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.
Don’t miss out on the chance to learn how to line dance. Great company and with a 2-hour happy hour; I know that doesn’t read quite right..but 2 hours it is!
Get your ticket, put it in the diary and ride up with your cowboy hats and boots to the TNRQ boot scoot. Yeehaa!
All for a good cause, help the community cats of Qatar.
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.
So I am back in the Middle East and back seeing the animals trying to survive on the streets of Qatar, it is heartbreaking, makes me want to hide away from the cruel sights and live in an ivory tower where it is all about the fancy malls and Friday brunches, head-in-the-sand technique, ironic statement I know considering I am living in a desert country!
I drove out the compound this morning and on the first corner saw a stray dead dog covered in blood, probably run over in the night. By the time I drove back from the school run, the body had been cleared away, shame my memory of that poor dog won’t be as quickly erased! Sadly the stray dogs here are also at risk of being shot or poisoned, I also always wonder how on earth they find food, cats can jump in bins to search for food but the dogs must really struggle, perhaps they rely on human kindness, never advisable – sorry, I am sounding bitter!
I just went to help a lady trap a cat to be taken to the vet to be spayed, it is so nice the lady is helping the cats on her compound, only to hear from her that she found one dead that morning, she thinks the cat was poisoned by a neighbour who doesn’t like cats, will this be the fate of the cat I just dropped at the vets? Very sad to think it might, so yes, today I am feeling a bit bitter.
The compound where I live has quite a few stray cats living there but unfortunately, some of the humans don’t like this, some have complained to the management, they say having cats around is unhygienic – OK, so if you remove all the cats bring on the rats! Cats are actually very clean animals and perfectly healthy if TNRed and part of a managed colony, which brings me actually on to what I was supposed to be talking about, TNR – Trap Neuter Return.
I have done TNR now in many countries (Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Philippines, Dubai and Kuwait), so I just as well add Qatar to my list. TNR works; as long as unwanted/unfixed pets don’t get dumped into the colony (happens a lot). For example, by some strange coincidence, I stopped by a dumpster where a cat was climbing the rubbish bags searching for food, I wanted to get a photo of how life for the street cats is to add to this post. I approached slowly so not to scare the cat but low and behold the cat jumped down to the floor ran towards me and wrapped herself around my legs crying loudly – this was no street cat! Closer inspection she had stunning blue eyes and looked very much like a Siamese – yes someones dumped pet! From a distance, I thought she was a street cat but when you look at the close-up photo, you can see she isn’t! Poor baby, shame on whoever did this to her.
I am preparing a document for our compound management to try and get their support to run a TNR program here, I hope they will agree. For those of you wondering what exactly TNR is, the below poster illustrates it well, if you would like to know about it in more detail, please follow this link: https://www.alleycat.org/our-work/trap-neuter-return/
There are many groups of animal lovers all around Qatar working to help the animals. A lot of people raise money to fly the dogs out of the country to homes they have found for them abroad; it is very difficult to find homes for big dogs here. There are wonderful Facebook groups showing these dogs loving their second chance at life, here is just one example of such a group: https://www.facebook.com/pupswithpassports/
My area of animal welfare has always really been TNR, for every cat we spay we stop yet more kittens having to survive on the streets, that in itself is an achievement. Have a look at the chart on the left to get an idea of how many kittens an unfixed pair can produce!
The difficult part of TNR is to pay for all the vets’ bills, so I am going to donate 20% from the sale of my Original Art to build a fund for spaying and neutering, it is never enough but it is a start. When I leave the Middle East at least a few poor souls will have been helped, sorting out the massive animal welfare issues here might unfortunately not happen in my lifetime.
Tomorrow is another day, I will pick myself up, stop ranting and just get on with it again like all animal rescuers do, it is the happy endings that keep us going.
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.
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Having packed up the furniture, sold the car, shipped the cats, enrolled very reluctant daughter in her new UK school and said a fond farewell to expat life, we thought that was it for living life abroad – end of a 23 year love affair with expat life and the thrill of exploring new countries, the UK beckoned and with it stability and finally putting down some roots. But hold on, we now live in Qatar! Yes the expat pull was just too much, is it a slight addiction I wonder… maybe the grass isn’t always greener on the other side – literally!
So we are back in the desert and back to drawing one of my favourite models -a characterful camel! I particularly like this one in his halter.
Below is the finished drawing. Called him “Best Blanket Day” as he does look very smart.
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Baxter and Barley’s portraits will be a surprise Christmas present. Look at this amazing photo of Baxter! The client persevered with her photography (and my fussiness) and managed to get this great shot! Such a wonderful expression and great lighting. A good clear reference photo makes all the difference and this one is a pleasure to work from. Whilst I get started on Baxter’s portrait, the client is trying for more shots of Barley, as they aren’t her dogs she is doing a great job of undercover photography!
