A Day in the Life of a Lurcher: a Sunday at Home with Artist Brita Granström
I was once asked, if I was a dog, what breed would I be. My answer? A Lurcher. To me, they are the perfect balance of all things dog. There’s something about the way that they hold themselves. They’re calm, mysterious, incredibly loyal and effortlessly cool (I wish). Just like me, they love being outdoors and (usually) having short bursts of exercise, but they could also happily sleep all day.
I recently had the pleasure of photographing Nelly and Hilda, two Lurcher cross ladies belonging to Sweden born artist Brita Granström. I visited Brita’s studio at her home in the Scottish borders and got a feel for what life is like with her two beautiful companions.
Our shoot starts with Brita glamming up her models with some floral neckerchiefs, handmade by herself. The trio are all matching and the Lurchers are living up to their ‘effortlessly cool’ name. I ask Brita if I can see her studio. Usually it’s a no-dogs zone, but we’re all granted permission just this once. Together we run to the top of the house, where we reach a space flooded with light, oozing with creativity and filled with Brita’s current workings. There’s a calm aura to the room, and I don’t know if it’s the ship like cladding on the walls or Brita’s painting ‘Blue Pool’ (hanging behind her and will be exhibited at Gallagher and Turner Newcastle this Summer) but it’s soon disrupted with a little Lurcher chaos. Excited from sprinting up the stairs, the dogs don’t know what to do with themselves - and as they pose for a portrait with their mum, they play-bite each other, accidentally revealing big beaming grins.
Throughout our shoot, I overhear Brita talking to Nelly and Hilda in both English and Swedish. They are of course bilingual dogs and respond immediately to Brita’s commands. She tells me some of her most used phrases.
Brita shows me one of her paintings, a rhubarb still life which fast becomes my favourite. Seeing it against the St Jude’s Pigeon and Clocktower wallpaper (originally designed by Edward Bawden in 1927) is a feast for the eyes - especially with Nelly and Hilda in shot. This has to be my favourite portrait of the trio from the entire shoot.
As we head downstairs to the kitchen and garden room, Nelly very nearly swipes some secateurs off the side. At 10 months old, Nelly’s the ‘naughty’ one and has a habit of chewing things. Her most recent massacre being an antique Edwardian chair. Oh Nelly!
Hilda also has a cheeky side. The time she was pretty much poisoned from eating a Clematis and had to be rushed to the vets. Or the time she ran straight into a barbed wire fence while out on a long hike in the Lake District and in the middle of nowhere. Another emergency room job! She takes it upon herself to climb on top of the dining table for some shots with Brita. The dogs are realising that anything goes today and the rules are out of the window. Hilda is 16 months and seems to be the ringleader of the two. While she cuddles up to Brita, I suddenly see her great stature and the tiny dash of Deerhound in her, amongst her Whippet/Bedlington/Collie mix.
Soon, the shoot naturally travels into the kitchen where Brita’s son is using an old faithful recipe book to make gingerbread biscuits. As he measures out each ingredient Nelly resides in her favourite spot of the house. She tucks herself right behind the kitchen island, getting under everybody’s feet. I don’t blame her to be honest, it’s a prime lookout spot.
I notice handmade cards made by Brita’s boys for their dad on Father’s Day. One features a drawing of Nelly and Hilda and I love how accurately they have been captured. Their profile reminds me of the dogs from one of my favourite Wes Anderson films, Isle of Dogs. I love Nelly’s ears especially, they’re placed neatly on top of her head, so alert and life-like.
The shoot comes to an end as Brita and her girls flop into a pile onto the couch (and the place where Nelly and Hilda spend most of their time). It’s been a joy having a glimpse into Brita’s world and I can see why her dogs are so often the subjects of her sketches and paintings.
If you want to keep up with Nelly and Hilda you can visit their Instagram feed, or you can also follow Brita and visit her website to see her fabulous work.
If you are in the North East, why not catch Brita’s current exhibition ‘By the Sea’ which she is running together with her artist husband Mick Manning at The Old School Gallery, Alnmouth until 12th July 2019.