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Friday, 27 June 2008

Summer's here and so are the school holidays...

Schools out...
Yikes, I'm way behind schedule... no worries... I'll work nights!
Since relaunching my art carrier and having to team it up together with being a full time mum,  I have learned that everything is possible, do-able and have-able!
As long as your are not too picky about when, are quite an expert at cutting one or two unimportant corners and can focus on at least 3 things at once...
Sunday, I exhibit in Chimay and am busy translating my promotional material into french... not great fun but do-able.
I finished pricing and invoicing the prints and ACEOs I'll be taking with me. Sticky prices were everywhere much to the girls and kittens' delight.  
I am looking forward to the event mainly because it is going to give me a very focused understanding of my "close to home" market and clientele. (No better way than going out there and mingling)
I can't help thinking there will be a lot of children there and couldn't resist printing "Over the Fence" in a great postcard size and priced to compete directly with a small packet of sweets. The idea of making my work have-able for the younger ones was so tempting (couldn't resist).
Beauty and Bonfire (the 2 hairy chaps you can see here in "Over the Fence") are, I am sure, universally cute and will get all sorts of Oooohs and Aaaahs!.
Only Sunday will tell...!

Back on Monday with loads of updates.

Have a great week-end wherever you are

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Start of new canine pencil drawing

It has been  a quite while since I last posted about what was actually on my drawing board...I seem to have taken to talking about what's going on around it more than showing you the actual creating.

I  really have been busy drawing as well as typing.

A new commission  has started. It is a portrait of 2 Riesenschnausers (Giant Schnauzers.) Jack and Libby.

Both are dark and have beautiful expressive eyes hidden under their long haired fringes.

I researched a little to find more about the particularities of the breed - this helps me really pin-point elements which are crucial and typical to a specific breed.

Here is the first stage of the portrait: it is an initial layout and the beginning of detailed work on the eyes.  This is Libby.

I am using 6B and 3B Staedler clutch for the hair and 2B and 2H Derwent pencils for the eye. This portrait is being drawn on Steinbach paper (250gr. 73 x 110cm). 

I have penciled in the second dog Jack and will start on his eyes in the next session...

The eyes are the most important part of the portrait.  It is when, and only when, I feel they are the way they should be (expressive and believable) that I feel I can get on with the rest of the study.

At this stage I am about 4 hours into the portrait.

I will keep posting as the portrait comes along. 

Friday, 20 June 2008

Royal Ascot-the one racing date I won't forget.

I cannot and will not let another year pass without mentioning a great British tradition: Royal Ascot.  
I missed Ladies' Day yesterday and do not plan on missing the big day tomorrow.
Founded by Queen Anne in 1711, Royal Ascot is 5 days of great horse racing.

Dreams of going to Ascot have been in my mind since I can remember. Even as a wee girl the smell of the scones and the frivolity of wearing extra nice dresses as of course the sight and sound stunning thoroughbreds zoom past totaly mesmerized me... 

The closest I got to this dream was to have seen youngsters training for the event very early one morning in unforgetable visit I must add.

Well, I watched two races today - the Albany Stakes (six furlong race won by a 2 year old Irish filly Cuis Ghaire) and the King Edward VII - 1&1/2 mile  race won by Franke Detori (his 40th Ascot win) on the stunning Campanologist. 
They are sooooo beautifullllllllll (I'm referring to the horses of course ... the hats and the chaps are not bad but the equines are way superior.)

Why is it that of the 60 established racecourses in Great Britain and the 2 in Northern Ireland Royal Ascot is the most viewed and visited?  
Fashion and style, glamour and tradition can only be a part of it .
The horses, the quality of the horses has to be and remain the main reason.
306.00 visitors agree with me and go to Royal Ascot to have a flutter on the horses ( a milestone was reached in 2006 with 1/2 million visitors).  
Maybe the 3.5 million Pounds Sterling in  prize money (making it the most valuable race meeting in Europe) also has a role to play. 

These impressive figures also mean that once a year, the hat manufacturers become the happiest hatters and milliners, selling there wildest creations at the wildest prices.  
Champagne is happily sipped (185.000 bottles consumed in 5 days) with a nibble on a strawberry (5 tones consumed) wine is more or less just looked at with only 15.000 bottles consumed.
11.000 lobsters and 100.00 scones are savoured.

Over the years, it has not only grown in tradition and excellence but has also moved into the 21 century with style, aplomb and as fast as the horses race.  There is a Royal Ascot website with a great deal more than racing info and results, there is a blog, a magazine, a fashion show and next year there will the "Face of Ascot 2009"...  All these elements allow everyone to witness and understand just how spectacular Royal Ascot is and will remain for quite a while. 

