Honestly, I don’t know why I bother making plans any more…

As the nights draw in, a chill in the air and a blaze of autumn colour usually heralds my annual failure to complete Inktober because I’m not necessarily in love with the prompts and I’m easily bored. This year, still a bit giddy after completing the 100 Day Project, I decided to make things more interesting/challenging for myself by attempting a #Halloweaselchallenge to do an animal themed drawing every day, using two prompts from Inktober, Drawloween and Handcrafted Uniquely, a fabulous community of artists on Facebook.

It was all going brilliantly. It really was. Look! Here are some drawings I did and the prompts I used:

Then we noticed that a worryingly firm lump had appeared on one side of Lola’s belly, and the rest of October was all about fixing a wonky dog.

To put this into context, we rehomed Lola and her sister Ruby in 2019 after they lost their owner and ended up in rescue. It soon became obvious that, although they had clearly been loved to bits, they both had some health issues. Despite doing everything we possibly could to save her, we lost poor Ruby to ‘leaky gut syndrome’ in December 2020. In 2018 we lost our beautiful Lab/Collie boy, Boswell, very suddenly, to kidney cancer. They were both just shy of ten years old. Lola turns ten in February.

Long, panicky story short, we whisked her to the vet for a scan and she came back minus her spleen and 1.6kgs of tumour. Here she is getting vetty snuggles, and wondering what the flip heck happened:

” Excuse me? I only came here for a bit of fuss and a gravy bone”…

Thankfully, tests confirmed the tumour was benign and she’s absolutely fine now. Once again, I cannot say enough nice things about our wonderful vet, ‘Auntie Sarah'(!), at Tern Vets in Market Drayton. She has looked after all our dogs with exceptional care and compassion since we moved here and we are very, VERY grateful to her.

Lola has made an amazing recovery and clearly feels much better for getting rid of the extra cargo. We noticed her belly was quite round and very firm when we first adopted her, but she has never shown any symptoms even when examined at the vet. I’m just glad we caught this before it caused anything catastrophic. The X ray she had prior to surgery also showed the start of some degeneration in her spine, so we’ll be looking after that too.

Tanky Dog don’t care though. She is living her best life and as long as she’s happy, that’s all that matters.

It’s November now and I have No Plans Whatsoever. Fool me once, and so on. Let’s just wing the rest of 2021 from here.

Bonus Music Video

‘Time of the Season’ was originally recorded by The Zombies, but I love this cover by Tanya Donelly.

Well it’s all been happening here.

If you read my last entry, you’ll know that I finally got a date for the back surgery I’d been waiting (not-exactly-patiently) for since 2019, then I was told it was going to be delayed. Happily, the surgeon stepped in and advocated on my behalf and it ended up going ahead after all. With four days notice.

Needless to say this made it a little more stressful than it should have been, but everything went well and now I’m able to sit at my desk more comfortably with both sacroiliac joints singing from the same hymn sheet. Hilariously though, my pre-op revealed some reflex/balance issues which the surgeon suspects are being caused by wear and tear in the vertebrae either side of the C6/7 fusion in my neck. Yep, my spine has reached the ‘Forth Bridge’ stage… just as I’ve got to the bottom, the top needs fixing again.

…*sigh*…

In other news, speaking of wear and tear, Luce turned 50 in July! As we’re basically living on a plague island, we kept our celebrations Covid safe. That was pretty much all Luce knew about what was coming, until she walked into the garden to find our best mate and master mixologist, Sandra, making cocktails at the (poorly constructed) Cheeky Tiki Bar on the patio:

No it’s not your eyes, the photo of Luce is a bit blurry, having been taken by a drunkard… *ahem*…

We placed a drink in her hand, chucked a lei around her neck, popped on her ‘delightful’ new Hawaiian shirt, and she was ready to go. Turns out you *can* have a party with three people if they are the right three people. Spiced rum, a disco ball and a 1971 playlist help enormously with this.

