Here’s a commission I’ve just completed for a friend’s nephew. Milo the dog is apparently obsessed by the new log-burner in the house. I hope the painting successfully illustrates that point!
Here’s a commission I’ve just completed for a friend’s nephew. Milo the dog is apparently obsessed by the new log-burner in the house. I hope the painting successfully illustrates that point!
I’m delighted to report that my portrait of Bressingham Gardens courted some attention – that’s all I had hoped for it really. More than that though, I’m told it was shortlisted for the ‘Highly Commended’ group – before being pipped at the post! So, they’ve asked to keep it for now and display it on the walls of Bressingham Hall which is honour enough for me. It’s fair to say that they selected a very worthy winner who produced a really striking triptych of specimen plant-heads in close-up.
Our new art term has begun with Ed now and we are painting human portraits. Here’s my first attempt below, cribbing an oil painting from a work-book by Anthony Connolly. I was beginning to get impatient with my oil paints and lay on the layers too thickly too soon so Ed has reined me in and taught me to practice the art of ‘dry-painting’ making the medium stretch as far as it possibly can before dipping the brush back into the paint again. It really helped to bring this portrait round.
She looks a bit moody but I’m pleased with her and I love the colour palette!
Am just gearing up now for my weekend exhibition at Great Glemham Church. I’m going to be showing alongside some big guns like Ania Hobson so I’m quite excited. Then next week my series of Galgo & hound paintings will go on show at Suffolk Living, 12 Orwell Road, Felixstowe where it will remain until the end of October. Fingers crossed, I get some hound-lovers through the doors!
Now the mayhem of Summer seems to have subsided, I’ve had plenty of catch-up time in my studio. Pure bliss. Sheela, my ever-enthusiastic pupil, has been a regular visitor on Tuesday mornings and teaching me a lot in return about art and how much more I ought to know and need to learn. We have made some studies of apples and considering how best to apply tone and looking at all the colours in our paintbox which Sheela has set out on a chart.
Hasn’t she done well? I think these have a wonderful Cezanne-esque quality about them.
Lindsey from Ed’s class has been popping along too and telling me about transparent and opaque paints and learning to use them appropriately. So I’ve learned that transparent paints are good for doing glazes and washes for instance and opaque paints best for laying down background colour. I’ve introduced a couple more pigments to my paint palette this month which include Naples Yellow (one of my new favourites – great for dog portraits), Magenta and Flake White. Flake white is a transparent and a far gentler white than Titanium. My new book on portrait painting by Anthony Connolly tells me that Titanium White should be used very sparingly and just for the brightest of highlights.
I’ve applied this tip to my portrait of Bressingham Gardens below. This was a real step outside my comfort zone so I’m proud at least that I rose to the challenge. Sue from Ed’s class and I popped along to Bressingham on one of the hottest days of the year – not clever planning for my first ever plein air outing (which reminds me of another new addition to my studio which I need to mention) – my new friend – ‘Portable Easel’. Oh the agonies and the ecstasies of the painting life. I had to trudge for what felt like half a mile in the searing heat of the day to the far end of Bressingham gardens laden with the easel in one hand and my monstrously cumbersome carpenter’s trug in the other. This is made of the chunkiest wood you have ever seen and (note made to self that day) – the carpenter’s trug is to be banned from all future plein air painting excursions. Lugging that thing about was not the only hardship of the day – later on at lunchtime I was attacked by a wasp resulting in three stings – one to my precious painter’s pinkie and two to my ankle. I have never had the slenderest of ankle that’s true to say but cruel fate destined that my leg should swell to the size of an elephant’s – as it did in the ensuing days!
To add insult to injury, my picture turned out to resemble one of those ghastly second-rate paintings you might find in a church exhibition. It was shameful – so I emailed Michael Crowe of Suffolk Open Studios that evening asking if I could pay him a visit. Mike has won an award for landscape painting, was tutored by Sir Hugo Grenville and lives just up the road from me – so he seemed like the perfect solution. A couple of days later I courageously pitched up at his house, with, so I thought, my painting in the boot, for criticism and analysis. Well, mysteriously as it happens, when I went to fetch it for his perusal the painting was no where to be found which confirmed my suspicions about my early onset of Alzheimers. No matter, Mike showed me round his inspiring studio and gave me a cup of tea and a couple of days later I spied my miserable painting on the side of the road in the next door close to mine. It had clearly blown off the roof of the car whilst heading down-town to Shelley and I do recall hearing a curious clunk now when I come to think of it. Mystery solved – the appalling painting had gained a rather exciting mixed media character about it but it was still only fit for the dustbin!
