Sunday, 3 August 2014

When Lightning Strikes

  Hit By Lightening
This is a different blog post. Its' actually hard to know where to start in catching up on my blog as it has been unusually quiet this week. I should probably start by explaining that the week before last our cottage was hit by lightning. It was a little like something out of a horror movie as I was outside at the time and by the back door about to come in. No damage was done and we are all fine but it meant we had no phone line or internet connection for over a week. Here I have to add,  had I been able to get online I possibly wouldn't have been able to type anyway. I have been on an emotional roller coaster with highs from glorious workshops to lows with my beloved Bailey. I always try to keep my posts cheerful and positive so its' not easy to share when my life hits " a dip". Which to be fair it rarely does.

 Airedale coming to life in as a work in progress
Workshop Demonstration 2014

My workshops started on Tuesday of last week and I had been really looking forward to them. The  days were planned well in advance and I was eager to meet all the attending artists. On Monday evening my husband and I packed  the cars ready to take all my equipment etc. to the teaching venue. And then sat down to enjoy a quiet night before the week ahead. But our lives took an unexpected turn when our Bearded Collie became desperately ill very quickly without any warning whatsoever. One minute he had been resting in the garden. The next he had difficulty breathing and seemed to be in agony. We had to unpack my husbands packed car very quickly and race Bailey to a vets that was open that night. At midnight we returned home, heartbroken to have left Bailey in their care. 

This was where decisions needed to be made. I had artists flying to my workshops and people travelling from all over UK that morning. Most had looked forward to my courses for such a long time having booked well in advance. While I was happy to offer a refund I knew their disappointment would be huge. I couldn't sleep on Monday evening but made the call to teach on Tuesday. We agreed my husband would ring me if there was any news on Bailey.

I have an incredible PA , Christine who was my rock this week. The venue was set up and I decided not to tell anyone in the class about Bailey. The only way I could keep it together was to pretend  everything was alright and I did. Here I have to explain that I am so lucky to always have such fantastic people on my workshops. I often laugh about this because without fail on each session I can look around a room to see enthusiastic, happy people who I would instantly choose as friends yet alone artists on my classes. On Tuesday, as always I was surrounded by fabulous people  and the day passed without anyone being any the wiser that my heart was breaking. And it was a great day, wow what painting energy in the room!

I took a phone call from my husband during the lunch break and he filled me in on the now critical situation. Bailey really was now in a very bad condition.  From the overnight vet care, my husband had driven him to our own brilliant vet who couldn't diagnose but made the wise call for our dog to be treated at the Royal Veterinary College in London where he was raced that day.  Here he was to undergo tests and would be on very strong pain killers, in intensive care. No one knew what was wrong with my dog, only that he was critically ill.

At the end of my teaching day I left  as soon as possible while Christine explained to the class what was happening. Everyone was so wonderfully kind and stunned that I hadn't said anything during the day. But I didnt want to spoil the workshop they had looked forward to for so long. I couldn't.

My husband and I waited on pins for the vets telephone call that night and it didn't seem like good news. They had taken many tests but could not find what was causing the problem and Bailey temperature was now very high. He was lethargic, still in pain and not responding in any way. We thought we were going to lose him.  But there was nothing we could do. All dog owners will know the agony of fearing the worst and hoping for some tiny  glimpse of hope at this stage.

I made the call to teach the next day and then go to the Veterinary hospital straight after class. I honestly don't know how I held myself together for the second day of teaching or avoided letting anyone see how upset I was. But I walked into the workshop the next morning and threw myself into " teaching mode". Yet again I was faced with a room full of wonderful people from all over UK and the terrific artist who had flown from Ireland for the week. I looked around the room and knew I had made the right call. I could leave immediately if things took a turn for the worse and again, most of the people in the room were unaware of my secret heartache. And it was an incredible workshop.

After class I did race straight to the  veterinary hospital, my husband drove. Once we had listened to the vet telling us the frightening news that they still didn't know what was wrong with Bailey we were allowed to see him. He looked terrible, there was no life or energy in our pet. No real signs that he was fighting to be here but he was heavily sedated. I lay on the floor alongside him and gently stroked his fur. I like to think he knew I was there. I cried into his fur as I couldn't hold back the tears any longer. While holding his sweet head in my hands I talked to him in the way I usually do. He looked so poorly that we both thought this was to be the goodbye to our beloved pet. Whatever the problem was it was serious. The next 24 hours would be critical and we knew it.

We drove home quietly, arriving very late and exhausted. But there was nothing we could do.

I don't know how looking back. But again I made the call to teach the next day so as not to let anyone down. On Thursday morning it was much harder getting my act together. But I love teaching and I knew if I could just get to the venue and start the day I would be fine and miraculously I was. I walked into the room, put on a smile and threw myself into demonstrating and what a terrific group were in the room yet again. The atmosphere was  amazing and I was thrilled at the close to know everone had enjoyed the day. But as the time came for me to head to London to see Bailey I could feel my heart sinking. My "rock" Christine helped the artists leave after the class and  everyone was wonderfully understanding having heard what was going on behind the teaching scenes.

