Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Follow Me In Merry Measure"

It is GREAT to be back!  After not being able to post for the past 2 weeks thanks to a computer crash, I am delighted to be able to post a blog this Wednesday.  And it is only a week until Christmas!    My Christmas is going to be very different this year - the first year where our traditions change into what will be ongoing for the future.  It's sad  to see the old ways go, but exciting too, because this is the time to write everything new.   One thing that will remain is the beauty of the official beginning of Winter on December 21st.  This is the time of black velvet night skies that come early, but with the knowledge that after the 21st, we begin the journey back to the light.  It's a time of snow floating gently (and often not so gently) down to cover the earth where I live, and of blazing lights in brilliant white or a multitude of colours shining through the darkness.

For me, part of the magic of Christmas is the sparking blanket of snow, and a snowfall on Christmas Eve gives me feelings of peace and quiet joy.  We have snow now, but as the weather is changable, we'll have to see if it's all still here next week.  Fingers crossed!
Next week and the following week, there will be no blog, as we will all be busy with the holidays, but as long as I have a computer working, the Art and Home Blog will be return on Wednesday, January 8th, when I hope you and your friends will "Follow me in Merry Measure" for a year of talk about art, animals, home and gardens.  Meanwhile, I wish all of you the very Merriest of Christmases and the most wonderful New Year!!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Settling In

With the first big snow storm of winter under our belt, it's time to start enjoying the idea of Winter.  We can't fast-forward to Spring, so we might as well find some pleasure in it.    And really, if it wasn't there, I'd miss the clean, bracing sparkle of Winter.  During the next three or four weeks, my main focus (along with tidying up some last minute Christmas work) will be on getting ready for Christmas - the decorating, the baking, and the joy of getting gifts for  people, so time at my art table will take a back seat.  That doesn't mean though, that while my hands are busy with Cherry cakes, casseroles and cookies that my mind can't be busy with art.   I have to admit that once in a while, we get a slightly "different" cake because I've been thinking too much art and too little baking!  What's a little baking powder more or less? :0
Looking out the window after a storm such as the one we got last night gives me so many ideas for paintings and backgrounds.  I love the view from our kitchen window and all the background and "story" ideas it inspires.  It poses so many mental puzzles to be solved.

How am I going to break down all that snow into bites that I can paint in a way that is identifiable, and not have just a mass of unstructured white.  What colour family am I going to incorporate into the whites (that's whiteS, not white)  to define the shadows and set the proper mood . . . blues, violets, greens?  What value scale do I use in painting the twigs and branches so that they all stand out, but nothing dominates?  And since I'm not a landscape painter per se,  what am I going to paint along with it . . . what story do I want to tell?  What mood do I want to set, and how will I do it?   That's half the fun of painting for me.
The dogs provide their own fun in the snow.  The earlier snow sent them giddy with delight, and though they are just as happy this morning, they have to bound a little higher to get through the drifts.  And telling their stories is another part of my joy in painting.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Are We Ready?

It's coming  - feel the bitter bite in the wind, and you will know that, even though Winter is a month away, The Snow Queen has sent out her advance publicity.  I don't mind Winter, in fact, I enjoy it as I do all the seasons.   Not that I'm a hearty outdoor type.  But I love the feeling that Home is the place to be when the snow blows and cold settles in.                                                                                    Getting ready for Winter during the short November days is a ritual I enjoy.  The house, including the fireplace is ready and the garden is sleeping, there's a good supply of necessary meds, of food, pet food, and the thing you really don't want to run out of . . . Cat Litter!  It's time to settle in the studio and spend peaceful, happy days painting, with the fireplace making things cozy and the dogs and cats snoozing in their favourite spots.   It's a good time to update my Art Journal with all the things I haven't had time to enter for a while.

I've kept an Art Journal for quite a while - I'm on my third one now.  I keep a record of my work, nice emails that praise my work, (love those!)  jot down my thoughts on things, and keep track of what is happening in my part of the art world.  Uh-huh, there's a juicy tid-bit or two in them, but my lips are zipped!  :0
I'm stocking up now on watercolour paper, paints, brushes, pencils, etc.  and I'm planning on getting to grips with some acrylics this winter.  I have a number of dog, horse, and country type painting lined up to do as well.  Can't wait to get at them!  There will be books to read too, during the cold evenings, and  movies to watch while cuddled up with my Sweetie - and the dogs.  
Even if you are not one to swoosh down the hills on a pair of  narrow slats, (OK, I'm not a skiier) winter can be wonderful if you find a quiet, toasty corner, know that the pantry is full, and you are set up to do something you enjoy. Are we ready for it?       


