playful and give the doghouse a child-like appearance.”

Godwin’s daughter was a victim of cystic fibrosis and died when she was 26 years old.

“They call the disease 65 Roses. That’s such a beautiful name for such a terrible disease.”

Godwin also includes the artwork of Selena’s daughter and his granddaughter, Amber, in some of the designs.

“Amber is going to Oregon State to study anthropology or archeology,” Godwin said. “They grow up fast.”

For that reason, there is a lot of interest among connoisseurs of doghouse art to have their own children’s art as the doghouse design.

“I do custom orders,” Godwin said. “They are a little more but people have an idea of what they want and, sure, I’ll do it. My designs or theirs. Either way, what they get is a different kind of doghouse – an Artbark Doghouse.”

The artwork is the result of the old adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

When the warehouse Godwin rented out was vacated, a stack of heavy wooden boxes were left behind.

“It was more economical to leave them than to load them and haul them off, Godwin said. “And, I didn’t mind. You can always find a use for anything.”

The “use” was suggested by a friend who just happened by.

“He asked me what I was going to do with all those boxes and I asked if he had any suggestions,” Godwin said. “His suggestion was to cut a hole in them and make doghouses.”

Godwin said the boxes were originally the casings for the tail-control assembly of the Patriot Missile.

“So they were heavy, strong boxes that were built to protect what they housed,” he said. “I thought about it and decided the boxes would make good doghouses. The way they are built, they’re off the ground just a little and they can be opened so they can be cleaned easily. Doghouses were a good idea for the boxes.”

Godwin cut the opening and put up a sign that simply read: Doghouses for sale.

There was nothing fancy or eye appealing about the doghouses. They were just wooden boxes with an opening in the front.

“Before I even got the first one out for display, a man stopped to buy it,” Godwin said. “While he was there, a lady stopped and wanted one for her cat. She wanted one with a smaller opening so dogs couldn’t get in there and bother the cat.”

In just a short time, Godwin had sold 20 boxes for doghouses.

Business was booming but the profits were minimal.

“At $25 each, the time I put into the doghouses wasn’t really paying off,” he said. “It took more time and effort than it was worth.”

Then the artist in him took over.

The idea came to him that art is for everyone. Even for dogs. Why shouldn’t companion dogs have a house especially designed and made for them.

Artbark Doghouses hit the market.

And, when doggies’ moms and dads consider that they aren’t buying just a doghouse, they are buying an original work of art, the price of an Artbark Doghouse is a pretty good deal.

“Somebody said, ‘Two-hundred and fifty dollars for a doghouse?’ but I think it’s a good deal,” Godwin said. “It’s art. It’s original and it’s functional.”

And for those who don’t have a dog, Godwin will design a box without an opening that will make a great conversation starter or an outdoor art piece that will have folks a-talkin’ Artbark.