The Not so Recent Life of Squirrels 2

When  I first posted about art works using squirrels  (I also included my own!) I  was ignorant  of a long history of squirrels being featured in art work, of humans’ obsessions with these little  animals and  keeping then as pets. Just when you think you might have stumbled on what I thought was a  relatively un-mined subject matter, history again lets one know- there is nothing new!

A few Images from Art History  showing squirrels as pets.

Medieval Life 

detail from Luttrell Psalter 4th Centuary, British Libraryr

A  detail from the  4th century Luttrell Psalter,  shows n image of  a woman playing with a pet squirrel, British Library.
floor tile 1290 = 1300 (circa) Britsh Museum





A floor tile 1290-1300 (circa) shows a woman wearing a coronet and with her pet squirrel. British Museum, Chertsey tiles: Queens Panel

Later Examples


created 1526-1528. Hans Holbein the Younger.

National Gallery London








Lady with squirrel  Francesco Montemezzano Rijksmueum









Detail of Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel , about 1565. Attributed to Francesco Montemezzano,

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.





I am grateful to the  Broider Me ‘Bethan  ( cannot get the web site link to work!)

and to  Rosalie’s Medieval Woman  for pointing me in the direction of some of these images.

It continues

The practice of keeping squirrels as “pets” and exploiting these creatures far beyond simply drawing and capturing their images  has carried.  In searching for  squirrels in art I have come across  numerous internet sites and videos featuring small furry animals, in particular  squirrels. For the most part these sites are about showing, making, and selling images, sculptures and toys. But in 2018 there are sites engaged in the selling of various breeds of these creatures for pets.

After thousands of years of domestication dogs and cats to some extent may trust we humans and tolerate our behaviour towards them in return for food and shelter, but for wild animals it must be very difficult to make us understand what they find intrusive and unacceptable – but of course they can always bite  us!

In the UK the grey squirrel is considered a pest, as it has threatened the survival of the indigenous red squirrel. For me there is a dissonance  regarding  concern for these animals’ natural behaviour and welfare and the action  being taken in parts of the  country to eliminate them. Not one I can resolve.

Tommy Tucker

One well documented and famous 20th century story about humans making  pets of squirrels is that of squirrel Tommy Tucker.

In the 1940s an orphaned  squirrel was adopted by Zaidee Bullis  in  Washington. She named the squirrel Tommy Tucker  and he became  celebrated in  America after an article about him appeared in  Life Magazine along with  a series of photos by Nina Leen  (Time & Life Pictures/Getty )  showing Tommy wearing the different costumes made for him.  Below are two examples.

A Squirrel's Guide to Fashion

I Call This My “Going Visiting Dress”

A Squirrel's Guide to Fashion

The “Little Squirrel on the Prairie” Look

There are many current examples in  on-line videos of such treatment of small animals.  While some of us use drawing and painting to create our fantasies about animals perhaps some humans take it all too far with trying to turn  their fantasies of  these animals into reality.


Posted in animals, art, drawing, open studio, squirrels | 1 Comment

Bed Posts 2

This gallery contains 4 photos.

The subject matter of beds seems to have broad attraction! A photographer friend, Cathy Cooper,, likes neatly made beds, so different from the images  of the unmade beds in my previous bed post- those of  Tracey Emin, Tammy Rae … Continue reading


The not so secret life of Squirrels.

Maurizio Cattelan

I am intrigued by this  3D work of Maurizio Cattelan in which he has used a  stuffed squirrel   The use of  actual animals in art  rather than through artists’ depicting  them using  skill,  or interpretation,  has always been difficult for me and  I trust that this squirrel was  already dead and stuffed by another hand before Cattelan came across it.  Not being sure what he was saying about this squirrel I resorted to another’s interpretation and  below is comment from the Guardian newspaper’s arts correspondent.


“The dead squirrel raises all sorts of discussions. Is it a meditation on social mobility? The work is called Bidibidobidiboo, the Fairy Godmother’s spell to transform Cinderella – but no one was ever going to transform this squirrel, living in such dingy surroundings with little hope of escape to a better life.  It was, in every sense of the word, stuffed. Or is it a much more personal piece? The kitchen is modelled on the one Cattelan grew up in and the artist has talked about how his mother accidentally left a hot iron on the yellow Formica table. To save it, his father sawed off the end with the burn mark leaving the family to always eat their meals on an absurdly shrunken table.”   Mark Brown Arts Correspondent Guardian 2012

My Squirrel

A couple of years ago I drew a squirrel in a toy car, seemingly careering around the landscape, and which I had been prompted to do after a session drawing in the landscape.  A  squirrel had  sat beside me while I was drawing trees and for sometime had remained there quite still. I made a  couple of quick sketches of my squirrel companion. Other squirrels were frantically scurrying here and there, hiding things, fighting and chasing each other,  but this one stuck to me – did it hope I had food??

