Monday, November 26, 2012

Artists For Conservation

I am very happy to post that I was recently invited to become a signature member of the prestigious Canadian wildlife art society, Artists For Conservation.

"The Artists for Conservation Foundation (AFC) is a non-profit, international organization dedicated to the celebration and preservation of the natural world. Based in Vancouver, Canada, the Foundation represents the world's leading collective of artists focused on nature and wildlife, with a membership spanning five continents and twenty-seven countries. The organization's mission is to support wildlife and habitat conservation, biodiversity, sustainability and environmental education through art that celebrates our natural heritage."

This society is limited to 500 artists of high quality work and standing, and as the membership stood at just over 490, I wondered how many others were being considered and what my chances were.

To join this society I sent examples of my work and my CV showing past and current support for wildlife conservation, I also had two artists who are already members support my submission with their own recommendation. Of course by applying I was hoping I would be accepted but there is always that nagging doubt that maybe you aren't good enough yet, or as the membership is limited that they haven't a place to offer yet. But the encouragement and support of the two wonderful artists who offered their recommendations spurred me on, it was time to broaden my horizons and begin to aim higher. This society was the one I wanted to aim for because the ethics of conservation is integral in the operation of their work. They support and encourage activity with artists in wildlife conservation and this aspect was important to me.

To have been accepted and invited is a great honour that I am truly overwhelmed by. I have yet to work on and 'go live' with my webpage on their site, as I am in the thick of working on George the gorilla. But once that is done I hope to get a visual presence on their webpage soon.

I hope you will visit their website through the link above. I will shortly put a proper link under my LINKS tab on the right of this page.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Little gorilla commission

I have just been commissioned to paint a small gorilla sculpture. I cannot say who or what it is for at this stage,what it will look like or any progress reports with photos. I will at some point in the future, when he is finished, post some photos and a piece about him.

But for the moment... here is George.....

Thanks go to Sarah, in the offices at the zoo for parting with him, he has sat in her window ledge for a long time and I believe she got very attached to him.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Artist in Residence Week

 As always I had a marvellous week at Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery as their artist in Residence. Although it was an unexpectedly quiet week, considering they had a new exhibition just open, I had enough folks coming in the studio to see what I was up to to stop me getting lonely and I got a good amount of painting done into the bargain.

I started the week working on the two bulls painting. I got the trunk of the right hand bull blocked in and then moved onto putting the texture and detailing in on the head and altered the front leading leg a bit. To get the feel of the skin being dust covered and caked in mud I use a dry brush over the blocked in sections. Once that was done I then moved onto the left hand bull putting in the lower sections. Then in my enthusiasm to keep going, as I was about to start the ear, I remembered I had to stop there to allow the lower sections and trunk of the other ellie, I had painted over the last two days, to dry before continuing.

As this painting is to be of specific individuals, I took care to suggest the creases and folds on the forehead and trunk from the photo reference I had. These lines form a pattern unique to the individual, so I am trying to get them right. The other telltale markers are the ears and tusks. I would not be so fussy if my painting was not to depict named individuals and was more generic. I'm hoping Dr Kate Evans of The Elephants For Africa Trust can identify the two bulls so that I can name them in the title of this piece. 

So I then started the next painting of the three bulls crossing the flood plain, as I described in my last post. I roughly sketched in the tree line with pale green paint thinned with liquin and then with a similar thinned mix of burnt sienna I drew in the elephants and was pleased that my feel for them was improving as I needed few alterations to my freehand drawings to sketch them in. Obviously when I come to paint them there will be refinements, for example enlarging the head on the bull to the far left.

Once that had dried over night I went over the whole canvas with a thin burnt sienna wash (thinned again with liquin to speed the drying time up) I then pushed the easel into the line of the heater airflow and fiddled about with other things and had long chats with folks whilst it dried for an hour or so.

I then did a mix of white, ultramarine and alizarin crimson with liquin for the sky and applied it to the canvas, including the deep edge sides and top. Once it was on, I felt it was a little too dark, so I paled it down a little with white, working wet into wet. 

