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Nariko, the Thunder Child

cat artwork
Nariko, Thunder Child, watercolour and coloured pencil on paper, A5, 2021, sold/IAC

On Monday last week my cat Nariko died tragically in an accident. She was 15 months old. Later in the week I sat down and created this piece in memory of her, so that I could hang it in my studio, so she could still somehow be with us.

It was very hard to begin working on this piece. I felt as if I couldn’t do it. I told myself to just work on it for five minutes and then to stop if I was too emotional to continue. I became absorbed in the creation as I remembered her and tried to capture her spirit in the piece. Nariko the fearless, Nariko the ever curious, Nariko the avid footballer with her toys, the lover of loud drum sounds, the runner towards noises, the seeker of running water. Nariko who disliked being touched, but who was always close to me, always wanting to be part of whatever I was doing. Nariko the predator, hence the bell collar she wore. Nariko who liked to play chase with my little dog and sleep in the other little dog’s bed. Nariko the uniquest of unique individuals. Nariko my familiar, quick and sure and full of flashing beauty.

Nariko came to me as one of four foster kittens, aged about four weeks, malnourished and in terrible condition. On the first night we almost lost her. I told her, ‘you are the thunder child, you will live’ as I stroked her tiny ears. I slept with her under my jersey that night and the following day she was stronger and she just kept getting stronger. She grew from a skinny bundle of claws and energy, apparently made entirely of legs, to a sleek, fluffy and gorgeous feline. I fell in love with her, and so did my cat Tamaki, who right from the beginning adopted her. I couldn’t tell my Tamaki I was giving his kitten away, nor part with her myself, and so she stayed.

Nariko’s name is Japanese, and means ‘thunder child’ and thunder child she was. Nariko, gone too soon. We remember you always. We love you always.

A bird for me

bird artwork
Curious Bird, watercolour and coloured pencil on paper, A6, 2021, sold/IAC

I was painting cards to give to various people over the weekend. This was one I decided to keep. I wanted to replace a piece on my wall that I just wasn’t working for me. This little bird isn’t the most technically perfect piece and maybe that’s one of the reasons I like it. He’s a little odd, like me.

The biggest reason I like it though is the expression on the bird’s face. He looks curious and alert, like he’s waiting for something cool to happen. I’m a big believer in staying curious, staying open. Yes, there are trials and drawbacks in life, but if you’re open to the awesomeness these things seem less significant. This piece then is a reminder to be open to possibilities; to see, to notice, to celebrate and to stay present with the ‘good stuff’ of life.

Border Collies

border collie dog artwork
Star Collie, watercolour and coloured pencil on paper, A4, 2021, created for Border Collie Rescue SA

Here is the adult collie piece I completed for Border Collie Rescue SA to use in their fundraising. I tried to create a piece that everyone who loves border collies can relate to, rather than one with unusual facial markings. I did indulge myself with playing with a lot of colour and hyping up the contrast to give the piece an arty and fun feel and create a finished piece that’s interesting to look at. Border collies are very clever, alert dogs, with lots of energy and high levels of intensity, so I worked on conveying those qualities in this guy’s expression. Anyone who has a ball mad border collie, as I do, will recognise the ‘throw the ball’ face, and this piece has a little bit of that going on in the collie’s stare.

As with art in general, the photograph doesn’t really do the piece justice, which is a little frustrating. It’s something I continue to work on.

Please do visit Border Collie Rescue’s website, if you are based in South Africa. They have some wonderful dogs looking for homes, and there are lots of other ways you can support the amazing work they do in helping this incredible breed with donations, feeding schemes and various purchases etc.

Hope you enjoyed seeing the finished piece.

Puppies

border collie puppy artwork
Star Puppy, coloured pencil and watercolour on paper, A5, 2021, created for Border Collie Rescue SA

There’s something so magical about puppies… they really have a way of stealing your heart.

I love border collies. I love dogs in general, but border collies are one of my favourites. I’ve been a supporter of Border Collie Rescue SA for many years. I’ve adopted a number of dogs from them over the years too. They do amazing work.

I wanted to do something to support them, so I offered to create a piece to donate to them, and then planned out a piece of an adult, after which I got distracted with the idea of a puppy. This was the result. I’ll still do the piece I originally planned, and they can have both.