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


It was  bitter this morning, cold, windy, and grey, and it left no doubt that Winter is on the way.  Then I looked out the sun room window to the big old lilac bush, and there was the season's first CARDINAL peering in at me!  It's amazing how that brightens the day.  I always think of the first Cardinal as a sign of good luck.  I grew up without Cardinals, but once I read about them in a bird book and saw how beautiful they were, I desperately wanted to see one.  That was back when I was a child, and it took a very long time until they moved into our area and my wish was granted.

                                                                                    photo copyright Heather Anderson

Many years ago now, I was casually looking out my studio window while I was on the phone, and suddenly, the garden seemed to explode with red.  First one, then another bright crimson cardinal landed on the bird feeder, and soon their 'wives' (as I enjoy thinking of them) arrived.  I'm sure the person I was speaking with must have thought I was very strange indeed, as I enthused and laughed and generally expressed my delight.   The Cardinals must have decided that we ran a decent establishment, with lots of good food and natural shelter, and as much protection from predators  as possible, because they  have come back every winter, with  their numbers steadily increasing.     To me, one of  the most exciting winter sights is a flock of brilliant red Cardinals against the white snow, with their lovely ripple of song ringing out in the cold air.  With these beauties around, I don't find Winter dull at all.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cat Tales

I am a dog person, then, now and always, but I have to tell you, I'm also bats about cats.  Lovely, mysterious creatures they be, who defy being put into a mold and have a sense of self that rivals the biggest Diva ever known.  But they can also be loving, brave, and very  empathetic.

For the first time ever, we have 2 cats at Sheltie Hollow.  I was always nervous that since one cat rules my life, I'd end up as nothing but a paw servant if we had two of them, and you know what?  I was right!  But they are benevolent little dictators who reward my efforts to keep them happy with purrs and snuggles.  Sasha is our eldest cat, and he is a quiet big fellow who is amazingly patient and gentle.  But he attacked and drove back a dog taking a major hissy fit who was about to chomp down on my leg.  Sash is one brave cat!
The Purebred cats are gorgeous, and I always fancied having a Siamese or a Burmese, but of the three cats we have had, all three were "just cats" needing a home.  Each one was/is a treasure.  Our first was a Barn cat who loved opera, and he, along with my first Sheltie, was my constant companion for 19 wonderful years.  One of our present cats, was a Street kitten who was lucky enough to end up at an Animal Shelter where we found him.  And our newest feline member of the family was a surprise, along with her brothers, for the lady who adopted a  poor abandoned cat and suddenly found herself with a cat and four kittens!!
 I love the way cats make any place their kingdom.  One of the things I loved best about going around to the stables and farms were the barn cats. So many friendly little souls who would curl up anywhere to snooze in the sun.


In our house, the dogs and cats have to get along, and as Shelties are friendly, welcoming little fellows, the dogs and cats can usually be found playing or snoozing together.  I insist on a Peaceable Kingdom.  I also must add here that our cats, like our dogs are indoor pets.  The dogs go out in our fenced-in garden, but only under supervision, while our cats stay inside where they are safe.  Cars, unfriendly dogs, unfriendly humans, hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes and fishers - it's a dangerous place out there for a roaming cat.  If our two should want the great outdoors, I take them out on a harness and leash and let them take me for a walk in the garden.  But I keep saying 'two cats' and you haven't met our kitten yet.  Here's Miss Jasmine, who can be found in the studio every chance she gets.  She wants to be an artist when she grows up, just like Mum.  So far, she has been caught just starting to put my best paint brush in her mouth and knocking over a jar of paint water.  Busy little girl!  Good thing she's cute!!

As Colette said, "A Cat is the visible soul of the home."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Rattle me bones, it's nearly Halloween!  I love the spooky, magical fun of this time of year. Not the artificial gore and horror.  I don't know where that belongs, but it will never be part of my Halloween.   It's great when the Halloween Wreath on the door swings in the wind and scratches against the panels, making you wonder, 'Is it the wind, or is it a visitor  who isn't there!'   I love the dry, scratchy leaves as they skitter across the road, and the long, slim, black tree trunks against a rain spattered sky.  In the rain, the pumpkin patch turns very, very spooky.  Anything can happen!  Does that peculiar looking tree have a sinister expression on it's trunk?

It's a different story on a sunny day, when the orange glow from thousands of Pumpkins can be nearly blinding.  So are the smiles from the visitors, young and old alike.  There is just something joyous about  a Pumpkin Patch.

