Blue Clues: Wife of Blue Dog artist offers insights at Destin schools

Jordan Swanson
Thursday afternoon, about 220 fifth and sixth graders at Destin Middle School gathered in the school’s gym to listen to a presentation on George Rodrigue by his wife, Wendy Rodrigue. “I spend most of my time working on his legacy,” she said. George was unable to present at the school as he is recovering from chemotherapy from stage-four lung cancer that he found out he beat last week.

Destin Middle School students were given a presentation last week on the artist popularly known for his Blue Dog paintings.

Wendy Rodrigue, wife of artist George Rodrigue, spoke at Destin schools Oct. 11.

Rodrigue and her husband live in New Orleans part of the year and California for the other.

Wendy grew up on Okaloosa Island, attending school at Longwood Elementary, Bruner Middle and Fort Walton Beach High Schools.

“There’s nothing better than coming home,” she said.

This is the second consecutive year that Rodrigue has presented at DMS.

“MKAF formed a partnership with the George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts in 2011 with an outreach featuring both George and Wendy Rodrigue at five Okaloosa County schools (K-12), and a field trip to the arts center for third through fifth graders on a field trip,” said Marcia Hull, executive director at Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation.

“These artist residency outreach programs have inspired over 6,000 students (2011 and 2012) to share the inspiration behind the artist’s Blue Dog and Cajun paintings,” said Hull.

Rodrigue is an art historian and has written 10 books. However, she does not paint.

In May of this year, George was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, which was surprising since he has never smoked.

Wendy said that in the late ’80s, George switched from oil to acrylic paints after the fumes began to impact his health. He has used water-based paints ever since, but the earlier fumes had already taken their toll on his body and over the last couple of years formed tumors throughout his torso.

Rodrigue spent months enduring chemotherapy, and last week, he was pronounced cancer free.

Since Rodrigue was unable to attend the presentation at DMS, his wife took his place.

“I hope it will inspire kids to do what they love most,” she said of the presentation. “Anything that you can dream of doing, you can do.”

Rodrigue’s main message of her presentations is “It’s the idea that matters the most.”

In other words, her husband learned that we are not inclined to listen to positive feedback or criticism. Ignoring both types of responses is the best way to keep focused.

“I learned that George Rodrigue is a very good artist, and one day I want to be as good as him,” said fifth grader Anna Haisten Williams. Williams enjoys drawing “plants and other natural life.”

Rodrigue painted the first Blue Dog in 1984 and titled it Loup Garou for a book of Cajun ghost stories. Blue Dog is inspired by a photo of Rodrigue’s dog Tiffany who died in 1980.

Rodrigue stressed that Blue Dog is not a cartoon — it’s a flat shape.

She showed the students numerous paintings of her husband’s. Some titled “PC blues,” “We will rise again,” and “Throw me something F.E.M.A.”

She also explained to the students how her husband’s artwork was the first to go up in space for a shuttle mission.

He’s even painted Blue Dog on our beaches, dedicating the artwork to his wife and titling it “Okaloosa Island.”

For Rodrigue, the best part about being an artist’s wife is “many great things — he teaches me things all the time. Doesn’t every little girl have a dream of being a princess or muse to a knight in shining armor kind of thing?” she said.

To learn more about George Rodrigue, visit Wendy’s blog at or visit