Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Society of Wildlife Artists Exhibition

From an earlier post you will have read that one of my paintings got into this major exhibition in London. On Tuesday (Sept 25) I went with a friend, Emma, another wildlife artist. Must admit the coach is not my usual choice for travel to the capital, seen too many of them driving too fast and a little madly on the motorways for my liking. However the train fares were not in my favour on this occasion and being able to grab a ‘FunFare’ ticket with National Express meant I had a cheap return fare of just £7! Perfect for an artist on low funds.

From Victoria station we walked to the Mall Galleries, going past Buckingham Palace; where we stopped and took some ‘touristy’ pics of us outside the gates etc. Had to be done.
The Private View opened at 2pm and we were inside the doors a minute or so after that. Walking down into the gallery we soon spotted a Gary Hodges drawing of snow leopards and … yup it had already sold £16,000 or thereabouts…. Just like that! Fantastic.

We ambled round in the increasing throng of artists, buyers and anyone else with an interest in wildlife and art. I had estimated that 2½ hours to do this would be ample time to see it all and get back to the coach station for our 5 o’clock coach home. There were over 400 framed works and sculptures on show and there were a lot of lovely and interesting pieces but as in any show there were also work there you wondered just how it got past selection.

The most stunning pieces for me were a couple of sculptures by Harriet Mead, a painting by Chris Rose of wood pigeons in a field and a hog deer by Vicky White. Harriet Mead’s sculptures are made from scrap metal and recycled mechanical parts but her attention to form and anatomy is superb. The sculptures looked as good on the inside as they did on the outside with structure following bone and muscle mass. I find Chris Rose’s work inspirational… the light and colours he gets into his work is incredible. In his painting, a boring old hayroll was made beautiful to look at with the cast of light and shadow and the colours used in his reflected lighting. But maybe the real showstopper for me was the hog deer. It was photorealistic. Now I know there are people out there who will scoff at that term… but this painting went far beyond just being photographic… it was alive! I swear as I stood there gazing at it in awe I saw its sides move as it breathed!!! I almost expected that any second soon it would, in one bound, be out of the canvas and running around the gallery causing havoc. She painted it so well with light, atmosphere and life - it is a truly fabulous piece of work.

Half way through our perusal of the show there was the official opening and award giving ceremony, which I had forgotten to take into account in my timings for the day. As was all the chatting with people you meet, either for the first time or have met before, after you have been round all the works. Consequently before we knew it we were running late and had to make a quick dash back down Pall Mall and Buckingham Palace Road to the station. Just in time to miss our coach!

According to our watch we were there 1 minute to 5 and the coach wasn’t there. After trying several very unhelpful staff at the station I was eventually guided to the National Express crew office, as there was no Nat Ex information desk in the station it seems; where I was told quite rudely that I should have been there at 10 minutes to 5, that no- the coach did NOT leave early (they never do) and our watch must be different to their computer system that the coaches run like clockwork by. Hmmmm. After having to buy another two tickets for us to get home (this time at £17.50 each) I checked our watch against the ‘systems’ time… our watch was 3 minutes faster, which meant we got there at 4 minutes to 5 by their system. So where was the coach if it left dead on 5!!!! Not even exhaust fumes were in the air when we got there. Not amused! To make the sting worse, the coach we came home on left 10 minutes late (as had the coach we came up on) with people getting on right up to that departure. And then for more salt in the wound, on the way home we got snarled up in not only rush hour traffic, but rush hour traffic snarled up and brought to a standstill by first an accident and then roadworks.

It’s got to be the train next time…. even if it costs more!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Wildlife Art Society weekend

This event is held every year at Nature In Art, Glos.
It’s a chance for some members to meet up, take part in organised workshops, listen to talks/presentations by professional artists or organisations connected with art or conservation and to generally have a good time.

This year it was held on the last weekend of the Annual exhibition. Originally, unfortunately, both events were due to take place in the week after the floods happened, so of course they had no choice but to postpone and re-arrange. Had the event not been postponed I would have been unable to submit anything for the Annual exhibition, but with the change in dates I could then put in two of the pieces that came back from NEWA (National Exhibition of Wildlife Art).

I was to tutor a batik workshop for the members and give a talk. The workshop was scheduled on the Saturday, which meant it was a bit rushed for them as they had to see how the technique worked, practise it and then do a finished piece in one day. This is a lot to ask people new to batik to do on a two-day workshop let alone a one-day! But we had fun and they all produced remarkable pieces of work for the time they had to do it in.

On Sunday, I was to give my talk, for which I had done a PowerPoint presentation on my job at the zoo. This was my first foray into the realms of PowerPoint, and though it’s very easy to pick up, I had a lot of work to do because it was extremely image heavy, as would be expected of an artist. It therefore took me a few weeks to ‘build’, refine and readjust and when finished it was a whopping 475mb big!! That had to be reduced and whilst this is extremely easy and straightforward on a PC – for some reason which I can’t quite fathom, the Mac OSX system won’t allow for easy compression of the whole document. So I started redoing each image – resizing – recropping etc, one at a time. This was a mega time consuming job and I was getting to the stage where I could see I would only get this finished if I did no other preparations for the workshop etc, which was completely impractical. So I took it into work (zoo) and had it compressed on a PC in the Education dept… reducing it from its grand 475mb stature to a skinny 26mb in one easy step. Something to remember for next time!

Prior to my talk there was to be a Critique given by Bas, who is a well-respected wildlife artist worldwide, he was Artist in Residence for that week. The idea of the Critique is for members to bring along a piece of work, which is hung in a ‘mini-exhibition’ with the members sat in audience as the chosen artist goes along and talks about each piece of work to the artist and group. He/she ideally picks up on what has worked well in each piece and suggests constructively what might be done to improve it, if anything at all.
I have sat through many of these in the past and had my work critiqued in this way… and whilst it may at first seem daunting it is actually quite invaluable to see you work through another’s eyes (especially a professional artist) and hear what is said… particularly the not so good comments. If you take the comments as they are meant – you can learn an awful lot. Of course, sometimes it’s hard to hear the comments, but if you want to improve and show your work on an increasingly professional level, then you must accept criticism be it the good or bad type, take what you need from it and go from there.

Before it took place Bas managed to persuade me to join him in doing the critique. I felt very honoured that he felt I was qualified enough to join him and I hope my input was as helpful as he said it was. It was another character building step and one that I am very glad to have done.

The weekend ended with the award/prize giving ceremony of both TWASI’s Annual Exhibition and the ‘Wildscape’ (UK’s only wildlife art magazine) Wildlife Artist of the Year Competition. I picked up Highly Commended in the TWASI Annual for my zebra foal pastel, which can be seen in my 'NEWA submissions' post in July.

For more information on Bas or The Wildlife Art Society see Links down the right handside of this page.