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:
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.
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…
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 notunhappy 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…