When Kaitlyn Anderson worked at Rucker Pet on Keith Bridge Road, she ran the company’s puppy play date event. Twice a week, for a few hours at a time, Anderson would supervise a group of four-legged socialites, and she took pictures of some of her favorites.
Those pictures came in handy when Anderson was selected to create a mural inside the building’s new business, Yard Mutts, a dog daycare service.
Anderson has incorporated some of her old favorites into the 6-by-9 mural in Yard Mutts’s main indoor play space.
And with her selection, Anderson will also receive a small scholarship from Yard Mutts. The recent Forsyth Central High School graduate will attend the Armstrong campus of Georgia Southern University in Savannah this fall.
“I didn’t like the plain blue walls [inside], so I wanted to do something fun with them, but I wanted to do it in a way that would also give back,” said Abby Freeman, the owner of Yard Mutts.
Freeman and Anderson had a close connection. The two worked together at Rucker Pet before the local retail chain sold to Hollywood Feed. Anderson has since worked at Yard Mutts when it opened in early 2019 using much of the former Rucker Pet facility.
When Freeman conceived of the scholarship, Anderson felt like a natural choice as the first recipient.
Anderson has long been creative. “I used to draw on the walls,” she said, and she loved to tie-dye T-shirts.
Anderson really became devoted to art after taking a painting class in 10th-grade at Forsyth Central. She loved it, and the teacher, Kevin Whitley, enrolled her in an Advanced Placement art class the next school year. The class exposed Anderson to a variety of art mediums, and she gravitated toward a particular style.
“I do a lot of hyper-realistic stuff,” Anderson said. “It incorporates realistic paintings with a crazy background.”
That’s the approach Anderson used for her Yard Mutts mural. She created a concept in which multiple colors stream across the background with 11 realistic dogs in the foreground.
“When Kaitlyn sent me the concept design, I said, ‘Yes, change nothing, it’s perfect,’” Freeman said.
Anderson started the project in April, though the sheer size of it made it more ambitious than anything she’d previously undertaken. It required 15 quarts of paint, Anderson said, and a lot of time to dry in between coats.
To paint something on that scale, Anderson created the design on her iPad Pro, then projected it onto the Yard Mutts wall and painted over the projected image.
“Mostly I tend to work smaller,” Anderson said. “But it was really cool to make [the dogs] so big, because you can get a lot of detail.”
So it’s easy to see all the dogs from those puppy play dates that Anderson used for inspiration: Heidi the white maltese, Piper the brown-and-white cavoodle, Arwin the German shepherd, Lily the weimaraner, Sony the black lab, Sadie the goldendoodle, Riley the golden retriever, Mort the brown French bulldog.
Anderson also included former Rucker Pet owner Cindy Rucker’s dog, Chubb, a black French bulldog, and Anderson’s own dog, Molly, a brown redbone coonhound.
Anderson put the finishing touches on the mural on Thursday.
“I love it,” Freeman said.
Freeman says she plans to give out the scholarship annually to a local high school art student just like Anderson, who is already dreaming about where art might take her one day. She’d love to be an illustrator at one of the big entertainment studios, like Warner Bros. Anderson has also considered being an art therapist “to use my art for something bigger than myself,” she said.
Either way, she’ll have left a piece of her work for people – and puppies – to enjoy for years to come.
“It’s cool to have that for people to see,” Anderson said.