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!

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/

It has just come to my attention that I have missed the start of ‘March Meet the Maker’ again. For those of you who don’t know, this is an annual challenge set by Joanne Hawker which encourages arty/crafty small business folk to come out from under our rocks and share stuff about what we do.

Most years I mean to and then forget, but this year I thought “what better way to ease myself into daily art journaling? I will put this in my diary!” So I put it in my diary. And then I forgot.

But… in the spirit of self-improvement, commitment to creative discipline and reckless enthusiasm following several mugs of (very, very) strong coffee, I decided to use this week’s blog to catch up! If you would like to join in, here’s a link to the website with prompts and explanations.

At first glance I can’t honestly say I was excited by all the prompts, but I guess that’s kind of the idea. It’s a challenge. So here we go.

1) STORY

The story of Poochweasel started quite unexpectedly. Some years ago, I was driving along, minding my own business, when a random numpty pulled straight out in front of me. The resulting crash did my already dodgy spine no favours at all. I needed surgery, spent the next couple of years recovering and had to give up my job as I couldn’t drive. It wasn’t the ideal way to change career but my wife, Luce, encouraged me to start sketching and sculpting again while I was stuck at home. For fun, I made a ‘Basset Fairy Princess’ Christmas ornament for a friend and shared photos on Facebook.

Suddenly everybody wanted their own ‘tiny dog’ and things took off from there. In fact, things went a bit berserk, but Luce was really supportive and encouraged me to go with it and see where I ended up. I spent the first year or so setting up a business in a hurry and Poochweasel is now my full-time job. Hurrah!

2) HANDS AT WORK

Umm… ok, this is tricky, because there’s no one else here and dogs are notoriously rubbish at taking photos. Here is an old one of my fingers, holding a poodle. As you do(odle). And another couple of shots so you can see what I was making. Her name is Gemma, and yes, I painstakingly attached every one of those curls!

 

3) TIME

Time is my enemy, work-wise right now. Tiny dogs take a long time to make and I can’t sit at my desk for long because my back is crocked. Also, I have always been a night owl which has never really fit in with the rest of the world. And the NHS ‘clock’ is not my friend while I wait for more surgery. Let’s just forget the whole ‘time’ thing.

4) BRANDING

Oh, now this is a much more cheerful subject. My brand colours are light and dark purple, just because I like them, and I think they catch the eye.  My logo is the best photo I ever took of our much-missed old girl Sandie, who joined us for her retirement in 2008 after she lost her owner.

roundlogo2

We went the local Dogs Trust looking for a young male doggo friend for our terrier girl, Etty, and came home with a 14-year-old lady Labrador in the car. We got a ‘buy one get one free’ deal with Boswell, the puppy. These things happen to us a lot.

My business name is harder to explain. The ‘pooch’ bit is obvious, but I have no idea where the ‘weasel’ came from. There was wine and it all made sense at the time. People often stop and ask about the name and the logo at events though, so I guess I chose well!

5) CLOSE UP

Tiny dogs are ALL about the detail. This is Dexter the steampunk Dobermann. My models are usually between 8cm and 15cm tall, so you can imagine how tiny some of the details are. Those are actual watch parts on his hat, and on the box.

Dexter-small

I also made a steampunk cow, which is possibly my favourite thing ever.

6) REDUCING WASTE

My work doesn’t create much waste. I use environmentally friendly products to keep things clean when I’m working with clay, which likes to pick up every teeny tiny speck of dust. Polymer clay is a non-toxic plastic, so not easily recycled, but I keep every scrap of clay to use for armatures, etc. which means virtually nothing gets thrown out.

I think about sustainability whenever I choose art supplies. For example, I recently started using alcohol ink markers and chose a brand that offers refills and replacement nibs. Unless I’ve been specifically asked to gift-wrap something, I also use recycled packaging materials, so your order might arrive in a slightly odd box, but it’s helped the environment and you haven’t had to pay for it!

7) YOU

I live in Shropshire with Luce, and our two rescue staffies, Lola and Ruby. You may ask yourself “How did I get here”? But probably only if you were a teenager in the 1980s, like me (Kids, ask your granny about Talking Heads).

I grew up in London and studied at the Central School of Art and Design (which has since become Central St Martins). After that I spent a fun few years managing record shops. I always wanted to get back to being artistic but awful grown up stuff happened, and I found myself with a mortgage and a career in sales and marketing (yawn). I ran my own wine importing business for a while, which was also fun, even if certain parts of the 1990s are a bit of a blur. Now I make quirky art stuff for a living. Hurrah!

