It is so frustrating when you mess up a trap opportunity the first time around, in this case, I firmly blame my cat Snickers; here she is this time messing up my painting, luckily the tray was empty of paint!
We had recently moved to a compound and this stunning ginger cat had been coming in my garden and spraying the walls to mark his territory, as tom cats are prone to do. I decided it was time to trap him and sort this situation out.
The scene is set, the trap is in place and I am patiently inside watching from the window just above the trap but out of sight. Ginger, enticed by the smell of tuna is edging into the trap and almost on the plate (they step on the plate and it triggers the door to shut), when Snickers unseen by me, comes into the room…
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So many cats in the Middle East have a story to tell and Sammy is no exception. He was extremely lucky – or as his owner says, she was.
Sammy’s story (told by his owner)
I picked up Sammy at the vets’ office when his human brought him in to have him euthanized as he was leaving the country and couldn’t find anyone to take him. I didn’t really want another cat but I couldn’t let him be euthanized. I also tried to find him a home but sadly no one wanted him. He turned out to be the best cat and I fell in love with him. He lived to be 17 years old and finally passed due to gradual kidney failure. His young original human ironically passed before Sammy of a drug overdose.
The first stage of Sammy.
The lighting is quite tricky on this one but am liking the power in his gaze in this initial sketch.
Establishing all the basics.
Have now got all the basics in place but am fighting a bit with the lighting. The dilemma is whether to darken all the front as in the photo or make it softer and more “logical”. I don’t think it would work well to darken all the front but finding an in-between solution is proving tricky. Will put it on the easel to study and analyse for a bit…
So a few messages back and forth with Sammy’s owner and settled on what to do with the lighting issue, below is the scan of the end drawing.
I was pondering whether I should soften his expression slightly but his owner said no this was how he often looked at her, she said, I quote
” He told me everything with his eyes, he was a very deep and emotional cat and took about 6 months to decide if he wanted to be with us after his last owner wanted to dispose of him”.
So I left that slightly uncertain look, which was clearly part of him and a reflection on what happened in his past – clever creatures cats, we have to earn their trust and respect.
This cute cat with such lovely markings is called Gizmo, his portrait has been commissioned as a Christmas present for the clients’ husband.
Gizmo was one of three kittens born in the back garden of a villa in Qatar. His mother was not very good at looking after her brood and disappeared with one of her kittens, leaving the other two in the garden to fend for themselves. Lucky for them they were abandoned in a cat lovers garden and were whisked away to the vet for help. They were so tiny though that the vet thought they wouldn’t survive the night, well they were fighters and did survive, Winston and Gizmo became part of their family.
Winston was the stronger and smarter of the two, he taught Gizmo everything, they were completely inseparable. Gizmo had a few developmental problems which prevented him from jumping high and climbing trees, however, he had a big heart and would make friends with all the rescue kittens the couple took care of; he never fought or spat at any other cat. Gizmo did get quite sick at times and once spent a weekend in the vets because he was so ill, they knew he wouldn’t make old age but they hoped he would join them when they were ready to leave Qatar and relocate to Cyprus. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and he passed away last Christmas. This portrait is in memory of their sweet little Gizmo. I think he was a very fortunate cat to have been born in their garden and have known love all his life.
Just love that he looks like he is wearing a little black hat. Feeling slightly emotional having just written his story (and I never even met him) but below is the initial sketch.
Working on establishing the lights and shadows.
All the basics now in place, moving onto the detail stage.
Slowly getting there, still building up the detail. White cats are actually quite hard because you need to put the shading in to give them depth but they do have to look white at the end of it!
He has an absorbed look on his face, wonder what he was looking at so intensely?
I think I am almost done. Am going to leave him sitting on the easel for a while to double check. Quite like his intense look and having checked my other photographs of him, he does seem to have that type of expression. So loving that little black cap, makes him completely unique, it couldn’t possibly be a portrait of any other cat!
