Sunday, 31 March 2013

Sheepish...

Sketch 47 of 75

Did you know that if a sheep rolls over onto her back, especially if she is heavily pregnant, she may not be able to get back up on her feet again because her back is sort of flat like a table, and that there's a danger she could die?? No, me neither.  But it's something I was told recently by a woman from a farming family who works in the animal shelter where I volunteer.

So, yesterday morning, we were sitting at the dining table having breakfast and gazing out to the fields and hills behind our house, watching the many little birds who come to gorge at the bird feeders and watching the sheep mooching about in the fields, many of them fat and slow with lamb.  Next thing, I noticed one lying on her back, legs sticking up in the air.  

Of course, I immediately got all concerned and went into animal rescue mode, telling S and his family, who are here visiting for a week, that we needed to urgently turn her over or she would die!  Strangely they didn't seem to share my concern and weren't really picking up on how serious this could be for the sheep.  

We were still in our pyjamas so I rushed off to throw some clothes on, deciding to drive to the farm, worried that by the time I walked/ran down the lane it would be too late (not being sure how long exactly the sheep has before it expires).  My brother-in-law's car was blocking mine in so I roped him into driving me round to save time.  

We zoomed off down the farm lane. The farmer meanwhile was trundling towards us in his tractor and because it's a single dirt track he had to back up as we drove towards him on our mission to save the sheep. I leapt out of the car, in a style reminiscent of all good 'we only have seconds to save the world' moments in any movie ever made and befitting the life or death-ness of this  situation, ran over to the farmer in his tractor and explained that I lived in the cottage by his fields and that one of his sheep was lying on her back which I'd been told is dangerous.  He confirmed that indeed it was and thanked me for letting him know.  

I got back into the car feeling super pleased that I had surely helped to save a life, only to notice that as soon as the farmer had gone into the field all the sheep had started walking towards him thinking he was coming with food, including the one who had been on her back apparently unable to right herself!! I returned to the house, where S and the others had been watching the whole thing unfold, feeling slightly sheepish!

My other post this week is here:

                 The Case of the Disappearing Hat





Friday, 29 March 2013

The case of the disappearing hat...

Lamb - much cuter alive and not as Easter dinner
Sketch 45 of 75

Like most females, I would imagine, I have a wide selection of hats - not flibberty gibbet, wholly decorative, flouncy ones the like of which you would see on the ladies who frequent horse racing events - I'm talking about functional knitted hats that keep your head warm. My current favourite is a stripy beany hat which my mum gave me.

About a month ago we were walking at our favourite place which entails a steep walk down from the car park through a maze of sand dunes to a beautiful golden sandy beach. We take a different route through the dunes, it would seem, each time we do the walk.  

When I walk the dogs, I start off with several layers - hats, scarves, gloves, ear muffs, which get removed and shoved into my jacket pocket as the walk progresses and I warm up.

Anyway, on returning home this particular day, I discovered my hat was no longer in my pocket. It was gone, lost to the elements, hidden in the maze of sand dunes. It was only a hat; I had plenty of others but I still felt a little bereft because it was my favourite hat. 

Sketch 46 of 75


So, imagine my delight when last week, I was taking another route through the dunes when lo and behold, I spotted something stripy up ahead. There was my hat, wet through from a few weeks of being outdoors in all weathers but still intact nevertheless. I brought it home and lovingly washed it, ready to take its rightful place back on my head. 

Then on Wednesday morning, I took the dogs on a walk to a different beach before going to the re-homing shelter. I had my hat on when we left the house, I got too warm on the way back so took my hat off but kept it in my hand conscious of it falling out of my pocket again. We got home. No hat. It was in my hand - how could I possibly lose it? I can only imagine it became an un-noticed casualty when attempting to untangle myself from the two extender leads (it is apparently impossible for our dogs to just walk in a straight line without criss-crossing in front and behind me when on extending leads).

Anyway,  that's the exciting news from the far north this week!

Happy Easter to those who celebrate it. Happy Paint Party Friday also to those who participate and to those who just like to visit!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Sunday Sketches...


