'The purpose of art is to wash the dust of daily life off our souls" - Pablo Picasso
Hi, I'm Dominica pictured here with Olive, my Whippet, and current 'First Friend'.
Animals have always been a big part of my life and I feel blessed to have had the privilege of growing up on a farm surrounded by them, as well as fields, woodland and wide-open spaces. I drew from an early age. Beatrix Potter was my idol and Art was my favourite subject at school so painting animals became the obvious choice for me.
My first love was Pup Dog the Whippet, then Goldie my Connemara Cob Cross.
I studied Art at A level then went on to Reading University to read Latin and Classical Studies - mainly to prove I wasn’t the dunce of my very large and talented family. Well, suffice to say, that’s still work in progress …. but as I've come to realise, 'Leopards never change their spots' and my childhood passion soon came back to haunt me.
In 2008, I picked up the pencil again and for the last ten years have devoted my spare time from tutoring English to drawing dogs in pastel by commission. On the side I run a small greetings card business called 'Foofster Designs', initially created to share my daughter's awesome artwork with the nation. Her cards have really found a niche in Suffolk and at the tender age of 17 she has sold over 12,000 to date. It's been a really exciting venture and so rewarding to see the artistic streak which my mum passed onto me, so evident in my daughter and celebrated in the county that all three of us grew up in and live/d in. R.I.P my wonderful mum, 'Danzie', who inspired Ophelia's first iPad drawing at the age of eleven. See www.foofsterdesign.com for details.
Drawing dogs has been a most rewarding part-time hobby for me as well as a good discipline which has taught me perseverance and patience. I began with pastels for their ease of use and last year took up oil painting classes at Brettenham Village Hall with the wonderful Ed Cooper, since when I have fallen in love with this medium. I have never gone in for hyper-realism. I'm not that disciplined or methodical. As a bystander once commented - ‘you overlook the finer details and cut to the chase, homing in on the heart and soul rather than every single hair and whisker’.
Looking back to my earlier works, I can see that I’ve come a long way. In the early days, when life was going through some ups and downs, I found that doing dog portraits was a necessary discipline for me and very grounding. I found it took a lot of grit and patience at first to tackle my subjects successfully and to come away with a pleasing result but with every study I made, I learned something new and found that I was making progress whilst receiving positive feedback from customers. I found that pastels and coloured pencils were a good starting-point for getting to grips with the basic draughtmanship of the dog, learning the lay of the land with the dog's face and figuring out the fundamental principles of how not to make the eyes too big and comical-looking and how to make a muzzle come towards you. For many years I found Dogs' noses the greatest test of all but as an oil painter they've become my favourite challenge. Painting with oils is a whole different ball game which I am really relishing. This gorgeous medium has really helped me to raise my game.
Here's my most recent picture of Olive (above) and you'll find several other portraits of her in the gallery which is rather biased towards hounds I'm afraid, for those of you who aren't, but I love most breeds and will turn my hand to any. My next challenge is to draw a Chiuhauha cross in pastels and then a Rhodesian Ridgeback both of which I am really looking forward to.
I have recently been working on a series of Galgo (Spanish Greyhound) paintings because I think they have the most characterful of faces. Many of these beautiful dogs are rescued by the Galgos del Sol charity in Murcia, Spain, having been abandoned by the Galguerros after the hunting season. This is a charity close to my heart now. I am donating 10% from the sales of my new card range 'Waifs & Strays' to this noble cause. Please see my cards for details.
Olive features again, in elongated form, at the bottom of this page. This stylised portait of her in oils was recently on show at The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, as part of an exhibition called 'Inspirations' organised by Suffolk Open Studios.
‘We still can’t get over the amazement we feel that your portrait of our little Megan is so like her, so full of life that it is positively mesmeric. We can’t praise you enough.”
Margaret, Norfolk. October 2017
This June I took part in Suffolk Open Studios for the second year running and I look forward to taking part again next year.
I have recently published a range of cards called ‘Suffolk Dogs’ which are on sale in various outlets across Suffolk. Please see the ‘cards’ section for details and if you’re interested in commissioning a portrait of your dog, do bear in mind that high-quality, eco-friendly cards could be part of the package.
Do call me if you have any questions about my work or would like to commission a drawing or join one of my workshops - I’m always happy to chat …
Thank you for listening
Olive with my daughter, Ophelia
"I can't even put into words how happy I am with the portrait of Bramble, Tali and Liffe. You have managed to capture not only the likeness but the true characters of my dogs. I was so thrilled with it, I couldn't wait to give it to my hubbie so I've unveiled it to him already plus all my friends and family!"
Emma Winter, Raydon. November 2017