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.

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

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