Again I waited for it to dry for an hour or so before starting to add in the tree line, working as I always do from the horizon coming forwards as I progress through the scene. The photo I printed from my computer  of the background did not show up the lovely warmth of red tones in the reeds and vegetation so I am adjusting my painting to compensate for that. 

This is as far as I got before I had to stop and pack up to come home. I hope to continue this at home over the coming weeks as and when I can inbetween finishing off the larger two bulls painting.

Thank you to all those who popped in to see me, whether planned or by accident, it was lovely to see and meet you. I hope to be back there next year again.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Artist in Residence - Nature In Art

Today I head off to Gloucestershire and the wonderful Nature in Art Museum and Art Gallery to set up their studio for my week there as artist in residence. The museum is closed on Mondays so I have the day to myself to hang my work, set up the display tables and get myself 'settled in'.
This year I am back to being on my own for the week as I wanted to be able to show not only my general wildlife paintings but also have an area dedicated to showing my Botswana work so far and some of my zoo work. It has been a long time since I showed work from my job as the wildlife illustrator at Bristol Zoo, so I thought it was time to have a little display for that too.
I shall be working on the oil painting I started sometime ago of two bull elephants, which I hope I can crack on with and get near finishing.

And for the times when I am waiting for areas to dry etc I plan to start another elephant painting this time of three bulls striding out across a flood plain.  I've had this painting in mind for many months but couldn't decide on the composition or quite how I was going to approach it. I think I now have a plan in mind that I am happy with, so with any luck I hope to start to get something on the canvas for that too.
The museum is open Tuesdays - Sundays and I shall be there this week until Sunday 14th. If you are in the area please do pop in and come and chat to me.

The museum is a wonderful place to visit and has a lovely cafe for snacks, teas, coffees and lunches. There are also two special exhibitions on at the moment that wold be worth viewing....

Until November 25th
British Wildlife Photography Awards
The 90 winning and short-listed photographs from the 2012 competition. World class images celebrating the diversity of British fauna and flora and their environments.

October 2nd - 21st
Portrait of an Audience
A display from the Roses Theatre , Tewskesbury. 46 images celebrating their diverse audience

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Send A Cow's Win A Cow Competition

I was very pleased to be invited to submit a design for this competition and have sent them two. The first one appeared on their website today.
This is a great competition where you pick a name for the cow if you win and then pick from the artists designs how you want your cow painted. Of course this isn't a live cow but a life size fibreglass cow.
When I was invited I was more than happy to get involved as this organisation does fantastic work helping impoverished rural communities get on their feet by helping them be more successful farmers. These aren't big farms but the small pieces of land owned by families to grow and produce food to feed themselves.
Having a cow gifted to them provides not just milk but dung for fertiliser to improve their crop growth.
Please visit their website, Send A Cow, to find out more about their work and how you can help and support them.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Art in Penallt – The Nature of Things

Art exhibition Saturday 6th – Sunday 7th October 2012

Recently I was invited to exhibit work at an exhibition in Penallt,
Monmouthshire; I have not exhibited here before, but after looking at
their website I am very pleased to have been invited and I have
submitted three pieces of work to show there. This event is the
weekend just prior to my Artist in Residence week at Nature in Art so
apart from delivering my work on the Friday I sadly shall not see the
exhibition in its entirety as I shall be busy preparing for the week
ahead at Nature in Art.

The theme of the event is ‘art in nature and nature in art’ this year
and the exhibition is one of three events over the weekend. Please
click here to go to their website for more details.

On the home page if you click on 2012 in the ‘Pages’ box on the left
and then on ‘Artists’ you can see a list of the exhibitors (there are
over 30) and by clicking on each name you get to see an example of
their work with a short profile telling you about them.

This is one of the pieces I have submitted; this is of a bird from Australia called a little pied cormorant. I saw several of these birds in the Botanical Gardens in both Sydney and Brisbane and was struck by their small size and lovely plumage of black and white, with that striking yellow bill.

The other pieces I have entered are of a white rhino and a portrait of Salome and Komale, mother and son Western lowland gorillas, that are part of the family group at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Upcoming workshops

I have two workshops coming up, in the next two months, for batik and silk painting.

Batik – painting with wax Two day course - September 29th – 30th at the wonderful venue of
Nature in Art Museum and Art Gallery in Gloucestershire. Click on the link to go to their website.

