While your dog is chasing its tail or barking at the mailman, seven-year-old Australian Shepherd Ivy Kite is painting. Her work has sold for up to $500 and ships all over the world, including Brazil, Australia, and Germany.
Ivy’s family, who lives in Myers Park, takes the profits from her sales and donates the money to charity. Their donations have equaled approximately 2,000 pounds of food for Second Harvest Food Bank during the stay-at-home order alone.
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Her mom, Lisa Kite, used clicker training to teach Ivy Kite (she prefers to go by her full name, as her mom says, “she’s boujee like that”) a variety of impressive tricks, including painting.
She can also open and close doors; take off her mom’s jacket; and distinguish a craft beer from a fridge of Heineken, and then bring the desired beer and a bottle opener to the person requesting a refill. She’s also appeared in commercials for Duke Energy and Lowe’s, among others.
As an artist, Ivy Kite is particular. She only works with high-quality acrylic paint and canvases, and Lisa says she chooses the colors she wants to work with herself. Blue is her favorite. That is, of course, unless someone who has commissioned her has specific requests, in which case she’s happy to oblige.
“She’s very opinionated about what she wants to do,” says Lisa. “Sometimes I’ll say, ‘Don’t add so much of that color. Just put a little.’
“But she’ll grab a brush and go crazy with it.”
To get the creativity started, Lisa sets out the canvas and the paints, plus a drop cloth. She then hands Ivy the brush. After several strokes, Lisa clicks and Ivy knows to hand the brush back. She then receives chicken as a reward.
To ensure each painting looks like abstract art instead of mess of colors muddled together, Lisa and Ivy have a specific painting strategy they learned after consulting with a (human) artist. Ivy does one color per day on each painting, working on up to six at once, then lets it dry before returning and adding a different color the following day. She always finishes the paintings with her orange paw print signature.
Using this strategy, it takes between three and four weeks to complete a piece. Her Instagram followers can help name the finished products and purchase their favorites. Recent works include “Celebration” and “Bright Side.” To date, Lisa estimates Ivy has sold between 600 and 700 original works.
Although her work is in demand, Ivy Kite’s painting schedule is limited. Lisa only lets her work on Mondays to prevent burnout.
Sometimes that jumps to twice per week if there’s a significant deadline, like around the holidays, though Lisa notes Ivy is “never really tired of it. It’s work, and she loves to work. She’s earning her breakfast.”
That breakfast is usually poached chicken, though if there’s a large piece to get done, Lisa gives her liverwurst, Ivy’s favorite.
Ivy Kite has fans from all over the world, but her painting has also earned criticism, as animal rights activists scold Lisa for “enslaving” her pet. To this, Lisa says, “This dog is so well cared for. She probably has a better life than most humans. She’s happy.”
Want more local art? Read about a Charlotte photographer who launched a pandemic portrait series to tell the stories behind the masks here.