Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Over painting Lucy with oils

Now over painting Lucy in oils to get my blends and colours correct.
Had to purchase oils especially but forgot the linseed oil - so using sunflower oil from the kitchen for now until I get the correct oil! She will taste good if nothing else! Who said cooking and painting can never mix?

Monday, 29 June 2009

Lucy portrait continued

OK, now is the time to bring out the 'Big Guns' as I like to say - the oil paints and brushes! Lucy has reached the stage where I now need to bring her to life with a silky coat and real eyes etc etc. I have been avoiding the use of oil paints (mainly because of their expense) but I now feel she deserves that special treatment, indeed, her portrait demands it! Only the best for her. Because of my use of acrylics and oil pastels in these early stages there is now no other medium that would allow me to complete her portrait to my satisfaction. As my own dog, I have to do my very best. Lucy is still responding well to treatment from the Vet. Both Lucy and Robin walked with us today and the rain kept falling and falling and falling - we were all soaking wet on our return and Lucy especially, liked being wiped dry with the towel. As for Robin - well he is a MAN DOG - so no need for a towel... just try and dry him and he lets you know he is not at all happy!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Lucy - more work on her portrait today

...Also Robin and Lucy 'chilling' on this Sunday afternoon!

Helmet with fruit

My great granfather's firemen's helmet with fruit.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Lucy portrait stage 4 - work in progress

I was running around this Saturday morning like a headless chicken! I need to be doing something.. idle hands and all that. I kept running past my Lucy's portrait and looked for all the excuses in the world to avoid touching it any more. It had reached the stage that I always reach - I hate it. Just another one of those barriers that I usually reach when painting. I could not find anything else to do - either tidy my study or cook an English beef pie... I was running out of distractions - I had to do some more of her portrait. Acrylics just weren't doing anything for her. Too frustrating. I had to change medium. So, out with the oil pastels. Then I could begin to get the depth of colour I desired. OK, so some more on her portrait - at least an hour... then I will probably give up until tomorrow! Lucy is eating well, by the way, but is still not out of the woods - another trip to the Vet later.
Anyway - here she is so far... as much as I could manage today. Eyes, nose and everything else still needs much much work. I think I will have a cold beer now and continue to walk past her portrait for the rest of today, letting my objectivity wash over me. The problem with working from a photo whilst having the subject with you is you can never be satisfied... you have to absorb yourself into the subject and know the character. At least I did some more work on her today. I have to admit - oil pastels are more comfortable for me now and allow me to really get into her character.


A painting commissioned FOC by a Greyhound racing magazine. I believe it was a Greyhound owned by one of our 'Royals'. Homefarm Flyer, I think was/is his name. What eventually happened to the portrait I don't really know - and I only have this poor quality photo of the final portrait. The original reference photograph was quite uninspiring, so I created an imaginary landscape to set him in. The magazine was to publish a double-page spread of my work but unfortunately the company ceased trading before I was featured!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Robin hides in his toys

Robin is stressed about Lucy and so just keeps himself nose-down in his cuddly toys!

Thank you JackDaddy

Your words are a great encouragement for Lucy and us all.

Lucy eats!!!!

After visiting the Vet for the second time today, we now have some Gel (Nutri-plus Gel) that will stimulate Lucy's appetite.
Lucy is pictured above eating some solid food (Chicken/Frango) for the first time in over four days (in fact the only food she has really eaten so far). We hope that she continues to eat and keeps the food down - it will give her much needed strength.

