Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Where, oh, where has my little dog gone & pet photos July 20, 2017

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Photographed recently along a busy roadway in Cannon Falls. (Yes, I blacked out the phone number.)


EVERY SPRING, SUMMER and fall, handcrafted photo signs pop up on street corners with the message, LOST DOG.

DO NOT YELL, APPROACH OR CHASE, the writer advises of a dog lost recently in Cannon Falls.

I often wonder if these canines are ever found or wander home or why they are running loose in the first place. I realize pets sometimes escape…but I appreciate responsible pet owners who keep their animals under control on their property and who clean up after the dogs they’re walking. I’ve stepped in stinky dog poop too often in my yard. Yuck.

A few years ago a woman even posed her dog in the middle of a corner flowerbed by my house for a photo op. In the process, the dog destroyed flowers I’d planted. I was not happy.



But I was happy to see the owner of a lost (as in deceased) pet post a public notice offering free pet portraits. I spotted the sign recently in a Waterville gift shop. The owner of Chaz the dog is a photographer specializing in pictures of people and their pets, according to the Facebook page for Chazman Photography based in Janesville.



I haven’t photographed a lot of pets. But the animal images I’ve taken are, I think, notable. I’m not your typical stand, point-and-shoot photographer. I strive to tell a story, using perspective and setting to achieve that. Here are some cat and dog photos I’ve shot, my favorite being the “NO PETS ALLOWED” image shot outside Riverfront Park in Mankato in June of 2011. The dog owner, upset his canine couldn’t enter the park, suggested the photo location, almost daring himself and his dog to cross that line.

Here are those promised pet photos pulled from my files:


My sister Lanae’s fat cat, Sable, now deceased. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.


Ian with Zephyr in rural Bigelow. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.


Titan, so active I struggled to photograph him in 2014. He was owned by the Spitzack family of rural Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I photographed this cat outside Hopefull Treasures in Hope, MN., in 2011. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Another cat photographed in 2011 in Hope, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Another view of that dog outside Mankato’s Riverfront Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.


Rudi, one friendly collie at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.


My friend Mandy’s cat, Gretchen, photographed in 2015. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Taco the dog, photographed at the Faribault Farmers’ Market in Central Park in 2012. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Brianna’s cat, in her home in Hayfield, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2016.


© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling




Animal art March 20, 2012

Some of Julie Fakler's pet portraits displayed at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault.

COLORS, VIBRANT AND BOLD, first draw you toward Julie Fakler’s art in a current exhibit. But move closer and it is the expressive eyes that connect you to the subjects of her portraits, adoptive animals from Prairie’s Edge Humane Society in Faribault.

“I paint domestic animals and I was trying to think of a way to help out local domestic animals,” says this Faribault artist. “That’s when I came up with the idea to paint portraits of the animals at the Prairie’s Edge Humane Society.” The local animal shelter will receive a portion of the sales from portraits sold during Julie’s current exhibit.

A snippet of a cat portrait by Julie.

Julie merges her skills as an artist and her passion for animals into acrylic hardboard portraits that practically pull the viewer in for a closer look.

Her work is showing locally in two galleries with “Prairie’s Edge Humane Society Portraits” at the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue, Faribault, through April 17 and “New Work” at the Northfield Arts Guild, 304 Division Street, Northfield, through March 31.

Recently, I perused Julie’s PCA exhibit for the second time, this visit with camera in tow and with the artist’s permission to photograph her work.

Adoptable cats and dogs are the subject of her Paradise exhibit. A grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council and McKnight Foundation funded the body of her work and the gallery show.

I’m not a pet owner. But Julie’s engaging portraits will cause anyone to fall for these adoptable animals whose spirits shine in her creations. In her artist statement, this Minnesota College of Arts and Design graduate says: “The images of the animals represent their energy, personality and physical attributes.”

I agree. I remember the first time I saw Julie’s art, during a studio art tour in the autumn of 2010. Her use of bold, mostly primary, colors give her work a memorable, signature flair. I thought then, and still think, that her vibrant art would suit a children’s picture book. Or maybe t-shirts or handbags or…

The possibilities seem endless for Julie’s art.

The vibrant colors and sweet faces in Julie's art are irresistible.

FYI: Click here for more information about artist Julie Fakler.

Click here to learn about Prairie’s Edge Humane Society.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Inside a pet portrait studio November 2, 2010

GROWING UP IN HOUSTON—that would be Minnesota, not Texas—Julie M Fakler always envied the farm kids with their farm animals.

Today, though, Julie has no reason to feel jealous. She’s surrounded by a menagerie of animals, some real (her cats), most not.

She’s an artist, specializing in pet portraits. A quick peek inside her Faribault studio and gallery during the recent South Central Minnesota October Studio arTour and Sale reveals that Julie especially loves cats and dogs. They comprise the bulk of her acrylics.



Examples of Julie M Fakler's animal portraits.


Occasionally, though, you’ll see a farm animal like a goat, chicken or calf. Some of those she’s painted at the nearby Rice County Fairgrounds, setting up her easel during the fair to recreate those critters.



Rice County Fair animal portraits painted during the fair.


As I sorted through the photos I took of Julie’s artwork, I finally figured out what was niggling at my brain about her paintings of animals against simple backgrounds of primarily primary colors. Her paintings, in my opinion, would fit perfectly into children’s picture books.

I haven’t asked Julie whether she’s ever considered illustrating a children’s book. But she will paint a portrait of your pet, on commission, or hand-stitch a quilt for you (another one of her artistic endeavors).



Julie painted this neighborhood dog.



Items tacked onto a bulletin board, left, provide Julie with inspiration for her paintings.



A jumble of paint tubes in the studio, which is housed in a former upholstery shop behind her Faribault home.



Paintings propped on the studio floor.



More animal art.



Julie and her sister make books, using them to record their world-wide travels via words and art.



One final nod to Julie's artistic side is represented in this old sink, acquired from a neighbor, and decorated for fall. It's outside her studio/gallery door. She intends to use the sink as a potting station in the spring.


For additional information and to view more of Julie’s art, click here to visit her Web site.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling