Friday, 30 September 2011

A time for Karma...


I have no art today.  I'm not really in an arty mood. In fact, I've spent most of the day sitting at my desk at work, trying not to cry.  It's with the heaviest of hearts that I am writing this post.  I had hoped to be able to tell you that the Judge reviewed the overwhelming evidence in favour of Lennox and had the good sense to let him return to his family and kick the lying dog warden into touch at the same time.  Unfortunately, it would seem that the powers that be stick together and the Judge found in favour of Belfast City Council and dismissed the appeal to save his life. 

The Judge said that he couldn't be satisfied that Lennox wasn't a danger to the public.  Belfast City Council said that they believed if Lennox was released back to his family, he posed a serious risk to the public and "in the event of Lennox being involved in attacking or injuring a person, the council would be found to be at fault".  

Surely by that rationale all dogs should just be put down now 'just in case' they ever attack someone? In that case then we should surely execute all paedophiles, rapists or murderers instead of releasing them back into the community (some after woefully short sentences) 'just in case' they carry out another attack (which, by the way, going by news reports on repeat offenders is much more likely to happen).  I don't know about you but I'd much rather take my chances with a dog than most of the feral kids running riot round the streets these days - they're more likely to attack you than any dog is.

The only possible chance of an 11th hour reprieve now is if his family launch an appeal based on an error in law.  It is a subtle distinction but means that any appeal must come about because of the decision being incompatible with the law.  A new website has been set up to try to find legal experts willing to help in this regard.  I've already written today to my MLA in Stormont and an MP in Westminster responsible for animal welfare.

Even if this turns out to be just spitting in the rain (I no longer have any faith in the justice system in this country to actually do the right thing by the victim/innocent party) if there's the slightest possible chance of saving this one dog's life and getting the government to realise that BSL is wrong, then we can't give up.

In the meantime, I hope karma pays a visit to everyone involved in setting a wee dog up for the death sentence. 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Paint Party Friday...An ending, a beginning and hopefully a happy ever after...



Brodie -  Portrait in stippled pen and ink

An ending

I thought the day would never come, but at last, finally, joyously, I’ve finished the pointy portrait of Brodie. I’ve been working on this on and off over the last couple of months with it being neglected completely in favour of getting enough stock together for the fair last month.  Then last week saw me doing a couple of eye paintings in my new Windows to the Soul series.  I added a cat one to last week's dog, here.

I did this portrait to hang alongside the one I did of my other dog, Reuben. His portrait was a close up that filled most of the page. Reuben is recognisable by the fact that his ears failed to stick up in the proper Westie manner and instead flop around and give him a sweet and unique character. Coupled with his perpetually worried face – this is a little dog who looks, to all intents and purposes, like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders!

Brodie on the other hand has a smaller head with the typical pointy westie ears which, together with her usually defiant and slightly vacant expression are what makes her, her! So, in order to capture her essence I needed to use a photo reference which included her ears. This resulted in a smaller total headshot than Reuben's which in turn resulted in more background than was visible in his portrait.

However, (and I promise, I’m getting to the point right now!) because I wanted them to be the same style I had to colour the background black the same as I did in Reuben’s portrait. Only there was so much of it which, when you’re doing it one dot of ink at a time, takes a reaaaaaalllly long time! Eventually, tonight with the bottom half still to complete in black, I just threw my head up and painted the ink on with a brush and then added some dots with the ink pen to give it texture (which seeing it on the computer screen is blatantly apparent and I will need to go over that before I get it framed!)  I am annoyed at myself for wasting so much time stippling the top half of the background and then just painting the bottom half but, if nothing else, I’ve learnt not to colour the background solid black in future portraits!

A beginning

In other tenuously linked animal news, I started a new night class on Tuesday - Small animal care.  I have a career crush on my tutor who has a doctorate in zoology and as well as teaching people like me about animal care, she trains dogs and is an animal behaviourist - what an amazing career!  This will give me a basic qualification in animal care including grooming and behaviour and maybe might lead on to more qualifications and perhaps a mid-life change in career  - how wonderful if I could end up grooming dogs as well as painting them!!

A happy ever after?

Friday 23 September is going to be another day of following Twitter fervently, waiting for updates of Lennox's appeal hearing which ran on too long last Friday and was adjourned until today. If there is any justice in this world, then today will see the Court order that Lennox can go home to his family and begin to enjoy his wee doggie life again. Fingers and toes crossed once again.

Here's hoping it really will be a Happy Paint Party Friday.


