29 Dec 2013

What day is it?

As always I have no idea what day of the week it is at any point between Christmas and New Year, except for today! We are without internet at the moment so whilst I am momentarily connected to the outside world I bring you a short photographic summary of Titus’s first Christmas, with his new best friend, Dylan. Once I have opened all my presents(!) I shall resume numerous artistic pursuits and promise to bring you something new next week……..

A lovely sunny Boxing day - thankfully, North Scotland escaped the worst of the weather

22 Dec 2013

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Just a wee blog post today. My parents have travelled 600 miles north to spend a relaxing Christmas with us and we are all "relaxing" in front of a crackly log fire, with a wee dram before supper (amidst the chaos caused by not one, but two young hyper active dogs!)

Slainte mhor a h-uile la a chi's nach fhaic

(Good health to you every day that I see you and every day that I don't)

15 Dec 2013

Beware Cynthia Roberts !

I really enjoyed the Christmas Fairs and it was so nice to meet new people, and hear their compliments about my work. I handed out lots of business cards, most of which have just my website address. You can imagine how horrified I was to discover this week that my pet gremlin has been working on my website and stealing all my messages. Consequently I have removed the Contact Form (and strangled the gremlin) and hope I didn’t miss too many commissions or enquiries. With this in mind I was delighted when someone contacted me via the SAA Gallery interested in buying some of my work. A few weeks went by and I heard nothing more, until this morning. A certain Cynthia Roberts emailed me wanting to know about 3 paintings on my website gallery. I was over the moon when she offered to buy two – and I raised an eyebrow when I found she was going to send “her courier” to collect them and ship them down to Kent. My raised eyebrows dropped to a frown when she instructed me to take twice the value of the paintings so I could pay her courier ! A quick search in Google revealed that this is a known scam, and so Cynthia Roberts has been banished to the Junk folder and blocked for good. Oh well, the delight of the sale was good while it lasted! On a more positive note, there are many genuine and very lovely customers out there -  I recently sold three of my Horny Hamishes as A4 prints to a very grateful customer in Aberdeen, and she even sent me back a picture of them on the wall. How nice is that?

9 Dec 2013

See you later aligator....

..in a while crocodile! Remember that? I used to love Mud (when I was 5 years old) but not any more, especially the mud outside our front door. I brought Titus home after his debut at the grooming parlour in Thurso (where he spent 2 hours wooing the girls whilst they transformed him from a smelly beach bum into "dog about town"). To save his pedicured paws from the offending mud, I lifted him out of the car and over the threshold  - but in doing so I managed to sprain a ligament in my hip and am now dosed up with pain killers and walking with a stick. Oblivious to the trauma caused at his expense, “dog about town” has tried to wrestle me for ownership of my walking stick and become inappropriately amorous with my bad leg! 

Monday's gales and wild waves - I could hardly stand up to take this

The beach bum in Wednesday's bright spell

sheep bums in Friday's snow

2 Dec 2013

Christmas trees and woolly bows

December has arrived and I have already decorated and undecorated the Christmas tree 3 times – only a little one for my stalls! This weekend I was at Bettyhill munching delicious homemade truffles and sipping mulled wine behind my stall.
No doubt I shall be eating something festive next Saturday at Caithness Horizons Christmas Market. I shall be selling my cards and prints plus a special line of bottled surplus energy from Titus.com. At home the preparations are underway - the cake’s soaking in brandy, I’ve found some 3 year old alcoholic mincemeat in the back of the cupboard and there’s a hunk of venison in the freezer – so what more do we need!

A few weeks ago I shared the progress of a commissioned pet portrait of Princess Neptune the pet sheep. Her loving owner was tearful when she first saw the finished painting and pleased that I had captured “that look”. She presented me with a bundle of Scottish bank notes beautifully tied in a bow of Princess Neptune’s wool. I put it on the table to photograph, clicked the camera and then it was gone – Titus caught a wiff of the wool and stole it! I squealed which caused Titus to run round the room in delight. I cornered him under the table and rescued the hard earnt cash – but the woolly bow was gone in a rapid gulp and lick of the lips!

