Sunday, 18 June 2017

Training a 'rescue' working dog breed

Our lovely Working Cocker spaniel, Jamie, has reached the grand old age of three!  He's really doing nicely now, after a LOT of hard work!

The young family who originally owned him loved him to bits, and looked after him beautifully, but weren't able to give him the time and attention he needed, so he was developing some problems. We have lots of experience in dog training, but this one has been a particularly big challenge! Consequently we had been scouring the internet for advice, and came across the excellent Pippa Mattinson .  No we did NOT want to train our dog to be a gundog, but the initial methods recommended for training this breed seemed ideal!

Some months later, certainly Pippa's methods have been enormously helpful - I can't recommend this trainer's methods more highly - and Jamie has made great strides, but this extremely experienced trainer stresses the need for 'proofing' stages in training a dog, and the Working Cocker, specially bred to hunt, has such strong instincts to find his fun 'across the next field', that 'proofing' is a tough nut to crack!
We were finding that although encouraged by lots of progress, we still didn't have 100% confidence tbat we were 'there'  - an absolutely essential requirement before we could really enjoy allowing Jamie to enjoy free running - we devised many alternative means of providing exercise, such as bike running  (OFF ROAD, of course, or on very quiet roads at non-busy times of day) or swimming.

But then I remembered some methods we had used extremely successfully with a previous dog, and decided that Jamie had reached a level where we could try them! In Sylvia Bishop 's book we found a training method which was COMPLETELY different from any other we had tried or even heard of, and  it isn't easy, as her instructions are exacting! But with my husband and I working together to the n'th degree to even make a start, we at last seem to be  moving forward again!  Very hard work, but my goodness it's worth it! What could be more rewarding than to find that on the command "Watch", your dog whips his head around and fixes his eyes on you?

Pippa Mattinson's methods involve food rewards, and indeed these were helpful (we ALWAYS now carry a little sealed pack of cat food with us, as this is invaluable in an emergency!) but for Sylvia's objectives we needed to find a REALLY TOP HOLE game that would reward Jamie for correct responses. So with his 3rd birthday coming up off we went to the ever helpful Direct Pets   in Berwick, who have a good range to choose from!  Sylvia' s methods are based on training what she calls "THE WANT", so we needed to find something that we felt that our dog would really love!  Took ages to find, but this is a WINNER
! Jamie absolutely loves his training, and we're getting there!

Friday, 2 June 2017

New sketchkit additions!

Revving up for Birmingham, I found myself needing to supplement my sketchkit a bit, as I really wanted to make the most of sketching time when there, NOT running around for extra supplies in a strange city!
So while in Edinburgh on a somewhat frenetic list of business errands yesterday, I investigated the excellent Greyfriars Arts , and found myself with TWO excellent and unexpected additions to my range, at not too great an expense!
First of all I searched for a new pocket sketchbook, and I found these delightful Hahnemule notebooks  - REALLY looking forward to trying them out - ever so slim and convenient, and with a great range jolly but customisable covers, too!
Then, finding myself running short of replacement cartridges for my Pentel pocket brushpen, I now found a 'larger version', the Pentel black 'Colour Brush Pen', but note from the ever-reliable Parka Blogs  that what I in fact now have is a non-waterproof black brushpen - even better for me, as I've been intending to experiment with non - waterproof ink!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

David Curtis Colour Palette

Draft gouache for painting "High Stile Range from Lanthwaite Green"

When at long last I was able to join the Edinburgh Group of Urban Sketchers on a wonderful mid -week outing to Dean Village, I found I was being asked about the colours I was using.....

Definitely time to put something in writing, so here goes....

I notice that it was five years ago that I did this study in preparation for an important commission- certainly it was the first time I had really seriously attempted to use this particular colour range!
I came across David Curtis's lovely work when browsing in a flea market, coming across his really superb book "A Light Touch"
Not only is David a tremendous painter, preferring to work mainly Plein Air, but in his books and films he is particularly generous with information and advice.  You can get some idea , perhaps, from this clip ... I for one am indebted to him for completely transforming my painting approach, up until then based largely on guesswork and trial and error (mostly the latter!).

Here is the limited range of colours he uses, and which I now use as a standard (I've got these as watercolours, oils,gouache and aquarelle, as well as watercolour brushpens and neocolour crayons)
Naples Yellow           Cadmium Orange      Titanium White
 Lemon Yellow          Cobalt Violet             Burnt Sienna
Raw Sienna                Viridian                     Cerulean Blue
Cadmium Red (light)  Ultramarine

If you want to know more - get the book, I implore you!

My 3-D exploration

Deer Carving
 Elm branch rescued from mass tree felling

 Inspired by a possible chance to do some more 3-D work this autumn, it’s good to try to gather together material relating to my 3-D journey over the years!

Better to start with an overview, I think……, before going into more detail in later posts!
I wasn’t permitted by my parents to consider Art College on leaving school, so I was lucky at teacher training college to be challenged big time on a ‘Main Subject’ course by a new lecturer , John Davie, who taught us firstly how to use razor-sharp Stanley blades and crisp cartridge to construct a pristine cube, and then to transform that simple shape , using just paint!  It was a huge revelation to me to have my effort held up as a top-hole result! We were then shown how to use this experiment to design an abstract sculpture...what a revelation!

Design for “Flight “abstract sculpture, St Mary’s Teacher Training College in late ’60’s , under the instruction of John Davie

To my enormous surprise I eventually found myself with a finished 3-D abstract piece (I think I called it “Flight”).
We were encouraged to pursue extra-mural projects during long college vacations, and I remember sitting in the garden drawing cross sections of a felled tree, exploring wood forms - a richly rewarding idea, as it turned out, as it led to the development of my personal oevre as an artist!

Abstract pen drawing, wood forms

Another college vacation project had taken me to the workshop/studio
of an artist deep in the Wirral countryside, where I experienced a crash course in learning how to carve wood...more about this in later posts, but with that behind me I had the confidence to have another go, and was able to create the deer sculpture at the top of this article!

 Opportunities for continued 3-D work proved few over the years, but growing confidence took me from the realms of 3-D paintings (similar to Rauschenberg’s work, I realised in retrospect!) , encouraged and aided by excellent local artist Ken Middleton, a Sileby (Leicestershire) builder, to venture further,
exploring organic forms with observation and drawing, and venturing on several occasions into the realms of maskmaking , while at last studying a higher level art course more recently, and leading some workshops!and even constructing a huge steel sculpture with the aid of a blacksmith!
Mask designs and process

"Godwits"  sculpture, showing the tiny first maquette, made with florists wire and tissue paper, and the finished steel structure, being assembled for the first time!

Years later I discovered an opportunity to take part in the preparations for the brilliant Handmade Parade in Hebden Bridge, created by Andrew Kim and his team!  I’d long wanted to find out how to construct giant puppets, and here was my chance!
My first effort in 2015 ended up as a huge white bird, while last year I found myself creating a giant Mudskipper! What a wonderful experience!

Frenetic activity in Victoria Works, Hebden Bridge, preparing for the 2916 HandMade Parade! This is Louise, who applied colour and decoration to my finished puppet.

...and here is my finished puppet on parade, and I’m very grateful to local photographer Bruce Fitzgerald  ( for taking this super pic on the day!