Things I like include animals, especially dogs (obviously), art (obviously), music, books, gaming, horror films, tattoos, trees, plants, coffee and wine. I have a ridiculous amount of t shirts, but I always need more. I also have a lot of board games, but I rarely have time to play them, never mind paint all the miniatures. I am nerd girl, hear me roar.

8) LOVE TO MAKE

I think we’ve already established that I love to make tiny dogs, but my favourites are the themed models that come from my own slightly odd imagination. Like these:

 

9) ROUGH/MOCK UP

Weirdly, I rarely sketch for models. I find I can just see them in my mind’s eye, then it’s all about coaxing what I see out of the clay, if that makes sense? If I’m doing a commission, I quite often send a progress shot or two to a customer, and I always send photos before the model is dried.

Another thing I always check if I’m making or drawing more than one dog, is that I have the comparative sizes right, and I’m more likely to do a quick sketch for a portrait or illustration to make sure that the customer is happy with the composition.

 

Phew! That took longer than I thought. And now I’m all caught up, I’ll try to keep up. Please feel free to use the comments section below, or any of my social media channels, to laugh at me, or ask questions, or show me your answers to the prompts, so I don’t feel like I’m talking to myself…

 

As you may know if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, last week was somewhat disrupted by waking up bright and early (well… early) one morning at a very odd angle due to our elderly bed frame breaking. My back did not enjoy this one little bit and I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped. Still enough for a quick journal update though. We are now completely penniless, but we have a superking sized bed with room for Staffingtons who like to snuggle and a fabulous, supportive mattress. It is glorious. If it wasn’t for my determination to be more creative, I might just hibernate until spring.

I mentioned in my last journal entry that I had been doing a fair bit of sketching from nature and missed going on long walks.  Sometimes though, nature comes to you.

I often spend a while reading before I go to sleep at night. A couple of weeks ago, I was engrossed in my book in the early hours. The only light in the room was the small bedside lamp, right next to my face. Suddenly, a large flappy thing appeared between me and the page. Obviously I didn’t do a big girly shriek, drop my book, and go six feet in the air… (*ahem*)… but I was a little surprised, as random flying beasties do not usually appear indoors in early February.

Once I had ruled out vampires, actual bats or very small UFOs, I saw that it was not that big after all. As it flitted about the lamp shade, I realised it was a butterfly. Wait… what?

This is how I came to find out that certain butterflies ‘over-winter’ indoors, but can become confused by central heating or unseasonably warm weather. My 3am Googling revealed that this was a Small Tortoiseshell, one of the most common to be found in houses. This helpful site told me what to do:

“ Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock… [butterflies] regularly overwinter inside houses. They come in during late summer/early autumn when it is still warm outside and our houses appear to provide suitably cool, sheltered dry conditions.

However… such butterflies may be awoken prematurely by high indoor temperatures. This presents a major problem for the butterfly as the outside weather conditions may be very hostile and there is little nectar available in gardens.

The best solution is to rehouse the butterfly into a suitable location. Catch the butterfly carefully and place it into a cardboard box or similar, in a cool place for half an hour or so to see if it will calm down.

Once calmed down you might be able to gently encourage the sleepy butterfly out onto the wall or ceiling of an unheated room or building such as a shed, porch, garage or outhouse. Just remember that the butterfly will need to be able to escape when it awakens in early spring”.

So that’s what we did. Two more have appeared since then, which was less of a surprise. I have always planted wildlife-friendly things in our garden. We have an abundance of butterflies and moths over the summer. It wouldn’t be hard for a few of them to find a way into the crumbling Victorian pile that is Poochweasel Towers and find a quiet spot. They are very welcome to doze here.

I took a couple of photos, which provided a great opportunity to practice blending my new ink markers.

image

They are somewhat counter-intuitive for someone like me, who has spent most of their life drawing with graphite and water based things, as the trick is to start with darker colours then use the lighter shades to blend but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.

When life gives you lemons, it’s time for a gin and tonic. When life gives you butterflies, draw them! After you’ve done the cardboard box/cool place thing, obviously.

 

The first couple of weeks of my year of living… artfully(?) have been fantastic!

So far, I’m still doing more reading than writing. I’ve been following some of the advice in a very useful book about overcoming creative block and allowing myself to follow random ideas and interesting articles I come across ‘in the moment’, rather than filing them away for later and never going back to them. I’ve broken ground on my art journal and I have so many plans for new projects.