Lucy portrait stage 3

So far her portrait is going very slowly; I keep skirting round the canvas unable to pay too much attention to her features. I think that I am avoiding really getting into her details as some small superstition - the longer I take to paint her - the longer she will be with us. So please bear with me on this. The portrait doesn't look much yet - just starting to fill-in areas of colour. I managed to apply brush to canvass today but my heart is not really in it. Lucy is lying here by my side. She is now being able to drink water without vomiting, but she has not had any food for three days, and only managed to 'sip' a small amount of watered down baby food this morning - chicken-flavoured - her favourite - FRANGO! We carried her out this morning to do 'her business'... just a few minutes on the grass and then carried her back home. She is resting now, but Robin knows something is not right with her and does his best to comfort her - keeps licking her ears and tries to get some reaction from her. I have to rebuke him so that Lucy has some peace, but I sense he is just doing what he feels is needed - a dog's way! Each hour I try to temp her with more 'baby food' but she really doesn't seem interested. It breaks my heart to see her like this, which is why her portrait will take so much time. I think I will spend a thousand hours at least to complete it!!!!... or maybe even longer!!! Yes, I am very superstitious! I know that her portrait will turn out beautiful on completion and will be a heart-felt tribute to her. So please do not 'judge' the portrait as it is now - her eyes need doing and nose etc etc... it is very much a work in progress, just so you can see how I paint. Judge my work on the final portrait, as they say an artist is only as good as his last piece; this will be my largest portrait and my greatest! One million hours and counting!
4:30pm... Lucy just left with my wife for her daily visit to the Vet; I hope he has good news about her. Robin needs his second walk of the day so I will take him now and lose myself in thought and let him 'drag' me around the park and everywhere else... revisiting HIS 'peemails'!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Lucy portrait stage 2

After sketching out her image I now begin the place a neutral wash over areas of her to define the composition more, defining areas of light and shade.
The next step will be to define her eyes more so that the canvas can come to life and bring out her spirit. It is that spirit that will always stay with us through her portrait. Unless I bring life to the image now through her eyes I would usually give up at this stage... and this next stage will take a very fine brush and great detail. Then I will start to define her nose better... and by doing both these things she will inspire me to carry on with the portrait, speaking to me as I paint. The medium I have decided to use will be acrylics. Some people say painting is relaxing - I always find it so draining as it drains my soul... like I was giving something from me so deep to my art that I lose something in return, a part of me. It seems to me like some kind of trade-off - a sacrifice. The portraits I paint take on their own life and the reference photo starts to fade into the background as the subject itself begins to take on its own spirit upon canvas. If art was easy then the artist is not painting from his soul merely his mind!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Lucy portrait begins

I will update my blog to show you all how her portrait progresses. What is shown here is a photograph of how the process begins. I start working from a photograph, transferring her image to canvass using a grid system. Her portrait will be fairly large - 65cms x 55cms. The pencil sketch illustrated here is just a 'rough' a guide for me. Just what medium I will use to complete her, I have not decided yet. It could be pastels or a mixed medium. I will decide as I progress. The most important thing is to make a start. The journey begins with this first step. I will of course be using Lucy, rather than just her photo as my point of reference for fine details. I know it will be a difficult portrait to paint because of Lucy's health. Lucy is still quite ill at he moment, completely off her food and only allowed water by droplet rations as she is vomiting each day if she drinks too much. Now two visits to the vet each day. She is now on new antibiotics ordered from Spain. We really hope she starts to respond better to her treatment now.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Cappuccino and croissant for the dogs, and I'll have the same

Oh, I thought life in Portugal would be leisurely! NOT! Start of the day: wake up early (around 7am) just because Robin wants me to. How does he tell me? He rolls on his back, on the bed at my side and starts yelping and sneezing. So, what do I do? I get up, make a cup of tea for my wife and a cup of cappuccino for me. Sounds good does it not? The perfect life! One slight catch - Robin insists on sitting on my lap, or even the table (or maybe even on my mouse) as I attempt to log in to my pc. All he is concerned about is getting his tongue into my coffee. And, if I was so lucky, half of my croissant (but only if it has butter on it). Of course he will not leave me alone until I leave him some small amount in my cup, and when the half croissant is gone he settles down on my lap again with his nose on the table, looking at the pc screen as if he is really interested! Lucy at this time is also awake and sitting on the floor looking up at me, wondering why she is not on my lap as well. Those wanting eyes so begging and yes she has a little croissant also. Have you ever tried to do something on your pc with two dogs on your lap? Crazy dogs! Well, you would think I could get some work done at this time and think again - there is still the small question of THEM taking ME out for a walk! As for getting down to some serious painting; well that is another story for later. A 'dogs life' and they have all the fun - I am just their waiter!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

How I stopped Robin barking

How did I stop Robin barking at the front door?
Lucy gave me the answer - she told me to "put him at the back door!!
A dog's logic!

