It was a pleasure to paint Paris for a second time. I never met Paris but sweetness shines from her face.
During the summer months our beautiful dog, Elsa developed a condition called Vestibular Disorder. I didn’t write a post about it before because, in some childish way it made it more real and because it was very frightening.
“Vestibular disease in geriatric dogs is often mistaken for stroke. The vertigo caused by the disease can be particularly intense in older dogs with symptoms of nausea, difficulty or complete inability to stand up, head tilt, nystagmus, and circling. Treatment of the disorder consists primarily of supportive care and resolving any underlying cause. Geriatric dogs with peripheral vestibular disease often need supportive therapy in the form of IV fluids and supplemental nutrition, help with eating, drinking.”
The long, hot summer months were very challenging because Elsa needed round the clock help, she was given water through a syringe, hand fed and carried out to the garden with a harness. We took it in turns sleeping downstairs with her and there were many nights where she couldn’t settle; so there were many sleepless nights. During these times I discovered that a lady I follow on Instagram was also awake and up in the wee hours, also caring for an elderly dog. This wasn’t a family pet like ours, this was a dog that was living out her last days on the side of a busy road. Flora was malnourished, filthy dirty, had sores and weeping wounds, cataracts and wobbly back legs - but they took her home.
(At this point I should say that Anja and her husband are living in rural France, in a caravan with three other dogs, while they renovate their home. Anja also makes beautiful jewellery from broken vintage plates.) Back at the caravan they removed 40+ ticks, washed and treated the sores and also discovered that Flora was incontinent …. hence the sleepless nights that followed ….. Anja was constantly laying out dry bedding and making Flora as comfortable as possible until they could see a vet and try to get the condition under control.
So, there we both were, ‘chatting’ over phone messages, supporting each other with encouraging comments and both staring at the same bright moon whilst standing in the garden with our wobbly dogs.
- “We had a dry night!!! Up at 5am”
- Tonight is a more pleasant temperature for our furry friends”
- I’ve slept in my own bed for the last two nights”
- “Flora tried to bounce today, all stiff legged and 2″ off the ground!”
Skipping back to May, Anja posted a photo on Instagram of one of her other dogs. Arthur. She describes Arthur as a bird watching, tractor spotting, hat loving dog. When I saw the photo I just knew I wanted to paint it one day. So I did.
Doing what he loves …. bird watching, tractor spotting, wearing a hat.
Arthur looks like he approves of the painting and I hope there’s a corner in his house for it to hang.
Elsa is doing well; after a few weeks she began eating and drinking unaided. We found that a turning point in her mental state came when we took her to the park for the first time after the disorder began. She is sometimes still wobbly and has a head tilt, but and on the whole she enjoys her walks. She makes us smile when she skips and jumps like a new born lamb just finding its legs! . She appears to have had the most common form of canine vestibular disease – the peripheral form – which in most cases improves with time, supportive care and love.
Flora is no longer with us but during her last months she had a full belly, she was clean, comfortable, had companions and in the end truly knew what love was. RIP Flora <3
You may know the Fab Four as John, Paul, George and Ringo. Well, not where I live, we had Harry, Jack, Blue and Elsa. They were well known in these parts. Three Lurchers and a Collie cross. On any given day we could be seen crossing the meadow, woods and park with the Fab Four or, should I say, the Fast Four. They would run and run and run, in big loops before coming back for treats. My friends and I had to stop meeting for morning walks because the dogs were all over-exercising and beginning to suffer muscle related problems. I miss those days.
This is Jack and he is fast and funny and if you stand still chatting for too long he can jump as high as your shoulder from a standing position just to remind you he’s there … and bored … and wants to go home to crawl under the covers.
It’s so nice to meet the ‘sitter’ of a portrait before I start to paint. I always work from a photograph and if I haven’t met the pet it’s sometimes hard to gauge their personality. When I dropped off the portrait of Tèa in May I was lucky enough to meet her brother Fidget, a Pomeranian/Spitz. Even with his mohawk haircut, he is just a bundle of fluffy loveliness.
It’s easy to see why he has the nickname ‘The Fudge’ because he is so sweet.
When I deliver a commission there’s always ‘that moment’ when the client peels back the brown paper to reveal the portrait – What if it’s not what they wanted? What if they don’t like it? What if I haven’t captured ‘the look’? My fears were allayed when I got home and my phone went ping. When I opened the notification and saw this I could’ve cried.
HE LOOKS LIKE HE’S SMILING !!
Fidget has now joined the gallery wall alongside Paris and Tèa
For my latest commission I was sent an envelope full of great photos of a very handsome black cat and given total freedom to chose which one I wanted to paint.
It looks to me like Cocoa loves his garden. Perhaps he’s out there pondering why black cats get such bad press.
I love the way the light is bouncing off his shiny coat.
Before the painting left to go to its new home my own little black cat gave her approval
My next commission was to paint Paris, a 13 year old Staffie. I’ve never met Paris but I was sent lots of photos and was asked to paint one specific pose and background. The background requested was a spot-light effect, which I’ve never done before.
So I watched YouTube tutorials and learned about a product called an ‘Extender’ which allows more movement of acrylic paint before it dries. It also allows you to blend and smooth-out brush strokes. With this medium the acrylic paint performs just like oil paint and is workable for a longer period of time.
I visited my local art shop to buy the canvas and invested in a bottle of Extender, went home and practised, practised, practised. At first I thought the spot-light looked like a halo so I practised more and blended more and eventually I was happy with the effect.
I’m so glad I was asked to paint Paris because I feel it’s pushed me to learn a new paint effect which I know I’ll use again.
After Christmas I received a lovely thank you message from Paris’ Mum together with photos of the canvas framed and hung.
Back in the Autumn I was asked to paint a portrait of Tia, a beautiful German Shepherd. I was given a selection of photos to chose from with a variety of backgrounds. I’m lucky to have met Tia before and know she loves the outdoors.
After nearing completion of the portrait I started concentrating on the scene behind.
Initially I painted a floral background but decided it looked too much like wallpaper. I didn’t feel I could give enough depth to it. So I painted over the flowers and gave it a blurry background which I was much happier with and thought it looked less distracting.
Tia’s portrait was delivered in plenty of time and I was so glad to hear that her Mum and Dad loved it and hung it immediately.
I could now get on with my Christmas shopping ….. or so I thought! Skip on over to my next post and meet Paris
Earlier this year I visited my childhood friend in Spain and had a great time catching up with lots of old friends. It had been many years since we had seen each other, so many that I had never met my friend’s grown up daughter. When I returned back home I thought it would be nice if I made something to show my love and appreciation for their warm welcome. This is my gift.