Course description
Suitable for Beginners & Improvers
Learning to paint with wax and colour is great fun and even the most nervous beginner can
produce lovely designs and images within a very short space of time. Over the two days, after
getting familiar with the medium and equipment, we will be producing beautiful images that can
be hung on the wall or made into cushion covers etc from projects that I set or your own ideas.

Details and booking for this workshop/course can be found on their website; look under the
education tab on their home page and select adult classes from the drop down menu. A full
list of the courses for the year is displayed, simply click on my name, which brings up a pdf file
that has all the details for my course that you can either open or download to view. Alternatively
please call the museum on 01452 733942 or 731422 or ask when you next visit. I believe there
are a few spaces available so please do enquire at the museum if you are interested.

Nature in Art runs approximately 30 classes a year in a variety of subjects and cater to all levels
from beginners to advanced. Most courses are run by artists who have work in the Museum’s
collection and/or have been on their artist in residence programme. The courses are held in
their purpose built education centre and class sizes are kept between 6-12 people to ensure
you receive individual attention from the tutor whilst enjoying a sense of team spirit.

Autumnal silk painting course - One day course - 20th October with the Avon Gorge and
Downs Wildlife Project at Bristol Zoo Gardens. Click on the link to go to the website,

Course description
Suitable for everyone, including the artistically challenged!
Let the colours and shapes of autumn inspire you! In this workshop, Su Lees, Bristol Zoo’s
Wildlife Illustrator, will show you how easy and fun it is to create silk paintings.

Details and booking for this workshop/course can be found on their website; on their home page
click on the ‘What’s on’ tab and then the ‘Events’ tab. Contact details are shown, as is the list
of events for the year, of which my workshop is one. Alternatively please call Mandy Leivers on
0117 9030609 or e-mail for details and booking. I believe there are
a few spaces available so please do enquire at the museum if you are interested.

The Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project was set up to protect the outstanding wildlife interest
of the Avon Gorge and Downs and to raise awareness and understanding about the importance
of this site for people and wildlife.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

September October plans

I have worked part-time at the zoo since 2004 and this is arranged into 3 days a week for 9 months of the year. Up until this year those three months at home were back to back from January to March. This year a different arrangement is being trialed whereby those three months are split in two, so now I have January, September and October off.
These months at home are for me to concentrate on my fine artwork business. This September and October are going to be busy as I have 1 one day workshop, 1 two day workshop, a six day artist in residency and I am exhibiting in an exhibition. On top of the preparations for all those, I have my accounts to finish, updating to be done on my blogs, a number of other bits and pieces as well as lots of painting towards my Botswana exhibition project.

So far I have finished the accounts and delivered the paperwork, visited a gallery-for-hire space to check it out for my Botswana exhibition project, met Joanna from Send A Cow Charity about a project they are doing and that I have been invited to be involved with, worked on a slideshow (Botswana images) to show during my artist in residence week, bought supplies for the first workshop, put together a 2013 calendar to be produced online, started on all my labels and signs for the residency as well as catching up on a load of gardening and paperwork sorting that were both long overdue and lots of other little jobs.

Now that my shoulder is improving I can get on with the work that has had to be put on hold for the last three months. This last week has been mainly spent in front of the computer but I am hoping that now I have the most urgent jobs done or started I can now get down to some painting... again it's been several months since I have been able to do such work because of my frozen shoulder problem. I am looking forward to sploshing some paint ... the elephants I started a while ago are sending out lots of rumbles; calling me to finish them.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Batik Workshop

The year has moved around again and once more it is time for Summer School. This annual event is held at The Beaufort Community School in Gloucester and is organised by the Gloucester Arts and Crafts Group. Over a week, during the school's summer holidays, the group takes over numerous classrooms with which to provide various workshops at a very reasonable price. These workshops range from 2 to 5 day courses and covers subjects such as jewellery making, painting, sculpture, wood chair making, silk painting, mossaic's and batik.

My batik course runs for the full 5 days and this year I have 6 students, all ladies; four of whom have been on my course in previous years. Yesterday was Day One; the weather was hot and sunny (for a change) and I took the two newcommers, Avril and Monica, through the process of using the wax, building layers, colour mixing, brush and tjanting use and creating textures. They both seem to be enthused and I look forward to seeing their creations that they produce through the week.

