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.
At the moment I am living in Kuwait but my hometown is Poole in Dorset. It is so nice to visit there and get a good dose of greenery before returning to the “dust bowl”.
Whilst in Dorset, Poole park is a favourite place to visit, not least because of all the feathered residents. As I will be returning to live in Poole in the summer of 2016, I thought it was about time I drew some creatures from my roots – there have been a lot of camel portraits lately! Having taken loads of photographs I decided on this Canadian Goose, little did I realise how long all those feathers would take, they were painstaking to do. It was worth it though, I am quite happy with the result. He will come with me to the UK to be framed and I hope to take place in the “Art in the Park” exhibition this year in Bournemouth. Will be so nice to be living back in England, even though the umbrella I am sure will be used a lot!
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.
I photographed this zebra at Singapore Zoo; one of my favourite places, nothing like a zoo at all actually. The challenge of course is all the stripes, very time consuming!
The title “Designer Stripes” came to me straight away, nature at its best. Here he is going through the various stage.
The finished piece scanned and then framed, decided to add some foliage.
I spent a very enjoyable week in the summer at Oxford college learning all about how to make Mixed Media Panels. Our tutor was the ever patient and completely inspiring Graham Woodall; have a look at his website to see some of his work: http://www.grahamwoodall.com/ . This course took me completely out of my comfort zone, which actually made it all the more enjoyable, I had initially tried to book a course in Chinese brush strokes but in hindsight am so pleased that course was full and that I was forced into a new area.
The prior-course information was to take with us cardboard, interesting plastic shapes, recycling materials and bits of wood! It was so interesting to see what our assortment of strange items actually developed into and how different all our projects turned out. Also must quickly mention my fellow class members, a large number who had completed a 6 year part time Fine Arts degree course, true dedication. Not to tell you their ages but they weren’t youngsters, so proves it is never to late to follow your dreams, they impressed me no end.
OK back to the mixed media panels, have to say I am now totally addicted to this new style, felt like a child again sticking, painting and creating with abandon. So refreshing to work in a free spontaneous way, I think I will now use these techniques to “relax” from my usual detailed and time-consuming pencil studies.
Now I am back in Kuwait and completely inspired, below is the start of a new project at the drying stage. At the moment I know it doesn’t look like much but when the dry brushing is done it suddenly comes to life. My aim is to put in a black frame and give it a contemporary feel, well that is the idea, we will see what actually happens.
Below is a close up of a section to give an idea of how it looks once the dry brushing is done, as you can see it changes completely, I love this stage.
Here is a photograph of it in the frame, I cut out and painted the mount so that it fitted with the style of the piece. Normally they actually are shown as panels (not framed) but artistic licence means everything is possible!
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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.
Look at this cutie! Can’t help but smile when I look at this face. Nicknamed him “Elvis” because of his lip curl – hope he isn’t a she…..
A trip to Wafra at the weekend resulted in this camel photograph; one of over 50 I took in my attempt to get the perfect shot. I am always unsure how to act around camels, I know nothing about them and can’t read their body language at all (give me a horse any day). They also tower above me which is a bit imposing however I have to say, the ones I met at the weekend were all on their best behaviour. At one point a camel walked right up to me and lowered his head to have a closer look, he looked so sweet I scratched his nose which he seemed to enjoy; I did shove my daughter behind me though just in case I had read the situation wrongly! Their companion (not sure what you call the man who walks with them with his stick) did say something to me in Arabic, which unfortunately I couldn’t understand, I just hoped it wasn’t a warning that the camel wasn’t friendly!
This commission is for a lady in Kuwait, I emailed her a few of my better shots and she choose this very unusual and cute one. I am looking forward to the challenge as I have drawn a lot of camels lately (really popular with expats as keepsakes) but never one with quite such attitude and an usual lip curl.
Below is the initial sketch, starting to add the light and shade, all those little hairs take ages! No in depth detail yet, just working out where everything goes and building the framework.
Worked on finding the light and shade of that comical nose curl, now moving across towards the eye. Still just working on getting the structure in place.
All the basics now in place, have started working on the detailed layer left to right; at the moment he is looking like a two toned camel, will catch the right-side up soon!
Have added more detail on the neck area, now moving up to the right eye along the cheek.
Big jump here because I got inspired and worked non-stop! My favourite stage is when I begin to add the final detail, it suddenly starts to all come together. Here is the final scanned image.
This is a portrait for a lady who lives in Kuwait, as an anniversary present for her husband. Really like this photograph, she has managed to capture her with such a cute but alert look, love the way her ears fold over.
Below is the initial sketch.
At the moment working on finding the contours of the face using the light and shade, no great detail yet.
Continuing to work on the contours, as Mushkila is a white dog, it is finding the fine balance between adding the shading to give depth and “saving” the white of the paper. Discovered that under Mushkila’s nose is a little black patch, if you don’t look closely it looks like her nose is going right down towards her top lip but on closer observation you can see the part underneath is a black patch. At the moment have added this in roughly, will work out how to define this a bit later when all the contours are complete.
All the basic contours now done. Have left the tag until later, we are changing to a different tag and I need to work out the angle it would be lying.
Have been working on the fine detail, small but important changes which are actually hard to capture with the camera. Need to now work on her nose now and sort out the disk on the collar.
Almost finished. Will put her on the easel over the weekend and check for anymore changes/improvements. Always like to “live” with a portrait for a bit before it is declared finished, just in case I suddenly see something that I have missed, nice to step away and come back with fresh eyes.
Made some minor changes but she is now finished and signed. Here is the scanned image.
Beautiful dog and a great photo!
This portrait is a commission for the clients mum as a Christmas present, yes Christmas is looming quite soon! The photo is so good because the client is a photographer, heaven for me. The only changes I will do from the actual photograph is to clean up her tongue and tidy up a few hairs on her chest, otherwise everything is perfect. I love the way the light catches her eyes. This will be drawn on A3 paper.
Below is the first stage, just establishing the light and shade at this point.
Now have completed all the basic work, moving onto the first stage of detail.
Have started the detail working from the left ear down, haven’t completed it all yet, still have the right side to go. No short cuts to be had with all that wonderful fur, very time consuming but like the look of the thick luscious coat.
Have now worked on most areas of the coat, next step is to concentrate on the eyes and nose area; centre panel of the face.
Almost finished, just want to “live” with it a few days on the easel to make sure I haven’t missed anything.
Final portrait – scanned image
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.