At the beginning of this month I spent a week at the fabulous Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery in Gloucestershire. Each week between February and November a different artist of group of artists set themselves up in the studio space in the grounds of this wonderful place... so this was my turn. I have been very lucky to have been an Artist in Residence here once (or sometimes twice) a year since 2000 (except for one year) either going solo or with one or two other artists.
The museum is closed on Mondays so this is an ideal opportunity to set up and usually I get there just before lunch so that I have the afternoon to get the job done. However, due to various hold-ups, including trying to catch a baby house mouse at home that one of my cats had brought in alive and abandoned for me to take care of! Consequently I did not arrive until mid afternoon and was there until 7pm.
This actually tied in nicely with a Wallsworth Art Group (WAG) meeting, so Simon, the Director, collared me to pop across to the main house to show my face and tell them briefly what I was up to this week.
I finished the final touches of setting up through most of Tuesday. I had set the space up into different zones - a place for me to work at an easel, Botswana work, other work, zoo work and merchandise.
The main focus of the area was across the room from where I sat at an easel... this was my Botswana exhibition display. Next year I shall be having an exhibition at Nature in Art which will be an awareness and fundraising exhibition for Elephants For Africa. This is a small conservation research charity that focuses on bull elephants, in particular the transition period of young bulls from when they leave the natal (mother) herd and join adult bull society. This isn't the only work they do with regards to elephants... for more information of them please visit their website.
I had some of the paintings I shall be exhibiting, along with my sketchbooks and information about the exhibition, on display.
Two batiks I shall also be exhibiting were displayed across the room along with some of my other framed paintings and prints.
More examples of my work along with several 'step by step' presentations for paintings and portfolios of more work and articles published in magazines.
More framed work on the wall just in front of my easel.
In the little room that is first entered when visitors come into the studio, I had a display of some of my zoo illustration work. I like to show this as well as it is different to my other work as an artist. There were examples of original work, a work sketchbook, a practice sketchbook, portfolio's showing a range of the animals I have to paint and draw and one showing examples of the signage that the illustrations are ultimately used for. My 'work' sketchbooks are purely for working up ideas, information and drawings towards the goal of producing a finished drawing or painting for a sign. My 'practice' sketchbook is one where I sketch whatever I want in the zoo for no other reason than to practice sketching. I am allocated a half day a fortnight for this practice sketching, although I sometimes miss them as the work load requires me to concentrate on that. However, the half day free sketching sessions are invaluable to me as self imposed 'on the job' training.
Then there's my table of merchandise - mainly small things like cards that are within easy reach of most budgets as a little something to take away. But I also have a small range of art and photographic prints usually in browsers in between the tables.
And finally there's where I work... Here I am working on the first piece I did during the week. I started this one Tuesday afternoon and finished it Wednesday afternoon. It is one of my loose style pieces... I start by sketching the animal's form in paint straight onto the canvas using a fluid mix of paint and Liquin with a rigger brush.
I started doing these mainly as a challenge to myself to loosen up, to prepare for the time when my eyesight can no longer cope with detail work, as I am aware the old eyesight is going that way... but it is also a useful exercise to 'try out' an idea for a more detailed piece.
This is a young bull I had seen in Botswana and he was very much showing off as if to say "Hey! I'm all that and more, you know!" He was not threatening, just curious and animated. I have him in mind to be in a painting I am planning of a bull by water.
This piece is a little different to most of my other work. I have seen in some fund-raiser exhibitions that there is often a 'message' piece. So for want of a better phrase... this is intended to be mine... if it works. I have been planning and thinking on this one for some time and decided this week was an ideal time to start it. Partly as I wanted to see what people's reactions would be to it... and I was very pleased that it got very positive responses. I shall explain the thinking behind this piece in a future post on my In the Footsteps of Elephants blogpage. I was working on this piece from Thursday until stopping on Saturday when it was at the point you see in the photo. I did not want to pack my car and drive home on Sunday evening with the paint being very fresh and wet. So I put it aside and started a pastel drawing on the Sunday, which I have since finished.
Since doing Spike the lemur earlier this year on a sandpaper surface, I want to keep on using this type of surface for my pastels. I love the amount you can work into it and will never return to that stuff they call 'pastel paper' in most art shops. You know the pads of coloured paper specifically marketed for pastels... I always used to use that... but not no more. I have seen the light! Or sand, in this case.
So this guy is done on a very fine dark grey sandpaper finish.... I am thinking of doing another specifically as a pairing for this one. And then lots more!
The week was brilliant weather wise, lovely and warm and though the Museum was quiet (possibly due to a big wildlife photography exhibition being round the corner there - so folks were perhaps waiting to visit when that was on) I had plenty of people coming through to chat to me and see what I was up to. There was great reaction to the Exhibition work and hopefully many will return, as they said they would, to see it next year.
Thank you to all those that did come in to say hello or just to look... it was lovely to meet you all, some for the first time, many from before.
I am there again next September as that is when my exhibition will be on (3rd - 20th) and during that time I will be artist in residence for one of those weeks.