When Millie and I go out for walks she takes in the world around us with all her senses and when she finds something interesting, carries it home with her. In the sketch above are some of her more attractive treasures. Not pictured above are the various pieces of plastic, the advertising flyers for gardeners or maids stuffed in a baggie with a rock, and the many sticks and branches she’s carried home (the latter to chew and shred to mulch).
She walks with her nose to the ground for scents; ears perked for the sounds of gophers underground or dogs nearby or birds in the trees; eyes scanning for squirrels; and always looking for things to pick up and carry (or eat…ick!) during our walks.
One of the first things I had to teach her was “Leave it!” and “Drop It!” since so much of what’s on the ground in the city is nasty. She’s pretty good about dropping things, especially when she knows I’m carrying treats to swap with her for the yucky thing.
Sorry if you’re tired of dog chew posts…only two more to go after this and then back to more savory subjects. The only one of the above chews that met with any success was the hideously smelly “low odor” braided bully stick at the top. After chewing for a while the braided sections separated and I saved the other two pieces for later. But even with the door open and the air cleaner blowing freshly filtered air on me, the smell was disgusting.
My son recommended antlers for a long-lasting chew but his dog, a Pit mix is a heartier chewer and gives the antlers a good workout. (They also gave her teeth a good workout–she just had to have a cracked tooth removed for several hundred dollars.) Millie couldn’t make a dent in the very hard deer antler. She quickly scraped the marrow (?) out of the split-lengthwise (very expensive) elk antler and then had no interest in it after that first hour of chewing.
The last bit at the bottom is a white rawhide chew called “Digest-Eeze,” to be more digestible than plain rawhide, though still no more nutritious than eating your shoes or wallet would be (and these dogs chews are definitely eating my wallet!!!)
Millie was mildly interested in the rawhide; she chewed it for a few minutes and then buried it in the yard. When I gave her one in the house she buried it between the sofa cushions. She dug the one in the yard up a couple weeks later and chewed it enthusiastically. Maybe she thinks they need to ripen before eating?
It’s a brave new world out there when it comes to doggie chew toys; much different than when I last had a dog a couple of decades ago. My 7-month old puppy loves to chew and it keeps her busy when I’m painting so I’ve been exploring (and drawing) the many new kinds of dog chew toys.
My previous dogs chewed rawhide (now known to not be good for dogs) or bones leftover from making soup (also not good, can splinter), and when naughty chewed the occasional shoe, pillow, kids homework, or dirty clothes (one chewed the arm off my mother’s sofa). Chewing for dogs is like reading a good book for us.
Two of Millie’s favorites so far are in the sketch above: a circular Bully Treat and an ostrich leg purchased from an upscale pet boutique Millie dragged me into when we walked by. The roasted ostrich bone is light and has a texture like honeycomb; it’s all digestible and doesn’t splinter, but it’s huge and while not cheap, for its size it’s not that expensive.
If you don’t know what Bully Treats or Bully Sticks (aka Pizzles) are, prepare to be grossed out. A Bully Stick is a bull penis that has been stretched, twisted or even braided and then roasted. They are 100% protein, entirely digestible (unlike rawhide), take a fairly long time to chew and won’t break dogs’ teeth like bones can.
They’re pretty smelly (even the “low odor” ones), but don’t leave a mess (except the one Millie buried in the backyard for a couple of weeks to let it ripen). It was unbelievably gross. I confiscated it immediately and now only give them to her when I can be sure she won’t bury it outdoors.
This wasp just wanted nectar from the flower. My friend Barbara just spent big bucks getting rid of hundreds of wasps that built nests in her attic and were invading her house. We don’t know what they wanted. This is the last of the leftover sketches from our endless summer, now being called California’s worst drought in 500 years.
Meanwhile, I’m still spending time previously used for sketching out hiking with my pup (but from now on I’m going to start carrying my sketching gear on our hikes and stop halfway to sketch). Thinking a morning 4-6 mile hike would tire her out, I’ve been painting in the studio in the afternoons while she attempts to re-landscape the yard. She’s a perfect angel in the house, but when we’re in the studio (that opens onto the backyard) she goes wild, digging up and chewing on random junk from under the trees and bushes that circle the yard, despite her comfy bed in the studio, fully stocked with chew toys.
Today I caught her chewing on an old broken hose nozzle, a piece of plastic pipe, various twigs and pieces of plants, and a stinky chew toy she’d previously buried. Then we play chase while I try to swap her for something healthier. That gives me an idea for some sketching tomorrow–all her toys and chewie things, many which are quite weird.
I like to spend New Years Day reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the new one. While last year’s review post was full of artistic accomplishments, 2013 was a mixed year. It started off about art and ended with diversions, digressions and Dog. And in the middle I spent the summer studying Flemish oil painting technique with Alex Zonis, resulting in the painting above. (I took photos of each step along the way in this painting and will post about the process very soon.)
