Home Craft Stories We go behind the scenes at Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail 2022 with artist Kim Onyskiw
Spotter on display in Huddersfield

We go behind the scenes at Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail 2022 with artist Kim Onyskiw

by Sarah Law

Kim Onyskiw’s playful pet paintings get supersized for the Kirkless Art Trail 


Folksy is a small team of creatives with big ideas and a passion for making, crafting and artistry. When we’re not championing the creative endeavours of our sellers, you can find most of us indulging our own imaginations. Inky fingers, paint-splattered aprons and a million songs to commit to paper – we’re always up to something.

Over the last few months our fabulous Support genie, Kim Onyskiw, has been designing and painting a 5ft sculpture called ‘Spotter’ for the Kirkless Snowdog Art Trail 2022 in West Yorkshire.

We caught up with Kim to find out more about the project, her inspiration and where on earth the supersized Spotter is going to stay after his tour!

Kim Onyskiw on how she created her sculpture for the Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail 2022…

A 2D sketch of 'Spotter Dog' Kim Onyskiw created for her application to Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail 2022
One of the 2D sketches that Kim Onyskiw created for her application to Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail 2022

Hi Kim! It’s great to catch up with you, we’re really excited to hear about this project, the photos look awesome! Let’s start at the beginning. How did you hear about the Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail 2022 and what made you want to get involved?

The event I designed a sculpture for was Kirkless Snowdog Art Trail 2022 – a two month public art trail with 67 sculptures placed around towns and villages in Kirklees. The event is to raise awareness and money for a local charity – the Kirkwood. The sculptures are based on the dog from the film the Snowman and the Snowdog. Larger dogs are decorated by artists and the smaller dogs decorated by schools and youth groups. 

A 2D sketch of 'Spotter Dog' that Kim Onyskiw created for her application to Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail 2022
Another of the sketches Kim submitted in her proposal to the organisers

I first heard about the trail in autumn 2021 when the charity was starting to look for artists to submit designs. I’ve seen a few trails before and always thought they were a great way to bring art into the community and brighten up everyday spaces, so when I found out there was one coming to my own area I had to give it a shot. I created a design based around animals that can be found in the local area. I wanted the sculpture to be colourful and to make use of the raised patches on the sculpture’s sides, I painted each animal on a brightly coloured spot, which inspired the name: Spotter. 

The blank canvas dog sculpture Kim Onyskiw was given to paint for the Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail
A blank canvas. Spotter the 5ft fibreglass dog awaits his coat of paint

Was there an application process?

Yes. The UK trails are run in association with Wild In Art, who are a team of “individuals, united by a passion for events, the arts and their impact.”

If you’re inspired to come up with your own sculpture design, you can check out their website here to find a list of all their upcoming trails. 

Initially, Wild in Art put a call out for applications for emerging and established artists in any medium. You submit your design for a trail on a 2D outline of the sculpture and the design is shortlisted to be presented to the sponsors. Successful artists will receive a paid commission and have the opportunity to showcase their work as part of the event. 

I was delighted to have been sponsored by my local vet. Together we made some tweaks to the design to include specific animals.

Kim Onyskiw's dog sculpture for the Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail 2022 during the painting process
Spotter, mid-way through the painting process

Talk us through the process of painting – it must have been challenging to work in 3D and on such a large scale?

This was the hardest part of the whole process. This is the first sculpture I’ve ever painted, and going from my usual mini canvases to a 5ft tall, 3D sculpture was a real adjustment! I found the very curved areas like the ears especially difficult.

Luckily we were able to work in a painting space organised by the Kirkwood. The sculpture would never have fitted in my workspace at home, and it was so encouraging to be around other artists. The space had a big shop window so the public could look in and see what we were up to. It felt a little odd at first, but great once you started seeing people’s reactions.

Kim Onyskiw adding details to her dog for the Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail
Adding all the details

So, how do you go about painting a 5ft tall fibreglass dog?

The sculptures come primed and ready to paint. The best materials for decorating are emulsions, acrylic paints, spray paints and acrylic pens but you need to be careful with the materials as some can cause reactions with the varnish. I chose my colours from the Dulux emulsions and Liquitex acrylics ranges. 

First, I painted the background and spots, which required around three coats each. I did end up in quite a few awkward positions to get in all the nooks! 

Next, I sketched out my design in light coloured pencils, after a recommendation that these are easier to cover than regular pencil. It was great having other artists around as we all shared tips and tricks.

I worked with templates rather than drawing straight on the dog, which meant that I didn’t have to rub anything out.

Artist Kim Onyskiw painting her dog for the Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail
Painting in progress

It must have been exciting to work alongside other artists. Did you all feedback on each others’ work?

It was a really good atmosphere. As I was painting the animals, people did keep asking me: “Are they getting eyes?” If you’re familiar with my work, you’ll know that I love giving my characters big eyes and I always start with the big white circles but I leave the pupils as the last thing I paint. So they spend quite a long time looking like zombies! I love leaving the pupils to last as it adds all the character.

The paints Kim Onyskiw used to create her Kirkless Art Trail snowdog sculpture

You certainly embraced the challenge! Was there a particular part that made you nervous?

Yes! After the painting was complete we had to varnish them with a special anti-graffiti coating. It’s at this point that a reaction can happen if you’ve used the wrong materials or the varnish can drip! Even if you’ve stuck to all the guidelines, you still worry that your hard work might suddenly be ruined. Luckily I didn’t get any issues other than a few stray bristles to be removed. 

Kim Onyskiw and her dog for the Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail before the final touches are added
Kim stands with Spotter in the studio, before adding her trademark ‘big eyes’ to the animals

How long did it take you to paint Spotter?

In total, I spent around five weeks with Spotter. There was a good mix of artists using the space, so people completed at different times. The quickest I saw was around a week. It’s important to factor in that you are limited by the opening times of the studio space.

There was also a three-month wait between Spotter being completed and the trail launch. Patience is essential because you’re so excited to share your new creation but the charity needs time to prepare for things like official photographs, so it all needs to be kept secret.

Spotter by Kim Onyskiw outside the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield for the Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail
Spotter on display outside the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield

Where can people visit Spotter?

Spotter is currently on display outside the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield until 31st October 2022 as part of the Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail 2022. There will be a farewell event the weekend before, so all the sculptures can be seen together. Afterwards, the smaller dogs go back to their schools and the artist designed dogs return to the studio for any touch ups so they look their best for auction. All the money raised at auction goes back to the charity.  

Spotter the dog by Kim Onyskiw on display outside the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield for the Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail
Spotter on display at the Lawrence Batley Theatre

Spotter looks amazing, we’re really proud of you both! Do you have any other creative endeavours on the horizon?

Thank you! I really enjoyed the whole process and knowing that the money he raises is for a good cause, makes it even better. I need to decide whether to put a last minute submission in for the next West Yorkshire trail in Leeds. Apparently it can get quite addictive after the first one! 

Buy Kim’s artwork in her Folksy shop >

Read more about Kim in her Meet the Maker interview

Find Spotter on the Kirklees Snowdog Art Trail 2022 map and download the app here: https://www.snowdogskirklees.org.uk/art-trail/

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