Prior to this drawing session I had been  working on an idea of toy animals in cars, the impetus coming from my drawing a toy belonging to one of my nieces.  Back at home the ideas of the squirrel and of a toy animal in a  toy car got merged.  My fancy was that a squirrel, if given the keys to a car, would  tear around, break the speed limit, and generally have a hectic, demented, but enjoyable time.  I  did an initial drawing of  my idea but did not develop it further,  so I was  really interested to see how someone else has used a squirrel in his work, (although he had done  his work long before me, I  think in 1996). Having discovered Cattelan’s work I am prompted to think about developing my squirrel idea and particular version. The sense of freedom and not a little  menace that I see  in my squirrel is quite the opposite of the interpretation given to Cattelan’s  3D work.

squirrel in a toy car

New York Times Illustrated Interview

I also recently discovered The New York Times  Illustrated Interviews site. It is  very entertaining and below is a link to the Illustrated Interview with Maurizio Cattelan, though not about squirrels!

More to Come

I have come across a few interesting  uses of squirrels in art, though for me  some border on the abusive and  more on this in later posts.  For the idea of my post title I acknowledge Nancy Rose’s books “The Secret life of Squirrels “.




Posted in animals, art, Cattelan, drawing, fine art, open studio

Bed Posts

Bed Posts

By chance I had been reading about artists have used unmade beds to illustrate their concepts. Initially I thought I would write about  a few who had caught my attention, however, after a little further research I found that  there are many artists who make works about beds and so I may well return to this theme again later. For now here are two plus my own contribution!


Tracey Emin’s “My Bed”  (above) is a 3D re-construction of her unmade, dishevelled, bed. She   made this in 1998 during/after her emotional breakdown and breakup/separation from her boyfriend. The work has an idiosyncratic context and narrative, but it does convey the  universal concepts that “bed” can be a refuge, a hiding place, be a place of  disintegration and denigration.

Two American artists who have made significant “bed” works  are Felix Gonzales Torres and Tammy Rae Carland.

Gonzales Torres image of an empty bed ea6d523b2a1a3fb6efdbcb1574fc4156f07c5ed0

In 1991 Felix Gonzales Torres photographed his vacated bed and the image was positioned around Manhattan on 24 enormous billboards: (image above).  It has been described as a “powerful  juxtaposition between public and private spaces .… exposed most intimate spaces”.  For Gonzales Torres art was a means of addressing social concerns, he was gay and the vacated bed had been shared with his lover.  Although as with Emin’s bed there is the strong personal narrative, various commentators have attributed to the work the universal associations of comfort, vulnerability,  intimacy, loneliness and loss.

Tammy Rae Carland 6.Untitled-1-Bed-500x632

Tammy Rae Carland’s series of 13 photographs of Lesbian Women’s beds (recently vacated), were started in 2000 and all are 40 x inches in size (above is one of the images).  Tammy Rae  talks abut her work in a video posted on the Jessica Silverman Gallery site. In it she says for her, “absence can be a potent tool for addressing representation, whether devoid of central subjects or presenting the marginalised histories of persons.” (click on the image above to go to the video).

my bed

As for my contribution, (image above), I  share the same universal asociations which can  impel us to think about or take to our beds, vulnerability, loss and intimacy,  a place of safety, but I have not felt the need to be drawn on identity and be specific about my little drawing’s narrative or  context. I leave it to the viewer to take whatever comes through  my work, nevertheless some thoughts about my drawing are, it is a response to the sense of touch and envelopment  offered by upheaved bedding and folds . Having drawn the image in scratchy pen and ink  though, I can see the choice of medium  perhaps contrasts with the  nature of bedding, so may be, as well as childhood memories of keeping the world at bay, there is some intimation of “bed” being less than comfort, maybe a place of punitive banishment.


Posted in open studio

Financial Planning!

P1070298 (1)

I keep my shopping receipts. I have  a clear out occasionally and  have thought about using them  to make paper mache sculpture,  perhaps one day!

Posted in open studio

Developing Fine Art practice

For the past year  I have been following ( physically) a course  on Developing Fine Art Practice. I should have posted more about the course, as I have found it very helpful, but time is all!!

Two thirds through the course  we have had an exhibition of  Work in Progress, so here are a few photos of the work so far and of some of the participants hanging and displaying work.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in exhibitons, fine art, practice | Tagged , , ,

Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition 2015

the washing up watercolour

the washing up watercolour

my painting shown in the exhibition for the Sunday Times watercolour competition 2015

Posted in exhibitions, exhibitons, watercolour | 1 Comment