It's safe to say that artist Dan Adams loves a cute dog. He's not ashamed. In front of North Park's Caffe Calabria on Monday morning, there was a parade of adorable pups for him to coo over.

"Look at this guy. He'd be great to paint," Adams says about a funny-looking pug wiggling down the sidewalk.

Adams has no issue with being known as the guy who likes to paint doggies.

"I realized I have some sort of connection with dogs," Adams says. "I don't get tired of it and it doesn't bother me. I have people that come up and introduce me: 'This is the dog painter.' It doesn't bother me a bit. I don't have that chip-on-my-shoulder thing.

"If people ask me to explain my work, I can't go into a theory of why I'm doing dogs," he continues. "You know, I'm doing dogs because it relates to civilization and the way they struggled. It just sounds stupid. I paint dogs because I like them. It's pretty simple."

That simplicity is evident in "Back Rub," which graces our cover this week. The French bulldog featured there is one of the many dogs Adams has painted over the years.

Adams, 64, is a first-generation American born to English parents who immigrated to America just three years before he was born. He's been painting for about 35 years, spending his days working at his home studio in Bay Park, which happens to be the home he grew up in. He and his wife, artist Anna Zappoli, cover the walls of their home with their work.

Adams says his career in art was a bit of an accident. He was taking classes at Mesa College to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War. He jokes that he didn't even open a book for the five years he was there.

"I didn't do any art then," he recalls. "The funny thing is, there was an art class. I walked by the studio; I smelled the paint. I wanted to sign up, but they said you had to take a drawing class first, and I'm not interested in drawing at all. I'm terrible at drawing."

It wasn't until he was 26 and out of college that he wandered into an exhibition of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec works at the San Diego Museum of Art. The paintings, as well as what he learned about the post-impressionist French artist's life, resonated.

"I didn't know anything about him," he says. "He was small like me, and I like the way he talked, so I bought a book on him. And that just started it."

That led Adams to teach himself how to paint, and he hasn't stopped since.

Next up, he'll show works from the last two years at Mayonnaise, opening on Aug. 9 at San Diego Art Institute in the House of Charm (1439 El Prado in Balboa Park). The flier for the show, which runs through Sept. 8, explains the title with Adams' rather straight-forward artist's statement.

It reads: "I like mayonnaise. I like paint. I spread mayonnaise on everything. I spread paint on canvas."

That idea reflects Adams' outlook on his art career. He doesn't care to enter contests or sell his art for big money. The pieces on sale at Mayonnaise, for example, will not surpass $250. Most will be priced at $100.

"I never started painting to make money as an artist," he says. "I love people to see my work. I sell, but I don't want to rip people off. I want regular people to buy them."


Write to alexz@sdcitybeat.com. You can also bug her on Twitter.

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