A collection of pet portraits

Readers who are interested in my art know that I love to draw and paint animals and birds (see my post on Equine Art). Some of these are depicted in their natural setting, some are more funky or fanciful, such as my collection of hares on sofas.

 

One aspect of this animal art which I find fascinating is making portraits of animals I know personally, a practice I started as a child by obsessively drawing the family dogs (mostly when they were asleep!) One such portrait which I still have is the one below, of the family labrador, Brett, which I must have done aged about fourteen or fifteen.

 

The most interesting side of this is to observe the animal and try to give a hint of his or her character. I am of course aided by photographs, especially if I get a commission to paint an animal I have not met (however, usually I’ve heard a lot about them from the owners!)

So, without further ado, meet:

Eden, a feisty little Jack Russell

 

Valerie, a Weimaraner who likes to strike mournful poses, although she’s full of pep

 

 

Balou, a faithful Golden retriever.

 

 

A bunch of Norfolk terriers, hairy balls I cannot tell appart, in life or in photos. Here are the parents:

 

 

 

And the offspring

 

 

Java, another ball of fluff, chilling.

 

 

And a couple of cats. Goldie, striking a pose,

 


And Meli, peeping out of her bed.

 

 

Also a horse, Rubia, done in biro

 

And finally my own dog, Frankie. Dachshunds are difficult to draw, because you either have to lie down on the floor to get a good angle,

 

 

Or draw them from above!

 

 

 

Still easier than people portraits, though…

Painted Doors of Northern Greece

Aren’t these doors lovely! From the wonderful blog, An Evolving Life.

An Evolving Life

Over the recent holidays we were up North again, visiting Ioannina among other places in Epirus and Western Greece. In the Iç Kale – the inner fortress of the town – we were lucky to happen on a temporary where I spotted a lovely painted door panel.

The door panel – half of two panels that make up a double door – came from an old arkondiko (mansion) – probably dating to the late 18th or early 19th century.

I also spotted a later 19th-century door in the outer Kale, but don’t know if grafitti can be classed as “painted”. However – if you really stretch the point – it is a sort of unintentional decoration. The original white paint must have seemed like a pristine sheet of paper that just screamed out for doodles and scribbles.

Last September we came upon two modern painted doors in the Ioannina…

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A wonderful discovery

Yesterday we celebrated the Epiphany in Greece (new followers can read about it here), so it seemed like a good time to mention a wonderful discovery made at a church in the village of Tsivaras, 17 kilometers east of the town of Chania, in Crete.

The finding concerns a religious icon, which is believed to be an early work of master painter El Greco.
El Greco, whose real name was Domenikos Theotokopoulos, was born on October 1, 1541 in Heraklion, Crete. However, the artist spent the bulk of his life in Italy and in Spain, where he created his best-known works.

Photo:Google

 

The finding was announced by Byzantine history expert Michalis Andrianakis at a recent archaeology conference. It concerns a double icon, of the Virgin and Saint Catherine, and Byzantine experts have been studying it for many years.

According to Andrianakis, “The icon was located at the apron of the temple of the church which was built in the 1880s. It was cut in half so it would fit on the temple and the bottom part where the signature of the artist would have been was discarded.”

He thinks that several elements in the icon are specific of the El Greco style, one of which are the pigments that were used.

Entering a new decade

Today marks the start not only of a new year, but of a new decade.

Traditional Greek Vasilopita, a cake cut every New Year in households and businesses around Greece

The last decade has been rocky, the new starts with a lot of huge challenges.

Fires are raging in Australia as we speak, and the decade has seen a lot of climatic disasters. Many have lost their homes and even their lives.

We are in the midst of the greatest movement of populations the world has ever witnessed. Wether we like it or not, we are, and will be, for many reasons, inundated with refugees and other migrants, and we must find humane ways of dealing with this issue.

There has been great economic upheaval, a lot of countries being hit with unprecedented crises.

One of the main reasons problems remain insoluble has been a lack of effective leadership worldwide. Petty squabbles, endless scandals, vote-grabbing concerns mean that the job does not get done. Too little, too late.

The biggest effect in our everyday lives has been the rapid advance in technology, enabling us to have access to all information (overwhelmingly so sometimes), to communicate easily and cheaply, to virtually be everywhere. This has its good and bad sides, like everything else, which I shall not bore you by enumerating.

Human nature, in my humble opinion, does not change. It is capable of the best, as of the worst. Violence, greed, atrocities, financial shenanigans, injustice. On the other hand, we have witnessed fantastic new inventions and discoveries, unimaginable progress in medicine and other sciences, great works of art and amazing cases of selflessness, humanity and downright heroism.

However big the challenges facing us, we must remember humankind  has endured for a couple of hundred thousand years. It has faced up to challenges before. We must enter this new decade with optimism and a will to make changes for the better.

 

Smashing a pomegranate on your doorstep is another Greek custom that signifies good luck

Happy New Year to all!

The 12 days of Christmas

It being TBT today, I thought I’d repost a seasonal article I wrote in 2015, for newer readers—old hands just avert your eyes. I remember I had lots of fun making all the drawings for this post. Here goes:

 

Christmas can be a tiring and frustrating time. We expect too much, we want everything to be perfect. Some run themselves into the ground, feeling it’s their job to provide that perfection for family and friends. Some expect to be surrounded by luxury and glamour, to be enchanted and entertained. Some just get depressed.

