In a moun­tain­side stu­dio over­look­ing Kaua‘i’s al­lur­ing south shore, a hand­some French bull­dog named Sunny strikes a pose. This ca­nine is the muse of artist Sally French, whose mono­types por­tray him in a va­ri­ety of ways: In one, he ex­hibits the per­fect dog sham­ing pose, pet­ri­fied per­haps as a re­sult of some re­cent bad be­hav­ior, while an­other shows him stoic, the per­fect ca­nine spec­i­men. The por­traits are sim­plis­tic in form, a seem­ing de­par­ture from the works French has be­come known for—sexy kit­ties posed as strip­pers, a self­por­trait of sorts on “candy ass pink,” a tat­tooed kitty punch­ing the liv­ing day­lights out of a name­less mas­cu­line form that per­son­i­fies road­blocks for the artist. Her work deals in vis­ual nar­ra­tives, as she calls them, de­pict­ing her per­sonal life and the en­vi­ron­ment around her. And what about Sunny? “Look at him,” she says of her sweet-de­meanored dog. “I can’t help but use that face.”

French’s space, which she named Dou­ble Dog Stu­dio, is filled with al­most ev­ery artis­tic tool imag­in­able. A wooden cab­i­net filled with draw­ers holds sup­plies like fish­ing line, wood floor pieces, al­li­ga­tor clips, char­coal, glass weights, S-hooks, and of course, dog clip­pers. It all elic­its an urge to grab a brush and start paint­ing. French be­lieves that she has the per­fect recipe for artis­tic in­ge­nu­ity, which is why she of­fers artist-in-res­i­dence re­treats at her Kala­heo stu­dio. “There is a surge of en­ergy that comes with a new ex­pe­ri­ence, a change of en­vi­ron­ment, and a de­fined amount of time to re­act cre­atively to it,” French says. “Artists tend to push through their walls of re­sis­tance and see so­lu­tions not avail­able in their own work­ing spa­ces.”

The Cal­i­for­nia na­tive knows how nec­es­sary it is for artists to col­lab­o­rate with other cre­atives, get out­side their com­fort zones, and push their lim­its—in fact, she “dou­ble dog dares” them to do so. At her stu­dio, French pro­vides work­shops and week­end in­ten­sives for vis­it­ing artists, which can in­clude ac­com­mo­da­tions in her beau­ti­ful home lo­cated just above the stu­dio. The in­ten­sives are com­posed of four days of stu­dio work and con­sist of groups of up to five. The artists work only in print­mak­ing, with a fo­cus on mono­types, which in­volves ap­ply­ing paint to a plex­i­glass plate and run­ning it through a press to cre­ate a re­verse im­age.

Prior to open­ing her stu­dio to other artists two years ago, French used it pri­vately for more than three decades af­ter mov­ing to Hawai‘i from San Fran­cisco, where she taught fig­ure draw­ing while ma­jor­ing in il­lus­tra­tion at the San Fran­cisco Academy of Art. While there, she was part of an art col­lec­tive that saved a turn-of-the-cen­tury ho­tel called the Good­man Build­ing from de­mo­li­tion, us­ing their rent money to paint the façade and to cre­ate a pub­lic art space. (To­day, the build­ing is still des­ig­nated as an artist live-work space.) French also painted mu­rals, in­clud­ing one at rock group Jef­fer­son Air­plane’s man­sion on Ful­ton Street. “They paid my rent at the time, and I had all my art sup­plies on their tab,” she re­calls of the col­lab­o­ra­tion. “That’s all I was paid, but it was fine with me since I could lis­ten to them prac­tice.”

French has ex­hib­ited her art in nearly 40 solo shows at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing Heidi Cho Gallery in New York City, the Con­tem­po­rary Cen­ter for the Arts in New Or­leans, and The Con­tem­po­rary Mu­seum on O‘ahu, now known as Honolulu Mu­seum of Art Spald­ing House. Fu­miko, Keeper of the Meek, a dig­i­tal print from Wun­der­lust: The Keep­ers’ Tale—a se­ries of pho­to­graphs that French even­tu­ally turned into a book—is cur­rently on dis­play at the Hawai‘i State Art Mu­seum. Based on French’s daugh­ter, Aimee, Fu­miko, one of eight keep­ers liv­ing in the land of Wun­der­lust, “watches over the young, guards the weak, sets the cal­en­dar, yo­dels, and yells all news through­out the land.” It’s a vis­ual nar­ra­tive not un­like the one un­fold­ing at Dou­ble Dog Dare Stu­dios. “When stu­dents are ready for what I can of­fer them, it’s re­ally quite mag­i­cal what hap­pens,” French says. “I have found that artists al­ways rise to the op­por­tu­nity and cre­ate some of their best work in this stu­dio, and this, in turn, stim­u­lates me to cre­ate my best work.”

To see Sally French’s work on Kaua‘i, visit ga­lerie 103, lo­cated at The Shops at Kukui‘ula. To learn more about be­com­ing a vis­it­ing artist at the Dou­ble Dog Dare Stu­dio, visit dou­ble­dog­darestu­

Sally French dou­ble dog dares artists to ex­plore their cre­ativ­ity.

Sally French un­der­stands the ne­ces­sity for artists to col­lab­o­rate with other cre­atives, get out­side their com­fort zones, and push their lim­its, which she in­vites them to do at her Kaua‘i stu­dio.

Sunny, French’s French bull­dog, is of­ten the muse for the artist’s work. “Look at him, I can’t help but use that face,” she says.

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