Saturday, January 11, 2014

Artists and Illustrators magazine Feb 2014 issue

Back before Christmas, I was approached by the editor of the A&I magazine, after he saw two images I had posted on my blog 'In The Footsteps of Elephants'. He asked me to write a short article on how and why I chose to paint the two images at the same time. 

The article is now published in the February 2014 issue (which is out in January). Due to some editing for the article to fit the space, an alteration was made in the last paragraph that wasn't run by me for approval and as a result it reads...  '... and provided the chance for a colour to dry on one painting as I worked on the other.' This would actually be wrong in the context of the painting process I was describing in the article as I was working wet into wet over a very short space of time and as such there would be no time for the oil paints to dry.

The following is the wording I sent to the magazine for this article.

Double Trouble. Why would I want to paint these two images at the same time?

I don’t normally work loosely, but this past year I have been occasionally challenging myself to do just that. To stop myself from my love of ‘fiddling’, I work with a time limit (around 4-5 hours) to start and finish a painting. These two studies of an elephant calf, were one such challenge.

I wanted two paintings which could be displayed as a pair, looking ‘the same, but different’. So it seemed natural to paint them together, to keep a sense of continuity happening between them. If I painted them on different days I may lose that, so I did them both on the same day.

I ‘sketched’ in the two calf poses using burnt sienna diluted with Liquin to make it flow easily from a rigger brush (size 0), no preparatory drawing, just straight in with the paint. This gives me a sense of creating ‘freshness and spontaneity’ and it’s worth getting the proportions right at this stage, as trying to correct the form latter in the painting can kill that spontaneity feel.

I had mixed more than enough of each colour on my palette to do both paintings; using the same colours on both helped create a natural connection, along, obviously, with the composition, lighting and setting. Conscious of my self-imposed time limit and desire to avoid detail, I worked fast, wet into wet and having the two canvases side by side on the easel made it easier to keep an eye on how the two ‘sat’ together as they progressed.

Using a round size 5 watercolour brush, along with the rigger, I painted similar elements at a time, such as the grasses, working on one canvas before doing something similar on the other. The time spent doing this varied between a few minutes for blocks of foliage/grasses etc to around an hour for each calf. Switching back and forth like this kept the colour and brush use almost identical, creating that ‘same moment in time’ feel not just in the time and location of the subject, but also on a subconscious level in the actual application of paint.

These two studies are to be part of my fundraising solo exhibition for the work of a small grassroots conservation research charity studying young bull elephants in Botswana – Elephants For Africa. The exhibition will be in 2015 at Nature in Art, Gloucestershire. For updates and information on this event please visit… or

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