Halloween in the country is filled with the old time delights in seeing fields of pumpkins glowing in the sun or shining in the rain, of watching and listening to skeins of Canada Geese winging past the icy white moon, of handing out treats to little ones as they go Trick or Treating door to door with their parents, and  the wonderfully spine tingling spookiness of black nights lit only by pumpkin light as a backdrop for rattling tree branches and the country night sounds.  If you're lucky, you may even see a little ghost.

Have a safe and HAPPY HALLOWEEN everyone!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Golden Days

As you know, I love Autumn, especially in the Country.  It's my favourite time of the year.  I love the colours, the scents, and the sounds, and well, just the feel of it.  Late yesterday afternoon gifted me with a very special  Country Autumn moment.  You know the sort - when everything comes together to make a beautiful memory.
Yesterday, we were visiting friends, a wonderfully casual Country type visit when many sentences are not quite finished because there is so much to catch up on and you want to tell and hear everything. When we left late in the afternoon, we stood outside for a few minutest because none of us wanted the visit to end.  There was my Sweetie, one of my dearest soul sisters and her wonderful husband, an old friend whom I hadn't seen in years, and we had our dogs with us.  We all stood ankle deep in the crisp, rustling leaves  breathing in their intoxicating aroma, with the autumn sounds of distant geese and dry, rattling leaves in the air, encircled by friendship, while the light slowly turned opalescent for that magical hour before the sun begins to set.  It was one of those golden moments you tuck away in your memory to warm you on a day when things are not going as well as you'd like.
Keep your senses aware and enjoy all that Autumn has to offer.  Wishing you joy!!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013


           I think I can be called a Dog Person. We've had many dogs over the years, mostly Shelties, but we've had Collies and a couple of mixed breeds as well. Both my husband and I love taking care of them, love living day to day with them.  And I love working with them, seeing what I can teach them and finding out what they can teach me. We try to be responsible pet owners.  Our pets are always neutered/spayed, micro-chipped, on leash when out, and supervised every time they go out in our fenced in back garden.   We take them to Dog School and work with them at home because we  want them to be good Canine Citizens.  Just because we love our animals, doesn't mean that other people will, so we don't want super-exuberant  dogs who leap at people in a frenzy of friendliness.                                                                                           But animals are not just pets for me.  They are the inspiration for my art as well.  I have always been attracted to their beautiful shapes, textures and colours.  I have always loved watching the way they move and the way they interact.  Over the years of having multiple pets, I've been fascinated to learn how they interact with each other, and I'm always intrigued, watching how they work out the little problems they come across in their day.                                                                                                                                       It's a joy for me to paint these lovely creatures and so much fun to fit them into my genre  paintings of life in the country.                                                                                                                                           

I've been blessed to realize my dream of having a horse of my own. We had a marvelous little Morgan for 19 years. He taught me so much, and we had such wonderful adventures together.  And our house has always had a cat too.  As Colette said, "A house without a cat is not a home."  For us, this is true.  And do all our cirtters get along together?  Of course.  Our one major house rule is that we all must get along.  Ours must be a Peaceable Kingdom, and somehow, give or take a minor spat or two now and then, it always is.
  I've always loved animals, and from the time I was a little girl, I wanted to know more about them, to pet them, to understand how their minds worked, to learn how to work with them, and of course, how to draw and paint them.   I've always been entranced by the sheer beauty of dogs, cats and horses.  They are beautiful to look at, and they have a beautiful generosity of spirit and a sense of peace that shines out of them that speaks to so many of we humans.  I know a lot of folks are puzzled by us  wanting  several animalsat a time in our daily lives, and I guess it boils down to, either you get it or you don't. Thank God we both do.  We couldn't imagine our lives without them.                                                                                                  


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Brilliant Orange

I am MAD about ORANGE!  LOVE IT!!  I love every juicy hue, tone and shade of it.  I couldn't live with it indoors - it's much too strong and active a colour, but outside, in the crisp, clear Autumn air, against a background of burning blue or mysteries-of-the-ages green,  it fills my soul with a frenzy of delight.


I love it in a wild tangle, as in the Chinese Lanterns  above and below, spilling it's bright abandon where ever it feels like roaming.                      


And I love it tamed, well, (as tamed as Orange ever gets) in a glory of copper pansies.  Last year, I found some spectacular ones in Orange and Black!