SO where does this fantastic race meeting fit into my art world?
How does Royal Ascot affect my art?
Quite simply, when watching the races, I am reliving my childhood dream. I remember senses and emotions that help keep my thoughts young.
A child can pin point the simplicity of beauty so well and this clarity of vision is crucial in keeping ones work honest and true...

Who knows how my next action equine drawing will end up, especially  if I back a winner tomorrow!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Equine Art Guild new virtual art show: Best of 2007

Beauty (illustrated above): the smallest hairiest equine I've ever drawn...

The Equine Art Guild's 4th virtual show has gone online and is well worth a visit.  

It's a great show which has gathered a strong collection of equine art work in various mediums. 
You love art, you love horses or are just curious to see what I'm referring to click on the following link and enjoy....  Here is The Best of 2007

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Technical internet problems hindering email communication

A great sigh of relief ....I thought I was the only one experiencing "slight" email & blog problems...

I believed to be the only owner of an inbox without an active "In" feature and a send option that listens once every 4 clicks. 

I believed this until I read Katherine Tyrells' last entry  in her blog  Making a Mark.

It wasn't until then that I realised that this IT problem (because it is a problem!) was not just specific to my computer but a problem that was wee bit bigger and a problem that needs to be DELT with.
Katherine's problems seem to be directly related to google and Feedburners' lack of quality performance whereas mine seem to be more Googlemail related.
Here's what's been going wrong at my end (all Google related I must add).
  • Feeds I am meant to get from  Feedburner have not been arriving...
  • Emails sent to me have reached my inbox a tad late .... 24 hours! 
(I can't help thinking that some have never reached me at all.)
  • Emails sent out from my googlemail account have never reached the recipient... they are no doubt gallivanting around cyberspace with all the other lost emails!
The unfortunate thing with Googlemail is that there is no way of asking for a confirmation of delivery email.  This is all very unsatisfactory and another problem that will need sorting.
  • Posting on blogger has been hit or miss in the last three weeks... often when writing a post it will all change into exclamation marks ???????????????? ?????? ??.  Pretty but not very readable and totally infuriating!
4 major points that I have sent off to Google... will keep you posted on their feedback.

Stay tuned, I may have a new blog space coming soon.....

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

When iron will falters... because of a kitten.

Sometimes iron will is just not enough.... and you really just have to go with the flow...
I had finished my morning session in the studio and was on my way to grab another cup of coffee before sitting down to do some research for my new post when... Jess appeared... out of  a shoe box!

Deadlines were plugging at the back of my mind, phone calls had to be made, research started, end of the month exhibition logistically sorted out, washing sorted (yep I work from home!), printers organised (that's another story), promotional material indexed, shipping forms understood, prints priced, emails answered, filing done (not too difficult to postpone I agree) but, oh no, the list was still not long enough to shoo (no pun intended) away temptation! 
No... I had to pick up my camera! 
I had to get this cutie-pie on film (card!)  
The battery was nearly full (good), the card empty (excellent), the light workable and the subject (Jess) in full action.  
I shot nearly 50 pics before she stopped, shoe lace dangling from her tiny mouth, and looked round at me. 
I'm sure the look she gave me was exactly the same as the one I received when disobeying  as a child...

Why DID I pick up my camera? 

Why didn't the amount of work hold me back?

Was it really the loss of willpower or was it something else?

I picked up my camera to follow my instinct.
I picked up my camera because the passion for my art, my work is forever present.
(Which artist doesn't keep adding crucial reference images either mentally or digitally?)

I picked up my camera out of sheer enthusiasm.

I picked up the camera because spontaneity had  become stronger than common sense.

I picked up my camera because my iron will had let Beauty in. 

As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wisely said "Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest."
Quote taken from Robert Glenn's excellent pages of artistic quotes 

I was stopped in my tracks by an 8 week old kitten.  
This adorable beautiful feline has indirectly reminded me that art is all about enthusiasm, passion and spontaneity . 

Here's one of the pics for your pleasure.
The other one is on the drawing board... I'll keep you posted...

Friday, 6 June 2008

Looking into the history of the Border Collie-first steps in understanding the working sheepdog.