I thought I was finished but two more days of analysing, have finally put the pencil down. Here is the scanned copy of the final portrait.
Portrait number 2 of Gizmo – the client loved the way he is sitting in this picture and it shows his markings so nicely.
Look at this stunning photo of such a gorgeous cat! Bebe’s owner is a photographer (have a look at her portfolio kerrysellers.myportfolio.com), so I have been spoiled with this photograph – actually slightly worried I can do justice to this the amazing shot! Sadly Bebe passed away recently, so her owner is having the portrait done in her memory.
Below is the initial sketch.
A friend of mine, who is a pastel “human” portrait artist, once told me she always adds the eyes first so that she has someone to talk to whilst working on a portrait, I have done the same here before starting work on his amazing coat.
Was just about to post these when had to stop to mop up the floor, Qatar experienced a full-on thunder-storm, the art room windows proved not to be equipped for such unusual amounts of rain, hence the mopping!
Anyway, back at the desk and back to the art. At the moment overemphasizing all his markings, will probably have to soften some slightly later but liking the powerful feel he is portraying, makes me think of the larger members of the cat family.
Have now completed all the basics, moving onto the refinement.
I think I am finished but I will leave him on the easel to analyse a bit more before scanning him. I also always get my husband to have a look (good to get a fresh set of eyes to view it) but for him, it is actually a no-win situation, if he criticizes it I get defensive but I do actually value his opinion, sorry hubby!
Below is the final scanned image of Bebe.
Cuteness overload! Meet Bugs the rabbit who lives with his friend Ziggy the cat. Ziggy and Bugs are having their portraits done to be given as a birthday present.
First up is Bugs, below is the initial sketch. Really looking forward to this one, has been a while since I had a rabbit to draw, especially one with such interesting floppy ears!
First stage, sorting out where all the fur goes!
Worked out all the directions of the bits of fur now. Looking slightly strange without eyes but they will take a bit of research as aren’t very clear on the photo.
After looking at photos online to analyse the eyes of ” floppy long haired rabbits”, have roughly added them; seems they are really just quite small, deeply inset and dark. Have also started the more detailed work on the left-side of the body and side of face.
Last details complete, below is the finished Bugs, a bundle of fluffy cuteness! The left image is a photograph and right one a scanned image (the scanner tends to lighten it slightly).
The start of Ziggy, doing the most time consuming part, adding all the stripes!
Finally all those wonderful tiger stripes have been added!
Have worked a second layer of detail over the whole body and added an impression of the box. Really like this composition and love Ziggy’s relaxed but watching you look! Next stage, adding the final detail.
Think I am almost there now but have been working on it intensely for the last few days, so need to leave it on the easel for a bit and have another check with fresh eyes.
Have looked at it for quite a few days and made a few tweaks here and there. Now time to put down the pencil I think so that I don’t overwork it, below is the final scanned version. Really do love this composition.
As you have probably gathered from my website, I love animals. In Dubai I used to work for a pet-sitting company and have to say it was the most enjoyable and stress-free work I have ever done; I couldn’t believe I was actually being paid to do it! I had a regular dog-walk (a chocolate lab called Marlin) and together we used to run intervals around the Springs compound. He lost weight and looked great, plus I never had to do a boring treadmill workout. I also had lots of regular cat-sitting clients who I enjoyed seeing when their owners went away. I ended up a Business leader with the company but I really looked forward to my hands on pet-sitting clients.
Now that I am back in Dorset, I came across a company called Pawshake and thought why not do something I really love and doesn’t actually feel like work! It also fits in perfectly with my artwork. So I signed up with Pawshake and offer cat-sitting in the Poole area. If you are looking for someone to look after your furry companion whilst you are away, you can book me through Pawshake.
My latest Pet Portrait is a cute Himalayan called Teddy.
Teddy belongs to a friend of mine and I did this portrait as a surprise leaving present for her; she had been living in Kuwait and was moving back to good old Blighty.