Day 43 of 75


I'm still doing the 75 day challenge.  Although I don't think I'm really doing it right in that I haven't been doing one sketch a day but rather missing a chunk of days and then doing two or three sketches at a time to try and catch up.  

When I was working from the dog calendar it was easier as I had a pile of photos I knew I was going to sketch and it was just a case of choosing one each day.  Now though, I'm running out of ideas so I just keep Googling animals to get inspiration of what to sketch next. 

It's turning into a little bit of a chore, to be honest, but I'm determined to see it through.  I've worked out that my 75th day will be 5 April so not too long to go although I think right now I'm maybe 5 or 6 sketches behind schedule.  Anyhoo,  these are sketches 44 and 45 out of the 56 that I've done since I started the challenge.  Only another 19 to go.  Sigh.

Sketch 44 of 75
I'm linking up with Sunday Sketches hosted by Alexandra.  Pop over to see what new things other folk have been working on this week. Alexandra is also running a competition to name the cute little dog character she has created which you can enter by clicking here!

My other post this week, of an actual painting, if you want to read it, is here:

                            Coo-ee



Thursday, 21 March 2013

Coo-ee...

highland cow coo-ee hamish border
'Coo-ee' - Acrylic on canvas 40 x 50cm

I've been working on it for weeks and today, I finally finished my Highland Cow (or Coo as it is known in Scotland). In the background is Dounreay - the nuclear power plant which is a very recognisable man-made landmark up here. It's being decommissioned to make way for a million wind farms (all of which have wind turbines which never seem to turn!)

I'll no doubt give myself a week's 'tweeking' time before I varnish it as once I see it on my computer screen I'll notice everything that's wrong with it, all those annoyances that somehow can't be seen from hours of staring at the actual canvas.



Anyway, I took a photo after every painting session, of which there were 16 at between 2- 4 hours each and I thought I'd put them all together into a slideshow so you can see how it progressed.  It may look like I took a step forward and two steps back after some sessions, which in fact I did as I painted and re-painted that damn fringe of hair I don't know how many times!!

video




In other news from the far north, on Monday evening I went along to the AGM of the Society of Caithness Artists together with Angela, who I met by chance one day when she popped into the animal re-homing shelter.  She has also just moved up here, from England, and she is also an artist so when I contacted the Society about exhibiting and they invited me to the AGM, I invited Angela too as it was a good way to meet other local artists (although I suspect we are nearly all blow-ins as I heard only a couple of Scottish accents amongst the English!)  Angela has a blog here. She also does animal portraits (and exceptionally well, I might add!).  



In July/August every year they have an open exhibit (which apparently Prince Charles exhibits a couple of paintings at although I note he doesn't pay his £5.00 membership fee for the privilege!)  We can submit 4 paintings of which at least 2 must be for sale.  I plan to do more paintings like this Coo one to exhibit (and hopefully sell.

I'm linking as always to Paint Party Friday, hosted as ever by Kristin and Eva.  


Sunday, 17 March 2013

Who'da thunk it?

Sketch 40 of 75


Happy St.Patrick's day to my fellow Irish folk, those of Irish descent and those who just like any old excuse for a hooley!

Today, is special to me for an entirely different reason - one year ago today S and I set off on what we innocently thought was just a week's holiday to the North of Scotland hoping to see the Northern Lights.  


Sketch 41 of 75 - look, NOT a dog again!


The Northern Lights phenomenon fascinates us, as it does many people and I'm so glad S suggested a trip to Caithness as a less expensive alternative to Norway where he'd surprised me with an anniversary cruise round the Arctic circle back in 2008, just so we might get the chance to see them again.  


Sketch 42 of 75 - back to the dogs


Little did we know when we spent the week in Caithness this time last year, sighing at the natural beauty and peace and quiet of it all, that 5 months later S would find a job opportunity there and 10 months later we would be moving there, lock, stock and two barking dogs! Today, is also our two month anniversary of moving here!

