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I write this whilst the world is under threat from the coronavirus, it feels like I am watching a movie which can’t possibly be reality but unfortunately there seems no way to wake up from this nightmare.
Currently I am in Dorset with my daughter, my husband (and cats) are in Qatar and we aren’t allowed to return back there as the boarders are closed; my husband could fly out but then wouldn’t be allowed back, which wouldn’t be good for his work. Qatar hasn’t even reached its peak yet, so I can’t see them opening their boarders anytime soon (a sensible decision really) but makes me wonder when we will all be together as a family again, September….
It is hard to find a positive considering all the deaths and uncertainty, however, I am spending spring in the UK which I haven’t done for quite a considerable time, and what a wonderful time of year it is! On my once a day allowed walk I have discovered so many different footpaths, love watching the lambs galloping around the fields and the calves curiously approach me as I stand by the gate taking photos. When do we generally have time to just stand and observe? In our garden there is a blue tit making her nest in one of the bird boxes, I literally spend ages watching her and am almost at the stage of naming the blackbirds who come in the garden – my daughter thinks I am slowly losing the plot, actually though, I am just so appreciating being amongst greenery and wildlife after years of life in the desert, makes me realise how much I miss England.
During this lockdown I have been very productive art wise – there is only so many times you can clean the house! Serenity the deer and Dillion the donkey both got finished.
Plus a new drawing calling “Motherhood”, of course inspired by all the lambs and how they interact with their protective mums.
I am now starting a calf drawing, fortunately I have so many great refence photos to choose from.
Hopefully by the time I write my next blog post we will have come out of this situation and even more importantly, have a vaccine. Very worrying times at the moment, stay safe everyone.
Meet three gorgeous kitties – Dorothy, Felix and Ziggy. I am sure they all have a story to tell because their owner is an amazing rescuer of both dogs & cats in Qatar. For example, from the few I know about, there have been bottle fed kittens plus a mum and her nine pups – yes you read that right, nine! All thrived and got wonderful forever homes.
If you are an animal in need in Qatar (we do have a lot), this is a person who you want to rescue you, the future will look much brighter from then on.
The Portrait – Initial sketch
I just loved the composition that these cats naturally put themselves in, the interaction between them is just so sweet and natural. The owner was lucky to have the phone at the ready to capture this.
The start of little Dorothy peeping cheekily around her friend.
Starting the basics on Felix.
Continuing with Felix.
Moving onto Ziggy.
Ziggy in progress; white animals are always the hardest to do.
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.
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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?
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.
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!
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.
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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.
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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.