Let’s see, what else have I been up to that hasn’t involved drinking or attempting to walk with – and then without – crutches? Umm, not much if I’m honest. Much more exciting news from my brother in law, Paul, who has recently opened a doughnut shop!! Sadly for us it’s in Belgium, although I suppose that means there’s less chance of us having to be winched from the house through a window because we no longer fit through the doors…

If you are lucky enough to live near Chaussée de Bruxelles 195, 1410 Wat erloo pop in and see them! You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Paul is a massive fan of ‘The Sandman’ by Neil Gaiman*, so I got out All The Colours and had a play with his logo. He was a bit pleased. I’ve got form for this, having previously drawn him as Dream with Luce as Delirium. We took that one on a visit to Edinburgh to see ‘An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’ and they were both kind enough to sign it. This is literally the only way to get something for Paul that he hasn’t already seen and ordered!

*If you are not familiar with Mr Gaiman, stop reading and Google him immediately. In fact just pop to your local bookshop and buy everything they have in stock. I’ll wait.

I had such a good time with this. When I finished, I needed to replace a few of my watercolour pencils and couldn’t resist treating myself to some new colours. Fear my mighty pencil rolls!

And finally, speaking of being creative (and a bit cheeky)… now would be a REALLY good time to support me if you can. It’s been a rough few months and my ongoing health issues mean I will probably have to stay retired (ugh) from running a full-time business. I will never stop making art and I would love to get back to offering things for sale, but art materials are expensive. Maintaining a website, promoting a business… everything is expensive! Above all, I really want to keep connecting with the fabulous community of like-minded creatives and art lovers I have met over the years. If you can spare a few pennies, hit the ‘support’ button above. If not, sharing this blog or anything else I do is free and always hugely appreciated.

BONUS MUSIC VIDEO

Neil Gaiman sings the occasional song with his wife, Amanda Palmer. This one is from a project they did with Ben Folds and Damian Kulash, called ‘8in8’. They attempted to write and record eight songs in eight hours. Neil wrote these lyrics and the story goes that, at around 3.30am and much to his horror, they realised it had to be sung by someone with an English accent…

I love this perfect little video, made by Hey Crystal Makes (subscribe to their YouTube channel here!) in eight hours. You can download the whole 8in8 album free/name your price via Amanda Palmer on Bandcamp:

8in8 Nighty Night

BONUS MUSIC NERDERY

The title of this entry is a lyric from ‘Broken Flag’ by Patti Smith, from the album ‘Wave’.

“What will rend will also mend
The sifting cloth is binding
And the dream she weaves will never end”

You Didn’t Think It Was Going To Be That Easy, Did You? You know, just for a second there, yeah. I kinda did.

Remember my good news last week? Not so good now. Turns out my surgery is going to be delayed because somebody didn’t order the MRI I need beforehand. Which begs questions such as ‘who messed up?’, ‘how the flip heck did I get a surgery date without it?’ and ‘will it go ahead before July?’, because that’s as long as the pre-op is valid.

To say I am furious about this appalling carelessness after three years of waiting quietly and patiently is quite the understatement. I am… really very cross.

A bit more good news though; despite ending last week a small, spitting ball of fury (and despite DPD doing their usual bang up job and failing to deliver on the right day) I managed to acquire and set up a new laptop. After spending the requisite couple of days wrestling it from the grasping clutches of Microsoft, it’s now much easier for me to work on my website. Hurrah!

The first new feature I’ve added, as promised, is a gallery of all my drawings for #the100dayproject. You can find a permanent link in the main menu above. I’m so pleased to have started something I’ve had on a ‘back burner’ for years and I will add more to the gallery as I continue.

This is one of my favourite drawings so far and I thought some of you might be interested to see a few ‘work in progress’ photos:

Would you like to see more work in progress photos, generally? Let me know if you’d find it interesting and I’ll attempt to remember to take some…

This is Marissa Paternoster, who you might know from her bands Screaming Females/Noun or her collaborations with other musicians, including Garbage. Fangirl squeal moment: I shared the finished sketch on Instagram and this happened:

Pleased ‘weasel. Especially as Marissa is an awesome visual artist as well as a brilliant musician.

