"The bride-to-be sent a photo of her fiancee's favourite cow for me to paint"
Wedding present lists get more exciting by the season.
Gone are the days when a bridge and groom would ask their guests for dull but worthy household items to mark their special day.
Back then, the happy pair would struggle to show excitement for the bread bin, the carving knife, the matching tea towels and the cut-glass decanter destined to gather dust for decades.
Now when wedding guests ask, what would you like as a gift, the response is likely to be much more challenging.
And one artist in the Lake District is arising to that challenge.
Thuline de Cock is being asked to paint favourite pets – dogs, cats, and even a favourite cow – as a more unusual wedding present.
“I’ve just done a painting of a Friesian cow which was commissioned by a woman as a wedding present for her husband, a farmer, in Devon,” says Belgian-born Thuline, who works from a studio and gallery in Kendal. “The bride-to-be sent a photo of his favourite cow for me to paint.”
So now her work, often dominated by the large black and white faces of endearing Friesians, is finding a new niche market.
“Couples who are getting married no longer need cutlery and china and towels. They are seldom starting an independent life for the first time after moving out from their parents’ home. They have been living independently, or living together for some time, and they have all the basic household necessities. So they are starting to request something more unusual, and if they are animal lovers, in particular, they love my paintings.”
Her paintings are also popular with visitors from overseas, and Thuline recently shipped a giant canvas to Washington DC for a couple who had visited the gallery on holiday. “They saw one of the big black and white faces and said to me, We want one like this, but much bigger than the original,” said Thuline.
Her animal paintings are distinctive and unusual; regular visitors to the Lakes will have seen them at the Jumble Room in Grasmere, at Wilf’s Café in Staveley, and in the Sun Inn at Crook, among others.
Why so many cows? “Cows are funny creatures. Just like humans, they have their own characters. Their faces show expressions and a curiosity that never stop to amaze and fascinate me,” says Thuline. “I observe animals, their shapes, gestures and mannerisms and in developing my ideas, I take them quite often out of their context. I like using bold colours.
“In my work, I explore the possibilities of bringing the subjects in and out of focus. Composition plays an important role in my paintings. I sometimes use perspective to distort images. And I enjoy the gathering of information as much as I do the painting.”
Her most unusual effort this year involved a sheep, one of the Go Herdwick fantasy flock which decorated the Lake District this summer. She painted Beatrix, the glass-reinforced plastic sheep which stood from Easter till last month outside the Cedar Manor Hotel in Windermere.
Last month the entire flock was auctioned, raising a staggering total of more than £250,000 for the Calvert Trust charity, and Thuline was thrilled to see Beatrix fetch the third highest price, of £5000.
You can see more of Thuline’s work, and make special requests for wedding gifts or other special occasions, at http://www.thuline.com/