Orange of course,  is the happy marriage between red and yellow.   You  can buy it in a tube or you can mix it yourself.  There's really no shame in using tube colours!    They have been carefully mixed by people who know what they are doing, and each quality company produces results you can count on.  But if you are the sort who likes a walk on the wild side now and then, you can mix your own secondary and tertiary colours.   ? ?  Many of you who read this are artists, but for those of you who are not, a Secondary colour is one that is created by mixing two Primary Colours.  A Tertiary colour is created by mixing a Secondary colour with a Primary.    Red, Yellow, and Blue are Primary colours, and you either buy them in a tube or you get hold of the correct minerals and suspensions and a grinding stone.  These colours can not be created  by mixing other paints.  But mix a Primary (Cadmium) Red with a Primary (Cadmium) Yellow, and  ORANGE blossoms forth!!!    Change the recipe a bit by using more red or more yellow, and the orange hue changes.  Add a little of it's complimentaty colour - blue - and you tone it down.  Set the complimentary colour beside it, and both colours blast.  I love colour magic!
I'm going to take a quick ramble through the garden now, to soak up the glory of orange. 

Cheers,                                                                                                                                            Heather                                                                                                                                           www.heatheranderson-animalart.com                                     *  All photos are copyright Heather Anderson

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Today's blog is about art rather than home.  I thought I'd address the subject of staying steady.  By that I mean keeping your career on a steady path and  keeping a flow going with  your paintings.  In art school, we were taught to be careful and thoughtful about where we decided to go with all things pertaining to our painting, and hard as it is, I've tried to follow that advice.
A starting point for me was to choose a reasonable (with some stretching)  goal of painting the best horse, dog and cat paintings I'm capable of doing and selling them to people who love animals as I do. My set of subjects and mediums are those that call to me . . . they are things I love.  I am a watercolourist first and foremost and always will be, but I also enjoy graphite and sometimes dabble in acrylics.  Experimenting with mediums is good, especially when you're starting out - you have to try things to see where your heart lies, but once you find that, it's not a bad idea to stay with it and work at developing your proficiency with that/those medium.  Each of our paintings need to proceed slowly, with a plan of where we are going, and with watercolours at least, thinking about each brushful of paint before we lay it down.
I paint domestic animals because I have loved and felt a connection to them from the first moment I saw them.  That said, I love the world of field, forest and garden as well, and those things fit into my animal work under the net of 'Country Life.  I try to keep my paintings authentic, to keep them about a way of life that I love, know well, and want to share with the viewer.

Hard as it is, we have to develop a style that is recognizable, and if at some point we decide to change that style drastically, some artists have chosen to present that parallel work under another name as way of keeping things straight for the viewer.  I've never done this, but who knows what wild hare I might try someday.
Pricing is another area where we need to hold steady.  Again, this is from my wise teachers from years ago; if we raise our prices too fast, it's pretty hard (although not impossible) to go back and lower them if the market of the day can't sustain those prices.  But if you are asking $1,000 for a painting in one place, you risk losing credibility, to say nothing of ticking off collectors,  if you then turn around and ask $100 for it at another venue.  Pricing is a mine field, and I'm still trying to get it right.
Another old adage is that if you put too much bad work out there (due to lack of real interest in the painting, rushing, or of reaching too far ahead of  oneself in one bound) you will be giving people a wrong impression of what you are capable of.  We all have a painting or two out there in the past what we wish was not out there, but as much as possible, we need to be seen at our best.
So in my view, if we are committed to being an artist, each painting and our entire career is a case of Steady as we go.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


                                           Find A Quiet Corner                        watercolour

This past year and a bit has had its challenges, and by the time mid summer rolled around when things began to quiet down, all I wanted out of life was some comfort.    ( Peace, quiet, staying home, and good health for myself and my loved ones).  I began to notice that I almost lived in my old, worn, comfy jeans and a choice of three T-shirts.  I have lots of clothes, but they stayed in the closet most of the time this summer.  I craved the soft, reassuring comfort of those old, well worn things.
We went back to our old favourite shows on DVD and watched them, almost on a loop.  The familiar voices, stories, and scenes soothed our evenings when we didn't want to think, we just wanted to chill out for a lovely change.
We spent time with friends who have been there since forever, people we love and trust and want to have in our lives always.   And we spent long, peaceful hours with our animals, just hanging out.  Is there anything more comforting than petting a dog or cat's silky fur?  They will sit with me by the hour in companionable silence while my soul heals
We sipped a lot of hot tea, that most soothing of drinks.  It starts most of my mornings and ends the day after dinner.  Serve it in a bone china cup or mug, take the time to inhale the fragrant steam coming off the tea, and sip slowly to make the world go away for a few minutes.
Let's not forget comfort food.  Everyone has their own special food for stressful times.  One of the family favourites here is Shepherd's Pie, or more correctly, Cottage Pie, because we don't eat lamb.  Hot, bubbling, and delicious, it's a go-to meal when we want to relax.  Perhaps you'd like our recipe.