So this picture below is my Bressingham Gardens Mark 2, inspired by some of the photographs I took.
This will be entered into the Bressingham Gardens Art Competition and exhibition on the 6th September – prize-giving on Sunday 9th. The competition will be stiff so I’m not expecting anything – just proud to have triumphed over adversity by submitting an entry and making the deadline in spite of wasp-stings, flying canvases, the bellowing voice of doubt and all.
I will soon be gearing up for three Autumn exhibitions to celebrate my passion for Galgos and hounds. The Glemham Church Art Show on the 28th September followed by an all-month October exhibition at Suffolk Living, 12 Orwell Street, Felixstowe, finishing with a weekend show at the Heart of Suffolk exhibition, Thorpe Morieux in November. Exciting Stuff and I look forward to getting my first ‘Paint your Dog in Oils’ workshop off the ground in the meantime … Note to all – there are still some spaces available! See my ‘Tuition & Courses’ page www.dogsbydominica.com for details.
I’ve embarked upon my first stab of teaching oils this July and my old friend Sheela has been a very compliant guinea pig. Here are some pictures of her below attempting her first EVER painting. She’s a whizz at interior design so I’m expecting her to make striking progress very quickly as indeed her picture of Rayo the Galgo demonstrates …
Our sessions are 2.5 hours long which gives us enough time to make significant headway and by the end of session 2 Rayo was almost complete. Well done Sheela!
My daughter and I have just got back from a five day break in Stockholm where we saw some wonderful artwork at the Moderna Museet and were overjoyed to stumble upon a really inspiring ‘Spirit of Bloomsbury’ exhibition at the Artipelag art gallery in the Stockholm archipelago. Some pictures below …
Can highly recommend this stunning venue, a marvel of architecture nestled amongst the pine trees on a cliff top.
I missed the easel while I was away and to make up for lost time have today revelled in a glorious ‘Painting Friday’, managing to finish my latest portrait of Olive in the process. I tried to push the boundaries with this one, going for slightly more ambitious composition than usual. I think it turned out okay. The blanket was the greatest challenge which I was only able to resolve with a rather protracted squint.
Voila … and au revoir till August.
The doors of my Open Studio have almost closed again for another year and I look forward to seeing which visitors will arrive on the last day, tomorrow. It’s always a fun waiting-game. You never know what fish you’ll catch or who’ll be the next person to walk through that gate. So far, so good. I’ve had a very positive experience with all my visitors so far and feel that I did the right thing by opening for two weeks in a row and to take part in the scheme for a second year running. In terms of footfall and numbers-through-the door though it hasn’t been remarkable. Cathy D’Arcy, Sudbury ceramicist extraordinaire, said she’d had 90 visitors the weekend before last. Cripes! I’d never have coped with that amount and was more than satisfied with my gentle trickle of interest which gave me the chance to savour each adventurer at a time. I always marvel at how, by divine intervention it seems, when one goes the next soon arrives.
so, it’s been a good innings for me which got off to a good start with last weekend’s preview drinks. It’s a really bolstering experience to fling open your studio doors and to raise a glass jointly within with friends and like-minded arty people, sharing with them the fruits of your labour over the winter months; those lonely months when you slaved away tirelessly like a hermit, sometimes with a glow of pride and other times with a frown and a question mark above the head wondering ‘does this serve a real purpose. Should I not be out there in the real world doing a proper job instead?
The effervescent Lynne in a bright orange shirt burst through my gate this afternoon. She behaved like somebody who’d just won the lottery to have found an ‘Open Studio’ in Hadleigh en route to visiting her ailing parents in the next cul de sac. She showed me some of her people portraits which looked impressive and said she was looking for a teacher to help raise her game. Our encounter was charged with such a current of positivity that it made me feel that this was another good reason for having opened the studio – to act as a link for others on their own artistic journeys. I hope I have given her some useful contacts and I hope we shall keep in touch.
