– Taking a moment to put life on hold and learn how to paint a cartoon version of woman’s best friend
If there is one thing I’ve learned, its that you guys love your doggies. Last year, I created a dozen clay pet portraits to raise money for the darling dog Tia who needed an urgent operation to save her life. MadebymeCLAY fans dug deep to provide funds for Tia’s desperate family and in time she made a full recovery.
Dogs are often dubbed man’s best friend, but they are clearly woman’s too as I arrived at Ell hair studio in Tewkesbury to join 10 other canine-doting mummies in a 1-day How to Paint your Dog workshop.
Bright and smiley with a fabulous signature headband and overalls, award-winning artist Samantha Morris immediately put us all at ease with her wit, patience and friendly manner. Most of us hadn’t done any art since school – some of us not much then either – but armed with a photo of our furry friend, a cuppa, fistfuls of brushes and paints we tentatively turned towards the blank canvas resting on the easel before us.
Having painted a birthday surprise for a dear friend, Sam fell in love with watching animal characters emerge on the canvas and came to realise that she was now destined for a life of painting fabulous cows in her own unique style. In no time Sam was selling artwork internationally to independent gift shops – and Harrods. In 2016 she won Cotswold Artist of the Year and subsequently – being no stranger to helping others with over 10 years of experience working as the Head of Business for the Princes Trust – her workshops became yet another means by which she could help budding artists with their own creative endeavours.
The workshop comprised of step-by-step instructions on composition and selecting background colours, how to simplify our pet dog into a cartoon style, shapes and blocking, eyes and nose, hair & shading and then those little personal touches which make our pets and our paintings unique. All materials were provided and we were encouraged to make as much mess as necessary splattering paint all over ourselves which was incredibly liberating. I particularly enjoyed the way we got to visit each other’s easels to learn multiple techniques which varied according to the breed of dog we were painting. Lunch was a welcome chance to step away from the canvas and get to know our fellow artists a bit better. A couple of the ladies had been on the How to paint a cow workshop the day before and it was fun to hear how the workshops differed. I also got chatting to local Cotswolds photographer and stylist Meg Hanlon and Louise of Pink Pear Bear both of whom gave me hair envy, through the amazing brush strokes Meg mastered for her dog’s fur and Louise with her awesome teal streak – which she assures me is normally pink!
I came home absolutely exhausted but with a renewed sense of my creative abilities. I was beyond delighted with my painting and how it had captured the essence of my beloved Irish Setter, Chester. More often than not now, I’m making clay pebbles but this was a whole day of learning and practising new skills with no repercussions and on a large scale – perhaps not quite as large scale as my good friend Rachid but that’s the subject of a future blog!
I’ve been encouraged recently to think about what my ‘best self’ looks like. And here I was, covered in paint splatters, networking with other creative people where I could learn, ask questions and push the limits of my artist talents – every bit my best self. I am often scared of taking risks, wasting clay, failing to get it right. It dawned on me that my art is no different than my life in that, unless I am prepared to take a few risks, I’ll never have the chance to do it better next time or to see what I’m capable of. So the next time you see a workshop, whether it is ‘How to paint a Cow’ or ‘Flower arranging’ why not give it a go? You never know where your new found skills may take you.