                                                            COTTAGE PIE

The amounts and times are sort of vague, as this changes nearly every time I make it, but here is the standard recipe:    1)  Brown and drain one pound of extra lean ground beef.  We don't like fat, so we pat the beef                        dry as well.   Boil some potatoes while the beef is browning.
              2) slice some onion (not too much) and cook in with the drained meat.
              3)  Add cooked sliced carrots, and frozen peas, in an amount that seems adequate for  your taste
              4)  Add one tin of creamed corn  and salt to taste.  (I never added salt until it was removed                               from the creamed corn, which tastes a little less appetizing  than wall paper paste without the                         salt. .. .  in my opinion.
             5)  Add some Thyme, a bit of Sage, and some Rosemary to taste.  Mix everything well.
             6)  Mash the potatoes and spread more or less evenly on top of meat and vegetable mixture.                             Smooth out, then "flip" into waves.  Brush some margarine or butter over the hot potatoes and                        sprinkle with paprika.
             7)  Heat at 350 until hot and bubbling. (25 - 30 minutes)  Serve with your favourite sauce - ie.                            ketchup, home made chili sauce, etc.

                This gives us dinner for 4 with the addition of  a salad and crusty bread.
Oh, and be sure to relax and enjoy both the prep and the dining.  This is about Comfort. :)


Tuesday, September 17, 2013


My husband and I love our quiet life in the country.  We both enjoyed the attractions of the social whirl when we were younger, my Sweetie going to sports events and me to the ballet.  He enjoyed venues where he could listen to rock, and I went to the symphony.  I should point out that at  that time,  that we hadn't yet met each other :0  But underneath the fun of going places and seeing things, both of us had a deep seated craving for the quiet of country life.
We moved to the country many years ago and we've never regretted it.  He has loved being able to walk to work in the little village we settled in, and I wanted the time to stay home and paint every day.
 We were warned that the country was beautiful in the summer but bleak and harsh in the winter, but we haven't found it so.  We love all seasons here; the lushness of summer, the glories of spring and fall, and the majesty of winter.

I think we are positively addicted to the big skies, where  we can often see a Splendour of wings overhead,  and there is always time to stop and  listen to the birds, sometimes the rackety gossip of gulls, but more often the chorus of field and garden song birds, each one singing out their joy ..  "Rejoice, we woke up alive this morning!".

I guess the thing we love the most about our quiet life are the evenings, when there is a lovely hush, and with night coming on, we go out and walk in the garden with our shelties to enjoy magic of the gloaming.

                                                Evening Walk                        Watercolour

Where ever you live, I hope you find peace and joy in your daily lives.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Discipline of Art

No, wait, this is not a repeat of  last week's blog.  Last week I wrote about needing discipline to follow a career or serious hobby in art. This week, I'm writing about the need to be disciplined in how and what you do with your medium and your paintings.   I always keep discipline in mind when I'm making decisions about my paintings.

SIMPLICITY   Even in a complex painting, I want to make sure that my subject, my center of interest, stands out from the background.  One way to do this is to keep things simple.  I keep the background to what I need to set the scene and learn to understand how much detail is great texture that adds  richness to the piece, and how much detail produces "Busy".   In this Mountain Guide and Mule painting, "DID SOMEONE SAY COFFEE?",  I focused on making the pair of them the thing that you see and stay with.  There is lots of detail in the man and the mule, so I had to restrain myself with the background.    The background is there  to enhance them, not swamp them.

                                            " Did Someone Say Coffee?"             watercolour

COMPLETION    There are times when I just want to finish a painting, call it done, and offer it for sale.  But that's not a great idea.  Not only would I feel I'd be cheating the buyer, I'd be cheating myself, and at these times, I have to find the discipline to keep going, keep making the colours richer, deeper. Sometimes, I want to splash around colour, just because I'm caught up with the magic of  the image and I want to keep adding something new.  But I try to  restrict myself to only those few colours that are going to make the painting "speak", and to keep adding the appropriate colors until the painting truly is finished, not set aside because I'm tired of it.

                                         'MOONSHADOW'                                   watercolour
COMPLEXITY    Even when a painting is very complex, I need a sense of order to make it flow.  I need the discipline to create a pattern that leads the eye, makes sense, and is interesting and clear to the viewer.  Even in a very complex, detailed painting, the eye needs a place to rest if you want people to enjoy looking at your painting for the long haul.

