Thursday, November 27, 2008

Slimbridge Winter Festival 29 & 30 November

Something new for me this year is the Winter Festival at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Glos. Not having done anything like this before I’m looking forward to the new experience this weekend.

It is a shopping fair with stalls displaying a wide range of gifts, food and drink and arts and craft produce. I shall have a stall in the foyer of the entrance and shall have cards, prints and a small selection of framed and unframed originals on sale.

Here are some of the unframed originals I shall be taking with me.

Barrow's goldeneye - pastel

Black swan cygnet - charcoal sketch

Grey squirrel - pastel

They were each done from reference I had gathered at Slimbridge WWT a few years ago as I was preparing for an exhibition I did there with my good friend and fellow artist, Marion Kardasz.

Talking of which......

Future exhibition

Just recently we were given confirmation that Marion and I shall have another exhibition in the Cheng-Kim Loke Wildlife Art Gallery at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre in the early summer of 2010. It may be a way off, but it’s not a great deal of time to get a good amount of extra new work ready, over and above the exhibitions etc that we normally submit work for…. so we shall have to fit turbo’s to our brushes!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oil painting workshop - 7th November

This workshop was held in Hempsted, just outside of the city of Gloucester. An enthusiastic and friendly group greeted me, which were a mix of ‘never used oils before’ to those that were much more familiar with this medium.

Aware of the varying degrees of familiarity of this medium I started with a quick introduction to various techniques that can be used, before doing a quick demo by painting a little African landscape for them. I had done a 'test run' of this wet into wet demo piece before the workshop, which you can see below on the right.

At home, it took me about 40 minutes to do. I used a gouache sketch (above left) I did in situ in Swaziland as my source of reference, as this was already simple and uncluttered with detail. The idea behind it was to show how I used oils when working wet into wet fairly loosely and it would help show some of the techniques, I would go over that morning, actually being used to create an image. Also that a reasonable image can be achieved quite quickly; which when I'm watching a demo, I always find inspiring... and I wanted to try to do the same and inspire those that had not used oils before.
The one I did in the workshop (lower right) took a little longer as I was chatting a lot as I painted and turned out a little differently as I find it hard painting from the side of my piece rather than in front.... but some in the workshop preferred this version.

I also took along some 'work in progress' pieces so they could see examples of underpainting, using coloured grounds, building an image up, working wet onto dry, blending etc.
It was good to hear afterwards that some of those that had used the medium for years learnt new techniques and those that had not tried oils before because they weren't sure they'd like the medium, were inspired to do so.

Then it was over to them to paint their own piece of work for the rest of the morning and afternoon, whilst I wandered around helping out when needed. A day is often never enough to get to grips with a new medium, it's kind of like a 'taster'. I have found that people who have used watercolour for years and therefore normally paint in washes of colour, find it hard to switch instantly to paint opaquely. Applying the paint thickly enough so as not to see the canvas underneath is not 'natural' to a pure watercolourist and goes against all they have been taught before; it's just a matter of getting used to doing something another way and hopefully with a little encouragement and time it will feel more comfortable to do so, should they wish to play more with oils.
When I paint with oil paints I do not use them thickly... I use just enough paint to hid the canvas/board, so it is still quite thinly applied. Not only does this help the piece to dry quicker and make it easier to photograph, but I personally do not like a lumpy surface to my work and try to keep it pretty flat and smooth, if I can. There are times when a little texture enhances what I want to achieve, but it's never very much.
That's one of the great things with a medium like oils... it can be used in numerous ways to create totally different looking finishes to work, so it becomes quite personal to the individual whether you paint with it or just admire a piece of work done with it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and had a lovely day with them all and hope they had a great day playing with oils.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Autumnal silk painting workshop - Oct 25th

This workshop was done in conjunction with the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project (AG&DWP) with whom I have done several workshops before and was organised by Mandy, the Avon Gorge and Downs Biodiversity Education Officer as part of her events calendar for the year. It was held in the Education Centre at Bristol Zoo Gardens, where Mandy and her work is based.

It was a one day event held at Bristol Zoo Gardens and we had two aims for the day... Firstly to heighten the variety of wildlife and conservation interest of the area of the Avon Gorge and the Downs (an open space of land for recreation and relaxation in the city of Bristol) and secondly to introduce people to the fun of silk painting.

After an initial brief introduction demo of silk painting we walked from the zoo, where the AG&DWP is based, up onto the Downs where we ambled through the long grasses and amongst the Autumnal trees and shrubs getting inspiration and lots of interesting facts and info from Mandy on the plants and animals of the Downs. We collected leaves, berries and dried seed heads and grasses to take back with us to draw our designs from.

Back in the classroom the next task was to draw a design or image using the various bits that had been collected or from some pictures we had to hand. Then after drawing this onto the silk they applied a coloured gutta, following their lines and even embellishing them in places. The gutta then had to be dried and as the weather was cold and damp and with a short amount of time we used hair dryers to get the gutta as dry as we could before applying the silk paints and creating wonderfully coloured pieces of work.

There’s a lot to fit into a day like this, and despite having such a short time to produce a silk painting in with the problems and constraints this caused; everyone did amazingly well and I was delighted with their results…. I hope they were too.

Many thanks to Mandy for organising a lovely day again and to all the people who attended; it was lovely meeting them all, some not for the first time, and seeing the wonderful silk paintings they created.

For more information on The Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project please click on its name in my links list on the right hand side of the page.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wildscape magazine

I am currently writing an article to go in the Wildscape magazine sometime next year, possibly in the late Spring/early Summer issue. This article will be about my job as a zoo wildlife illustrator. I love writing and it has been quite a trial to keep the wording down, whilst trying to explain my job in an interesting and informative way….. it’s not quite as straight forward as I thought.
As it’s for a wildlife art magazine, an important element must be the art side of the job- what I’m required to do and how I go about it what mediums, techniques, constraints etc that I use and have. But as almost half my time is doing other jobs and not illustrating, I need to cover them as well to explain my job fully. And of course I can’t leave out the animals - the experiences I have had during the years working there with them. – I could write a very long feature just on that alone!
So there seems to be so much to include..... but with a limit on words it's challenging deciding what to keep in or take out.

The Wildscape magazine is a UK produced wildlife art publication available only by subscription. Their website is in my links list on the right hand side of this page.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Artist In Residence at Nature In Art 18-24 August

Our week as artists in residence went very well, Julie and I had a lovely week catching up with each other and meeting regular and new visitors, which is always great fun.

Because of all the chat, I didn’t quite finish the ellie painting,
as was my goal... I still have quite a way to go, as you can see below. But nevertheless I was pleased with what I had achieved.

Here's me hard at work trying to look like I was concentrating and serious, as Julie takes the photo!

This painting is now on hold as I get two commissions done for Christmas.