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!

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.

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.

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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!

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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:

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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.”

 

 

 

Remember my last blog? I ended by saying “…as delightful as March has been, I am ready for April now, pleaseandthankyou. What could possibly go wrong?” Well, let me tell you…

On the 8th April I had more spinal surgery as planned, the first of two procedures to fuse my sacroiliac joints. Everything went really well and I already feel much better. My right SI joint is recovering well and the surgeon also had the foresight to do the necessary diagnostic/painkilling injections in the left side while I was anaesthetised, to spare me that unpleasantness at another appointment. I was lucky enough that the operation took place first thing in the morning and I managed to escape from hospital after only one night, feeling very pleased with myself. Silly me! This is still 2019.

Our good friends Sandra and Sonya helped out with dog-sitting so that Luce could visit me in hospital and collect me. They had visited Ruby and Lola before and they are now their favourite aunties, obvs. As Ruby demonstrates:

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We are used to the whole back surgery thing now and everything was going brilliantly until a couple of days later when Luce started to feel unwell. By the next day, a Sunday of course, she was having severe abdominal pain and we had to call the emergency doctor. Really? Oh yes. Turns out the universe can indeed be that hilarious and she ended up spending six nights in hospital having a nasty appendix diagnosed and removed. She has now joined those of us who are ‘abridged’ (thanks to her friend Maebh for the lovely turn of phrase!) although things have moved on a lot since I had mine out about thirty years ago. This is now keyhole surgery, so she doesn’t have the classic lower right hand scar, more of a bowling ball arrangement of three small puncture wounds, as if she’s lost an argument with a very small triceratops.

Luckily for us, Sandra and Sonya immediately stepped in; between them they took over dog-wrangling, shopping, cooking etc, drove me to the surgery to get my staples out and to the hospital to visit Luce as soon as I was well enough to travel. I honestly don’t know how we would have coped without them, they have been absolute stars.

We are both recovering well now, but we also remain grateful for professional dog walkers, online grocery shopping and everyone involved in the invention of modern painkillers. On the plus side, it has given us a kick start towards a healthier lifestyle. We’ve been so stressed lately that things have slipped a bit. Luce is going to be taking time out from full-time teaching to do a PHD in family law over the next 3-4 years and we’ve been talking about getting into better habits now that we’re able to plan our time more easily. Neither of recommends this particular method, but we’ve both undergone a fairly radical unintentional ‘detox’, so we might as well make the most of it!

Most of all, I’m planning to use this time to get back to just enjoying being creative again. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do that, because I’ve been so worried about keeping my business going, but I know I will be having surgery to fix my left SI joint fairly soon so there’s no point rushing things. Better to be patient and come back as strong and healthy as possible.

I daren’t look forward to May. Let’s just wait and see. This is Lola, waiting and seeing. I basically have the same expression.

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Bonus arty farty bit:

As ever, if you recognised the lyrical reference in the title of my blog, come and talk music with me! For those who are interested, My Blakean Year is a song by Patti Smith from the album ‘Trampin’:

“From pattismith.net : “[William Blake’s] life was a testament of faith over strife. he suffered poverty humiliation and misunderstanding yet he continued to do his work and maintained a lifelong belief in his vision. he has served as a good example in facing my own difficulties and feeling a certain satisfaction in doing so”.

I first heard ‘Horses’ as a teenager and Patti Smith opened my eyes to what music could be. These lines from the Introduction to the Songs of Experience from William Blake seem apt:

Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future sees
Whose ears have heard,
The Holy Word,
That walk’d among the ancient trees.
(whole poem here)