In ALL THINGS BRIGHT & BEAUTIFUL, (watercolour) I was very careful that one image led into another, that there were little surprises to discover, and that there was some clear space to rest the eye now and then.  It took a long time to choose the animals for this one, and to put them together so they made some sort of sense.  It was hard work, but great fun!

In 'PATCHES OF SPRING',  (watercolour) there is actually a lot going on, so I kept everything simple.  The trees, the patches of snow and grass, the old leaves, the clouds, the "patches" on the horses, and the grouping of the horses themselves could produce eyestrain if not carefully handled, so I thought about every step, and only used about half of what I could have.  I think the result is fresh, exciting, and yet has a sense of calm, much like a lovely day in early Spring.

So all the while I'm being Creative, expressing myself, and letting the artist in me flow, I am also conscious of the need for discipline in what I'm doing.  It's kind of like riding two different minded horses at once. Are we having fun yet? :0

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Art As A Discipline

A few days ago, one of my favorite Face Book people asked the burning question - is there a role for discipline in  today's world.  (I'm paraphrasing this a bit).
 My answer is a resounding YES!  If I didn't have discipline, I would never have made it through Art School.  Working all day and then going to school two or three nights a week, followed by art assignments the other nights and weekends is not for someone who can't force themselves to have good work habits.  And it's not easy.  There is always something much more enticing to do than buckle down and get the work done.
When we were nearing the end of the courses, one of my teachers told us that although we all were there to learn how to draw and paint . . . how to be artists, only a very small handful of the group would actually follow through and make art a career.  He told us that some of us would get discouraged with the near constant rejection . . .boy, he got THAT right!  But like other artists, I learned to live with it and celebrate the successes.   He said that many of us would start off fine, but would find ourselves getting bored or lonely with the solitary life, the hard work with no certain financial reward when the painting was finished, and we would gradually drift into seeking out fellow artists who were beginning to feel the same way and end up in cafes  sipping coffee and talking about art instead of sitting by ourselves day after day, putting paint on paper/canvas, and getting on with our art career.  He said that a very few of us would take that lonely, discouraging path and actually become artists.  The thing that would make the difference was, you guessed it,  DISCIPLINE.
 If I don't do the work, I won't have anything to sell, I won't have anything ready when Opportunity comes knocking at my door, (as it often does) and my art will never get any better nor will my career move forward if I don't have the discipline to establish and keep good work habits.  I have to work nearly every day, even if I don't feel "inspired".  Trust me, NOTHING is more intimidating, more likely to kill inspiration, than that big, blank sheet of white paper sitting on the art table in front of me! Even after all this time, it takes discipline to keep going on a large painting, or on one that is very complicated.  The color pattern on this Australian Shepherd nearly caused my eyes to cross, but I wanted to do it and do it well.

                                          Australian Shepherd                          watercolor

Besides painting, I need to have the discipline to market my work, to return calls/emails from potential clients, be cheerful and polite even when I want to say something quite nasty to a rude comment, I need to keep excellent financial records and a record/diary of my completed work.
Sometimes the size and complexity of a painting is nearly enough to swamp me.  "I'll Do Hay..." is 20 x 27, nearly the full size of a big sheet of watercolor paper, and there were many times I nearly threw the brush in on this one.  I thought it would never be done!  But I'm glad I stuck it out and finished it.  It never would have happened without the discipline of good work habits.

                                    I'll Do Hay, You Start Coffee                           watercolor

The bottom line I think, is that if you want something badly enough, you have to be willing to have the discipline to work for it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Don't you just love Serendipity?  It's a delightful feeling when something just lands in you lap, so to speak.  In a way, that's how I found my horse, all those years ago.  I had saved "X" amount of dollars and that was all I could spend.  I wanted a Morgan, a middle aged gelding so I'd have a quiet horse, and I needed him to be patient and kind.  Everyone I called (who raised Morgans) laughed and told me I'd never get what I wanted with what I had to spend.  Then one day, I decided to poke through the want ads in the paper - something I never do.  And there he was, a Morgan gelding, quiet, 14 years old, well trained English and Western, and his asking price was exactly, to the dollar, what I had saved in my Horse Fund.  If that wasn't Serendipity, I don't know what was.  My Morgan and I were together for 19 years.

