An Audience with PC

When we call on our friend Diana, I usually struggle to draw her cat, PC, because, if he’s in, he hankers to go out but, once he’s out, it’s not long until he jumps on the outside windowsill to demand to be let in again. A busy cat.

Not today though, as it’s cold, dull and rainy out there. Snoozing in his basket or reclining on the windowsill, as he is today, you might imagine that PC would be far too laid back to catch a bird. Unfortunately not: Diana has had to stop feeding the birds in her front garden, which is a shame because she used to enjoy seeing goldfinches crowding onto the nyger seed feeder.

After the Snow

wood

tree (horse chestnut?) in the snow in Ossett, 27th March.ALTHOUGH WE’VE had a covering of snow for a little more than a week it’s a revelation to suddenly have colour back in the landscape. The snowdrops have gone to seed during the time that they were covered in a little drift by the pond.

In the wood leaves of bluebells are greening the banks between the trees, while other slopes are still swathed with snow. In the fields on south-facing slopes the weeds and the oilseed rape seedlings are already established. This is a reminder to me that I must now start thinking about sowing seeds in our vegetable beds.

Biscuiy

When the thaw gradually got underway a couple of days ago, Biscuit, who had been tramping around discontentedly in the solitary comfort of his snowy field (the two ponies that he was bossing around were his temporary guests and he’s back on his own now) found the first corner of grass to appear by the old shed and lay there in a heap as if he was soaking up the sun on a beach.

His method of getting  back up again was remarkably inelegant, pausing halfway for a few minutes in a sitting position more typical of a dog than a pony.

nuthatch

The snow brought not one but two nuthatches to the bird feeders. As far as I remember it’s the first time that we’ve seen two in the garden at once.

cat and pheasant

The lithe young grey cat who I think of as being a Jerry was shadowing the cock pheasant. The pheasant strutted around with his usual imperious haughtiness but wasn’t unduly concerned. The pair appeared to be more companions than predator and prey but when the pheasant started pecking the bare earth below the feeders the tip of his tail started flick, flick, flicking and the cat adopted a kittenish fascination as if he just couldn’t resist the pheasant teasing him to join in a game.

PC and Friend

AS WE ARRIVE at Diana’s, a large fluffy Siamese walks ahead of us. We shut it out as we go in through the back garden gate but PC, Diana’s black cat, has noticed that his fluffy friend has arrived and they indulge in a bit of playful sparring, pawing at each other through the gap beneath the gate.

The Siamese can’t climb over the larch lap fence; it had already been declawed when Diana’s neighbour adopted it.

But PC is soon up and over the fence, returning five minutes later to sit out at the front on the windowsill. When he comes in, he jumps up on the windowsill (he recently dislodged a vase which broke into four pieces). He’s chosen the warmest corner of the room above the radiator. From here he can keep an eye and an ear on everything that’s going on but he’s soon stretching and snoozing.

Cats are so good at relaxing but however much they appear to be dozing those ears will swivel around to pick up any stray sound.

Freehand Folk

I’M DRAWING a motley crew of folk; ‘an assemblage of odds and ends of people, a rabble’. This rabble has yet to be roused but they’re a sufficiently motley assortment.

I used ArtPen on layout paper, filling in with a Cotman watercolour brush and Calli ink, making up the characters as I went. With no sketched pencil line to follow and no rough to trace I felt as if I had more freedom. The result looks perfectly idiotic, so I quite like it.

The actual size that I’d be printing this would be only an inch or two across, so you’re seeing the widescreen version here.

The Lawn Ranger

11 a.m.: A neighbour’s ginger cat is paying close attention to one particular spot on the lawn, sniffing it with intense interest.

What is it up to?

It turns around and sticks its paw into a hole –

a vole hole – reaching right down, like someone trying to retrieve keys from the back of a sofa.

It reminds me of a friend of my mum & dad’s, Denny from Dovercourt, who once saw a man lying by the side of the road with a look of agony on his face;

“Are you all right? Shall I send for an ambulance?”

“No . . . ugh . . . I’m fine . . . ugh . . . I’m just . . .  trying . . . to turn off this stopcock.”

Like the ginger cat, he had his arm down a hole.

