Paw-some paw-traits: ‘My mutt’s a muse’

pet portraits

by take-a-break |
Updated on

When English Bull Terrier Tom unexpectedly came into Antonio’s life, they both went mutts about art!

dog portraits

With his familiar ginger beard and straw hat, Vincent Van Gogh sits patiently for his photograph to be taken.

But he’s not the only famous subject Antonio Rodrigues Jr has shot.

The week before, he was visited by artist Frida Khalo, who turned up to set with her signature fluffy brows and glossy black hair.

However, Antonio, 49, doesn’t have access to a time machine — in fact, his muse is a six-year-old English Bull Terrier named Tom.

Antonio and Tom are raising the woof on Instagram with their snaps of the cute canine transformed into iconic works of art, including the famous painting Girl with a Pearl Earring.

What started with Antonio playing dress-up with his photogenic pooch during a lunch break, has now un-leashed a spectacular art project.

Dog portraits

The two first met when Tom was just 10 weeks old, after a friend asked Antonio to look after his new puppy while his family came around to the idea of a new pet.

But it didn’t take long for Antonio, a graphic designer, to have his heart stolen.

‘I knew it would be hard to give up Tom, so I asked my friend when he was planning to take him back,’ remembers Antonio.

He was pleasantly surprised when he discovered the whole thing had been a set-up, and Tom was always intended to be a gift with a dif-fur-rence.

‘I’m very shy,’ says Antonio. ‘I work from home, and there would be weeks where I didn’t leave the house. My mate wanted me to have a dog to force me outside, at least for an hour or two a day.’

Luckily, the plan worked.

'He's a big softie at heart'

Soon the pair were inseparable, and it wasn’t long before Tom’s mutt modelling abilities were discovered.

Antonio says: ‘Tom would be around my office and I’d already have props set up in the studio for work. One day I snapped a picture of him wearing a bow tie and moustache for fun, and it went from there.’

Antonio set up an Instagram account to showcase Tom’s work and share his pictures with friends and family, and the photos soon went viral.

Now, Tom has an animal-loving army of over 50,000 fans, who eagerly await every shoot.

Dog portraits

‘His followers make requests and tell me what they want to see Tom dressed up as. That’s where the idea for the artwork series came from,’ says Antonio.

But not all the feedback has been nice, with some suggesting it’s cruel to dress Tom up. Antonio insists this isn’t the case.

‘Tom finds it fun and I would stop if he didn’t,’ he insists. ‘When I leave my desk to make a coffee, I’ll come back to find Tom at the set waiting to be dressed. His tail wags as soon as I put the clothes on!

Dog portraits

‘It only takes five minutes to dress Tom and shoot a picture. We do it about once a week. I’m careful not to exhaust him because he finds it fun, and I want it to stay that way.’

Above all, Antonio is keen to change the image of Bully breeds.

dog portraits

‘As a Bull Terrier, Tom gets an unfair rap sometimes,’ Antono adds. ‘But he’s a big softie at heart and loves nothing more than a cuddle on the sofa. I like to think my work shows that you can’t judge a dog by its breed. Tom has bought so much joy to my life and I’m glad he’s bringing joy to so many others too.’

Dog portraits
Dog portraits

You can follow Tom on Instagram at @tom_bully

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