I now have three (three!!) sketchbooks on the go. I know! Look at me. One is for the journal, which I am going to start using every day, even if it’s just to note what I’ve been reading or thinking about. One is for work, which I will probably use more later in the year as I plan for the future.

The last one is shared with Luce. At the moment it’s mostly random silly sketches of things we come up with that make us laugh, like Lola in space (still getting her tennis ball pinched by Ruby. Oh noes!) or ‘Farty and the Tank’…

… but Luce is a very talented writer and we have often discussed collaborating on something creative. The first year of her PhD is pretty intense, with regular lectures involving a three-hour round trip to Warwick. Next year, fingers crossed, she will be more able to manage her own schedule, so we might just find time to start.

In my last blog entry, I spoke about challenging myself to learn new skills. Every artist or crafter I know has a long list of things they’re going to try “one day” and, more often than not, a cupboard full of unused supplies. One of the things in my Cupboard of Shame was a set of pro marker pens that I’d never tried so I used them to colour a couple of sketches.

Oh. My. Goodness. They’re fun. Now I have another few sets on the way! It doesn’t count as a shopping spree, because I used a voucher I got for Christmas. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it… *ahem*…

Since I’ve been sketching again, I find I am more likely to notice and appreciate the small stuff. I’m trying to make positive changes when I can even if it’s something that seems unimportant. Clearing out a drawer recently, I found a beautiful old biscuit tin that my Gran gave me when I was little. I used to keep my pencils in it, and now I do again!

IMG_20200217_154320698

It took all of five minutes to clean it up and sort what I was going to put in it, but it makes me smile every day. Funnily enough, I have been drawing a lot from nature (or photos of nature, taken when I was able to go for long walks!) so it also suits that theme. And I have a butterfly story, but that can wait until next update.

If anyone would like to join me and have a go at art journaling, or writing a journal, or daily sketching, or anything creative at all, I would be absolutely delighted! It’s so easy to ‘burn out’ when you spend a lot of time on your own and art, writing etc. tend to be fairly solitary pursuits. I would love to build a little creative community so that we can offer each other support and encouragement.

For now, I have a Facebook group linked to my Poochweasel page, which anyone is very welcome to join. I’m not a massive fan of Faceache though, so I’m very much open to suggestions. Come and talk to me

 

Hello and a belated happy new year! Please stick with me, this post is quite long but also really positive, I promise. And there might be a picture of a daft dog at the end. Oh go on then, let’s start with one too. That’s me photo-bombing on the left:

selfie

So here we are in 2020. Even if the world is in turmoil and things seem bleak, the beginning of a new decade seems like a time to take stock and look to the future.

The truth is that the last five years have been a struggle for us here at Poochweasel Towers. That’s not to say there haven’t been good times and we have plenty of reasons to be grateful. We are very happy together, we have wonderful friends and family, excellent doggos, and Luce is finally studying for the PhD she has wanted to do for years. But a ridiculous number of ‘challenging’ things have happened one after another and recovering from them has been difficult.

Also, as you probably know if you follow this blog, I am not doing well health-wise. It seems that every time I sit down to write a post, I start by telling you that I’m struggling and apologising for my lack of new work or availability for commissions. Unfortunately, my situation doesn’t look like it’s about to change any time soon.

I have suffered from chronic arthritis since I was about 12. I have had fusions in my neck and lower back. Last year, after nearly a year of waiting for various scans etc, I had the first of two procedures to fuse my sacroiliac joints. I was told the second surgery should be 8-12 weeks later. Turns out that even if you need two procedures for the same reason, they are treated separately and the NHS clock resets after each one, so it will be another 6 months before I become ‘urgent’ again. And it can take a year or so to fully recover from fusion surgery… None of this is the fault of the hospital or the NHS of course but being ‘lop-sided’ is not doing me any favours. I find it difficult to sleep, I can’t stand for long or walk very far, and I can’t sit at my desk for any length of time.

Unsurprisingly, all this has taken a toll on my mental health too. I have found it increasingly difficult to be creative and being creative is what makes me happy. Mid December, when I found out that my next surgery probably wouldn’t happen before July 2020, was a particularly low point, so I had a little talk with myself. “Ok me”, I said, “You can’t change your circumstances, but you can choose how you react to them, so what are you going to do about it?” My first thought was “that’s it, I’m going to have to retire”. But I don’t want to do that yet and thinking about it made me miserable. I pondered the probable timing of the surgery/recovery and decided I would have to take a year off. Obviously, my first reaction was to panic. Then I thought “would that really be so bad?” Luce and I have always been determined to take the positive from any situation, even if it’s just a lesson we’ve had to learn the hard way. The more I thought about it, the more positives and possibilities I saw. So that’s what I’m going to do, but I’m not going anywhere and there will be no moping or moaning or feeling sorry for myself. I plan to use the time to ‘get my mojo back’ and start art-ing and writing and generally ‘weaselling about the place again.

