A quick sketch of JESSIE sitting between my legs….pencil/watercolour
In 2005, out of necessity, I moved from Crickhowell Wales to Barnes in SW London. My elderly Mother’s health was failing which meant it was not practical for me to commute to her home in Kent from Wales. On top of that a project I had worked on for several years fell apart…which was devastating….(another story for another time)
In 2007 a friend asked if I would be interested in house/animal/studio sitting for a relative of hers who lived not too far from Brussels. I jumped at it. With easy access to the Euro Star I would be able to get back to my Mothers in Kent within a few hours… and so off I went on a new adventure.
Two of my charges…Spuggy and Raisin.. Spuggy is still alive and well and living in the south west of France…
Spuggy and Raisin were to become my muses and constant companions during two lovely summers. Along with the PUPS I looked after Jessie (header sketch), Iccle the stone deaf white cat and chickens. They all became my companions and models.
For anyone who knows me they will recognise my signature watercolour palette on the table in front of the PUPS. This photograph was taken in the studio – where I was also able to work on large canvases. The PUPS never left my side and throughout my stays at Chemin du Gros I filled up numerous sketch books dedicated to Raisin, Spuggy, Jessie and Iccle…..oh and of course the beautiful chickens…
After Suzy my host met me at the Brussels Euro Star station we drove about 45 minutes back to Chemin du Gros, Lasne where I would be staying. Set in lovely grounds, it was the perfect place for me to regain my strength.
Jessie the older dog was as Suzy explained on her last leg….I was told that the vet was on alert and that I was to expect the possibility of her death. It was very difficult for her to get around and she certainly couldn’t get up and down stairs…and so I set out to make Jessie’s life as comfortable as possible. In fact Jessie was just what I needed....a little being to love and take care of who in turn took care of me and removed me from myself!
One of hundreds of quick sketches of Iccle the Cat who lived in a silent world of her own.
Iccle, the great survivor is also still alive and well in SW France….and still as deaf as a post.
I quickly got into a daily routine….of feeding the animals, painting and communing with nature. After the morning routine I would go to the studio with the PUPS and Iccle to paint for the day….absolute bliss. I could feel the tensions leaving me as each day passed.
Meanwhile Jessie would snuggle up In her bed in the kitchen with a hot water bottle and a blanket…..later in the day I would give her a shower which she loved, We quickly became attached.
The chicken coop was at the top of the garden – a place where I would go to sketch and collect eggs twice a day.
As I would enter the coop I was fascinated by the activity of the chickens and the beautiful diffused light….which I attempted to capture on this large oil on canvas.
Chicken coop at Chemin du Gros.
It was one of those paintings that poured out of me.
It so happened that Chemin du Gros was one of the oldest properties in the area….where the Battle of Waterloo was fought, and somehow unconsciously the feeling and atmosphere of this painting reminded me of the Battle of Waterloo with its frenzy and colour…….
By the end of the summer, I had produced numerous large canvases and hundreds of sketches. I felt refreshed and renewed. As is always the case for me, Mother Nature and animals were such an important healing element.
I felt centered again…..as opposed to being fragmented and off kilter.
Steps in the garden at Chemin du Gros.
When Suzy and the family returned from South Africa they were amazed to see that dear Jessie looked ten years younger and for that matter so did I….
Jessie and I had loved and nurtured one another and although Jessie died six months later, I always feel that during our time together so much healing happened for both of us.
I can see how much good your stay produced in your art, Janet. So much peace and healing…
Thank you Jane:)X
Animals are such great companions and help you heal. Beautiful watercolors.
Thank you Timothy:)
Love all these images. Animals are such healers, I say.
Sweet story, Janet, and as always beautiful paintings.
Thank you Don:)
What a beautiful time with a beautiful family of animals in a beautiful place- love the accompanying paintings you added to the blog- all are beautiful, the one of the garden steps I love especially!
Thank you Cathy for reading and commenting. I really appreciate your visit:)
What gorgeous images, pictures, and story. Thank you for sharing.\
On a different subject, I wrote about AI-generated art on my blog today–DALL-E. What do you think of that approach to art? I’d like to say it’s soulless (unlike what I just saw above), but there are a lot of consumer who might not see that.
What a difficult world.
Thank you Jacqui for your comment and for reading my post. When I first began to blog about 15 years ago I wrote many times that I could see that one day school children would be brought to the likes of me to see an artist using a ‘stick with hairs on the end’ etc…..that day has almost come! I recently celebrated by 77th birthday and so not far off from my original prediction. Personally AI is not for me….but I am always interested to know what is going on in our world….and I have a feeling….that the pace is quickening…and probably before I depart to the next realm..who knows what might be happening. However, I will continue to write and paint the old fashioned way…….
I went to your blog and read your article on AI and found it to be very interesting and will be visiting more often….Janet 🙂
A stick with hairs on the end–isn’t that the truth. If you’re famous enough, DALL-E will allow people to ask for a picture “drawn in the style of Janet”. That’s pretty scary.
It’s all pretty scary….which is why I stay with the stick with hairs on the end which I put into gooey stuff called paint:). Who knows maybe the old way will become the ‘in’way to do things…..regardless I find the whole thing to be fascinating and will continue to follow your blog for any new information.:)
Such a beautiful, healing experience! I feel renewed reading it and viewing your gorgeous visuals. Animals and nature are my heart and soul. Thank you for this lovely piece!
Hi Susie….I know that you and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to animals and nature. My experience at Chemin du Gros was very special. It was as if all the right elements came together…Thank you for reading. 🙂
I’m glad you had that special time and place to bond with the animals and nature, while allowing your painting to flow. Your routines sound very soothing and healing. Kudos Janet. 💕
Thank you dear Brad…yes I have developed my routines to be soothing and healing….I don’t do well with fragmentation.. My time with the animals in Chemin du Gros was particularly so…. As always thank you for reading and commenting. Much appreciated. XX
You’re most welcome dear Janet. 💕
What a wonderful healing time and space! Animals always seem to know what we need. (K)
Yes indeed XX
Janet, this is such a beautiful, nurturing post. Thanks for sharing so much of your work and history with us. Hugs.
Thank you dear Teagan for reading and commenting. I love everything you do and so your words mean a great deal :)x
Beautiful watercolors of dogs, Janet. My dog is truly a comfort and faithful companion . ❤
Your dog is gorgeous….Thank you Carol:)X
Another great post, animals are the greatest healers! ❤
They are indeed….thank you so much :)X
I love this story so much I can imagine Jessie and you together and the gaggle of hens it sounds like a wonderful place and this is a magical memory ✨️
Thank you so much for this lovely comment. Janet :)X
I remember all my animal friends (possibly better than the human ones). I feel better just looking at cats and dogs so I am not surprised you found it a healing time pet-sitting.
I concur with you…..re remembering my animal friends better than my human ones:)
The last one speaks to me the most somehow. How do you pronounce Iccle?
It would rhyme with ‘Trickle’:). She is one of the most incredible survivors….still alive in SW France. When she would meow to get my attention it was so loud….because she was stone deaf. Thank you:)X`
Oh, you’re welcome. A cat visited us this morning!
Amazing art 😊
You’re welcome 😊