Following on from my last post about the inspiration behind my latest cow paintings, here’s my painting of “Sitting Bull”. He sat, chewing the cud, at the heart of a small herd of cattle on the top of Pennard cliffs. He looked very relaxed. I was struck by his muscularity, his massive neck, especially in comparison with the cows around him. I was intrigued by the series of lines circling his neck, which seemed mark the grooves of his flesh. I saw a cow with similar colouring in another group who had the same lines, albeit fainter ones. I tried to work out what his breed was but haven’t settled on any conclusively. He may be a Blue Grey or a Belgium Blue, I’m not sure.
It sounds silly but, I had been watching him sleep for some time before I realised that I looking at sitting bull. I wondered how the famous Native American, called Sitting Bull , had come by his name. Was he a massive muscular man? All I could remember (from Hollywood films) was that he had fought and defeated General Custer (called “Yellow Hair” by the Native Americans in the films, I think) at the Battle of Little Big Horn. I later found out that Sitting Bull was the chief of the Lakota Sioux in South Dakota. He was named “Jumping Badger” at birth, this clearly did not suit his personality. His father called him “Slow” because he was always very careful and slow to take action. He was later given the name “Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down”, or “Sitting Bull”, after displaying bravery in raiding party. He was a very dynamic and dignified leader who spent four years in exile in Canada, toured with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show but was later killed in an act of police brutality.
I am delighted to have sold “Koei 1509”, a painting of a South African cow, to a collector in Oxfordshire, England. The painting was based on a photograph by talented photographer Herman von Bon, who generously allowed me to use his image. Herman photographs the South African landscape along with its people and animals. I particular like his wildlife photography.
I like cows. I love all animals. I come from a family of animal lovers. I get pleasure from just looking at animals. I really enjoy painting them but I find it hard to part with my animal paintings.
Cows are the reason why I stopped eating meat a long time ago. When I was a post-graduate student at Cardiff University in the 1990s I spent a day cycling along the the flat marsh road that lies between Cardiff and Newport. It’s about 10 miles. On my way back, I stopped at a gate for a rest. I group of curious youngsters, Fresians, came up to gate to investigate me. They were cautious but seemed to egg each other on to come closer and stick out their noses to me. They amused me. I thought they were funny and sweet.
I stood for quite a while looking at them. Listening to them breathe. Cows have intelligent eyes. Big brown eyes. They weren’t essentially any different from the many animals my family had kept as pets over the years; cats, dogs and rabbits. Suddenly the thought came to me “I eat you and your friends”. I felt awful. Very guilty.
It felt very unnecessary. I don’t need to eat meat. So I decided to stop. I’d been thinking about for for some time. People sometimes ask why I am a vegetarian and I could mention things such as the cruelty of factory farming, the environmental cost but I have never felt comfortable eating sentient creatures. I always felt a hypocrite for eating Sunday roast, no matter how tasty it was.
Many of my university friends were veggies but I didn’t like many vegetables (potatoes and peas was about it for many years) and I wasn’t sure what I would eat. To be honest, I was lazy. I had to learn to cook vegetarian meals. I started with a lot of pesto and pasta. A friend of mine recommended a Rose Elliot cook book and I painstakingly read the recipes (there were no photos in the book) and I eventually learnt a few recipes off by heart. It was a bit of a slog but I felt much better for it, physically and mentally.
Although I don’t think that I paint cows all that often, they have added up over the years. I love Hereford cattle in particular. I was born in that English county and I love the russet red of their coats. You don’t see that many of them on Gower.
I seems to have painted Frisians the most – probably because I like the contrast of their black and white coats.
I never paint “generic” cows. These are all real cows. All individuals. I found Gower Cow on the slopes of Cefn Bryn at the Penmaen end. She was chewing the cud with a small group of friends.
The cow at Pwll Du was also with a group of friends, small herd I suppose, who came out of the undergrowth and started grazing on the grass by the stream at Pwll Du.
Writing this post got me thinking about the History of the cow in Art. There’s a lot to it so I have decided to save that for my next post.
I have been suffering from writer’s block. I started this post in March this year. I keep writing, rewriting it and then not publishing it. The problem isn’t that I don’t have any thing to say. It is more that I have too much to say and I didn’t know where to start or how […]
You have may well have seen images of County Sligo, Ireland, without necessarily knowing that’s where it is. It’s home to one of the most poplar views on Social Media. Here’s an example: And many more… It’s quite disconcerting to come across a view that you are very familar with but have never visited […]