Feral Cows – and a shout out to Gainsborough

As I have been writing and researching Salt Lick, I have been learning a little about cows. (I am very grateful to Mary Monro, a fellow Unbound author, for her patience and help pointing me in the right direction.) It was difficult to find images that showed cows as they would look if feral as they are all routinely dehorned and usually seen in flat green pastures. But earlier this week I found what might be the perfect image to represent cows in a countryside that has become unused and wild once again as food production, for economic reasons, moves overseas.

I teach an art class, following a curriculum that is set centrally. The current topic is landscape, using charcoal and pastel, with a focus on the artist Gainsborough. For each class I do a demo, talking the students through the different ways to approach the subject and to use the medium.

And there, in the information that came to me in preparation for the lesson were what must be very close to feral cows. Horned, in small groups and amidst a varied landscape of meadow and woodland. Gainsborough must’ve been a fan – there are lots of them.

Below are the rather lovely originals with my pastel and charcoal demos underneath. I am happy with how they turned out, and though my background is in contemporary and installation art, I love the chance to reclaim an attachment to drawing for its own sake that was such a focus of growing up.

(If anyone likes them, I would happily consider swapping for a pledge on Salt Lick! Funding begins on Thursday. Let me know.)

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