**Update
I've just learned that Lennox's appeal hearing has been adjourned for the second time as it ran on too long today also.  The Judge is apparently to definitely make a decision next week. I can only hope this is a good thing and the evidence has given him pause for thought as well as the fact that over 100,000 people have now signed the petition to save Lennox. Poor wee fella has to stay in dog jail for another week.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Windows to the Soul...cruel reflections


Cruel Reflections -  Cat's eye in watercolour

This is the second in my windows to the soul series. As this series was inspired by mankind's cruelty to animals, I Googled cats' eyes and found inspiration on a free wallpaper site here, then used some artistic licence with it to show the cruelty reflected back at us.

As for Lennox,  thanks to the modern wonder of Twitter, I was able to keep up with what was happening all throughout the day on Friday.  For those who asked for an update, the appeal lasted the whole day and was eventually adjourned as they ran out of time on Friday. This means it will continue next Friday, 23 September.  Of course, it also means that poor Lennox spends another week away from his family but hopefully it's a good thing it took so long as surely it must mean the Judge is really listening to all the evidence and not just going through the motions before upholding the original decision to put Lennox down? My heart goes out to his family who have another week of waiting and worrying before Court resumes again on Friday but please God/the Cosmos/fate/whatever you believe in, it'll be worth the wait and the wee dog will finally be allowed to come home. 

Friday, 16 September 2011

Paint Party Friday...a very important date...

'I trust you' - Dog's eye in watercolour
I've had an idea in my mind for a while of a series of paintings of eyes or more specifically the eyes of animals, that I’ve given the working title ‘Windows to the Soul’. This is the first one which I did as a small sketch in watercolour. I’d like to try to do these much bigger in oil on canvas but thought I’d start small and see how I get on. When you look into the trusting eyes of a dog, you can really understand why eyes are described as the windows to the soul.


In other news, today is a hugely important day for one wee dog and his very worried family. Do you remember way back here when I told you the story of Lennox, the dog who’d been taken by Belfast City Council on the grounds that he ‘looked’ like a pit bull which is classed as a dangerous dog and therefore not allowed in Northern Ireland under Breed Specific Legislation. Regardless that Lennox is actually NOT a pit bull and the same Council had happily accepted the money for his licence every year for 5 years before deciding he was in fact a menace to society and locked him up in May 2010. Today is the appeal hearing to hopefully have the original ruling to have Lennox put down quashed and hopefully prove to me and many others that sometimes the law is actually not an ass.

It’s even come to light that the Dog Warden who previously stood up in Court and swore that she was afraid of Lennox and his uncontrollable, aggressive behaviour blatantly lied as photos which you can see here have come to light showing Lennox licking her face, sitting at her feet while she patted his head and with his paw on her knee – hardly the actions of a dangerous, uncontrollable dog!

Every finger and toe I possess is crossed in anticipation of a favourable outcome for poor Lennox and his family. His case has garnered worldwide attention with even the Queen of dog behaviour, Victoria Stilwell, getting involved on his behalf. Please send good luck vibes from wherever you are to Belfast High Court so that finally Lennox can come home to the family that love and miss him desperately.

Happy Paint Party Friday and big thanks to Kristin and Eva who continue to host it so wonderfully every week!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Paint Party Friday... just vegging...

So the last week I've been anything but productive. I've got so many ideas running through my head of things I want to try painting but none that have made it from my brain to the page via my left hand!

I have done a little more on the portrait of Brodie that I started a few weeks ago. Work on this was interrupted by the rush to get all the stuff finished for the style fair but now I have nothing else in the pipeline I really don't have an excuse not to have finished it already.

A work in progress - got a way to go yet.


To be honest, my mind has been consumed with all things vegan, animal welfare and anti-vivisection over the last month or so.  Ask S and he will tell you (with a ma-hoosive rolling of the eyes) that recently every other sentence I utter starts with "is it vegan friendly?".

You see, about a month ago I made the mistake of Googling stuff.  Stuff about animal testing on beauty products, stuff about how the dog meat trade is huge in the Far East, stuff about how being a vegetarian really isn't enough because by wearing leather and wool and consuming dairy products and anything else with animal by-products in them (which I've come to learn is practically everything man-made whether edible or not) I  was still contributing to the suffering of mass farmed animals and lab caged creatures the world over.  Even free range hens aren't actually the happy hens I'd been led to believe by the marketing men.

I visited website after website and ordered copies of the Compassionate Shopping Guide and the Animal Free Shopper not to mention Viva's L-PLate Vegan, and it was at this point that S's eyes rolled round in his head so much they nearly got stuck and my head imploded with all the infinite possibilities and intricacies of how manufacturers sneak animal by-products into our lives and how convoluted my future trips to the supermarket are going to be until I become a vegan expert!

If it isn't bad enough that I need to double-check the packaging on every morsel of food I want to eat (even salt & vinegar crisps have milk powder in them, for frig's sake!), I was even more gutted to realise that something I use on a near daily basis also has sneaky animal by-products in them.

