Although Bean is sitting beautifully this portrait is of Dixie, a stunning British Blue.
All finished, just time for a quick photoshoot in the garden!
Dixie’s portrait hanging in her home alongside Fidget.
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.
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
Early in the Spring I was commissioned to paint a canvas of Arny, a very lively Jack Russell. The fun started when I visited the
terror terrier to take his photograph … … … he just wouldn’t sit still.
After a chase around the garden we went inside and after a bit of sofa hopping, Arny relaxed on the seat next to me with a dog chew and I managed to snap a photo of him, at last!
I like to take photos as I go along. Even though the painting can be right in front of me, it helps to see it from a different perspective.
I’m happy to say that I finished Arny’s portrait today, it’s now signed and photographed and is ready for delivery tomorrow. I’m nervously hoping Arny’s owners love the painting and hope I managed to capture his personality for them.
I’ve just spent the afternoon staring in wonder at the BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. To be honest some of the painted portraits could easily have passed as photographs.
As soon as you approach the exhibition you are met by the outstanding portrait of Simon Weston, turn right into the hall and there is a painting of Dame Kelly Holmes which, try as I might, I could not see a single brush stroke.
Amongst my favourites was the 2008 photo-realism portrait of Sir Paul Nurse (Geneticist and cell biologist) by artist Jason Brooks.
There is something mesmerizing about this portrait. I spent ages studying the contours of his face, his skin, eyes and hair. When I paint I use a grid to copy the subject onto canvas so I was happy to see the Artist’s grid still remained in the background of this painting.
After dragging myself away from this room I went into the 2014 exhibition hall where 55 new portraits hang from around the world. Many are outstanding. There are informal and personal studies of friends and family, portraits of famous faces, a skateboarder, tube travellers, the list goes on.
Thomas Ganter became the first German to win the BP Portrait Award with his work Man with a Plaid Blanket. The 40-year-old wanted to paint a homeless man in the style that nobles or saints were portrayed in traditional portraiture “to emphasise that everyone deserves respect, attention and care”.
If you get the time go along to the exhibition, it’s well worth a visit.