When we arrived at the hospital Bailey was still so lethargic. Test results hadn't indicated what was wrong but he did seem a little brighter. He wagged his tail once which to me was a huge sign he knew we were there and was trying to recover. We left, deciding not to  visit on Friday night. Traffic would be a nightmare and we were both by now completely exhausted.  Instead we made our way there very early on Saturday morning. Its' almost a two hour drive to get to the hospital  and  of course the same to return but every journey to us is worth it. Tired or not.

Yesterday morning we left our home with brave faces, deciding to listen to the vets but to be realistic in our expectations.  On arrival we waited in the reception area only to be shocked to see Bailey on a lead, weakly walking towards us. He is getting better slowly but he isn't out of the woods yet. We still don't know what is wrong so we haven't a clue as to what we are fighting. Poisoning has been ruled out and it could be a mysterious illness that never strikes again, or not. We have to be patient. Bailey hasn't eaten since last Sunday so if he doesn't eat by today he will have a small operation to insert a feeding tube into his neck to at least give him strength. I woke early to cook white fish, sausages and any other favourites I could think of to take today. Which ever tempts him will be worth the effort. I think hes going to be coming home, sitting in my studio and watching me paint. At least that is my wish as I miss my " shadow".


I have said so many times that painting can transport you to another place, another zone or planet that you escape to. This week that is exactly what my painting has done, given me an escape to somewhere happier and I needed it. But more than that my passion for teaching and helping other artists is what really helped me through. I do adore meeting people, I am absolutely in love with working in watercolour and teaching days fly by whilst I am working.

I loved the "lightbulb" moments this week when artists realised they could work in a loose style. I loved the obvious feelings of achievement when things went right for individuals in my sessions and I was thrilled when "bridges" that had been blocked for some, were crossed and unblocked in the class. I know that when many artists left this week they were inspired, leaving to paint non stop when they returned home.

We had fun, we experimented, looked at new colours and oh boy, I'd like to say "shone" in a way only watercolourists can! Painting wise it was a wonderful week.

You name it, I painted it! I'm still not sure how a demonstration of Vladimir Putin came about on one of my workshops this week but I am still laughing about it. I especially loved showing how to paint the colourfuly dressed figure from Tibet? There were sunflowers galore on one course and what a floral arrangement they made at the end of the day! A stunning collection of glowing paintings, each totally unique. And having had animals come from the farm on my animals session I loved the many paintings that were achieved on that course. I lost count of the dog demonstratuons I gave but we had spaniels, a labardaor, a shih ztu and a gorgeous airdale, shown in the image above. 

My only workshop negative? 
I was so envious of everyone having such a great time each day that I wanted to be on the class NOT teaching it!

Thank You
To everyone who came on my workshops this week, thank you so much for being so fabulous. Thank you for the wonderful work you created Thank you for your enthusiasm and  fantastic excitement which was a sheer pleasure to see. But now please do those exercises, washes and personal "homework" if it was set!

UK Workshops 2015 
Its' the time of year where I plan next years schedule of UK workshops. There has been so much growth in popularity for my courses and I am taking time out to consider what is needed most from a course. I have some wonderful ideas to make sure that everyone attending gains in ways that suits them best so there are going to be some incredible new courses next year and just a few favourites will be repeated. I think  many of my workshop artists this year have already guessed its going to be a very special year ahead for my courses so please book early when dates are available as places are limited. And please be on my workshop email list in time before next years dates are released!

 Email for information.



Loretta Hamilton said...

Prayers and white light coming your way for Bailey...from another bearded collie "parent"...Loretta with Beardie hugs from Max and Molly

Eileen said...

I hope Bailey continues to get better. You must be exhausted from teaching and worry over your dog. Try to find some time for yourself.

RH Carpenter said...

I don't know how you pulled this together to do this workshop but you are a true professional. I know everyone was feeling your pain and anxiety throughout, even though the workshop sounds like a wonderful and worthwhile event. So glad Bailey is on the mend and hope this is a one-time mystery that never happens again. Best of luck!

Deborah said...

Hello Jean,
I was in tears reading your post about your heartbreaking week with Bailey and his mysterious illness, and I am so happy to read that he is improving.

You were very brave and making the decision to continue with your workshop was a good one as it allowed you to focus and "go into teaching mode" so that you wouldn't become so distraught with worry over Bailey.

I hope Bailey is able to eat and enjoy the treats you made for him, and that his recovery is speedy. Everyone who loves their furry or feathered "children" understands how heartbreaking it is to see their much loved baby ill..... So happy Bailey is feeling better, best wishes to your family that all is fine soon.

Jenny said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Bailey and your bad luck lately. Life has a way of throwing things at us when we least expect it. It's our ability to survive the bad times that helps us enjoy the good ones. Good friends and family are precious perhaps we don't always appreciate how much they are there for us when we need them.
Thank you for a wonderful day on Friday. And a big thank you to Christine, she really is your rock.

John Davis said...

Jean you are amazing. Your work but also your spirit. You are so positive and endearing. I'm praying for Bailey. I know just how you feel. love,Diana

Sue Pownall said...

What a terribly tough time for you, your husband and of course Bailey. I hope he continues to improve.

Anonymous said...

Oh Bless you Jean and your Husband - you have been through an awful time with your little dog. As a fellow dog lover I know what this is like. Fingers crossed for Bailey - sending you both much love xxx Rosemary