It is Serendipity at work as well, any time I am at a show somewhere, possibly delivering a painting, and my client likes my work so much, they promptly take it all over the place, urging people they know to go and and get a horse/dog portrait done.  And  more commission roll in!  I love when that happens! :)   
English Mastiff                 Colored Pencil

And this past weekend, Serendipity struck again.  This time, it was the kindness of a neighbor, taking in an abandoned  cat.  A few days later, yes, you're right, 4 kittens arrived.   We had been thinking about getting a young companion for our youngest Sheltie.  He needs someone with the energy of youth to play with, but the 'just right' dog wasn't appearing.  Our neighbor should be in sales.  We had no intention of getting a second cat at this time.  But somehow, we ended up with a little kitten whom we call Jasmine.  Our  young Sheltie is entranced with her, and when she is a bit bigger, she will be a fine, indoor playmate for him.  She comes from a home that has other cats, a couple of dogs, and has been raised so far (and will continue to be) an indoor cat, so she is everything we were looking for, except that she is a cat.  But that's minor detail. 

 Breeze will get his  running - in - the - garden companion all in good time.  I wouldn't be surprised if it happens when we are least expecting it.  Serendipity at work again!             


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It's In the Blood

August late afternoons, sitting on the shady back porch enjoying the late season flowers, the bird song, and the velvety air, is a prime time for reflection.  One recent afternoon, I began reflecting on painting, as in, 'why in the name of heaven am I following such a crazy, unstable career path??  My conclusion is that it is in the blood.  My Grandfather was apparently  a talented artist who steered his career into that of a skilled craftsman  working with wood.  My cousin on the other side of  the family was a very successful Commercial Artist who had his own Commercial Studio and employed several  artists.  And so to me.
My particular field is Domestic Animal Art - a bit of a hard sell, but I'm doing OK with that.  I LOVE dogs, cats, and horses - they are in my heart and they are what delights me.  My mediums of choice are graphite and my beloved watercolors.    I've tried acrylics (still use them a bit) oils and pastels, (the dust and odors were too hard on my lungs) and colored pencils, which I really enjoyed, but my hands finally said 'Enough!'.  But all the while, I kept coming back to watercolor.  I love the light, airy brightness and lively darks you can achieve in this medium.  I love the misty quality you can get, if that is your aim.  I love the lack of odor and the quick clean up, and the paint that dries and waits politely in the tray until you're ready to paint again, and with a little bit of water, they are ready to go too.
At this stage, after trying all sorts of mediums, I prefer to do my experimenting within the medium itself.  One of my favorite artists, Canadian Trisha Romance, paints with a very limited palette, mixing all the colors she needs from the three primaries plus sepia.  I had to give it a try, and this little rough sketch was the result.

Obviously, the drawing was minimal, it was the color that I was after, and I was quite surprised at what I was able to accomplish with only  red, yellow, blue, and a touch of sepia.  But that was just to see if I could do it.  I am in love with color, and have nearly the whole range of Winsor Newton pigments.

I use a range of brushes too.  Not the multiple jars of brushes you see in a television show featuring an artist, which always makes me giggle.   No one needs THAT many brushes!  Well, OK, I have 4 jars.  One is filled with brushes that my mentor left to me, and as they are oil brushes, I keep them for remembrance and luck, and only use a few of them for acylics.  I have a jar of acrylic brushes, a jar of old, (some worn out, some very cheap) watercolor brushes, and then I have my treasured, working watercolor brushes.

I have the very tiniest sizes for the details and the larger brushes for the washes.  The larger Winsor Newton brushes are capable of doing some very small detail, but it is easier and faster using the tiny brushes.  But the smaller brushes are totally incapable of holding enough water or paint to do a decent wash. These brushes are like extensions of my fingers  :0.  I don't let anyone else use them.
And now, the lure of my paint table calls, and I'd better get to work. I get SO FUSSY if I can't work.  Just ask my cat and the dogs - oh, and my husband, lovely, patient man that he is. :0

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Because I'm an artist, I work hard at seeing the wonders of the world around me, sometimes things that most "normal" (ha,ha!) people don't notice.  Yes, those eyes are mine, albeit, in a photo taken a very long time ago.  That was all there was to the photo - just the eyes.  I've always rather liked it, because being an artist, I'm an observer.  The world comes to me through my eyes.  And I've learned that not everyone sees things the same way.
I used to attempt to place my art in shows put on by NATURE people, and was always turned away, not because the art didn't hold up to that of the other artists, but  because my subjects were horses, dogs, and cats.  They said that my subjects were not part of the natural world.  It didn't matter that I had backgrounds of fields and forest, lake and stream. I was not considered a Nature artist because I didn't have a wild animal in the painting, and because I wasn't a Naturalist -I never went out on Field Trips to swamps or the deep woods.  OK, I admit it, hiking through the bush, camping out, is just not me - my idea of roughing it is unchilled champagne!  I never wanted to study a dead animal if I came across one - I wanted to give it a respectful burial.  But that doesn't mean that I don't see and cherish the natural world.
 I discovered  nature from the back of a horse.  I'd never have been in  the woods, the open fields, and even some watery areas if not for my horse.  I'd never have traveled through the magic of a Trillium Wood in Spring and heard the spring creatures singing their joy in the season, or seen the sea of Trilliums waving around us, or experienced the magical green-lit  hush of the deep forest.