Bonus Music Video

Anyone who knows me even slightly will have read the title of this entry and skipped straight here to see if I am really a fan of Taylor Swift. Newsflash: I’m not. But I think this is one of the best covers of Anything. Ever.

You should go check out all things Marissa Paternoster, Screaming Females and Noun. Do it now, you can thank me later.

Well what do you know? I’m here with a quick update because I have some Very Good News. Several bits of Very Good News actually and that’s surely worth shouting about when good news seems to be in very short supply.

Firstly, I finally have a surgery date in June! June this year! This will be the second of two surgeries to fuse my sacroiliac joints and relieve some of the pain from my chronically dodgy and degenerate back. I had the first op in April 2019, after waiting for a year. Second op should have happened around six months later, but NHS waiting list and global pandemic means I have been lop-sided and struggling since then. So… Very. Good. News.

Of course I got the call a few days after I decided it wasn’t going to happen and I would just have to make the best of things, to which end I purchased this instrument of torture…

Nerve damage in my right leg means it randomly stops working from time to time, so walking outside is risky. I figured I couldn’t hurt myself too badly falling off this onto the carpet. Haven’t fallen off yet, and I’m already feeling stronger and fitter after four weeks, which should help with surgical recovery.

Secondly, thanks to some very generous folk donating through Ko-fi, you may notice that (after we did a great deal of swearing and faffing with my domain) you’re reading this via poochweasel.com. That’s right… this is now my website as well as my blog!

I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m really looking forward to building galleries etc. and reinstating my shop. My old website was always pretty clunky to manage and update but WordPress have some great tools that seem reasonably idiot proo… umm… ‘weasel friendly.

Luckily, Lola is available to provide technical support and ensure there is always a bol in my slippers.

Finally, today is the last day of #the100DayProject. That’s not good news, the good news is that I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and I plan to carry on with the project as a ‘hobby that might even develop into something’ now that I’m back in the habit of daily drawing. I failed dismally at the posting on social media every day part of the challenge but I will be adding a website gallery page so that you can see all the drawings I completed and I can add new work occasionally. Did I mention that I’m loving having my website back so I can share ALL THE THINGS? Because I am.

Here’s a sneak preview of the #100daysofwomeninmusic drawing I’m (probably) finishing today. It’s Amanda Palmer and I like this piece so much I’ve reached the ‘terrified to add another single line to it’ stage… Artist fun times!!

I’m pretty pleased with these drawings overall (very pleased with a few!) and I’m delighted and slightly astonished to have kept up with the whole 100 days. I think this is the first time I’ve managed to finish a challenge like this. I’m starting to grudgingly admit that I’m probably ‘semi-retired’ now (ugh), but it’s really encouraged me to keep going creatively, which is also Very. Good. News.

Bonus Music Video

As usual, the title of this blog entry is from a song. Keep on Livin’ by Le Tigre is one I play LOUD any time I need to remind myself just to keep going. If you enjoy it, I strongly urge you to watch The Punk Singer documentary. If you pause the credits and squint, you might even catch my name as a Kickstarter backer for the film…

THIS IS YOUR TIME THIS IS YOUR LIFE!

Look at me keeping up with #the100DayProject like a champ! And not keeping up with social media at all… Oh well, if something’s got to give it’s better that way round. Here’s another update on my 100 Days of Women in Music, which I’m also using as a hashtag for the project on Twitter and Instagram. I’m so pleased that I’m still enthusiastic about the whole thing and I’ll definitely be carrying on and seeing where it ends up after the 100 days.