The image of the beautiful family, dressed to kill, with brushed hair and dazzling smiles in front of a tree dotted with tasteful baubles, or sitting around a table laden with a delicious feast is hardly likely to materialize. The gingerbread house will refuse to stay up, and will have to be propped up with cans of tuna. The kids will squabble over their gifts and make faces at the camera, having refused to wear the velvet ruffled garments bought for the occasion. The turkey will be overcooked, and uncle John will get drunk and insult his mother-in-law. Nobody will get the gifts they’d hoped for, and the glamorous party will turn out to be totally devoid of hot babes/dudes. And then the bills will start coming in. (Just an imaginary scenario!)

Perhaps the solution is to aim for less materialistic pleasures. Trying to think what those could be, I came up with the following, somewhat fanciful, list:  of tips for the days to come.

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On the first day of Christmas – Do something for yourself. A little treat: have a massage, go for a ride or a walk in the park. Take an hour off work for coffee with a friend.

 

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On the second day of Christmas – Spend some quality one-on-one time with someone special: spouse, lover, sibling, offspring, grandchild, friend. Or even your dog.

 

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On the third day of Christmas – Resolve to think three positive thoughts per day, every day. Or, to note three good things that happened. Or, to find three things to be thankful for.

 

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On the fourth day of Christmas – Get four old friends together for a pizza and cards evening. Laughs guaranteed.

 

 

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On the fifth day of Christmas – For the last full working week before Christmas, be cheerful at work. Smile and people will smile in return. Five days – it should be possible.

 

 

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On the sixth day of Christmas – Find six good books to read. Browse in a bookshop, or go through the pile on the bedside table. Books take you away from your problems – they’re a door into another world.

 

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On the seventh day of Christmas – Resolve to spend ten minutes each Sunday making a menu for the week. The cooking and shopping will become so much easier.

 

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On the eighth day of Christmas – Make a list of eight fun things to do in the coming months. Book a show, visit places you haven’t seen, explore the neighbourhood. Almost as good as a vacation (but one of them could be a weekend break).

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On the ninth day of Christmas – Bake or buy cupcakes or cookies and distribute them. Food makes people happy.

 

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On the tenth day of Christmas – Get ten people together and have a party. Don’t spend a fortune, or ages cooking – everyone can bring something.

 

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On the eleventh day of Christmas – De-clutter. Find 11 things to donate, recycle or bin. You’ll feel so much lighter.

 

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On the twelfth day of Christmas – Call twelve people and ask how they are. Listen to what they have to say. Not your buddies to whom you talk every day: the old friend you haven’t seen for a while, the elderly aunt who bores you, the acquaintance you heard has not been well. It will make everyone feel better.

I hope this list has amused you, if nothing else. Do I hear hollow laughs? Any other suggestions?

 

 

 

Poet and artist William Blake


Taking advantage of a couple of days in London a few weeks ago, I tried to fit in as many art shows as possible. After the Gormley exhibition at the Royal Academy, I went to see the works of William Blake at Tate Britain.
When I was in school, I found Blake’s poetry a little grim, if not downright creepy: O rose, thou art sick… etc. But I was always intrigued by any accompanying illustrations, so seeing them in the flesh is always a real treat.

 

 

 

William Blake (self portrait above), born 1757 – died 1827, was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. He lived most of his life in London, at a time of great political and sociological change which greatly influenced his writing. He was largely unrecognised during his lifetime, but is posthumously considered one of the leading lights of English Romanticism.

 

 

The painting above is ink, graphite and watercolor, and has been named An Allegory of the Bible, which is not the artist’s title. The Bible, however, was always an inspiration for Blake, and in this composition he has started using more color than previously.

 

 

Blake was born into a modest family who, happily, encouraged his artistic leanings. He eventually went to work as an engraver, and at the age of 31 developed relief etching, a method he used to produce most of his books, paintings, pamphlets and poems. The process is also referred to as illuminated printing; however, for his commercial work, Blake mostly used the more common intaglio engraving. He is a master of composition, as can be seen in the painting above. He also used oils, as In the painting below.

 

 

 

 

Between 1793 and 1795 Blake produced a remarkable collection of illuminated works that have come to be known as the Minor Prophecies, in which he examines the fall of man. In Blake’s mythology man and God were once united, but man separated himself from God and became weaker and weaker as he became further divided.

 

 

One of the best known paintings from this series is the one above, which, though small, is very powerful. Its central figure is Urizen, who, measuring the world beneath him with his golden compass, represents the scientific quest for answers. For Blake this action was a threat to what he thought of as the cornerstones of human happiness: imagination, creativity and thought.

 

 

Blake must have had fantastic eyesight to be able to spend hours writing out his poems in minute script before illuminating them. Blake also illustrated other people’s work, such as Thomas Grey’s lovely ‘Elegy written in a country churchyard’.

 

 

And his engraving of Chauser’s The Canterbury Tales remains probably the best known image on this subject.