How One Cow May Have Changed My Life
If you’ve been following my work for a while, you’ll know that when I started this website, I was focused solely on the creating art about the Yorkshire countryside. My pictures were filled with stone walls, broken down barns, and only the occasional sheep or cow.
But one day a couple of months ago, I was out for a walk near my house. We live on a quiet lane surrounded by hills and fields that are filled with sheep and cows. On this particular day, one cow took an interest in me and began to rub her face up against her side of the stone wall, all the while keeping her eye on me and my camera. Her face was adorable – eyes bright with curiosity, wet nose, bits of grass sticking out of her mouth … I took tons of shots and later that week, I did a quick sketch working to convey that personality that had so clearly shone in her eyes.
I no longer have that drawing because almost as soon as I put it up on Facebook, someone bought it, but this is a slightly iffy photo I took of it.
Selling the picture was a surprise to me – I hadn’t really considered that others might see the same beauty I did, but that’s exactly what happened. The person who bought the drawing commented that she hadn’t ever really looked at cows before, but that this drawing made her see what she had been missing.
And that’s when it hit me. I wanted to take a break from landscapes and concentrate on animals. I don’t eat meat – haven’t for a long time. I stopped because I realised that if my pet cats had such different personalities, all animals must be the same. And once I thought of animals as creatures with souls and moods and likes and dislikes, I couldn’t face eating their flesh.
What if through my art, I could help others see the beauty and individuality of these wonderful animals? Not to convince people to change their eating habits – I’ve never been evangelical about that and everyone has the right to decide what they want to eat – but just to shine a light on something most of us pass by without a second thought.
For me, the best art is art that challenges or changes us in some way, even if it’s only a small change. A drawing of a stone wall isn’t going to do that, but a really good cow portrait – one that captures the heart and soul of the animal – just might.
Here is a series of photos documenting the creation of one of my latest cows, just so you can see how they develop.
First the pencil sketch
Next starting to paint ink on to the paper
And finally the finished product after all the layers of ink have been applied.
I’m very excited about this new direction, although I’m running low on cow photos now that all the animals have been moved inside for the winter. I may have to resort to begging a local farmer.
The pictures have continued to sell, which is always nice, and most important of all, I find the subject both fascinating and challenging. I plan to venture into more colour this year, and to spend the year really honing my skills. I hope you’ll stay with me for the ride!