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How Port St. Lucie Artist Skip Hartzell Became Dog’s Best Friend

Artist News 04.04.2018

For Skip Hartzell, known locally as “the dog artist,” inspiration comes in the form of a morning walk—accompanied by a furry friend.

It started with a bucket of puppies underneath the Christmas tree and a smile on the face of a toddler who got to hold them. The toddler was Skip Hartzell, now a renowned painter and sculptor whose niche is man’s best friend. From the litter on that Christmas morning, Hartzell took home a puppy he named Pudgy. But when the family moved, Hartzell’s mother gave Pudgy away and told Hartzell that Pudgy had gone missing. It took years before Hartzell learned the truth. Not knowing where Pudgy went seems to have morphed into a lifetime passion for creating dogs through art, possibly in a lifelong search for Pudgy.

After graduating from college, Hartzell taught high school for a couple of years and then moved to Chicago to pursue a full-time career in art. He says those years were filled with whimsical street scenes on giant canvases, and though dogs and birds often appeared in his artwork, they were not center stage. In 1975, Hartzell’s studio burned to the ground and he lost everything—a traumatic experience that would turn his attention away from art for some time. He continued to sculpt and paint, but art became a hobby as he turned his attention to creating a successful second act in advertising and marketing. It wasn’t until 35 years later, when he sold his business and retired to Florida, that Hartzell decided it was time to pick up his tools and refocus on art.