My friend, Sheela, has asked me to give her some oil-painting lessons so that’s a challenge I look forward to getting my teeth into and I now have three commissions to fulfil so it looks like it’ll be a busy and fairly lucrative Summer for me. Yippee!
I feel like I’ve come through a forest of thorns to reach this happy arty land full of kindred spirits. Painting will heal the scratches and hopefully the money pot will morph itself into a magic porridge pot and never run out …. so that this blissful sabbatical from tutoring English can continue for ever and ever – amen!
Here below is a portrait of Lily that I finished last week, a thank-you to Ivan and Rita for looking after Olive whenever we’re away. I shared it with a Facebook group called ‘Mad about Whippets’ and they went crazy over it. I was stunned. One said it looked like an Edward Hopper painting. I had to be honest and tell her I’d never heard of him before so I googled him and then yesterday, lo and behold, only two days later, I saw a book all about him on my friend Sue’s coffee table. It was one of those jaw-dropping coincidences which gave me a pleasant tingle.
Am feeling doubly inspired now but too full of Prosecco this evening to do anything about it. That’s the trouble with parties – always too many left-overs!
I was thrilled to be told by a fellow dog-walker last week that there was a red sticker on my painting of Olive, a recent exhibit at St Mary’s Church, Hadleigh’s annual art show. Joy of joys. After initial feelings of joy and disbelief I suddenly felt a twinge of sadness. I would be sad to lose it – that’s why I’d put such a high premium on it. Oh well, it was a necessary confidence-boost and the highest price I’d ever received for a painting of mine and actually the first painting I’d ever sold at Hadleigh Church – so, I must be making progress.
Only yesterday, whilst chatting with my neighbour Anne, I learned that the person who’d bought it was a friend of hers, ‘a particularly nice friend’ and not even a Whippet owner so that spoke volumes I felt and I was reassured to know it’s gone to a good home.
I’ve been dabbling with galgos again but not quite so successfully as my earliest attempts. Here below is Pipa from Galgos del Sol. Ever since catching my daughter’s cold I feel very desensitised and as if I’ve stepped off an aeroplane but hopefully I’ll be firing on all cylinders again soon. I think we all need a really keen sense of perception for producing our best artwork and mine is currently not as sharp as it might be.
Onwards and upwards …
Am getting excited about Suffolk Open Studios now, which will soon be upon us.
I am very excited to announce that my beloved Olive will be on the walls of the Apex in Bury St Edmunds this month until the 7th May, rubbing shoulders with some very fine works of art from some of the best studios across the county. Go Olive! Sock it to ’em. Do pop along and see this fabulous exhibition, ‘Inspirations‘ by name. The Apex is a super-exicting venue.
Besides getting ready for various exhibitions, I have been busy adding to my Galgo collection these last few weeks. Here are two more examples below:
I am still thoroughly inspired by these gorgeous dogs and intend to add many more to my portfolio in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I have three designs now available in my new card range called ‘Waifs & Strays’, by the names of Zip, Presley and Tormenta. Sadly dear Zip (fawn & white above) has now also passed away. He was such a dream to paint. Like Presley, he had an ethereal quality about him. Rayo, the brindle, was a challenge to capture – and I still don’t feel I’ve done him justice so I will not be turning him into a card just yet.
All the best and Happy April!
It looks like winter’s drawing to a close at last and exhibition time will soon be upon us…..yikes, I suddenly have six ahead of me!
I am entering ‘Presley’ the Galga, my last month’s pride and joy, into Needham Market exhibition next week.
I’m thrilled to report that 10 of my Presley cards fetched 73 euros in the recent Galgos de Sol auction, to provide care for all those beautiful abandoned Galgos in Murcia, Spain. How rewarding it is to think that one’s art can raise money for good causes like this in this way. The very sad news though is that distemper and all the other challenges that were thrown at her got the better of dear Presley and she is no longer with us. I’m extra glad therefore to have committed to her canvas and to have kept her memory alive in this way. Cards of Presley are now available to order…. and are selling well in the local shops.