Last Sunday was not only an inspiration for my equine art but turned out to be quite inspirational for my canine art as well.  The show brought back vivid memories of our beloved Border Collie Bess. (Working sheepdogs were present and were just as keen, responsive and sharp as I remember our wee Bess.)
Reflecting on those memories, I came to the conclusion that I am clueless about the history of Border Collies (part of my heritage) and the making of the modern day Border Collie.
We (my parents) bought Bess from a working shepherd in Scotland nearly 30 years ago.  
In those days the breed was purely a working dog and had not reached the international and commercial notoriety that it has today. 
Bess was small making her very agile and fast, had a slow heartbeat allowing for very fast recovery, had the kindest disposition and temperament, herded cats, horses and cars all with the same dedication and skill. 
Not a very extensive knowledge to say the least.

Today's post is, I shamefully admit, my first deeper look at this graceful, tenacious and hardworking dog.
I would like to try and answer three basic questions:
  • where the Border Collie originates from 
  • how it has shaped the modern day Border Collie 
  • why it continues to conquer the hearts of so many people the world over.
Basically, the way I see it, the more I find out about the breed, the better I will be able to draw it.

(Note to all Border Collie experts: please forgive any misinterpretations and misunderstandings I may formulate... Researching the information for this post highlighted how many sources do not give the same facts.  I believe the sources I have used and quoted from (noted at the end of this post) to be well informed and accurate.)

History of the Border Collie.

The Border Collie originated in the Scottish Border Country around 350 years ago and is descendant from the Persian Sheepdog.

It was when livestock farming and wool trading in the border regions started to develop that the need for working sheepdogs was felt. Local farmers began developing agile and powerful dogs to work their livestock.  

They needed a hardy dog, a dog that could withstand the harsh climate as well as a dog that had endurance. A dog with stamina, a dog that could tackle the rugged terrain, a terrain  made up of cliffs, hills and large open spaces.  A dog with the intelligence, with the right temperament making them not only keen herders but also possess power over sheep. 

These Collies worked for hundreds of years with the shepherds, being bred solely for their working ability. 

James Hogg (1772 -1835), poet and shepherds' son born in Selkirkshire (Scottish Border country), wrote

"without the sheepdog the mountainous land of England and Scotland would not be worth sixpence. it would require more hands to manage a flock of sheep and drive them to market than the profits of the whole were capable of maintaining."

Border Collie ancestors, anchors to the modern breed.

Sheila Grew, (author)

wrote in her book"Key dogs from the Border Collie Family", Volume II (1985)  

"... a century ago many of the working collies were hard, powerful... dogs, difficult to control and rough with ... stock; but their keen .. instinct, ... concentration and get power over sheep or cattle were such useful assets it seemed worth trying to find a milder natured type of working collie to cross with [them]." 

In 1894, Adam Telfer, a Northumbrian farmer, succeeded  in toning down the highly strung collie. Sheila Grew goes on to say that Telfer "succeeded... in finding the right blend of the two types of dogs".  

The modern day Border Collie is descended from his dog:  Old Hemp. 

Old Hemp Born in 1893. Undefeated at trials and one of the most notable stud dogs in Border Collie history. Old Hemp was a cross between a very strong-eyed, black bitch with a reticent temperament and a black and white tri-colored dog with loose eye and a good natured, outgoing temperament.  Hemp was a powerful, keen worker.   Old Hemp sired more than 200 dogs, and a countless number of bitches. Bred for his looks and impeccable working ability. Old Hemp is an ancestor of most Border Collies today. Old Hemp died in 1901

Old Kep: Born in 1901, Old Kep (son of Old Hemp) was a very kind and friendly dog. One of his contributions to the breed was his "Eye" which resulted in 45 first place wins at trials. Don (ISDS 11), a son of Old Kep, was exported to New Zealand where he contributed to the Australian Border Collies.

In both descriptions of these legends there is the mention of "eye". 

Basically. The Border Collie controls the sheep with 'eye".  This refers to the

 amount of concentration the dog directs at the sheep. The sheep are held by the strength of the dog's eye.  A dog where this characteristic is well developed is called "strong eyed".

"Gather", "Clapping" and "Intelligence" are  some of the other crucial working features that Border Collies are born with. 

Here is a page with a list giving a good insight into understanding herding terminology. An online  glossary of herding terminology.

That special Border Collie appeal

I've come to the conclusion that the international appeal that the Border Collie has  must be down to the fact that it is: 

  • one of smartest and most capable breeds in the world. ( They are considered intelligent, meaning that they could think for themselves.  Border collies were sent great distances to gather the scattered sheep. Being far away from the shepherd they had to be intelligent, independent and able to handle all sorts of situations without the shepherds' guidance.)
  • receptive to training
  • eager to learn and please
  • beautiful, graceful, 
  • thrives on attention and genuinely loves people
  • not nervous nor aggressive
  • good natured
  • and well... most certainly it is because they are (very often)... black and white

Don't let all this praise deceive you. 
Border Collies are much more work than most other breeds
If you don't have horses, cattle, sheep, a farm, ranch or an incredibly large area you can use for exercise, it will be difficult to give the dogs all the exercise and stimulation they need.
Unfortunately many Border Collies end up in shelters when their owners realise that they need so much exercise, attention, and training/mental stimulation (actually the training requirements are most probably the highest of any breed.)