Seriously though, I have not managed to stop him barking a the front door every time he hears someone approaching, or the door bell rings. He runs at the door like a bull at a gate - barking like crazy... he frightens visitors; he gets so excited! Any helpful suggestions anyone? Or is he now too old to change?

Can YOU speak Dog?

Interesting article...

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Robin protecting his 'squeeeeky chicken'!

Lucy watching (her) food cooking!

Lucy back from the Vet

Lucy is now back from he Vet today. He says he will be sending for alternative antibiotics for her from Spain (apparently not available in Portugal). Lucy cannot really go on for much longer with the treatment she is getting - the anti-inflamatories are not really helping her kidneys (or something like that). Anyway, with the new antibiotics we are hoping to use, things may improve. Her uterous infection/or tumour is very difficult to treat. Lucy is fine at the moment... still looking forward to her meal this evening, but we know that her 'underlying' problem is still there; the drugs just hide it. Cristina and I thank you all for your best wishes for Lucy - very encouraging and supportive.
11 pm... Lucy bright and aware AND HUNGRY AGAIN!... hopefuly she will sleep very soundly.

Robert and Cristina

Lucy's (and Robin's) treat tonight

The menu:
Grilled Pork loin steak, finely sliced and glazed with extra virgin olive oil, lightlly seasoned with salt, pepper and sweat peppers, served on a bed of boiled long-grain Basmati rice and Portuguese chopped cabbage presented on a plater (bowl) of doggie food balls. Followed probably by a small helping of ice cream.

We, of course, will be eating the same - minus the doggie food balls! And yes, I do all the cooking around here... just another one of my passions, and Cristina loves that! Robin and Lucy eat very well indeed! Lucy sits in the kitchen to keep an eye on my cooking... just to make sure I don't make any mistakes! Yes, our two dogs are spoilt. Robin now has the taste for Italian food (well it is my favourite)... but he is not against the occasional english dish either (like sausage and mash or steak and kidney pie followed by english apple pie with cream or custard). Robin and Lucy really do have international tastes when it comes to food. Lucy I think, has her own motto... 'if it moves - eat it - if it doesn't move - eat it until it does'!!!!

p.s. The only way Lucy will take her tablets is if we wrap them in ham, cheese or chourico - Lucy likes 'medicine time'!


Lucy says thank you

Laying on the cool floor outside the kitchen, (where else!) Lucy feels a little better today, but sill has to see the doctor later again for more dreaded injections.
She sends a big thank you to all her new friends and well-wishers.
She is just not yet in the mood to pose for any portrait photos.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Lucy OK - I will paint you!

Due to the fact that she keeps giving us such 'close calls', (so to speak), I have decided to paint her.
Looks like I will be living on an artist's meal yet again (bread and wine!). Well she does not have any money so it will be produced purely out of love. Hang on a bit, 'bread and wine' is not so bad is it?
I will take photos as I progress with her portrait for you all to see just how I paint. I will work from photographs... many photos in fact as trying to get her to 'pose' for a 'perfect' composition is very difficult indeed. Unlike Robin - he just loves the camera!

Watch this space in the coming weeks!

p.s. My wife is now very happy that I finally decided to paint Lucy's portrait!

Lucy is not well

Lucy is not well today, we are both worried about her. She will visit the doctor later today for more medicine. Robin senses she is not well and so he is also keeping a close eye on her.

17:45pm Back from the Vet now, Lucy has had an injection for her heart (this hot weather does not do her any favours)... she will pay another visit there in an hour- and-a-half just to check on her heart... so far she is looking much better.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Welcome Zeus

A big welcome to Zeus... who knows just how to keep his 'owner' in his place!
"Dad said it was a nice cage... and continued to show me just how comfortable it would be!... I was not convinced"
A new friend of Robin and Lucy. A beautiful border Collie puppy from the UK.
See: http://collieplay.blogspot.com/

Everyday Portuguese with Lucy

Lucy will post here, hopefully each day when she is not eating - again!... helpful phrases that will be useful to you when visiting her country.