Below is the initial sketch of Baxter, more to come once I have completed all the basics. At the moment just getting the main details and fur direction in.
Starting to add more depth of shadow.
Working on the final detail, just realised I need to do his disk!
The finished scanned image.
Client kindly sent me a photograph of Baxter framed, love her choice of frame.
Well another wonderful photo, this time of Barley, the client really has got the photography side down now! Love the enquiring look. Below is the initial sketch.
Pretty intense few days working on Barley, the reality is that Christmas is looming…….. Am working on getting all the basics in place, adding light, shade and structure.
Continuing to add the basics.
Slowly but surely. From an artists point of view, Barley is easier than Baxter because he has some ‘white bits’, black animals are notoriously difficult and you have to rely on good lighting. Barley’s white sections instantly give interest to a drawing and make him unique.
Now at the final detail stage, my favourite part!
A day of analysing and putting the final touches to Barley. Below is a scanned image of the final portrait – is his expression dreaming of running through the fields, or his dinner?
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.
When Abbie was 6 months old, through no fault of her own, she was surrendered to an animal shelter in Kuwait called K’S Path. For ca. 6 years she lived in the shelter waiting for the right family to come along and adopt her but unfortunately most adoptions are of smaller dogs, the larger dogs have a hard time finding homes and Abbie was also no longer a young dog, the odds were stacked against her.
I used to volunteer at the shelter and friends of mine came in search of the perfect canine companion for their daughter. I had seen Abbie a few days before in the garden enclosure with the trainer – sitting when asked, waiting for her treat and generally being a very well behaved dog, she is part Border Collie after all! The daughter actually had in mind one of the smaller dogs but thankfully it was love at first sight when she met Abbie. It was a wonderful moment when Abbie for the first time since she was surrendered as a pup, walked out the shelter door and got into their car for the journey to her new home. She jumped in the car and settled down as if it was something she did everyday of her life, dogs sense when they are with good people!
She is now a much loved member of their family, so this is a special portrait of a very lucky dog. It has been commissioned by the parents as a surprise birthday present for their daughter.
Stage 1 – the initial sketch and the start of an eye.
Continuing to establish the light and shadow.
Have finished adding the light and shade, the structure of the face is now more pronounced. Next step, moving onto the detail.
Adding more depth, working from the left-side and moving across.
This very cute face belongs to Inca the black lab. Her owner has commissioned the portrait as a Christmas present for her partner, I think I am going to call Inca my Christmas challenge! This is simply because black dogs are the hardest to draw due to there being no markings to help distinguish them and give a 3D effect, I have to completely rely on light and shade. This photo has great light and shade but has its challenges because a lot of detail is hidden in the shadow but this is all part of the fun of trying to make it work!
Have done the initial sketch and am just establishing the darkest darks (if that makes any sense).
Have now put in all the basic shadows and sketched in loosely the section of fence and step, will workout how to incorporate that once I have started the detail on Inca.
Completed the second layer giving extra depth and roughly giving an impression of the back ground. Just need to add the collar and then can start on the fine detail.
Have spent the morning working on the shoulder and leg, was going to leave it loose as really can’t see the detail as it is in shadow but unfortunately I didn’t feel it worked well as looked too flat, therefore have added some fur detail to give it more structure.
Thought I had nearly finished but then decided I wanted the darks even deeper to give more definition, so a quite a few hours later I have now done the final touches, here is the finished portrait.
She looks such a lovely dog, looking into those eyes it would be hard to ever tell her off, lucky I am not a dog trainer! In the end quite enjoyed my Christmas challenge of black lab.
Since July of this year I have been back living in my hometown of Poole in Dorset, quite a change after years living in a desert climate, am still getting excited each time it rains!
So this is my first commission back on home turf, meet Senna, named after a racing car driver – must admit did have to look up who he was exactly! Senna’s portrait is a surprise Christmas present and the clients cleverly got this great shot whilst he was in their care.
I have done the initial sketch and am now just establishing the light and shade, have completed more detail on the eyes but the rest is very loose at the moment.
Working from left to right have started the detail on the ear and the side of the face. Very happy with how it is going at the moment, it is such a great photo, making him look alert but lovable all at the same-time.
A very productive weekend jumped me up to this stage. Now going to work on the fine detail.
Have completed the final touches, below is the scanned copy of the end portrait. Unfortunately the scanning process changes the colours slightly and I have lost a bit of the white fur on the chest but in the actual portrait it is there!