More of Xander

I’D FORGOTTEN just how many sketches I’d made of Xander when I added my last post but you can’t have too many sketches of this relaxed and comfortable individual, he’s such pleasure to draw, so here are the rest of them, from four pages in my A5 sketchbook. Even though he’s a black and white cat, I feel that colour adds a lot of life and information to a drawing, so I added watercolour to my pen and ink whenever he gave me long enough.

Sometimes I had time only for the basics before he turned his head, often to see what Alfie was up to on his brief visits via the back-door cat-flap. As I mentioned, Alfie isn’t as comfortable about having visitors like ourselves in his house.

Grooming

The grooming routine goes by rapidly but I manage a quick sketch – what I’ve heard a called a ‘gestural sketch’ by tutors taking life classes – of the stage where his back leg goes into the air, as if he’s playing a cello.

Next a whole sketchbook page. I feel that for animals you’re usually best with a bigger spread, so that you can keep going on to the next pose without turning the page. There’s also the chance, a slim one admittedly with Xander, that you could come back to a previous pose if he happened to go back to that position.

Cat Naps

But it’s when Xander at last settles down to sleep that you finally get the chance to add texture and colour. Of course he might decide to go to sleep somewhere where you can only see his back legs. Never mind – I need practice on back legs too!

Or he might stop only long enough to access the chances of moving in to take some of Alfie’s food. I think you can see that thought process of Xander looking at the food bowl and thinking ‘you’re mine – all mine!’, even in my crude, quick sketch. He didn’t get away with this; Alfie’s food gets cling-filmed as soon as Alfie pops out through the cat-flap. Even Xander hasn’t worked out how to remove the cling-film.

Paws for Food

Cats that are allowed outside tend to eat more than those who are restricted to living indoors. When Alfie and Xander were younger, they were kept in the house and they ate just as much as they needed, when they needed it; the food was always there for them.

Now, when they can come and go with a degree of freedom, they tend to go straight for the food bowl when they come in (I know that feeling of coming in, ravenous) but they also like to have a feed before they set out on their adventures again, on the grounds that you never know where your next meal is coming from.

Xander

XANDER is the friendliest of the two tom cats in the house in Hounslow where we’ve been staying with relatives this weekend. Xander is the black and white cat who appears in all but one of my sketches. Alfie, the tabby, is more wary of visitors and settled with us only briefly, while Xander soon accepted us, treating us as part of the furniture.

They’re both large cats, despite the careful control their owners take to ensure they don’t eat too much, however neighbours report that both Xander and Alfie have been known to go visiting and, while they’re there, eat the rations left for other cats.

In my childhood we always had a cat, occsaionally two, in the house. I could get used to it again. I’d never be short of a subject to draw and it’s comforting to have one sitting on your lap or settling down next to you on the sofa. but I like the freedom that comes with not having to make arrangements for their care if we suddenly decide to set off somewhere for a day or two.

The Cat & Clothes Line

Barbara shouted up to me ‘Just take a look at that cat on the lawn!’

It’s been a wild day, wild but mild; this morning our neighbour’s three-year old boy got blown over in a gust on the way to school and the handful of stallholders who turned up at Ossett Market were sent home because of the danger of goods and even stalls being blown around. I felt particularly sorry for the fishmonger with all his fresh fish, having to pack up his van. We’ve had a lot of rain too and the Calder is running beige-brown and flowing up over the bridge piers but not quite at flood level yet.

But some are enjoying the call of the wild; the frayed end of the broken washing line (broken by blue tits pecking at it!) was snaking and jerking around on the lawn near the pond, exactly in the way that you’d tempt a kitten to chase a piece of string, but on a larger and livelier scale.

Too much of a temptation for this black and white cat which was taking it’s usual shortcut back from the meadow via our back garden path. You can see (below) that at times it turned its back on it but then thought ‘Well, just one more go . . .’

It was so happy rolling on its back, pouncing and sitting with its ‘prey’ wrapped around its shoulder. Occasionally it did pause and look around as if thinking ‘This is silly, I hope no one is watching me.’ But it still couldn’t resist another mad tussle with the playful frayed end of the rope beckoning.

I’d love to have had time to make quick sketches but the last ten days have been taken up with preparations for Barbara’s mum’s funeral on Monday. I’m not going to really settle down until after there’s been that short ceremony of closure.

Over the past weeks and months I’ve slipped further and further behind with my latest booklet, the deadline for which is looming up in the next two to three weeks, but haven’t been able to make any real progress on it.