Del, Jenny, and Gill have all been before and quickly got back into the swing of things, they started off with easier projects to 're-aqauaint' themselves with the medium. Hazel is only coming in for two days this year (Thursday and Friday) and Gill has to go back to work on Tuesday as one of her colleagues is on jury service.

Teaching is a little more tricky for me this year as I am currently in Phase One of a frozen shoulder, I had a steroid injection into the joint last Monday and this now seems to be lowering the amount of pain  but not taken it away completely, so I am finding leaning over the table  and not being able to sit and rest my arm during the day a little uncomfortable at the moment. Hopefully that will improve during the week.

We are in for a week of beautiful sunshine and fun playing with batik.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Silk Painting Workshop

In October I shall be tutoring a one day workshop of silk painting. This is part of the Avon Gorge and Down Wildlife Project's activities for the Autumn and the idea will be to go up onto the Downs to gather ideas and references like leaves, berries and seed heads in the morning. In the afternoon we shall then do some lovely creative work turning these references into beautiful images to reflect the autumnal colours and shapes.

If you are interested in taking part in this workshop please contact Mandy Leivers via the Avon Gorge and Downs link on the right hand side of this page.

New painting started - Two bulls

I'm really excited about doing this piece as I'm going to attempt a looser approach with it. I did a small study that was quite loose (for me) and liked the feel of it, so I am going to go for it with this one too. To help me keep loose I have prepared a 20" x 30" canvas (more space than I'm used to, to fill) and all my reference pictures that I am going to have on hand will be out of focus shots I have taken of bull elephants!

I saw these two particular bulls whilst in the Okavango Delta one evening as we drove down past the airstrip. They were hanging out together and I thought it would make a nice change to have a "buddy" pic of two bull elephants rather than a pair of rivals clashing/sparring. I know the latter is greatly dramatic but I kinda like showing the quieter side of elephant life.

Bull elephants have buddy groups and, when they are not in musth, they hang out with each other. So they are not the solitary animals that they were once thought to be. They are very social and the big older bulls act as teachers and role models for the younger bulls, who will often form an attachment to them, passing on their vast stored knowledge of resources and the land they roam just as the matriarchs do in the female society.

I am hoping Dr Kate Evans, whom I stayed with at their research camp in the Delta, can remember or recognise these two fellas as I'd really like to name them in the title. The finished painting (should it turn out well) will go towards the body of work I shall exhibit as a result of that trip to raise funds and awareness for the Elephants For Africa Trust.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Hollywood Towers Estate sketching 7th March

This is my first trip out to the estate (H.T.E.) this year and it was a glorious afternoon. I usually go out in the morning’s, when I visit, but after chatting with my boss, Phil, he agreed I could swap over to the afternoon to try and take advantage of the better weather that was forecast. I have an ongoing “project” to make a sketch/photo archive of the Estate before it gets developed for the zoo’s new venture – The National Wildlife Conservation Park

And as part of my “in-house” training I have a free sketch morning every two weeks – work allowing. Of course that does mean that there are weeks when I cannot get out for my “free” sketch mornings, so I really appreciate it when I can.

The day was a mix of bright sunshine, cloud cover and some rain, but as the afternoon approached thankfully most of the rain had moved on. Still it was cold and a wee bit blustery, especially on in the wooded escarpment. At times the wind picked up and howled through the bare tree branches, sending icy chills through me even though I had dressed accordingly with thermals, thick warm coat, scarf and wellies. It was quite squidgey in places underfoot, too and a few times I nearly came a cropper on the steep muddy tracks through the trees.

But what a fab day it was… the light was gorgeous and the Spring flowers were showing.


The snowdrops were as good as finished apart from a few patches here and there, the daffodils were starting to look good, primroses were starting to flower and I even saw one or two bluebell heads just breaking into colour. I started the afternoon sitting to one side the driveway that leads up to the manor house. I had been told there was a good show of daffodils here, so I got out my new comfier foldaway chair and sat to sketch them. A fine investment of £5 in the January sales! Much better than the tripod stool I have used for the last 20 or so years!