I’ve now finished eleven drawings, an average of one every three days, which is pretty good going. Here’s the one I was just starting when I last blogged:

I loved doing this. ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot, best known for being in The Mamas & the Papas in the mid 1960s. She has been one of my favourite singers since I was a little girl. Even before I developed a love of California folk-rock, I saw her playing a character called Witch Hazel in the 1970 film version of an unhinged US children’s show called HR Pufnstuf. Don’t do drugs kids, there’s no need! You can safely experience all the thrills of not knowing what the flipping heck is going on or why by watching the video clip below…

I actually did a really quick sketch of her character for Inktober a few years ago.

After that I struggled a bit. I did two sketches I wasn’t entirely happy with, but I’m taking a deep breath and sharing them anyway because as well as commitment, this project is also about about sharing your ‘process’. I’m not unhappy with them exactly, but I think the shading on both is a little overdone, probably because I found myself thinking about how many drawings I might manage in the hundred days and subconsciously rushing to finish.

That’s part of the reason I committed to black and white ink drawings though, at least or this first bit of the project. There’s nowhere to hide. I’d already planned to do more than one picture of both, and I’m still improving my rusty people-drawing skills, so I’m happy as long as I’m generally going in the right direction. This week I had a stern talk with myself, slowed down, gave myself lots of detail to faff with and waddya know… I’m much happier with this!

Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Note to self: no more 1980s fishnet gloves. I was seeing those in my sleep. I’ve drawn a lot of dark hair recently too, maybe I’ll go for someone bald next? I have a couple of candidates for that.

Bonus Music Video

Seeing as I shared the Witch Hazel clip, I think it’s only fair that this week’s video is Cass singing live. Not the best quality visuals but that voice still give me goosebumps.

Quick update on my sketches for #the100DayProject. The first four drawings I did are on my previous blog entry, which I utterly failed to publicise, because… well, I’m a bit rubbish at that sort of stuff. I’m doing 100 Days of Women in Music (which I’m also using as a hashtag for the project on Twitter and Instagram).

First up last week was Joan Armatrading. Took me two attempts, but I was really pleased with this in the end:

Over the weekend I did Shirley Manson, lead singer of Garbage. I fancied doing something a bit looser/sketchier and managed to get this finished over a couple of sessions.

I was speaking to a friend in the US on Sunday night (at about 1am, when Luce and I had celebrated Valentine’s Day with a disgraceful amount of Belgian beer) and I asked who she’d like to see me do next. She suggested Joan Jett, so I embarked on this.

I stupidly pushed myself to get it finished on Wednesday, so of course my back said “no” and it ended up taking me most of the week… Will I ever learn? Probably not. But hey, Joan looks good and it really boosted my confidence.

Yesterday I started on someone who has been one of my favourite singers since I was very small… as well as being in a really well known California folk-rock group, she played a witch in a US children’s show in the 60s. Any guesses? Go on, I’ll be *thrilled* if anyone gets it right!

Bonus Music Video

Only one song it could be this week…

Ten days into #the100dayproject and I am having an absolute blast! After much umm-ing and aah-ing, I finally decided on 100 days of Women in Music.

Fondly (and humorously) known here at Poochweasel Towers as my ‘rock chicks project’, I’ve been wanting to do something like this for ages. Last year I indulged myself with a few days of graphite pencil drawing, but then last year went nuts and I never got any further…

I like to set myself a challenge and I rarely draw people. I’ve chosen to start with ink drawings, even though I’ve been doing a lot recently, because ink is less forgiving than graphite so it requires some bravery and confidence. It also stops me faffing about with shading for days, just because it’s comforting… the whole idea is to get out of my comfort zone and improve my rusty people-drawing skills.

It’s also about making a plan and sticking to it. The idea of the 100 day project is to commit to something creative, work on it for at least 10 minutes a day for 100 days and share your process online. I started by making a list of 100(ish) women who have been influential/important to me, musically. It’s a very personal list, so there will be a lot of punk/post-punk, Riot Grrls and alternative/indie in there and it will most certainly reflect the fact that I worked for Our Price Records in the 1980s.