Another galga who stole my attention is Tormenta, whose portrait is featured below. Her face, like Presley’s tells an interesting story too. Let’s pray this galga finds a fit and loving home.
Like Presley, she was a joy to paint.
Today was our last Ed class of the Spring term. We had a very informative session on colour theory, since when I’m learning to use a more restricted palette of Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson and burnt umber and I’m enjoying the reassuring simplicity of it. Next term, Ed has promised us some plein air painting – assuming that the Beast from the East decides against making his third and final come-back.
Hi again and thanks for joining me. Here’s what I’ve been up to this February ….
Last month I had a stab at a couple of still-lives at my Brettenham art class on Friday morning with the very wonderful Ed Cooper. You always learn so much from his lessons. We did a session on tone and texture. It hadn’t occurred to me that I should consider the light and shade on even the pimples of an apple or the dimples on a satsuma – and observe how a highlight appears more dispersed and fragmented on a rough textured object than on something smooth. All things I must put into practice when it comes to my next still-life which I look forward to having another stab at in due course – but for the time being – surprise surprise, it’s all about dogs again.
I spend my evenings drooling over photographs of hounds on Facebook, thinking they are quite the most beautiful art form, so I am going to do a series of them in oil on board to exhibit at Suffolk Living, Felixstowe in September. The wall-space is now booked…!
In my last blog I talked about the extraordinary little dog I met at a shop in Ipswich; the Wild Man of Orford or Socrates as I called him. I have since discovered that his name is Coco and he’s a she and I’ve finished her portrait now and popped it into the gallery. She’s the first in line. Coco was the perfect candidate for pastels and was a joy to draw.- I think the checkerboard chair sets her off to good effect.
So here below is a picture of a Galgo, (Spanish Greyhound) who was rescued by a charity in Spain called Galgos del Sol. Such beautiful dogs. I’d rehome them all if I had a large enough house! I will add her to my card collection for now – Presley is her name – and auction some cards for this very worthy charity. Please see Facebook link ‘GDS Needle Nose Helping Dogs Like Me Auction’ for details. Presley’s story is a tragic one. She was knocked down by a car, prior to being rescued by GDS and has very recently undergone surgery. As if this wasn’t sufficient trauma for her, she has since contracted distemper which means her body is constantly in spasm, like having permanent hiccups, but she is bearing up with ultimate grace and dignity as the videos of her on the GDS website testify. She’s an adorable girl who will be looking for a forever home once she recovers from her ordeal. Tempted? I certainly am.
In doing her portrait, I realised that oil is the most joyous medium and actually now, my favourite but that’s half thanks to Presley for being such a mesmerising subject. There was no grid-work used for this portrait and no preliminary drawing, yet everything seemed to fall into place – the most liberating experience ever!
I urge you all to have a go and to pray for this noble hound in the meantime. Why not check out the Needle Nose Auction on the above link in the meantime and help her and her friends to live a sweeter life.
Inspiration doesn’t come in bucket-loads at this time of year. All this mizzle and all that cooking at Christmas has given my creative energy a battering but, hey-ho, I’ll be back to the easel again soon and firing on all cylinders. Ed Cooper’s art class at Brettenham village hall on Friday mornings never fails to motivate and I’m looking forward to my second lesson of the term. I am learning how to paint a Cyclamen – whilst secretly yearning to step back into my comfort zone of ‘the dog’.
I spied my next portrait-to-be in a shop in Ipswich last week – a Shitzu-cross. It took me a good half hour to clock him. My daughter and I were busily trying on clothes and suddenly realised that there was life inside that crumpled green blanket by the desk. More than life, in fact, real character to boot for there was a very striking little auburn-coloured face peeping out.
For some reason, that’s how I imagined Socrates to look, all curly-haired, pop-eyed and snub-nosed and there was a touch of ‘the wild-man of Orford’ in him too, (well, the sketches I’ve seen of him that is, I haven’t met him personally, of course!) but in the nicest possible way; this little dog was charming.
I shall endeavour to add him to my gallery in the next few weeks. I can’t imagine a better candidate for pastels.
p.s. I would like to raise my glass to Nicki Porter, Graphic Designer and Greyhound-lover extraordinaire, for creating this wonderful website for me. She’s a genius!