24 Nov 2013

A week in November

We’ve had a busy week and weather of every kind. On Monday I dropped off a painting for Strathpeffer Art Fair- an 80 mile trip across some more fantastic scenery. There was frost on the ground on my way out and on the way back the autumn colours and light was incredible.
On Tuesday Titus experienced his first walk in the snow. 
On Wednesday we had gale force winds, which were so strong my photos are all blurred! Titus 
On Thursday there was a beautiful sunset – but we only had the mobile with us and the photos are too grainy!
On Friday I was stuck indoors whilst the sun shone! It took all day to put together my “stuff” for Saturday’s art show whilst Titus waited patiently (ish) for the exciting walk I promised him. The sun had gone and light was fading by the time we went out. As promised, it was exciting – he ate sand, got muddy and very wet as we walked back from the beach in the rain.
On Saturday I took my artwork to a Christmas Fair in Durness, left Titus at home with Henry and sat down and relaxed……..….. with some freshly baked bread from the stall to my left and some delicious soft goats cheese from the stall opposite, a mince pie (or 2), warm spicey teacakes, some coffee........ and today we shared what was left!

after taking this photo, the mountains disappeared and we drove home in a blizzard

Titus experiences snow - and eats it
Titus feels the wind in his fur and wrestles with a beach Triffid

This photo refuses to upload after an hour of trying - so please imagine
a slightly grainy image of a beautiful sunset taken by Henry on his mobile phone
after eating sand and before getting wet
a snack behind my stall

 no wind, no rain, no snow, no sun - a picnic of local produce for us and
some mud and tasty dead seagull for Titus!

16 Nov 2013

The road to Helmsdale

Chloe and Claudia are on display in the “Winter Salon” at Timespan, Helmsdale. Each submission had to be in a gold frame to give that nostalgic feel of a Victorian Christmas. Everyone at the opening was asked to put a sticker against their favourite painting and Chloe was the most popular! Helmsdale is about 55 miles away from home, but the long journey on a single track road is an incredible drive. The weather and light on the day I drove “the girls” across the moors was fabulous – so it took me about 2 hours to get there after stopping to take so many photos. In both directions I was rewarded with a magnificent view of red deer, but was mortified to find that I had the wrong lens on my camera after changing it to take the photo of the framed paintings before I left!

Claudia and Chloe (a very popular Cheviot!)


10 Nov 2013

Remember Wovember

The spell of Princess Neptune  has taken effect - it’s official, I’ve got a thing about sheep. I did drop a big hint back in February  and there has definitely been a clue or two in my recent blog posts. I think it was there all along, but has recently begun to be more difficult to hide. When I think about it, the best piece of art homework I did at school was a very detailed study of a sheepskin rug – I drew every little curl and twist in the woolly fireside fleece. The very first gift I bought for my Henry (before he was my husband) was a ceramic sheep by Tessa Foulkes (he was a bit confused if I remember, little did he know where it would lead) and my first oil painting was of some Welsh sheep. I’m not sure what it is – the warm woolly fleece, the knobbly knees, their little faces – probably a combination of all three. I started knitting in 2006 after I walked into a Chester wool shop one lunchtime and became mesmerised by the tightly packed shelves of beautiful colours and that smell! I was having a particularly tough time at work, and said to Henry that “I no longer want to be a manager, I want to work in a wool shop – everyone is so happy in there!”. OK darling, he said. Well, I carried on for a few more years and just nipped in to the wool shop for a lanolin-sniff and a skein-squeeze when things were really heavy at work. We would both go to the Woolfest in Cumbria for a serious fix!

These last few weeks have been a journey of discovery – I am not alone - there are quite a few folk out there who share my sheepish behaviour and I’ve found a whole on-line community of happy people passionate about sheep and wool. I’ve also discovered that this month is Wovember, a celebration of real wool from real sheep . In the spirit of Wovember I have embarked on a large sheepy composition, the largest pastel painting I’ve ever attempted. I very chuffed with the end result after 12 woolly faces, 20 knobbly knees and an awful lot of bleating!