January 2013: Urban Sketchers show and painting dogs
The year began well. I completed this commissioned dog portrait (one of five I did in December/January) and my Urban Sketchers group had an exhibit of our sketchbooks and hosted a sketchcrawl for the community.
February and March 2013: Sketching and Painting
I continued having fun sketching and completed several oil paintings (a decent portrait and some mostly unsuccessful sunflowers).
April 2013: Spring sprung; creativity flowed
April was a creative month, with several oil paintings completed including my favorite above. I started sketching in an 8 x 11 Moleskine (see bus sketch below) and attended a sketchcrawl, several museum shows, and the Codex Book Fair.
May 2013: Every Day in May
May was the best month of the year because of the Every Day Matters “Every Day in May” project. I had so much fun doing daily sketching!
A UK publisher asked to include a couple of the May sketches in a 2014 book on sketching.
June 2013: Started Flemish painting class and more dog portraits
After completing another commissioned dog portrait I began studying the Flemish oil painting method with Alex Zonis over Skype. The result was the Apricot painting at the top of this post, with more than 10 layers of paint, and three months work. I will post about the process soon.
July 2013: Hosted First West Coast Sketchcrawl
My Urban Sketchers group worked hard for much of July to prepare for hosting the first 3-day West Coast Urban Sketchcrawl in San Francisco and Oakland which was a great success with nearly 75 people each day. Meanwhile, I continued working on the apricot painting.
August 2013: Show at the Collector Gallery
August was a month of many successes: after a lot of prep work for the show at the Collector gallery, I sold 5 paintings and a print (4 at the show, 2 from my website, 3 of which went to France and Switzerland). I continued working on the Flemish method apricot oil painting with Alex; still the only oil painting in progress in the studio.
September 2013: New York Art Adventure!
I bound a new sketchbook and shopped for things I needed for my trip to New York City after deciding my funky, frumpy Berkeley visage wouldn’t cut it in NY. FINALLY finished the Flemish method oil painting of apricots!
The NYC trip was fantastic! I had a blast, visiting with New York artist friends, going to museums and sketching the city. I didn’t want to come home!
October 2013: A sketchcrawl and the flu
I did very little sketching or painting in October as I was sick nearly the entire month from a bug I caught traveling that lasted three weeks and finally required antibiotics. I did manage to get to a sketchcrawl at Jack London Square.
November: Thanksgiving and surgery
I recovered from the October illness just in time to have a planned surgery on Halloween to correct a long-standing problem. The supposed 2-3 week recovery time took nearly 5 weeks. I was very grateful to be well enough to attend Thanksgiving dinner, my first real outing all month. I did very little sketching and no painting in November, due to limited mobility and energy.
December: It’s all about the DOG
I’ve wanted a dog for years and finally, just as I recovered from surgery I found my perfect pup. I’ve had 5-month old Millie for one month and she is so much fun. We’ve been walking 3 to 7 miles in nature every day. She’s a 20 pound Formosa Mountain Dog, who was rescued with her litter in Taiwan and shipped here by a rescue group for adoption. When I met her it was love at first sight.
I’ve done very little artwork or blog posting while working out a routine with the dog and my two cats in December, recovering from surgery in November and October’s flu bug. Now it’s a new year and I’m finding my way back to painting and sketching again (and hopefully more regular blogging)!
Looking ahead in 2014
My goal for 2014 is to continue to explore and focus on how (and what) I most enjoy drawing and painting, and then work more consistently with that approach and subject matter. I also want to focus on being more present and connected to nature, the seasons, weather, and the calendar, and reflecting that connection in my art.
One of the many things I have to be thankful for this holiday season is that my mother just turned 90! I made this little birthday card for her with 90 ladybugs on it. Ninety sounds like a big number but when illustrated with ladybugs it doesn’t seem like that much.
She is still going strong, living independently in her own home, driving in the crazy L.A. traffic, cooking her own meals, and managing her own affairs. A few years ago she bought a computer and though it drives her crazy with its seeming capriciousness, she usually wins the battle to find her email, read it, and even print it when the stars really line up right.
She doesn’t paint anymore, but you can see a gallery of her artwork here from around the 1950s. Below is my favorite of her paintings: my grandmother Gertie.
My sister Marcy hosted our Thanksgiving dinner and my niece Sophie made the stunning table centerpiece that my sketch above doesn’t do justice to. We added a new tradition to our Thanksgiving dinner: The thrift-shop Tacky Holiday Sweater Contest (below).
Mine was no doubt the ugliest but Robin’s (on the right) got extra points for being ill-fitting. It’s too bad you can’t see Nilla the dog’s lovely sweater, complete with jingle bells and ornaments. She only looks like a giant because of being closer to the camera. Britney (center) got extra credit for her Walmart faux-patent-leather skin-tight leggings to go with her Vegas-grandma-style sweater.