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December 8, 2021

A Very Good Boy

Peter Witte

The oil painting on canvas appears to be unfinished. The subject is a sitting dog who is looking off and to the left. The background is a mashing up of colors, a forest green that bleeds into a cyan blue-green. There are also black lines brushed across the top with some brushstrokes of white dashed here and slopped on there. The dog, some kind of terrier, is painted in black, gestural lines, many of which are faint. Most of the dog’s body, though, is left unfilled in; it is still blank canvas. That is, the lines outline the dog, but his depth is undefined. This is why the work appears to be incomplete. I acquired the work from the painter. He never told me that this painting, in particular, was unfinished. But he has suggested that in all of his time painting, he has never truly finished a painting, only stopped working on them. So, this is why I know that the painting is unfinished, incomplete. I know a little about the dog too, but here my knowledge is incomplete. In brief, I know that he is a very good boy. I say this with confidence, but I would not expect you to place much weight on my opinion of dogs because I have never met a dog who I did not think was a good boy or girl, regardless of how much I liked him or her. Also, my opinions on pictures of dogs are unreliable, checkered even. Once I saw a picture of an emaciated dog, but I did not understand that the dog was emaciated. I thought that the reason the dog looked the way he did was a peculiarity of the breed, like the wrinkled forehead of a mastiff or bulldog, hairless body of a xolo, or smashed face of a pug. I received the picture through an email and the person who sent it to me included a line that made some sort of joke about the dog’s appearance. I thought the joke was funny, so I passed the picture and joke on to my wife, who, thankfully, had more wisdom than me. She replied to my note and pointed out that the joke was making fun of a starving dog. Armed with information about the context, I no longer thought that the joke was funny. Incomplete information can lead you down multiple roads of thinking, not all good either. You should look at this painting, though, to see what you are able to see despite its unfinished state and our collective and incomplete knowledge about this very good boy.