The Gang - not sure what to call it - just a few finishing touches to do yet

the initial drawing - ready for transfer onto the pastel paper

my reference photo ( taken near Latheron, Caithness) & the "notan" study 

work in progress - lots of knobbly knees to go

3 Nov 2013

Ploughing a deep furrow

Last weekend we went to the Scottish National Ploughing Championships. The weather was cold but sunny and ideal for ploughing a nice long furrow. We were just watching of course – Henry &  I enjoy seeing the old fergies and the heavy horses. The nostalgic scene was enhanced by the low winter sun and some weird and wonderful Caithness clouds. We left as the sun went down with four rosy cheeks, two pairs of muddy boots, a tired dog and a camera full of photos. This weekend, in contrast, has been wild, wet and windy and we have stomped around indoors in our padded onesies! Even Titus wasn’t too keen on going outside. After painting sheep all week (for a change) I see them when I close my eyes at night! I tried to count them as the wind howled round the croft house, but to no avail – so I shall be taking ear plugs up the hill to the land of nod tonight.

26 Oct 2013

Dust & Fluff

I didn’t do too badly with my over-ambitious list of things to do last week – the house is full of blind, but mended furry animals and there is a half-done sheep on my easel. I had kept all my drawing materials out of harm’s way with the arrival of Titus – since the tiny house we rent necessitates the sharing of one’s makeshift studio with a bouncy dog. By the time I had set everything out again, and reintroduced myself (and Titus) to the hoover, half the day was gone. It’s surprising how much concentration is required to do a commission – much more than any other painting because I am so keen to make sure I achieve the likeness my clients expect. My little helper didn’t appreciate this, so not much was achieved on day one. Today, day two, was much more successful, thanks to Henry’s assistance with both domestic and dog duties! I remember trying to work when Ned was a pup – he secretly stole a yellow pastel stick from my box. This would have remained undiscovered had he not then knicked a pair of black tights from the washing line and covered them in tell-tale yellow saliva! I consciously arranged my pastel box higher off the ground than usual, but subconsciously I approached my painting process of Princess Neptune a little differently as well. I feel more aware of colour temperature and didn’t start with the nose. I don’t know what her nozzle did to put me off, but I think perhaps my choice of colour has been influenced by my pochade practice.

My little helper - waiting for me to open that interesting box!

21 Oct 2013

Socialising, shopping trips and beauty treatments

Alas, only Titus has been socialising, shopping and getting beauty treatments! His attentive servant has been kept busy taxiing him around and raising funds for the next spree! Three little paintings completed this week and two of them submitted to Inchmore Gallery, near Inverness for their winter CD Collection. But, before I get carried away at being an artist again, there is a queue forming outside the Toy Hospital gates. Several furry creatures require nose jobs, eye surgery and hernia operations. And while the sewing basket is open, there is also some lovely tartan fleece waiting to be converted into new dog beds.  So, alongside some Christmas card designs, two more paintings for another gallery, and a commission I have another busy week ahead……



14 Oct 2013

Pretty as a Princess

This week I was commissioned to do a portrait of a pet sheep – that’ll be a first! I love to meet my clients and subjects face to face and to take the photographs – it’s not always possible of course. But this time it was and I now know all about my next subject. This sheep was very small and sick when she was born, and would certainly not have made it through the night had she not been rescued and taken indoors to be nursed and hand fed. She was born on the day of the Grand National and named after the winner – Neptune, but (being a girl) is known as Princess Neptune. For 3 months she was bathed and blow dried every day, allowed to sit on the sofa and showered with lots of love. She has since moved back outdoors to the Croft where she was born, but refuses to acknowledge the other sheep, and keen to get back indoors whenever she can. When I arrived she was waiting in the yard having had fer face washed and her fleece brushed. She is kissed a lot, so often has red lipstick on her face ! Beneath her thick fleece, marked with two purple hearts, lurks a lot of sheep – the result of being fed biscuits (she prefers Digestives!). Princess Neptune also likes to ride in the car, and knows exactly where to find the travel sweets. I took 168 photographs under the careful watch of a very jealous sheep dog. Whilst looking at the photos on my camera, the sheepdog quietly lifted his leg on my shiney red boots as if to show his disgust at the disproportionate amount of attention given to a sheep! I think I fell under the spell of Princess Neptune so I may ask her to model for some Christmas cards when the commission is finished!