In 1984 George Rodrigue, then known primarily as a naïve surrealist or Cajun primitive expressionist, was asked to paint illustrations for a collection of Louisiana ghost stories entitled Bayou. When the moment came to illustrate the French-Cajun tale of the werewolf, or loup-garoup, the artist used his previously deceased black and white spaniel-terrier mix, Tiffany, as a model. Bathed in the light of a Cajun moon, the creature took on a blue hue. Since then, Blue Dog, as the animal has become known, has generated wide recognition with original canvases and silk screens portraying this subject selling for as high as $350,000.
George Rodrigue’s artistic background is rooted in commercial design. From his earliest recollections he has maintained an interest in the ability of art images to impart specific feelings and emotions and exercise influential power over those who view them. In search of a niche market and subject matter with which to showcase his artistic talents, Rodrigue turned to painting images from his Acadian heritage. Efforts within this context earned Rodrigue domestic and international acclaim. His works sold relatively well within selected circles –offered initially at prices of $50 and eventually, through enhanced product placement and networking efforts, reaching values of $150,000. However, as Rodrigue’s artistic focus shifted away from his Acadian past and began to focus intently upon Blue Dog, an icon more closely aligned with his immediate, commercially influenced present, what positive critical interest Rodrigue had been able to foster in his work began to subside. Conversely, putting to work theories concerning the power of public interest to diminish considerably the effectiveness of scant or negative critical commentary, Blue Dog’s popularity grew exponentially. This icon ushered Rodrigue into a phase of his career that, with its ability to foster instant audience report and spur mass-market appeal, reflects a heretofore-unrealized synergy between his artistic and commercial sensibilities.
Today, George Rodrigue stands as an example of artistic success achieved outside the traditional artist/dealer/gallery establishment and propagated not through the centralized voices of select critics, but via the consensus opinions and economic power of a mainstream, art-purchasing audience. Using lessons learned through relationships with agents, dealers, fellow artists, friends, and established marketing and promotional professionals, Rodrigue has generated for himself a version of the business model used historically by the art industry and infused it with his own approachable, genial persona. Without question, Blue Dog has provided Rodrigue a level of artistic freedom and financial success that was for him previously unattainable. Through the mass public appeal of the canine icon, Rodrigue’s earning potential as an artist presently dwarfs that which he achieved with his early Acadian-influenced efforts. Averaging an annual income of $10 million, it is clear that whether gleaned from the world of art or the world of business, the mantra of "success breeds success" remains true and verifiable.