My first couple of drawings were a bit small and tentative. Here are PJ Harvey and Poly Styrene. I started Poly on a similar scale to PJ, then made the decision to start again and concentrate on her face.

At that point I realised I’d been putting unnecessary pressure on myself by trying to produce a finished drawing every day. I already do a lot of quick sketches and I reminded myself that this was about working on something every day and sharing the process. I won’t end up with 100 drawings, but this is only the start of my Women in Music project.

Having decided that doing larger, more detailed drawings was a good decision, I embarked on Joni Mitchell (a young Joni; I’m going to have to draw several of these women at different ages). I was much happier with this:

A couple of days ago I finished (legendary rock drummer) Patty Schemel. I think I’m already seeing some improvement and I’m starting to feel confident again. More importantly, I’m having fun!

Today I’m finishing Joan Armatrading, I’ll share that one next week. Now I’ve just got to keep on going. 10 days down, 90 to go… If anyone else is doing the challenge, I’d love to see what you’re up to. Come and talk to me!

Bonus Music Video

If you’d like to know a bit more about Patty Schemel, I love this (4 minute) video of her talking about how she started out as a drummer. And here she is hitting stuff:

Happy New Year, everyone!

Apologies for disappearing again. Like so many others, the latter part of 2020 was truly awful for us. Luce’s dad sadly passed away in November and we lost our beautiful Ruby dog right before Christmas so it was a very sad time. Also, due to the pandemic, I’ve now been waiting over 18 months for the second part of a two-part spinal surgery and being lop-sided for all that time is really taking its toll. So yah boo to that.

As always though, I’m trying to stay irritatingly positive. I’m determined to reboot my plans for art journaling and daily creativity. I’m even pondering doing the 100-day project this year (if I can think of a suitable project, all suggestions welcome!) despite being rubbish at art challenges recently. With that in mind, I put some new toys on my Christmas list and Santa was very generous.

Luce got me all the kit I need to find out if I remember how to make lino prints, which is something I haven’t done since I was at school. Mum-of Weasel treated me to a set of brushes and some fancy new pens that I’m planning to use to use on a series of drawings with fine line markers and water based inks.

I have new sketch books for my new ideas, and a couple of books to inspire me. I always look forward to my annual Lia Leendertz almanac and I am intrigued by the concept of ‘wintering’. I’ll be reading that one while there are still frosty mornings and a light dusting of snow on the ground here in darkest Shropshire.

I also have this, which may be the most fabulous thing ever to grace my desk…

All in all, I am a very lucky weasel and also a weasel with no excuses not to roll up my sleeves and Make Good Art. And throw Lola’s current favourite bol, obviously. Because bol.

Bonus music video:

As usual, the title of this blog post is a musical reference, in this case the title track of a 2008 album by Ani Difranco. You can find out more about her and her Righteous Babe record label on the Righteous Babe website

A short update and a request for help. To get you in the right mood, here are some doggos doing their best help faces:

Regular listeners will know I’m currently waiting for (pandemically delayed) spinal surgery and I’m not able to get much work done. Which, if I were more mobile with my partially-fused sacroiliac joints, would have me climbing the walls with frustration as well as being rather skint.

You may also have noticed that my website has been down for a while. Unfortunately, it was expensive and pretty clunky to work with, so I decided I had to let it go. Then I had that difficult conversation with myself (again) about whether it was time to retire. I decided I’m still not ready for that, but it’s getting harder to carry on.

The good news is that I still have some pieces ready to post and I would like to offer prints etc. from some of my models and drawings, so I’m fundraising for a new website via Ko-Fi where you can support artists and other creative folk by buying them a virtual cup of coffee. I like the idea of being fuelled by coffee, even if it’s virtual coffee. I’ll build the website myself, I just need hosting and domain costs. If I reach my goal, I promise I will also use it to do my best to entertain and amuse you with my very finest nonsense and bobbins.

