Soon it will be time for Crufts again! Just in case you don’t know it is the ‘World’s Largest Dog Show’ and it is to be held from 9th – 12th March at the NEC in Birmingham. We used to breed Cocker and Field Spaniels, showing them regularly and Crufts was an important part of the year. We never did reach the heights, but our black field spaniel ‘Glenaubrey Black Shadow’ did achieve Best Puppy in Breed in 1985.
There never been a time since then that we have been without dogs, although not always spaniels. Notably the Basset Hounds with so much character. They live on in memories only so I just had to paint one. This is Jeeves :-
Boxer to remind me of the breed I grew up with
Labrador a commission painting
This is a painting I have just finished of Scoobie, a blue roan cocker spaniel, with a lovely personality and impeccable temperament. Sometimes I think it is easier to paint your own dogs as you know their character and can paint that in. Certainly you are filled with memories as you work.
I really enjoy painting dogs, but sometimes they are difficult to photograph. If it is your own dog they want to come and see what you are doing and have some fuss rather than sit still, but someone else’s dog can be even more problematic. Some will only sit when their owner tells them and then keep looking at them for reassurance all the time. It can all get very exciting and mayhem can ensue with great hilarity. It’s certainly not dull though!
I have been getting ready for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch for several weeks now. I always like to feed the birds in the garden in the winter, mainly to help them, you understand, but it is wonderful to be able to watch them so closely. As the Birdwatch date approaches I find myself watching that bit closer and finding tastier morsels to put out in the hope of being able to record something unusual.
This last week I have been fortunate to see a female siskin and two bramblings along with the usual visitors. What excitement! However I think it must have been the low temperatures we were experiencing then, because come Birdwatch time and higher temperatures there was no sign of them. Do they know we are trying to count them do you think? Well that’s just how it is!
Here is just a selection of the birds I see in my garden:-
Coal Tits on a Cherry Tree
My aim is eventually to have a go at painting all my local birds. There’s a long way to go but the research will be enjoyable!
The nuthatch really stands out in the crowd! Not only because of its beautiful colouring, but also because it is the only british bird that creeps down a tree. The tree creeper and the woodpeckers all search for the insects they feed on under the bark by going up the tree, but the nuthatch will go up or down.
I am not fortunate enough to have seen a nuthatch where I live in Norfolk, although this does not mean they are not there. I do not have the patience to wait for birds to appear, although it is very exciting to see something new. I can remember a few years ago, whilst walking in Derbyshire, we stopped en route for a coffee. There were several bird feeders hanging near the door to the pub, which were very much in use. On one which contained peanuts was a nuthatch, completely oblivious to the comings and goings of the pub just a few feet away. Where birds accept and feel safe around humans it is so much easier to watch and appreciate them!
With its beautiful colours and markings it just cries out to be painted! This time I have gone for a smaller piece – just 6″ x 6″ (15 x 15 cm).
Oh what a beautiful bird is the peregrine falcon. It is the fastest of our native falcons and can reach 120 mph when hunting. During the last century numbers in this country fell to around 400 breeding pairs, thought to be caused by persistent pesticides. Thankfully this trend has reversed and there are now around 1,500 breeding pairs.
One success began in 2011 when peregrines began to nest on Norwich Cathedral. A platform had been put up by the Hawk and Owl Trust after peregrines had been sighted in 2009 and 2010. In the wild peregrines nest in mountains and cliff ledges, so the Cathedral spire was thought to be ideal. This proved to be the case and the public can now view them at a watchpoint in the Cathedral Close. http://upp.hawkandowl.org/
My peregrine watercolour was conceived whilst looking at the pictures of the Norwich peregrines. I will be taking him and others to the Art and Craft Exhibiton at Wymondham Arts Centre in Norfolk, UK at the end of this month.