"Where can I find the nearest restaurant that will give me the best chourico?"

Onde e que posso encontrar o restaurante mais proximo que me sirva o melhor chourico?

Robin keeps fit

Here is Robin with one of his favourite toys. These 'toys' he's most protective of. I call them K-mines (canine mines) as he is constantly placing them in strategic places for us to step on during the dark hours - in front of doors mainly so that he is alerted when we walk around the property in the dark... nothing worse for me than stepping on one of his squeaky 'mines' at 3am when I am half asleep! They frighten the hell out of me, but Robin hears them and runs to the mine immediately. Sometimes he plants more than two around on the floor - but always where you will step on them. Almost better than a burglar alarm... they work very well indeed.

Spotlight on my first

This was the first portrait I ever produced for a friend's pet.
Produced in pastels on cartridge paper with final touches in 'Tipex'... well I found it difficult at the time to achieve a strong enough white highlight for the ear! Having no white paint at the time, I reverted to liquid paper. It worked pretty well wouldn't you say.

I am very comfortable using pastels and find the medium accommodating. However, I also use water colours, gouache, acrylics and oils.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Internet access

Robin is having difficulty accessing his google account!


Lucy, my little 'girlie' dog is at least 10 years old. We 'rescued' her from a rescue centre in Santarem. She has had a hard life but we fell in love with her the first time we met her. During major floods, here in Portugal some time ago she survived by swimming to find food. She is a fighter. Although she is not in perfect health at this time - numerous visits to to Vet each week keeps her here with us. We do not know how much time she has left but one thing is for certain - we will not reject her an will make her last days/weeks/months here with us a very comfortable and loving time. Taking Lucy for a walk is a new experience for me; half the time I have to carry her because of her week heart and two poorly legs. She must have been hit by a car in the past. Lucy likes to eat and knows how to keep Robin in 'check'. As yet I have not got round to painting her. I will soon as my wife keeps reminding me. A painting, you should know, brings out more in a dog's personality than a photo can ever do.

My BlogSite

No flashing lights or whistles or suchlike here yet, just building things here. Web design is not my speciality so please be patient; my design area is design for print. I will improve the look of this blog site as I go along.

Robin waiting patiently for his emails

Well, where do I begin? Robin (named after Robin Hood of Nottingham, UK) will always be head of the queue.
What can I say about Robin?
He is 9-years old and is some kind of 'breed' - please judge for yourself! He is stubborn, intelligent and basically is the thorn in my side. He demands my attention far too often - 'walkies' in English or even Portuguese and he understands! In fact anything beginning with the 'W'-word and he pounces on me crying out to be taken for a walk. Exhausting? Yes! He loves to hunt... for his numerous toys (and believe me he has many - a large basket full of them). He likes my English or Italian cooking. Coffee or ice cream are also his favourites... sometimes he even demands a croissant with his cappuccino - yes I joke not! But his croissant MUST have butter! My wife has owned Robin for most of his life. What I did not count upon was that when I married her (4 years ago) I did not imagine that I had to marry HIM as well! Guess what... he even has the audacity to creep into our bed at night! Many times I have been surprised that my wife has developed a 'tail' when I awake next to her in the mornings and instigate a cuddle! Not a pleasant surprise I can really admit. He is very protective of her and 'tolerates' me in the bed!
Enough about the 'BOY'... what about Lucy... see next post.

My blog - my dogs - my art

A dog is for life and not just for Christmas... same with a cat.
If you are a dog or cat lover then you know just what this means. Our pets quickly become a part of our 'family' as dear to us as other loved ones within that family group. Each day we spend with our pets is valuable... they teach us many things and share their love unconditionally. As an artist I enjoy painting, but no subject causes me more heartache and frustration than animals - they are 'individuals' and with their own character. Capturing that character is my mission... our pets are not with us forever, but their love and devotion to us is 100%. As well as showing you my art, I will also be giving you accounts of my two dogs, Robin and Lucy, two very individual and intelligent members of my family.
I hope you enjoy my posts and even consider a commission to have your own pet captured for always through my art.

(Robin shown here painted in acrylics on canvass as a gift for my mother-in-law)