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.