Bulldogs and bonfires
Oops, this month has flown by- I mentioned somewhere on this website that I was a tardy blogger, so I guess you were warned. But now I’m going to try and cram a whole month’s worth of nonsense into one post; I’ll try to make it as concise and non-wordy as possible, but as someone told me recently, I’m getting pretty good at talking a lot about nothing at all. So you’re welcome to just skim through the pictures.
Speaking of which, I’ll start with the most trivial and go from there. Enter Dog no.2, sniffing a cup of tea:
This Emma Bridgewater mug is my favourite as I’m a sucker for anything with a Border Terrier plastered all over it. I was mortified when having to remove my boots through airport security recently to find I’d pulled on my chintzy pair of socks adorned with terriers of all shapes and sizes. Even worse to find the left sock had discoloured in the wash and the dogs had taken on a lovely pea-green colour.
To further cement your opinion that I’m a bit of a dog-crazed lunatic, I’m going to share with you this ceramic I bought at the Affordable Art Fair. It’s by an artist called Jenny Reading and I fell in love with it instantly; apparently she works surrounded by rescue Lurchers and they make up the bulk of her subject matter. It is clear that she not only loves the animals but she understands them too- I think her pieces portray the stillness and grace of our canine companions so very effectively.
Behind the sleeping dogs you will glimpse the fruits of my labouring at the local garden centre, where a friend and I had great fun choosing pumpkins before Halloween. Far from it being a Kardashian- esque photo-op at the infamous Los Angeles Pumpkin Patch, we went on a soggy Surrey wednesday but found the most amazing selection of pumpkins and decorative gourds (what is a gourd? I still have no idea. I bought some anyway because they looked nice).
Pumpkins. Lots of them.
I believe these are called Gourds.
I definitely bit off more than I can chew in the pumpkin department; I had visions of creating these amazing three-dimensional extreme carvings (maybe even with my dogs’ faces on?!) but after an hour spent elbow-deep in revoltingly stringy pumpkin scum I had completely lost all enthusiasm. By my fourth try I had become so bored of making zig-zag teeth that I just cut a massive heart in the side of it, so decidedly un-Martha Stewart. But still, there is something especially cool and spooky about them once you stick a candle inside.
I did however save all the seeds, as one of my favourite things about Halloween is the way my Mum used to roast them in the oven. Speaking of whom, she was the reason I went a tad OTT over the whole holiday this year. Last year Mum was home alone on Halloween, and had nothing ready for the children who came trick or treating. I heard when I got home that she’d just been handing cereal bars out all night, so was determined that this year we weren’t going to be caught empty handed. I went all-out with the Haribo and was doing fine until around 8pm when Rusty escaped and was charging up and down the road in search of the cat from next door, who I have now named Damien. There’s always next year.
Moving into November, and I was stuck into painting a Bulldog.
Look closely. Middle image on the bottom row could totally be a poster for the 'Got Milk?' campaign
The very notion of this animal is so fantastically British that I was tempted to paint it over a Union Jack background, but after deciding that it would then be too busy, I’m glad I stuck with the navy.
I’ve also told you in the past about how Lewes Bonfire is my favourite night of the year, so I was delighted to be able to whizz home in time for some fireworks. Cue much childish excitement and stinky, smokey hair the next morning.
It’s an incredibly unusual tradition that a lot of people probably wouldn’t enjoy, but above all else I love the way that such a historical town is literally lit up in such a beautiful way. And the amazing thing is that by 7am the following day, you probably wouldn’t know that thousands of people had been tramping up and down the streets, such is the remarkable cleanup job.
This brings me somewhat closer to the present day, and the latest painting I’ve been working on. It’s quite a departure from normal so I felt it needed a bit of an explanation. I approached it as a complete experiment, based on a photograph taken at a wedding last year of my brother and I dancing. My comfort zone is definitely hairy animals and not humans, but Scott’s questionable facial hair meant a hairy human would do. Mum and Dad had asked me to try and paint it as they loved the photograph and all the memories associated with it.
I stripped the image down and removed other dancers from the background, as I wanted the two central figures to be the focus. My aim was to recreate the energy and emotions of a dancefloor, but in a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek way. Think slightly wobbly relatives flailing around to Dancing Queen as opposed to the top of the leaderboard on Strictly. Recreating the fluoro-marshmallow interior of the marquee was tricky, but the most important thing was I just let go and had fun without worrying too much about how it turned out. It was liberating to play around with my brushstrokes and colour palette, as when I’m painting animals I’m quite refrained. However, critiquing it now I’m pretty sure what I thought was a cool lighting effect actually makes me look like I’ve been swimming in chlorine without washing my hair.
And so I leave you with one last photo of my dogs looking cute amongst the autumn leaves. Rusty begged me not to put this up as he’s a bit self conscious that it makes his nose look big, but Maggie likes the way the November light suits her colouring. She’s been marginally better behaved than him this month, so she wins on this one.
"Maggie, my nose looks really big."