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.
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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?
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!
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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With their haughty looks and wonderful eyelashes, camels are always a favourite with us expats. This camel drawing has been specially commissioned by a group of ladies for a friend of theirs who is soon to leave Kuwait, a memento of her time here.
I love this photograph, am going to include the halter/harness to give the drawing a very traditional feel.
Stage 1 – the initial sketch.
Have just started to develop the sketch, finding which direction the coat falls and the underlying muscles.
All the basics now in place, next layer will be adding more light and shade. He is a handsome chap!
Started the detail work on the left-hand side of his face.
All the basic detail of the camel now in place. Would love to keep working on the camel but will tear myself away and get the harness to the same stage.
Have added the harness, now onto the final detail. I think Mr Camel will be one of my favourite pieces, the great photograph really helped matters. If you click on the image, you can see it close up.
Have completed another layer of detail; small but important details. Now onto the final stage of checking and improving.
Finished Portrait – Mr Camel scanned.
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!
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Handsome Ghost lives at Rahal Ranch which is situated close to Al Ain.
If I was a horse living in the Middle East, this ranch would be my residence of choice. They practice natural horsemanship, which basically means from a horses point of view, that somebody actually tries to understand you rather than forcing you to conform with harsh bits and spurs. Tracy, the owner, is often to be seen cantering around the school doing flying changes without a saddle or bridle, actually only a piece of rope round the horse’s neck – seeing is believing!
Ghost lives in this wonderful environment and I happened by to disturb him one Friday lunchtime. Ok I admit, he was on a break, but Ghost could have co-operated just a little bit with my photography efforts. Every time I would get set up for the photograph, he either refused to turn his head, or would turn quickly and charge directly at the camera as if to say “what do you want”! We carried on like this for quite a while until I managed to get the above shot. It was almost as if he finally thought it would be quicker to pose so that I would go away and leave him in peace. I love a horse with attitude!
Here is the first stage of his portrait.
Have now completed the initial sketch, am thinking the powerful neck is going to be an important part of the drawing. His star and white nose also give a nice contrast to his face, this will show more when I establish the dark areas in the next session.
Have now started more detailed work on the left-side of his face. Horses have such interesting bone structure, plus of course the soft muzzle.
Now at the final stage, am working on balancing the light and shade.
Ghost is finished! Below is the scanned version.