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.
In Qatar, we have a lot of sad animal cases, if you follow some of the rescue groups you would pull your hair out and not know where to start! Personally, I try to stick to TNR (Trap Neuter Return) as that is about prevention but of course, working on the streets means you come across cases who need help and numerous dumped pets. This latest case though I didn’t find on the streets but saw on a popular Qatar facebook page…should never look at them!
Zima was abandoned by her owner, the owner moved away leaving Zima behind at the house where she had been living. The people who were sharing the property didn’t want a cat and they certainly didn’t want a cat who then gave birth to three kittens! They put an advert on a Facebook site offering the kittens for free – literally just go and pick one up, as if they were toys! The kittens were only about a 1 week old and still feeding from mum; as these are cute Persian kittens plus offered for free, loads of people responded saying they wanted a kitten and would go and get one. I read the post with horror seeing the photographs showing newly born kittens and quickly responded saying the kittens were far too young to give away, the person replied saying they were giving them away because they couldn’t afford to feed them, at which point I offered to bring them food but please not to give the kittens away.
A heartbreaking visit to the family to give the food saw the reality of where mum and kittens were living and how they were really not wanted; mum looked so sad and was so so thin but such a good mum, her kittens looked healthy and she was very protective of them hiding them under a kitchen cabinet to try and keep them safe. I was devastated to have to leave them there but had nowhere to take them having my own cats and a new rescue at home.
Following a sleepless night worrying about them I received a text message the next day from the people saying they simply couldn’t keep them, unfortunately, the food hadn’t bought the family time. I desperately contacted a fellow cat rescuer asking if she could help find a foster home but I literally needed it in the next few hours! She performed a miracle and found a wonderful foster home for the whole family. Now that they had somewhere safe to go I drove across town to collect the family, on arrival there it was almost like the mother cat knew help had finally come, on placing the carrier down mother cat calmly walked in it and sat down, as if she sensed a better life was just around the corner.
A visit to the vet confirmed that the kittens were all in good health but mum was in a very poor state. She had a vitamin injection but couldn’t be vaccinated because she was just too weak. It was also discovered she has hardly any teeth, therefore must have been really struggling to eat at all. However, they were given the all clear to move into the foster home. Thankfully she also tested negative for FIV.
Zima (Slavic for winter), as she was named by her foster mum, and her family moved into 5-star accommodation! Their very own room with fleece blankets and soft food that mum could eat. They must have thought they had landed in paradise!
Paradise is where they still are but the next challenge is finding good homes for them and covering all the veterinary costs of 4 cats – spaying, vaccination, antibiotics, worming etc. Good homes in Qatar are hard to come by and that is putting it mildly. A lot of rescuers ship abroad to America or the UK in the search for forever homes, an extremely expensive option! I hope it won’t come to that, divorce will be in the air soon as my long-suffering husband hears about the next cat rescue problem but we just can’t ignore the plight of the animals around us and help where we can.
A happy update – all three kittens have been adopted by Canadian families, lucky babies will one day end up in Canada, a far cry from where they started life. Mum is getting her happy ending too and flying to America.
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.
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!
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.
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!