Sketchwise, I'm back on those 75 sketches again.  I'm still going mostly dogs but the odd other animal is popping up now and again as I wrack my brain for inspiration! I'm linking today with Sunday Sketches kindly hosted by Alexandra over at Blue Chair Diary Illustrations. 

In case you missed it (or care!), you can catch up with my other post this week here:

                   Twisting my cottage, Man



Thursday, 14 March 2013

Twisting my cottage, man...

Craggis Cottage with a Twist!

I'm so fed up with my 75 day sketch challenge right about now.  It seems like I haven't posted anything other than dog (and the odd other species of animal) sketches for months, which, come to think of it, I haven't! In order to stop you all from rolling your eyes and thinking 'yawn, another dog sketch' today I've got something different!



Anyway, we've been re-painting our new cottage as most of the rooms were wallpapered and most of that wallpaper was, unfortunately, very dated and twee.  I don't know about you but very often we'll decide on a colour scheme for a room based on a single accessory or object.  In this case, when we first got here in January, we bought some towels to tide us over until our stuff arrived.  They were teal (a colour I love) and so, that became the colour for the upstairs bathroom.  We painted over the flowery wallpaper with a classic cream and I had decided to put two of my little twisty town canvasses in shades of teals and turquoise in there as they matched the towels (!).  We still needed something on the wall above the bath though so I set about creating a new twisty town in keeping with the others. 


I had a think about what to depict and then inspiration struck - I decided to give our cottage the twisty town treatment.  So, here today instead of yet more animal sketches, I give you 'Craggis with a Twist'



In other news, those of you who've been reading my posts for a while might recall S surprised me with a small bespoke art studio that he had custom made for our back garden in our old house. I loved it. The only tiny downside to our new house is that I no longer have a bespoke studio (although there is plenty of space outside to get one built at some future point!).  

I have plenty of cupboard space in our computer room for all my art supplies and canvasses but that room doesn't get the sun much and is pretty cold so I normally paint at the dining room table beside the sun room which, as the name suggests, gets the sun most of the day and is pleasantly warm those days when the sun shines. 

Fed up with traipsing my paints up and down from the computer room or leaving them cluttering up the dining room I had a brainwave - what if I could get a small storage unit to keep my art stuff in, in the dining room, and what if it was on wheels so I could move it around the room with my free-standing easel to follow the light during the day? I had a look in Argos and they had just the ticket - a tool box on wheels! S treated me to it last week and I love it. S isn't convinced but I think it even fits in with the rest of the retro 50's stuff we have in our dining room!


All my paints and arty bits and bobs fit a treat!


And it all hides away when not in use!

Gratuitous cute dog shot - Reuben decided to see what I was up to!

I'm linking as always to Paint Party Friday, hosted by Kristin and Eva.  As well as the normal blog hop, this Friday is the also the Art Auction they are running to raise money for Sandy Hook Elementary School so if you want to pop over there today you might find a piece of art you love, you can bid on it and if you win all the money will be donated to charity.  

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A dog named Queenie

queenie cane corso
Queenie - Sketch 39 of 75

Recently I read of a horrible story of abuse and neglect which happened somewhere in New York. Queenie, a cane corso (a breed I'd never heard of until this story) had been discovered almost starved to death, locked in a room in a house.  It appears to have been done by a man as a way of getting back at his ex-wife.  

Fortunately, the ex-wife called to the house to collect some belongings and discovered Queenie, just skin and bone, almost at death's door. She was immediately rescued and taken to Grady Animal Hospital.

There's a Facebook page called Justice for Queenie which I followed so I could see if she made it. Well, I'm delighted to report that after some proper love and attention (and plenty of food) she made a great recovery and has now been adopted to live out the rest of her days with a family who will appreciate a dog's love and loyalty. 

I saw a photo of Queenie on her Facebook page the other day and it became my inspiration for one of my daily sketches for the 75 day sketch challenge.  I hope they won't mind me reproducing it here:

Credit: Grady Animal Hospital and Justice for Queenie

In other happy news, I decided to create a new website, somewhere separate from my blog but linked to it, where hopefully folk can browse my work and perhaps commission a pet portrait or other art.  I've put a link in the sidebar of my blog or you can click on www.nicsearth.co.uk if you'd like to have a look - I'd appreciate any feedback or handy hints from fellow artists who have websites too.

