We have a WhatsApp group on our compound in Qatar which is generally used for people selling things when they leave, or now and again for someone who has lost a pet. One such message came through on there with a distant photo of a fluffy cat in a garden looking extremely scared; I really hoped this was a lost pet and not yet another poor abandoned cat, which unfortunately happens all too often.
I monitored the thread but sadly no one came forward and indeed the resident said nobody could get near the cat; the cat was too scared and running off. I admit I was reluctant to act straight away hoping someone else would, our last rescue had to be sent to America as good homes in Qatar are nearly impossible to find. However, it was the height of summer with temperatures way over 45 degrees and a long-haired dumped pet is just not going to cope.
I loaded my cat trap in the car and drove to the street where the cat had last been spotted. I saw the poor cat hiding under a bush looking absolutely terrified and panting in the heat! It was obvious this cat was not used to being on the streets. I set up the cat trap and sat down to wait. Unfortunately one of our compound colony cats also thought the tuna in the trap smelt good and kept trying to go in the trap, which wasn’t helpful at all! I ended up sitting on the kerb feeding the compound cat tuna to try and keep him away from the trap, at which point Casper (as he is now known to us) came out from under his bush and approached me, obviously so hungry it over-road his fear of an unknown human. It was then just a matter of some sweet talking and a few spoonfuls of tuna until he let me stroke him and move in to scoop him up; I certainly hadn’t needed the cat trap. I popped him in a cat carrier and gained another rescue who would also need a home in a country where beautiful long-haired cats are often seen as a disposable accessory – sad but true.
On closer inspection it was obvious Casper had been neglected for a while. Under all his fluff he was soo thin, had very bad ear mites and his fur was also really badly matted. My goodness did he have the sweetest personality though! He let us bath him, clean his ears and attempt to start the process of cutting out the matts, all without objecting at all.
It took quite a few weeks to get him stronger and to get to grips with the ear mite situation, he also of course need neutering, a microchip, vaccinating etc etc. However at the end of it, he was simply stunning but now the problem of a good home, the rescuing is actually easy in comparison.
Luckily the wonderful rescue organisation Cat Rangers in America agreed to take him under their wing. My previous flight buddy was on hand to accompany him and a great foster home found (my cats true to form did not like this rescue in “their” house).
He flew to America on December 24th, a Christmas wish come true.
Like most rescues we will never know his full story, he strangely had no clue what it meant to sit on a sofa and definitely would never sit on your lap; that is still true to this day but will now sit beside you on a sofa. He wasn’t that comfortable being picked up and cuddled but now he completely embraces cuddles. We guess he was maybe brought on a whim and then dumped outside with the staff; he used to beg for food in the kitchen when I cooked. Whatever happened to him it hasn’t affected his affectionate and calm personality, he is a laid-back loving chap with not a mean bone in his body who is quite wary of strangers – can’t blame him for that!
Below is his portrait which flew with him to the States as a thank you to the person who adopts him and gives him a good home.
Am sure he will find his forever home very soon – he is such a handsome loving chap, he deserves nothing but good things to happen to him from now on.
After literally his paws only just touching down in America he has been adopted! Received a lovely email from his new family with these great photos showing how relaxed and happy he is.
So happy for Casper, miss the cuddliest cat around!
Sadly still so many suffering on the streets in Qatar, which won’t change anytime soon, but we do the little that we can to help.
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.
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.
Image Posted on Updated on
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.
Image Posted on Updated on
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.
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!
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.
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.