Monday, November 21, 2011

Krista Wells & Ruca

Who is in the drawing at right?

I'm Krista Wells. I'm a visual artist and former Foley artist (sound effects for film and t.v.). About four years ago I developed a rare hearing disorder called hyperacusis. The quick definition of the disorder is "a collapsed tolerance for everyday sound" which basically means that my brain perceives sound to be much louder than it actually is. The upshot of this is that I had to stop working and now I devote my energy to my visual art which has always been a part of my life in one form or another. The handsome fellow beside me in the sketch is Ruca, a dog I met several years ago in Portugal. Ruca is an artist as well so we struck up a friendship. The sketch is from his journal.

Ruca is about four years old. He's a mixed breed with the typical colouring of many of the mixed breed dogs in the Algarve. It's the same colour as the delicious café com leite, which literally is coffee with milk and is made with a shot of espresso, steamed milk and a bit of milk foam on top.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

In the sketch [above right], Ruca and I are sitting outside the Varandas Bar in Burgau waiting for our cafés com laite. We’re meeting to discuss plans for publishing his illustrated journals. He’s been keeping an illustrated journal for a couple of years and a blog since March of this year. The blog has proven to be quite popular and he has made many new friends through it. I thought it would be fun to publish a book of some of his art and observations so that his view on things could reach a wider audience. There’s also something satisfying about holding a book in your hands (or paws) that you just can’t get from a blog.

What's brewing?

As I mentioned, we’re having café com leite at Varandas. They use Delta brand espresso, brew it to perfection and add just the right amount of steamed milk. I like mine really hot but for Ruca they don’t heat the milk up quite as much. Ruca tries to limit the amount of coffee he drinks, although caffeine buzz has spawned a new style of drawing for him which he calls caffeinated drawing. The sketches of the two dogs are in that style.

Any treats for you or Ruca on this occasion?

No treats this time, but when we have a coffee at Mi Mar in Lagos I get a pastel de nata (a flaky pastry with cream filling) and he has a pastel de bacalhau (pastry filled with cod, like a little fishcake).

How were you and Ruca united?

Ruca and I met at Varandas Bar in Burgau, a little fishing village in the Algarve in Portugal where my partner Michael and I have been spending time during the winter for many years. Ruca had just come back from a long walk along the cliffs. He had been tagging along with a Scottish friend who regularly takes long early morning hikes. He looked exhausted, was covered in mud and was in need of a coffee, so I obliged and we’ve been friends ever since.

How did Ruca get his name? Any nicknames?

Ruca is the name of a character in a children’s book and t.v. show. It’s originally from Canada and the character is called Caillou. The Portuguese changed it to Ruca. This Ruca was named by a local family who were under the illusion that he belonged to them. Little did they know how independent Ruca is. He’s a free spirit and prefers to live on the street. I sometimes call him Sweet Boy which he doesn’t seem to mind.

Does Ruca have a favorite place to go for walk?

Ruca is a very sociable fellow. He spends a lot of time at a dog rescue centre not far from Burgau and loves walking with all the dogs there. He also enjoys walking around Lagos, a town not far from Burgau. He meets up with his best friend Rita and they make the rounds of the shops near her person’s bookstore. Everyone knows them and has treats for them. This picture [photo left] is me getting a sloppy greeting from lovely Rita.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Around Burgau it is has to be cat. There are so many to choose from, but he knows which ones are game and which ones aren’t. It’s a delicate line to walk!

What is Ruca's greatest contribution to your artwork?

What Ruca has taught me is to really enjoy the act of making something and not to worry about the result. He gets such joy from sketching and painting and experimenting, it’s infectious.

If Ruca could change one thing about you, what would it be?

I think Ruca would like it if I had a job as a butcher so I could supply him with all the tasty bones he could ever wish for.

What is Ruca's proudest moment so far?

The first time Ruca held a pen in his paws and was able to do a sketch without totally messing it up was a huge boost for him. When Ruca first started making marks, it was with a stick in the sand. That progressed to using a stick dipped in mud to draw on scraps of paper. The first time he tried a pen he found it difficult to see what he was doing because he was holding it in his mouth and his face was too close to the paper. He was used to having long sticks which meant the paper was far enough away that he could focus on it. To use a pen effectively he had to find a way to maneuver it with his paws. The first time he managed to do it was like the first time a child rides a bike on his own. He was so proud of himself!

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Ruca could speak, who should do his voice?

I would want Jay Baruchel (The Trotsky, Just Buried (a film I did the Foley sound for), How to Train Your Dragon) to voice Ruca. Jay’s got such an endearing, quirky, goofy, yet intelligent way about him. It would fit Ruca perfectly.

If Ruca could each answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?

Ruca, is there any way I can make your life even better?

Visit the Dog-eared Journals: art and observations from a dog living in Portugal.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Great sketches! Very clever - the butcher answer!

  2. What a wonderful interview! I have been following Ruca on Dog-eared Journals for a while now and it is so nice to see the world from a doggy view:)

  3. Loved this interview! Will have to check out Ruca's blog now.

  4. Great interview. great blog. and a GREAT picture of the dog peering at the coffee cup. i love that one the most.