I firmly believe they are working dogs, workaholics, bred for their performance and working skills...this should never be forgotten
Some breeders fear that emphasis on looks and beauty could be the breeds downfall and therefore concentrate on their working qualities.
Thankfully, Border Collies are naturally versatile and can excel in other fields (no pun intended!) other than herding and sheepdog trials. 
If I remember correctly, the agility, freestyle and obedience categories at Crufts (amoung other shows) are strongly dominated by Border Collies. 

Well there you have it: a wee bit of sheepdog history and some gathered facts.
Bess lived to the grand old age of 14 and a few months. 
Now,  I understand why I still miss her...

Useful links used for this article and my general understanding:

And a final link for all those of you who really want to get dug in:

Complete list of Border Collie books

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Canine Art Guild new online show

The Canine Art Guilds' 4th online exhibition, "Canine Pot Luck," is now online at .
The show is essentially an artists' choice, and there is a beautiful selection of artwork by CAG members.
There's also cash prizes for People's Choice, so please, stop by and cast your vote!! ( This is my very subtle hint for you to look out for my 3 entries...!) Seriously the work is great and picking any one piece to vote for is pretty darn tough.

The CAG is made up of artists from around the world, artists who love to draw, paint, scultp, photograph and study canine subjects, artists of all levels, working in all mediums, producing work of all shape and sizes.
It is quickly becoming the place to find quality canine art on the web.
Have a wee look and see if I'm wrong...(I know you'll like the selection.!)

Ciao for now

Sunday, 1 June 2008

The other side of creating art, collecting inspiration for free.

Would you agree if I said the best things in life are free?
Would you still agree if I went on to say the
 best things in life are not things at all? 
Today the best thing was equine.
My collection of vital reference photographs grew by 300 pics... 
A little thing for most people. 
For an artist who needs loads of well detailed photographic info as well as home made photos for inspiration it is pretty major.

We went to a small local show. 
The weather was good. 
The children love horses and are up for anything that allows them to be exuberant lively little girls. 
Well by the time we had closed the car doors and had our first peak, they were not the most excited exuberant giggliest wee things there... their mother was like a child in a candy story! 
Thrilled to bits... 
Cold bloods were lined-up, rustic, unpolished, straight off the farms, out of their fields, foals in tow, the real deal.
Authentic Belgian (Brabant) draught horses.  
I had my camera...a full battery, an extra card in the bag, a happy family, sun and amazingly... time.
The fun could begin and did!
3GB of photos were shot.
Photos of horses, big horses, young horses, sleeping horses, rearing horses, ponies,
 hairy shetlands....
Photos of dogs, black dogs, hairy dogs, golden dogs, working dogs, little dogs, big dogs, dogs, puppies....
Photos of sheep, woolly sheep, black headed sheep, lambs, lambs in head collars...
The list, much like my enthusiasm, is endless.

This was one of the most rural, authentic and friendly shows I have been to. 
In line with the Belgian draught who has a temperament to match its size.

Here are some facts about the authentic Belgian Brabant draught horse:
  • Height 16 hands - 18 hands
  • Colour: bay, brown, grey, red roan black points and chestnut.
  • weight: 2000 pounds (1 ton) (stallions can reach 2400 pds)
  • Kind temperament and easy to handle
  • The worlds largest Belgian draught horse was Brooklyn Supreme 3200pds (1450kg) 19.2 hands.
  • Carried knights into battle in medieval Europe.
  • Belgian heavy draught is one of the strongest breeds.
  • Provided generic material from which nearly all modern draft breeds originate.
  • Belgium exported 75000 horses yearly to other European countries where they were popular as a good strong working horse.
  • The first Belgian exported into the United States was in 1866.
  • Today, America's favorite draught horse.
  • The last Belgians were transported out of Belgium at the beginning of the Second world War.
Here is a great link to a site dedicated to the Belgian draft horse in America. Here you can find out everything you would like to know: from the history of the breed, what fueled its' renaissance to why it has become so popular today.

Thanks for popping by.
Time for me now to"organise" all my new collected inspiration.