I'd never have ridden beside late autumn corn fields with Canada Geese coming in to land for the night, or had the fun of a gorgeous fox inviting me to play follow the leader - FOX of course, led the game and vanished in a heartbeat when he grew tired of it.  I learned to look at and appreciate the woods and pastures, but I did it in my own way, and expressed my love of these things  in Equine Art.
The garden here at home opened my eyes to nature as well.  So many bugs, bees, birds and little critters (I'm talking mostly about little things with fur!) to enjoy and watch.  The dogs get me out in the garden every day, even if there is no garden work to be done, and they often point out something of interest.  If I didn't watch what my curious dogs were doing, I may never have seen this handsome little guy.
So I  have just never understood why a love and appreciation of the Natural World is, in some circles, considered invalid simply because it's seen from the back of a  horse or  while larking about with a dog . They were the instrument to get me out there to discover and enjoy all the wonders.
This isn't a rant about the Wild Life Art people - I love the paintings in their shows, and they are good people trying to awaken us to the wonderful world around us.  So I enjoy that type of  show, real time or on line, and then go back to my own path,  recording in my paintings, the world the way I see it, knowing they will be enjoyed by folks who appreciate nature the same, gentler way I do.
Keep looking around you  . ..  you never know what you'll see!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August in the Country

I love living in the country all year round, but August can be particularly beautiful to me.  By August, Summer has usually lost the searing heat of July, and although it can be too humid for my comfort, as long as I can get inside in some nice arctic AC, I'm happy.
I love the golden fields of grain and hay.  They speak to me of a season of plenty in the cold months ahead - food for the beasts, food for us.  The rich golden hues fill me with peace and contentment, just to look at them.

Every once in a while, if I'm very lucky, I come across a scene that defines a peaceful country afternoon for me.  I see cows relaxing by a pond, wandering in to get a drink and to cool off.  It's a timeless image - go have a look at some Constable paintings and you'll see that he must have felt the same way.                                                   OK, that does it.  I'm going to have to start a little landscape of the August fields I love.                                                                            
Cheers,                                                                                             Heather                                                                                   www.heatheranderson-animalart.com                                             


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Friends Who Drop By

     One of the things I love about Country living is the friendliness.  Your neighbors think nothing of dropping by and if invited, they'll stay for a bite to eat.  We have a whole host of  furred or feathered neighbors who come by at least once a day to visit the bird feeder, to have a drink or a swim, and maybe catch up on the Sheltie Hollow gossip.
I'm talking of course about the squirrels, the birds, and my particular favorites, the chipmunks.  They give us endless amusement with their antics and little scuffles, and all for the price of bird seed.  We have planted the garden with things they like to ear, and added a lot of trees for shelter over the years to make this a safe habitat for them, and they seem to like it here. We have a couple of  bird baths in the summer and we put out food all year round, and of course, our cat is an indoor sort of guy who does his bird watching from behind the sun room windows, so there is always someone dropping by.
This summer, we have a family of RAVENS, a first for us.  We feel very honored to think that these intelligent, beautiful birds have found our garden to their liking.  These birds are HUGE!  They are also very timid and polite, and will willingly eat beside the other birds, the squirrels and the chipmunks.

The Chipmunks and the Red Squirrels are not as polite, in fact, they wage a constant battle as to who will get to the feeder first. Sometimes there are fisticuffs, and other times, a truce is called.  There really is enough for all.

  These little characters often give me something to paint . . . just a whimsical  thought that they spark, that ends  up  as a "Biff and Jo-Jo" cartoon. I love doing them, and  People seem to enjoy these little  characters as much as I do.  Jo-Jo always seems to be playing tricks on Biff, just like their real life counterparts do - although the real little critters may not be quite as colorful. :0                                                                                                                               

Before I sign off for this week, I must add that we have some wonderful Human neighbors too !
Heather Anderson