Teddy had a sad story to tell, he had been re-homed numerous times because he had a very sensitive stomach that was completely out of control, on top of that he was scared of his own shadow as he had been “disciplined” so much about not getting to his litter tray in time; he even had a few teeth knocked out and his tongue sometimes hangs out one side as the teeth aren’t there to keep it in place. When my friend adopted him from a rescue group (where he had finally been surrendered), he was a very sick boy and pretty much scared of everything. Luckily for him, this time he had been adopted by the right person! It turned out he had numerous allergies which was why he was so sick. They then began the slow process of managing his allergies, plus building his trust in people. He is now the most contented cat living in England. His allergies are under control and he is extremely loved – so nice that he finally got his happy ending.
At the moment we are living in Kuwait, where there are sadly never ending problems with stray animals, dumped animals and cruelty cases. It is very frustrating and makes you feel so helpless in face of the enormity of the situation, it will unfortunately take time before any major improvements are seen. I could write pages on this subject alone but the aim of this post is to tell the tale of two tiny Arabian Mau’s who my husband rescued in Kuwait, whilst my daughter and I were on holiday in the UK.
On his morning jog, he found a tiny tabby kitten in the middle of the road, literally pulling himself along (he was so young, he couldn’t even walk properly yet). My husband did the right thing (I trained him well), he found the kittens litter mate in a nearby bush, and placed the tabby back, in the hope that mum would return; a lot of people don’t realise that the females leave their kittens whilst they go out searching for food, they only return to feed them. Often people pick up what they think are abandoned kittens but if they are in quite good shape, mum probably just left them temporarily. Anyway, unfortunately in this case, mum didn’t return; in Kuwait the way they control the animal population is by poisoning, so mum might have gone that unfortunate route, or else could have got run over, but the main point was, she wasn’t coming back.
So into our spare bathroom they went. At this stage they were probably only about a week old, so the hard work started with the round the clock bottle feeds, my husband had taken on a project! Thankfully he knew what he was doing, as our cats were found down a storm drain in the Philippines when they were just a few days old, tied in a plastic bag, sometimes you have to wonder about mankind!
Well the new babies are now about 7 weeks and slowly gaining strength.They have had their first trip to the vet for vaccinations, something they didn’t enjoy at all, well who can blame them really! Now we have the massive challenge of finding them a forever home. Unfortunately there is a severe lack of good homes for animals in Kuwait, we might even have to ship them to the UK or the USA in the search for the perfect home for them, a very expensive option.
In the meantime, they are growing steadily, even though they now look quite big in the latest photo, they are still only tiny babies and weigh about 1 pound each! I hope the perfect home is out there for them, the search is now on!
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Normally I work in graphite and charcoal, however my first real taste of the art world as an adult, was with pastel.
In 1997 I moved with my husband to Abu Dhabi. As an expat wife you are suddenly thrown into a whole new environment, your daily routine has completely gone, there is no job to go to, no friends to call up and chat to, your husband goes off to work each morning but what do you do! Slowly you find your way, discover new avenues and hopefully, eventually, a job. During the exploration of my new environment, I met a wonderful lady called Christine Fore, a British portrait pastel artist. As a child I had always been interested in art, pondered art college and interior designer but in the end went into the field of dance. Being an expat, meant I had time to re-invent myself and follow an old forgotten dream. Christine inspired me to take an important step in that direction.
Myself and a group of ladies would meet once a week round Christine’s apartment and she would teach us the wonders of pastel. Christine was such an enthusiastic teacher, we all got completely addicted, we even progressed to doing art shows together.
So this little pastel kitten, came from all the techniques Christine taught me during my stay in Abu Dhabi. Having since then immersed myself in graphite work, I hadn’t touched a pastel for years, had even given away my pastel set to a friends daughter who was showing an interest. Suddenly though I had an urge to create in colour, and went out and bought a pastel set. It was so enjoyable to see this cat take shape and in comparison to my pencil work, so much quicker. The pastels have now gone away for the time being, but I am sure it won’t be too long before they come out again.