What could it be, I hear you cry? Yup, you gesso'd it - even my art supplies!  (I swear I nearly cried when I discovered by beloved Indian Ink contains Shellac (some kind of insect gunk) and I've no way of knowing if it is made from actual insects or a synthetic version!) Watercolour paper too can be sized with gelatin although I was relieved to discover my Windsor Newton pads are sized with gum arabic - phew!

Anyway, this isn't meant to be some fanatical diatribe about the vegan way of life - I just wanted to share what's being going on in my head and my life this last month.  I'm not about to start on a huge vegan preachy rant trying to convert all the meat eaters amongst you - I firmly believe that everyone has free choice; it's just that the animals don't get those same choices and so I've decided to choose to eat and use only those things that are vegan friendly. Of course,  not being one of the Hilton Sisters/some other obscenely rich person, the best I can do is replace each thing (leather boots included) as they wear out or run out with vegan-friendly alternatives. I did find a wonderful post on a Veganomaly which perfectly sums up the very reasons I realised I had to become vegan, if anyone does want to learn more.

Sorry this is a bit of a heavy post this week and only slightly related to art, but I kind of needed to write about it and, as I say, it has inspired a seed of an idea that I hope to start working on this weekend.  Happy Paint Party Friday, folks, make mine a vegan-friendly wine spritzer please and I'll bring along the meat-free sausages!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Paint Party Friday - does redecorating the bedroom count?

I'm joking. Well, I'm not actually - we did take a few days off work last week to repaint our bedroom and our living room but I did actually do some art that I can bring to the party and which is now hanging in said newly redecorated rooms!!

You may remember a while ago I wanted to repaint the living room just to match the portrait I did of our dog, Reuben? Well, in the end up I discovered this gorgeous bedding by Lisa Strickley on the Debenhams website and, as we just so happened to still have a gift voucher that we’d received as a wedding present, I went ahead and got it. As the colours were aqua, white and black, Reuben’s wee black and white portrait goes very nicely up on the wall and will soon be joined by one of his sister, Brodie (if I can ever motivate myself to finish it!)


I just love the old typewriter font all over the quilted throw and it inspired me to come up with something for the wall above our bed.

I wasn't exactly sure what I would end up with when I started out but I just sort of went with it.  I began by painting two canvasses with the paint we used on the wall – an off white colour called Timeless. Then I used the same font as on my blog header (Harting, if you want to know) and simply typed up all the places that meant something special to us in New York.

I ripped the words out of the pages to leave the edges all ragged and stuck them onto the canvasses. I then messed around on the computer with some of our wedding photos (taken by Brian Freedman of B-Freed photography) using the antique and diffuse glow settings to make them look old and grainy.

Once I had glued these on (I just used the stage 1 of the crackle glaze as glue) I then put the crackle glaze all over to add to the old shabby theme. I'm not sure if this constitutes mixed media or collage or a mixture of both? Either way it's the first time I've done something like this and I think I'll do more!



Close up of the words on ripped paper




S and I are really pleased with how they turned out and they fit in with the rest of our bedroom perfectly. I can only apologise for the rubbish quality of my photography - it's just easier to take photos on my tab and email them straight to myself so I can get them straight to the computer but I really should learn how to use one of the bells and whistles cameras S has!

Then we redecorated the living room – we kept the main walls the same cream and repainted the feature fire place wall. It was a lovely warm red and its now a lovely cool sage/olive green. S isn’t too sure about it as he loved how warm the red made the room feel especially with the fire lit but I love it – it looks really nice against the dark wood fireplace and furniture.

Of course I took the photo at night so you can't
really tell it's a lovely sage/olive colour!

With our lovely Betsy Jarvis cushions!

Anyway, I needed some new wall art and so being all enamoured of how my bedroom pieces had turned out, I had a go at photo-shopping two of my pointy landscapes – they used to look like this:

Alleyways of Girona
Queensferry Arch
And after changing the hue and adding a bit of graininess they now look like this:







I did the same to a photo S took of a view over the lake at Hernshead in Central Park – it used to look like this:


It now looks like this:





That’s my artistic lot for the week – oh but in other news – a massive thanks to Eva who bought 5 of my Twisty towns in my Etsy shop this week!! She’s now the proud owner of the set of 3 ‘Building Bridges, the 'Twisted Rain' one and a print of one called ‘Feeling Blue’. I’m delighted she liked them enough to buy and can’t wait to see them hanging up in their new home (Oh and thanks to Eva I can now also say I’ve sold my art internationally!!)

I’m home alone this weekend and so will definitely be able to visit the other Paint Party- goers before the middle of next week this time!!

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