Friday, 17 May 2019

A Labour of Love and Healing

Alex and Candy, acrylic, 30" x 40"

Blog 19, May 17, 2019

If you are wondering what happened to last week’s blog, I decided to cut down the number of blogs to make more time for painting and felting. Since I started working as a German language instructor part-time, I have hardly been in my studio working on my own projects, even though I have still been able to create lots of sketches and drawings for my classes and workshops. I am sure you understand my decision and hope that you will continue to follow me on a bi-weekly basis.

Today, I write about a special painting that I created for my family. When I started the painting, I did not know that it would take me six years to finish. I had painted our first dog Jessie many times and had also created one portrait of Candy and another of Alex, the two dogs that we adopted after Jessie’s death. This time, however, I wanted to create a double portrait of the two dogs while they were still in the prime of their lives.

When I started the painting in 2013, I thought I had lots of time to finish it. At that time, both dogs were seven years old. Little did I know that Candy would already leave us just over a year later when she died without any warning from a burst tumour.

Our whole family was sad, but Alex and I were affected more than the rest of the family as we spent most of our time together with Candy. In a way, however, it was easier to process her loss than when we lost our first dog Jessie, as I still came home to a barking dog who awaited my return full of joy, even though I felt guilty of leaving him alone in the first place. I knew that I had to help both of us over the loss, but it took us about half a year to adapt to the new situation.

In 2016, I finally continued my work on the painting but was frustrated because I struggled first with Candy and then later with Alex. Part of the problem was that I had picked a reference picture that showed both dogs in a very common pose but turned out to be not very sharp, which I only realized when I enlarged it to see details of their faces. This was quite frustrating and made me lose focus. In the end, I picked another head position for Candy and re-painted her face completely. Working on Alex was a little bit easier as I had my model right with me in the studio. I was able to check the colour on my brush against the colours of his fur and to study the details of his face more closely.

Alex is now 14 years old and usually does not sit anymore. He has lost almost all of his hearing and his sight has deteriorated. He has arthritis in his hind legs, but he is still very active for his age. We continue to go on our daily walks. He also enjoys chasing after our cat Miko, but he usually lies down otherwise, except if his nose smells something delicious on the countertop. I thought he was not able to stand on his two hind legs anymore and was very surprised when I caught him just a couple of weeks ago trying to steal the ham.

When I look at my painting, so many memories of happy and silly events resurface which make me smile. Both Candy and Alex had such different personalities but they were a great team and a wonderful addition to our family. I hope that Alex will still have some time to enjoy his life with us. He is a daily inspiration for me how to deal with getting older and making the best of every day.

If you are interested in having your pet painted, I welcome commissions. Please check out the portfolio of my pet paintings on my website Please do not hesitate to contact me for any questions.

At the end of this blog, I would like to encourage you to pick up the hobby that you want to start once you are retired, or once a certain task has been finished, now. Don’t postpone the things you want to do. Now is the best time. You can always convince yourself of obstacles or life’s busyness to postpone, but if you are waiting for the perfect moment to pick up a new hobby or a new habit, you might miss out on your chance.

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