Today, I'm linking for the first time to Sunday Sketches hosted by Alexandra over at Blue Chair Diary Illustrations  - I see this link on other folks' blogs all the time and finally am getting round to joining in too!!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

RSVP...are you a [email protected]?

Today I want to ask my fellow bloggers about how they deal with comments on their blogs.  More specifically how they reply to comments left. By the way the illustrations to this post are completely irrelevant to the contents but relate to the 75 day challenge that I'm still doing.  These are sketches 35 - 38.



Sketch 35 of 75


I do appreciate when anyone takes the time to leave a comment on a blog post although I didn't used to have time to reply individually. Recently though I've had more free time and have been trying to reply to individual comments as I want folk to know I've read them.  


Sketch 36 of 75

On my blog there is a thread option so that I can reply directly to a comment.  Perhaps naively, I sort of assumed that if I replied to a comment that way that the recipient would be notified by email or internet fairy or something.  Then it dawned on me that if I have to go back into someone else's blog to see if they've responded specifically to a comment I left them (which I do on occasion if I've asked a question) then obviously unless folk return to my blog they won't know I've left a reply for them.  And let's be honest, with so many blogs to visit each week, none of us really have the time to revisit each one for follow up comments.

So then I thought well, I'll just visit their blog and thank them for their comment on my blog by leaving a comment on their blog.  Yes, it all gets very convoluted so, with that in mind, I decided that perhaps replying to comments by email would be the way to go about it. I then noticed however that most of the emails said [email protected]' which made that idea a non-starter.



Sketch 37 of 75

Then, as coincidence would have it, Denthe left me a comment on a post on Monday telling me she'd tried to email me a response to a question I'd left on a comment on her blog (are you still with me?) and she couldn't because it turns out that I too am one of those pesky noreply-comment folk! Who knew! She couldn't remember how to change the settings so I did a bit of Googling and discovered a blog post on just that exact topic!  Thanks to PBJStories for the tutorial.  Basically it's as easy as going into your blogger profile and ticking the bit about making your email visible - hey presto folk can then email you in reply to your comments!


Sketch 38 of 75

I'm guessing I'm not the only one who had no idea that the noreply thing even was a thing so if you aren't sure then have a wee gleek at your profile and make sure you tick the box!

Anyway,  I hope this is helpful to you if you didn't already know it and sorry if it was boring if you did already know it!  I'm linking to Paint Party Friday and will as always visit as many folk as possible.  I'll even be able to reply to comments via email if this post does its job!

You can catch up with my other posts from this week here:

                   Eek, It's NOT a dog sketch...


Monday, 4 March 2013

Eek, it's Not a dog sketch!


Sketch 33 of 75


Hold the presses - in breaking news I have a sketch of an animal other than a dog!!

I get a magazine every quarter from a charity I support called Animal Aid - among many other issues of animal abuse they also campaign on the systematic and unnecessary abuse carried out on 1000's of animals every year in labs and allowed by our government in the name of science.  Anyway, there was a photo of a little white mouse in the magazine and he was so cute and vulnerable that I just had to draw him - pity I messed up the shading on his face. I also then saw the wee hamster above on Facebook and felt compelled to put his adorable little face in my sketchpad too.


Sketch 34 of 75


By coincidence, the next day I was sitting in our sun room looking out at the bird feeder and saw movement by the fat ball. Not the robin we've seen there a few times, but rather a teeny tiny little field mouse!  I know some folk will get all girly and jump up on a chair or think it's gross if they see mice but I happen to think they're cute and, besides, we live in the country so it's inevitable that we'll come across the wee critters from time to time, so as long as we're feeding them outside they might not feel the need to come inside (especially with two terriers on the loose!) So, I grabbed S and he managed to get a couple of photos through the window before the wee mouse got alerted to our presence and scuttled off into the hedgerow again!


Grainy through the window shot of our wee field mouse friend


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