The legendary lady Galaxy

bengal cat artwork
Galaxy the Bengal, colored pencil, watercolor and mixed media on paper, A5, 2021

Just finished this commission piece of Galaxy the bengal cat. She was one of the first bengal cats in South Africa and was a show winner in her time. She was already sixteen years old when the photo I used as reference for this portrait was taken, but still an absolutely stunning cat. She passed away many years ago, and her owner commissioned the portrait in memory of her.

I had a wonderful client for this piece who told me to take as much time as I needed. I created this portrait little by little over a few months, in between other pieces. Taking time with a piece really gives you a chance to fall in love with it, to look at it a lot, make small adjustments that improve the overall look here and there.

No piece is ever ‘perfect’, that’s part of what makes it art, and I was by no means trying to achieve hyper realism in this piece. What I wanted was a distilled essence of Galaxy, a sense of who she was. It feels complete, and I am happy.

Follow your heart

I just got this new bracelet that reads ‘Follow Your Heart’. That may seem twee or sentimental, and it is, but it’s also inspiring to me as that’s exactly what I’m doing. Both in creating this wolf piece and in life.

The wolf is a larger piece, that has so much meaning for me. There is lots of work to go before he really bursts from the page, but I’m enjoying every minute.

Loadshedding, magic worlds and not so magic reality

bird artwork
Magic Bird, watercolor on paper, A6, 2021, sold/IAC

Here’s a piece I made for myself recently with the idea of creating a little glimpse into a world of magic and colour. I didn’t do as much work on my work in progress as I’d hoped tonight, because I’d forgotten we were scheduled for loadshedding. For those of you not in South Africa, these are planned power outtages to lessen the load on the electricity grid. Years of poor management have led to almost insurmountable problems, but that’s a something I try not to focus on too much. In any event, my happy evening’s drawing got plunged into darkness.

My tired brain is scrambled with too many ideas to sort through coherently, and it’s time to sleep. I’ll resume work on the wolf tomorrow.

Friends and foxes

fox artwork
Robyn’s fox, watercolor and colored pencil on paper, A6, 2021, R250

This is another tiny piece on A6. I like to make these in between working on my larger pieces. Very small pieces make for some interesting challenges in adding detail.

I created most of this little girl while talking to my oldest friend on WhatsApp and a lot of the emotion in our conversation seemed to find expression in the piece as I worked. I’ve been friends with Robyn since we were both five years old…and I’m not going to say how many years that is, lol, but many. It may be a cliche, but some friendships really do transcend time and distance. So meet ‘Robyn’s Fox’ a picture of a fox and also a picture of an enduring friendship.

Shadow People

abstract artwork
Shining in the Shadow, charcoal, watercolor and mixed media on paper, A5, 2021, R450

This piece is another departure from my animal art. It’s the second piece I created playing around with ideas on the theme of ‘Shadow People’, following an exhibition idea that a friend of mine came up with.

Sometimes people are a light for others when they are unaware of it or engrossed in their own struggles. Parts of the figures are obscured. Will they emerge from the shadows? Will they choose to remain hidden? Being hidden can be a sign of fear, it can also be an empowered choice. At first glance there appear to be two ‘shadow people’, there are actually three. Can you see the third one?

Again, this piece can be interpreted in a variety of ways by the viewer and I hope it will be. That people will take different things from it.

I really had fun creating these pieces. They allowed me to express new ideas. It’s a thread I’ll probably continue to unravel in future.

Danger/Endangered… the fossa is complete

fossa wildlife artwork
Danger/Endangered (portrait of a fossa), watercolor and colored pencil on paper, A4, 2021

I finished the fossa piece on Saturday, and here he finally is. He was a real challenge to photograph in such a way that the photograph was a good reflection of the original. My usual fall back of photographing in good daylight with the flash off produced some weird results, with white highlights popping up where there were cream tones on the painting, and detail getting bleached out.

I ended up posting quite a dark photo on social media, that at least looked somewhat good, but I wasn’t happy. Went back and photographed him again today, and this is the result. I’m still not 100% satisfied, but it’s a lot better.

I’ve titled the piece ‘Danger/Endangered (portrait of a fossa)’. We’re hardwired to react to many jungle creatures as being dangerous, but with so many of these and their habitats endangered, what is the real danger? The destruction of natural habitats around the world threatens the survival of many plant and animal species and ultimately humanity’s also. Pollution, climate change and the greed, political mismanagement and big business interests behind these things are very real and present dangers.

With respect to the piece itself, I’ve chosen to render it in a stylised manner that hopefully is eye catching and reflects the awe I feel when thinking of wild creatures.