Danica Barreau, M.Photog.M.Artist.Cr., CPP, MAI, Visual artist

July 4, 2024
By Anne Marie Duquette
Featured image for “Danica Barreau, M.Photog.M.Artist.Cr., CPP, MAI, Visual artist”

Winner of the 2023 DWAA Writers Contest in the following categories:

Books – Children Picture Books (up to Age 3) – Rook and the Magic Door
View the Winning Entry

Graphics – Single Illustration or Painting – Autumn English Setters
View the Winning Entry

Graphics – Single Photo – Prince of Darkness
View the Winning Entry

Congratulations on your win!  Tell us about your experience and expertise, and how this relates to your entry.  What target audience did you write for, and why?

I am a professional artist and photographer.  At the urging of friends, I decided to try writing and illustrating a children’s picture book. The subject was the antics of my dog, Rook, who had started bringing in wildly inappropriate things through our pet door.

While I had previously published a book on English Setters entitled, “Setterly Yours, A Photographic Introduction to the English Setter,” this was my first attempt at writing for a younger audience. I didn’t have any particular message in mind.  I just wanted to write a fun short story with a bit of magic and beautiful illustrations that would spark the imagination. “Rook and the Magic Door” was quite challenging.  At first, I went about it all wrong but soon became pleased with the process and end result. Hopefully I learned enough to make a sequel much easier to produce!

The painting “Autumn Setters” was created for the English Setter of America Association Nationals fundraiser. I fell head over heels with English Setters and have had the pleasure of sharing my home with them for over 20 years. They are my favorite subject to paint.  The ESAA reached out to me to create something specifically for them that showcased this beautiful breed.

The photograph “Prince of Shadows” is of my dog, Rook, who is featured in the aforementioned children’s book. I wanted to challenge myself to capture a black dog on a black background with very subtle lighting. Thankfully, I had a black dog on hand.   had to reshoot four times before I was happy the result.

What prompted you to submit this specific entry?  Why do you think it struck a special chord with the public and the judges—and with you?

“Rook and the Magic Door” is my only children’s book so far, so it was an easy choice on what to submit!  My sales to friends and family have been very heartening but I wanted recognition from a more august body like DWAA. I was extraordinarily pleased to be selected as a winner.  I think my story is interesting and the illustrations engaging, but I love it because it’s “my boy” and I love to share him with everyone.

The painting “Autumn Setters” portrays two stunning examples of the English Setter breed in a vibrant background.   At that time of year, many breed owners hunt with dogs in the outdoor environment I painted, so I believe it really struck a chord with the intended audience.

“Prince of Shadows” showcases a beautiful dog. As a professional photographer, lighting, composition, and color harmony are important attributes to my portraits, but I also wanted to tell a story.  Black dogs can be so under-appreciated, but Rook’s crown and gold eyes pull him out of anonymity. He is definitely a prince of the shadows.

How big a part have dogs played in your personal and professional life?  Was there a particular dog that sparked your interest in interacting with the public?  Tell us about this special dog, and/or the dogs in your contest entry.

I’ve lived with dogs my whole life but it wasn’t until I rescued a bilaterally deaf English Setter named Carter that my world completely changed. Through the rescue, I made a multitude of friends and traveled all over the country. I became a professional photographer because I wanted to capture every moment with that wonderful dog.

I wrote a book inspired by him and became an advocate for deaf dogs. Thanks to one dog, I’ve fostered over 25 Setters, become an artist renowned for specializing in Setters, made a positive impact in breeder’s understanding of deaf dogs and shown that they can live a full life.  I’ve also made wonderful lifelong friends in the process. When I look back at the decisions I’ve made in my past, Carter was a massive pivot point, and I am thankful for it every day.

How big a part have people played in your association with dogs?  Family?  Friends?  Do you have any favorite writers/bloggers/media or graphic artists?  How have they influenced your career?

My professional photographic career beginnings were humble, but they brought me to the attention of a brilliant pet photographer, Barbara Breitsameter. She became my mentor and convinced me that I had a future in pet portrait photography. Now I’m the president of our state professional photography organization, I volunteer for numerous other photographic associations, write the occasional article and review for a national magazine, all while doing something I love.

Barbara has been a core component of my professional growth as well as being a good friend. Obviously, the support of both friends and family has been crucial as well. My mother, a former English teacher, is so proud of my children’s book that she carries a copy in her purse and shows it to everyone (I mean EVERYONE), including the mail carrier, the hairdresser, or parents and children in the doctor’s waiting room. She’s my biggest fan!

When you consider both your personal and professional canine-related achievements, which one of each stands out the most?  And why? What is the driving force that sparks your work?

In 2019 I earned my Master Artist degree from the Professional Photographers of America. It was both a great personal and professional achievement. The part that made it so meaningful was being able to share it with my family.  Even though he was terrified of the crowd, my father walked across the stage and presented me with my degree lanyard.  It’s a big black-tie ceremony in front of hundreds of people. I think that’s the first time my parents realized my photography and artwork were more than a passing interest or hobby.

What ongoing or future canine projects do you have planned?  Are they personal or professional?

I plan to start and finish the sequel to “Rook and the Magic Door,” but I do have other projects, so I have no tentative completion date.

What would you recommend to those peers who wish to enter your winning category in next year’s contest? 

I would tell those entrants that photograph competitions are challenging, and putting your work out there will make you a better artist. Getting feedback can either provide validation or convince you to try something different. But you must be thick-skinned.

You can pour your heart out in your art. but it might not be received the way you expected.  That can be difficult to move past. It’s okay to be afraid to put yourself out there but you can’t grow until you do!

Thank you, and congratulations again on your three wins.

Featured Image: Rook, Artist, and Room – Painting by Danica Barreau
Photo by “Alex the Photo Guy”

Danica Barreau is a PPA Master Artist, Master of Photography, Photographic Craftsman, AIM Master of Animal Imagery, and Certified Professional Photographer. Her studio, Pouka Art & Photography, located in Grove City, Ohio, specializes in pet photography and digital art.

Danica has been photographing pets for rescues since 2005 and opened her studio in 2015. She is an 8-time Grand Imaging Award finalist, a published author, a PPA National Award recipient, and the PPO Ohio Artist of the Year for five years running. She shares her home with multiple dogs, a schoolteacher, and an undisclosed number of cats.