I have Christine to thank for all those years ago, putting me on the path to taking my art seriously.
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These two very cute cats belong to a client in Kuwait, they are going to be drawn in two separate portraits as it was difficult getting them to pose together, plus the photograph of Podge (on the left) came out so well. His friend is called Splodge and the client is going to continue to take photographs of him whilst I work on Podge They look such a perfect pair, with their dark sides over opposite ears.
Starting to put the basics in place, establishing the light and dark areas.
All the basics now in place, lots of tiny hairs! Will move onto the detail stage, really liking this composition.
Final stages coming up, need to work a bit more on the face and then onto the easel for final analyses.
Podge is finished, below is the final scanned image.
The client managed, after lots of perseverance, to get this great photo of Splodge. Love the way he is rolling on his back so trustingly.
Below is the first stage. At the moment I need to check with the client about his right ear, it looks like it has been tipped; something that is done to cats who live on the streets, as an indication that they have been spayed/neutered to ensure they are not trapped again. However in the other photographs I have of Splodge, the ear doesn’t seem to look tipped. Is it an illusion? Or maybe the tip is folded under the ear?
Question about the ear answered, it isn’t tipped, so will extend it so that it doesn’t look like it is missing the end. Have also started on the tummy, lots of folds showing the muscle structure.
All the basics in place, next stage the detail, liking the cute pads on his feet.
He looks a bit lighter in real life, my scanner struggles with white images.
This has to be one of my more unusual commissions – half a cat! The owner loves Czar’s expression and is a photographer, so likes this very artistic crop.
I have now drawn the initial sketch and lightly penciled in the scrolling bar in the background, I think it balances the portrait rather than having a blank piece of paper on the right. Not sure yet until I get going, might need to change the position of the bar so that it isn’t touching the ear at that angle, time will tell.
Here is the initial sketch.No detail yet, just adding the basic colouring to make a map to lights, darks and stripes. Am starting to think it will make an interesting composition with a few background elements.
Have now started the first stage of the detail, have worked from the top of the head across to the ear and down to the eye. Love his markings, makes the eye stand out well. Have now completed one layer of detail. Now have to decide whether to complete the other layer of detail, or work out the placement of the metal scroll. Will have a look in the morning and see which route to go.
Have added the metal scroll, moved the position slightly. Got quite carried away researching metal bars, almost was tempted to add another scroll but remembered it was supposed to be about the cat and not the scroll! Have also added another layer of detail to the fur (very difficult for me to capture in a photograph), next step will be to work on the eye and refine the fur.
Finished Portrait – scanned image
My most unusual commission to date complete. Interesting to do a portrait from a completely different perspective. Czar looks like a cat with lots of attitude.
This beautiful cat lives in Kuwait. I am thinking maybe he is called Hobbes because of the Hobnob biscuit but I could be wrong.
Am really looking forward to this one because I love the composition; the photo is very clear, the head at a good angle plus he simply looks so cute but intense all at the same time. Will include the ring in the portrait as it is such an important part of the overall look.
Starting to find all the basic areas of light and shade, am liking the way the dark of the ring gives definition to the head.
Continuing downwards. Hobbes is A3 size, so allows me lots of space to get the detail in.
Now and again you come across a portrait where the composition works so perfectly, this is one of those. I knew from the beginning that it would work well – just hope the clients feel the same.
Have now completed all the basics. The clients don’t actually need this one ready for Christmas, so am dragging myself away from it so that I can complete any portraits that are Christmas presents first. Will look forward to putting in the detail later.
Christmas portrait presents complete, back with Mr Hobbes.
Am now refining the detail, have started at the top left ear and am working downwards. The differences are difficult to capture with a camera because they are so small, maybe only noticable if you look very closely. Am going to leave the eyes to last.
Below is a scanned image of Hobbes – intense but sweet!