"RAVENSWOOF" — Carolyn Kassnoff's dogs don't have time to sit around drinking, smoking and cheating at cards.
Her illustrated canines are too busy baking deep dish pizza, biking along the lakefront and delighting in puns.
In a series called "Chicago Dog," the 26-year-old Albany Park artist has paired her whimsical, line-drawn animals with a clever twist on the names of Chicago neighborhoods and landmarks.
"I thought [Wiggly Field] was the best name ever," she said about the North Side dog park. "Why don’t other neighborhoods have them?"
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So she created "Pawlaski Park." And "Barkingham Fountain." And "Golden Coast Retrieverville."
"I know they're 'dad jokes,' but those are the best," Kassnoff said.
The New York native is inspired by the anthropomorphic animals of children's books like "Go, Dog. Go!" (on which the "Chicago Dog Go" mug is based) and the work of Carson Ellis. She plans to write and illustrate her own children's books.
For the "Chicago Dog" series, "I wanted to combine everything I loved at once," she said.
Kassnoff quickly found out she wasn't the only one with a feverish love for Chicago's neighborhoods and its four-legged citizens.
"It was just a couple of dogs that I tried, and then it was like, 'Oh, people really like this.' A lot of people say, 'Hey, that looks like my Pete,' or 'This looks like my dog'," she said. "For a lot of people, my family included, the pet is like a member of the family."
More neighborhoods in the collection include "Lickin' Square," featuring Kassnoff's family's schnauzer Lionel; "Bridgepooch," with a basset hound; and "Englewoof," with a boxer dog riding a motorcycle.
Kassnoff has more neighborhoods in the works, and fulfills requests for a specific breed to be paired with a specific neighborhood. She also illustrates custom pet portraits for $15 to $25 — some played straight, some with a taste of her signature magical realism.
"I wanted to try animals doing regular human things. Like, most dogs can’t ride bikes, but wouldn’t you love it if your dog could go bike riding with you?" Kassnoff said, laughing. She recently fulfilled an owner's request for a portrait of her giant Saint Bernard Winston on a bicycle.
"I like to make people laugh, and the dog drawings will often cheer people up," she said. "I think that stuff is hilarious. If you have a dog, of course it's wonderful."