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Best Friends in Brilliant Color


Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes…and I’m convinced that dogs think humans are nuts.” ~ John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath. Yes, maybe Steinbeck is right, there are many of us who are absolutely “nuts” about our dogs. Local artist Alisann Smookler embraces our passion for our “best friends” and elevates it to new heights with her brilliantly rendered canine portraits. Each work electrifies the generous spirit of those “beings of light” that share our lives.

Alisann’s artistic talents were acknowledged early in her life. She won her first art contest, with a charcoal rendering of a vase and cup, at the age of 10. Her 6th grade teacher recognized Alisann’s unique artistic talent and encouraged her to think seriously about studying art. Taking this encouragement to heart, Alisann enrolled in art classes during high school and continued study at the El Paso Museum of Art. During her time attending museum classes, the instructors were many of the prominent painting artists of the time, providing a unique perspective on the world of professional painting techniques. Inevitably, Alisann went on to major in Art Education at the University of Texas-El Paso. 

Life has a way of taking hold of our destiny. Alisann found she needed to set her art studies aside, for many years, to raise her children as a single mom and work outside the home. In 2013, after being diagnosed with CNS Lymphoma, Brain Cancer, Alisann once again turned to her creative center for emotional support and relaxation. Instinctively, she knew painting would be one way to enhance her healing during the post-effects of the brain surgery and whole brain radiation. Alisann shares, “When I became ill, the first thing I went to was my art, it was an escape to find myself again. Initially, I painted dog portraits, a subject I had always wanted to paint. I quickly realized I needed to learn new techniques for painting my canine subjects. This presented me with a new opportunity and supported the continued recovery process.”

In May 2015, Alisann saw a television program about “Coloring Books for Adults.” She was excited about the healing prospects of coloring, so she went on the hunt for a dog-themed coloring book. It didn’t take long before Alisann realized there weren’t any! Being a creative and imaginative individual, Alisann took up the task of creating her own coloring images.  In the space of a year, she had hand-drawn and published 11 coloring books for adults with dog themes, such as Who Framed My Dog, done in the style of well-known artists; Love Puppies, with the theme of State Dogs,; and her newest, Love Dogs-Feed the Soul, takes colorists on a journey of dog images and quotes expressing their loyalty and devotion. Today, her adult coloring books and journals can be found for sale through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and her Etsy Shop. She also keeps a small inventory at her home studio in Scottsdale, as well.  

Alisann understands and embraces the healing effects of coloring and engaging in creative expression as part of the healing process. Today, Alisann happily recounts, “I am three years in remission and love creating my art every day. Abee, our Catahoula rescue pup, is always at my side, inspiring me through her love to continue creating dog art!” Alisann is dedicated to sharing her passion for “art healing” with others. She volunteers as a group leader with the Piper Cancer Center, Singleton Moms, and the Ironwood Cancer Center in Scottsdale. Alisann’s work with cancer patients has become so well-known and respected that she has been invited to host two presentations this fall at the Scottsdale Public Library. 

To view or commission a dog portrait by Alisann Smookler, visit her Web sites. If you would like to acquire a dog coloring book or coloring journal, visit her sites at,, or on her Facebook pages – ArtbyAlisann and LoveDogsinColor.

Contact arts columnist Shea Stanfield at