Although art has always been in Monique’s life, her passion was largely devoted to art history and not the practice of studio art. For the past thirty years, she has been professionally and personally affiliated with art and art-making as a curator, writer and teacher. Most recently she was art curator at the Glenbow Museum from 2002 to 2010, following more than a decade of teaching art history at ACAD. Monique began to pursue her love of painting by attending art classes where she learned to paint in oils primarily through large-scale and increasingly complex copies of works by famous artists. Monique’s art was informed by her extensive knowledge of the history of art. She painted landscapes, portraits, still-life and abstractions. But her real subject was not yet discovered. Then, in the spring of 2011, a great new dog changed her life. Murphy was an 11 month-old Superdoodle (labradoodle + goldendoodle) when he was lovingly adopted by the Westra family. After only 4 days in his new home, Monique’s husband, Haijo took Murphy to Victoria. In the early morning hours, his friend snapped a photograph on his iPhone of Murphy looking up at Haijo on a pebbled beach. He sent it to Monique. As soon as she saw it, she knew what she had to do. This image was the inspiration for her first dog portrait. The pebbles on the beach were turned into colorful dots in the background. She has done many portraits of dogs since then and she loves it. Monique’s signature style is to incorporate a lively background, always different and eye-catching.
Each commissioned portrait by Monique Westra features an individual dog, cherished by its owners. Some show dogs which have passed away. Monique’s posthumous portraits preserve the memory of a beloved pet and friend. These portraits are small and intimate representations of a specific dog (and the occasional cat) set against a fanciful abstract background. Monique’s unique style shows her precision and careful observation in the depiction of the dog, which is instantly and unmistakably recognizable. She paints more freely and imaginatively in the backgrounds. She works with the same stylistic principles in painting portraits of people.