I find January is a rubbish time to start anything. Like going on a diet when the house is still full of Christmas chocolates and there’s a litre of Baileys in your fridge (*ahem*). So, the next couple of weeks will be mostly spent reading, listing and organising. And maybe finishing some of the chocolates, if I can prise them away from Luce….

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Here are some of my plans so far.

Firstly, tiny dogs. I love making tiny dogs. There will always be tiny dogs. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to take on commissions until I’m fully recovered because I can’t guarantee if/when I will be able to make them. Even if people are very patient and prepared to wait (which they nearly always are) my work list quickly stacks up and causes me a lot of stress. I don’t mind being under pressure when I’m able to work full-time but when I’m not I imagine people being fed up if I’m doing anything other than making their order and that stops me doing anything creative at all. So, no commissions for a while, but more tiny dogs in general. Also, I have some long-term tiny dog projects that have been on a back burner for years and I would love to start bringing some of those to life. Think really imaginative, detailed models. Maybe some animations. Maybe starting to head towards a small exhibition, or even a book?

Before any of that fun, I must get back into good creative habits and for me, that starts with sketching. I’ve been reading about art journaling and I’m planning to give that a go. I’m also going to be doing #inktober52 which has prompts for an ink sketch every week. I got way behind with last year’s #Inktober, which is a sketch every day, but I’m hoping I can manage this!

Self-care is important but mindfulness and meditation aren’t really my thing. Being creative is what gives me ‘head space’ and provides an antidote to stress and anxiety. Stupidly, like many creative folks, I also put myself under unnecessary pressure to produce something fabulous every time I pick up my clay or put pen to paper. I’m pretty sure that doing more spontaneous quick sketches etc. will help me get over that, as will getting out of my comfort zone and trying some new things. I might even ask for suggestions or challenges!

Which brings me to social media and the amazing people who follow and support what I do. I was surprised and delighted when Poochweasel took off as quickly as it did back at the beginning of the last decade, and I am enormously grateful that so many of you have stayed with me. Every comment or share or RT or post ‘like’ really is appreciated. Keeping things going on social media without a steady stream of new work (or ‘content’. Ugh.) is difficult and time-consuming, so it will be a massive weight off my shoulders to have new things to show you.

I love being self-employed but it can mean being rather isolated. I would very much like to share what I get up to while I’m finding my way back to a regular creative routine. The odd posts I’ve made about personal projects have been popular, so I’m thinking some of you might find it interesting. I also know that a lot of other people are going through similar problems and I would love to build a community where we can chat and support each other.

Having said that, I realise that plenty of people are only here for doggos and that’s fine! I’m going to use my blog for this project, probably as an extension of my art journal. I’m thinking I’ll label these journal entries simply by date and other updates will have the usual fancy music-related titles(!) I’ll post/tweet links and include a brief description of each entry, so you can easily pick and choose.

I’m planning to keep the Poochweasel Facebook page as it is and share any dog-related art as usual. I will use the ‘closed’ (members only) Poochweasel Facebook group for everything else. The only reason the group is closed is so that I don’t spam your feed with other arty/silly stuff that may not interest you, and to encourage people to chat and post their own work without making it public on Facebook. Anyone is welcome to join. Here’s a link: www.facebook.com/groups/poochweasel You can also find also a link on the Poochweasel page, or just do a Facebook search for ‘Poochweasel’.

Twitter and Instagram work differently, and I might be able to separate things enough just by using different hashtags. I’ll play that by ear.

Having ended 2019 feeling properly down in the dumps, I’m excited to see where the next year or so takes me artistically, and that has made me feel a whole lot better already. I really hope I can pass on a bit of fun and positivity along the way.

Thank you so much if you’ve read this far. I’d love to hear what you think!

As promised, here’s a daft dog. If you cheated and skipped straight here, I understand.

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Bonus Music Video:

The title of this post is a lyric from Golden Years by David Bowie, form the album ‘Station to Station’.

“Bowie made an appearance on Soul Train singing (actually, lip synching) ‘Golden Years’ and ‘Fame’ on November 4, 1975. Few white performers had appeared on the show, but host Don Cornelius gave him a warm welcome, introducing him as “one of the world’s most popular and important music personalities.”