de Forest

Who Let the Dogs Out: The Art of Roy de Forest

de forest
Country Dog Gentlemen, Roy de Forest, 1972

It’s hard not to love Roy de Forest, especially his paintings of dogs. There is a whimsy and a, dare I say, craziness to his artwork that resonates so well with children. His bright colors and artistic fearlessness seem to give kids permission to create whatever they heck they want, and it’s truly refreshing to watch. Maybe that’s why I love teaching de Forest to my students. And the fact that he was a local artist (just drive down the road to Port Costa and you’ll be right where he lived) is such an added bonus!

In class, we spoke about his childhood as the son of migrant farm workers, his education in California at both the San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State and his love for making refined folk art. Here are a few fun facts about Roy de Forest:

  • Roy de Forest was born in 1930 in North Platte, Nebraska. He was the son of migrant workers
  • Roy attended the San Francisco Art Institute and then earned degrees from San Francisco State!
  • Roy is best known for his colorful paintings of dogs and people living together in a fantastical world
  • Roy taught at UC Davis for almost thirty years
  • While predominantly known as a painter, Roy also created some whimsical sculptures
  • Roy’s artistic style was known as “California Funk” although he himself did not like that description
  • Roy loved dogs, rarely owning fewer than two.
  • He was known for using little drops of paint in his works – they looked like chocolate chips made out of paint. So, in this way, he used pointillism in his artwork!

Often called a “California Funk” artist, Roy was not a fan of that description at all. If one were to sum up his kind of art, you’d have to look no further than a quote from the artist himself. Roy once said, “Create art that makes you happy” and that’s precisely what his art did for him, and does for us! And so, we created de Forest-inspired pieces of art in bright, happy colors.  We took inspiration from Roy’s love of animals, and each child created a dog portrait in the style of his famous piece, Country Dog Gentlemen! And here are the amazing results!







Here are a few fun things you can do at home to further your interest in Roy de Forest!


  • Roy was also known for his sculptures of animals. Make an aluminum foil dog or cat and paint it to create your own pet sculpture!
  • One of my favorite de Forest paintings is Homage to Zane Gray. Take a peek at this video for a closer look at this remarkable painting!

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