I got a call from two local farmers who wanted to commission a painting of several of their favourite animals. As a city person I know absolutely nothing about farms, in fact I find some farm animals a bit intimidating – especially the larger cows (and most of the smaller ones). I was chased by cows when I first arrived in Somerset and have never quite got over the experience.

Nevertheless, I was still looking forward to having a guided tour around a proper working farm.

After a quick introduction we took a wonder around the sheds and fields. Accompanying us were two manic border Collies which ran 20 paces for every one of our walking. Interestingly too, they seemed to know what to see and in what order.

Drawing the animals in a field

We first looked at the cows and I began to draw a few.  Many of these cows are retired and have been given names.

A drawing of cows pigs and dogs on a farm

The cow in the middle with the large brown markings is called ‘Bernard’ and is Simmental cross (whatever that means). An odd name for a female cow, the origin of the name is the Nursie character in the tv series Blackadder, who was oddly called ‘Bernard’. She is about 19 years old, retired from having calves and now enjoying the Somerset meadows.

The blonde one with the lighter spots is Blondie and is Bernard’s daughter. She is standing with a very fine bull in the shape of Monty who is a Devon Red. He’s quite a laid-back fella really and I was relived he didn’t snort or charge about like they do on TV.

The other cow behind Bernard is also retired and her name is Bun. I was told that they have a whole line of Buns offspring named after cakes/desserts. She is also around 19 years old as well. I believe her daughter ‘Crumpet’ in there somewhere too. Makes a great idea for a children’s book?

Saddleback Pigs

In front we have two pet Saddleback pigs. Both are female and they are named Gladis and Gina. When I got to draw them, they were both armpit deep in wet mud, and very pleased to be there it would seem.

Although each of the animals was kept in separate pens, I decided to take a bit of creative licence and place them into a single field, with the dogs keeping canine watch on the other side of the gate.

I sketched out one of their fields and loosely marked in where the animals should be placed, and I felt I could make it work.

The final painting was completed back in the warmth of my studio, and I was pleased that I captured the spirit of the farm and its mainly retired residents.

Overall a most enjoyable painting to work on and I learnt a bit more about farming too.

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