The other good news is, thanks to the utterly wonderful Kathy Burke spending her Saturday morning retweeting indie art businesses, I’m already nearly 20% funded!

I know it’s a really hard time for everyone but if you enjoy what I do and you’re able to bung a spare £3.00 my way, I’ll be forever grateful. If you’re not able to donate, I would be just as grateful if you would share my fundraiser and/or any of my social media profiles/posts with THE WORLD (especially anyone you know who might be interested). Thank you so much.

The title of this entry was shamelessly pilfered from ‘Coin Operated Boy’ by The Dresden Dolls. Bonus music video, as usual, for those who like that sort of thing.

Hello again! It’s been a while since I last blogged, but nothing much has happened since then, right?

Waaaahh! I’m hilarious.

Seriously though, it threw me for a bit of a loop that I’d decided to give myself some time off to get back to being artistic and creative, then BOOM… global pandemic. I’m sure everyone has found life difficult this year, and I hope you’re all keeping safe and well. I sat down to write so many times, but I was never happy with the outcome. This pretty much sums up what I wanted to say:

‘Motivational’ poster, with corrections credited (on Facebook, so unverified) to trauma psychologist Dr Alaa Hijazi.

This has been a weird time for the whole world, and nobody needs to hear me moan, so I’m just going to jump straight back in with ‘here is some art I did’

I’ve mainly been doing ink drawings and a bit of cartooning lately. It’s cheerful and it suits me only being able to sit at my desk in small doses. I’ve done a lot of quick sketches like these, mostly because my friends are (mostly) a bit odd:

‘Whatever Floats Your Goat’, The Glaring Shrew’ and some escaping hamsters. Dont ask…

I’ve also been inspired to do some daft photoshopping. Because when is that not fun? And a certain cat of my acquaintance is so gorgeous that she must be photoshopped into everything.

I often find I can motivate myself to make gifts for friends and family even if I’m struggling to be creative. Here’s a drawing I did of my small friend Mr Pelucchi and his sister Mosca as Aziraphale and Crowley from the TV adaptation of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I’ve been enjoying my new-ish ink markers, I feel like I’m really getting the hang of them now and it’s fun to be playing with so much colour.

I thought I would play a fun game with that one before I shared it to my Facebook page. I gave a couple of clues and challenged people to guess the theme of my latest dog drawing. Of course I wasn’t nearly as clever as I thought I was and it took about 10 seconds for two of my friends to guess correctly, so they both won a prize… This is Kookie the Greyhound, channelling Starina from The Birdcage for her mum Lucille:

Margaret: if you’re reading this, I haven’t forgotten yours, it’s on the way!

Finally, are there any horror fans in the house? If you’re not, look away now… I am a massive horror nerd and the first two Hellraiser movies are two of my all-time favourites. Our dog Lola (AKA ‘Tank’) is bound and called by the tennis ball as the Hell Priest is bound and called by the box. So, inevitably, this happened…

I made this as a birthday gift for Luce and I amused myself so very greatly that there will almost certainly be more of the ‘Tankraiser’ story to come.

Add some ‘spring cleaning’ and a lot of gardening, and that’s what I’ve been up to. I’d love to hear how you’re doing. Come and talk to me! Social media has been helping to keep me sane lately, which makes a change. It’s been good to see more people embracing it as a way to connect, rather than just ‘broadcast’. Being self-employed can be fairly isolated at the best of times. I’m used to staying in virtual contact with my friends and family, otherwise I would spend all my time talking to dogs. Not that our dogs don’t enjoy a good conversation, but they’re mostly interested in tennis balls and sausages, so they probably find me a little disappointing.

Bonus Music Video:

The title of this blog is from the lyrics of ‘Mississippi Kite’ from the album ‘Crooked’ by Kristin Hersh, who has remained one of my favourite artists since I first heard the Throwing Muses back in the late 1980s. I think she is one of the greatest songwriters ever, and I don’t say that lightly. Her website is here if you’d like to know more: https://www.kristinhersh.com/