After about an hour I had finished my sketch - using an ink drawing pen followed by watercolour paint. I had gotten quite cold, sitting still for that time, so I marched on across the fields towards the wooded escarpment, which warmed me up nicely. Just as well, because it was a bit chillier in under the trees, out of direct sunlight!

Roe deer buck - Not a great photo, but the best I could get in the low light

Wildlife-wise during the afternoon I saw a rabbit and roe deer about 20 times (although I am sure a number of these were the same animals) especially towards the end of the afternoon in the wood. The bucks are in velvet and several of both sexes looked quite scruffy coat-wise on their backs- I guess they are moulting out their thicker winter coats now. Late afternoon I saw the resident male fox with his strong orange coloured coat. He trotted along the wood path towards me, stopped, watched me for about 30 seconds before turning and making his escape quickly.


Buzzards hung in the wind hanging almost stationary in the air above the treetops, catching the strong updrafts that must sweep up the Bristol Channel, across the flat land before hitting and rising up and through the trees over the escarpment. There were clear views across to the Estuary and I could see both Severn Crossing bridges clearly. Jays, crows, blackbirds and numerous other birds called, some warning about my approach to all who wanted to listen as I walked or sat in the woods.

I sat in one of the large “bowls” on the lower side of the wood. I had spotted my first deer of the day, a pair of roe walking by higher on the slope. They did not seem aware of me and ambled by slowly without even glancing in my direction. I set myself up in my chair against the trunk of a large tree to get a little protection from the icy wind blowing through. I kept my eyes open for more deer as I sketched, but didn’t see any until an hour or so later as I walked on through the woods, taking the long route on the way back to my car.

Looking up from one of the "bowls" at the west end of the wood

Sitting in the bowl I had a panoramic view of the wood.. it is still open and airy whilst there are no leaves on the trees… but it won’t be long before it will feel dark and enclosed by the summer’s canopy.

I sketched a fallen moss covered branch and got even colder than earlier.
As the afternoon wore on, I phoned in with the garden department, that are permanently on site, to let them know I would be staying after their clocking off time; it was arranged that I would drop the keys into one of the one-site cottages as I left so that they would know I was safe and off site.

I wanted to see the sun go down and experience the wood at this time.
As I walked on I had no need to hurry - unlike when I am there in the mornings, when I have to get back to the zoo to work. It was wonderful to have that time and to be able to stop and watch the deer. For most of the time the strong gusting wind was in my favour, being downwind my sounds and smell did not reach the deer as they walked through the lower part of the wood. However, as the wood is so open at the moment, it was easy for them to see me so I was careful to use large trees to hide behind, if I spotted them first.

Late afternoon sun

The lowering orangey light, shining through the trees in a few places, looked stunning. By the time I got back up to the walled garden, where I had parked my car earlier, it was sundown. I got a few photo’s of trees silhouetted against the sunset. Perfect end to a wonderful afternoon.

Sundown silhouettes

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Happy New Year!

Already the end of the first week of the New Year is almost upon us. There is a change to what has become normal for me over the last 8 years after Christmas and New Year. I have changed the time I have off from the zoo around. Instead of the three month period running Jan, Feb and March now it is split into two blocks- January and then September/October. This will hopefully benefit the zoo in that I shall be at work there in the run up to Easter and the Summer Season (the busiest time for me) and my time away will coincide more with the quieter times of my work calendar. From a personal view it should help me financially and the light in Sept and Oct will be better for painting. Also as I have been doing my artist in residency in Oct these last two years, it means I don’t need to use paid holiday from the zoo to do that. So, hopefully better all round.

At the moment I have my head stuck in a pile of receipts etc preparing my accounts, trying to get them done so I can get on with some painting. And just today a new superdooper light has arrived for me to clamp to my easel. I have invested in a new daylight tube lamp which a few of my friends use and have recommended to me. I am keen to try it out; it should help enormously at this time of year with bad light from gloomy weather and nights drawing in around 3.30-4pm.

Of course the cats are enjoying the fact that I am home; and right now I have one sat on my lap as I am sat here at the computer and the other has only just settled down to sleep after pestering me on and off all day to brush and play with him!