Sunday, 26 February 2012

'A Brush with Nature' workshop - Testwood Lakes

I have always loved teaching this workshop and it seems to be quite a popular one over the last few years that I have taught it - mainly with the Hants and IOW Wildlife Trust.  This year we were at Testwood Lakes, a reserve managed by the Trust on the western side of Southampton.

It was a beautiful day with the sun streaming through the windows, but alas we were so engrossed in the natural treasures inside that we didn't venture out.

In the classroom we were lucky enough to have the use of several preserved birds and there were other delights such as an intact wasp's nest with its subtle colours and layers pierced at times by twigs from a vine, that had previously supported it.  My absolute favourite was a Harvest mouse nest, which I just cannot wait to draw and paint.  I have some reference photos previously taken at Slimbridge of some Harvest mice, so I hope to combine the two subjects - maybe to exhibit at the Marwell Exhibition in October, we shall see.

Back to the workshop - I had five lovely students (Roger, Mary, Eve, Clare and Jaen), who were very enthusiastic and once over the initial trepidation produced some stunning work.  I was pleased that we focused on the importance of drawing, particularly in the approach that I take to natural history illustration.  Quite often, when time is limited, drawing can sometimes be slightly forgotten about in the rush to apply colour.  But in todays case, everybody really put the effort into the drawing as well as the colour - so well done :)  Photos follow below.

By then end of the day I think everbody felt satisfied and with tired eyes and beautiful artwork we all headed home.


Eve concentrated on drawing a piece of driftwood, portraying the varying depths of tone and the grain / texture of the wood.  Once completed she added a pale wash of brown watercolour across the work.  This helped to set the graphite on the page and also gave a degree of warmth to the subject.

Clare completed some tonal studies of natural objects, first concentrating on a bleached white shell and differentiating between the fine lines on the shell and the overall tone of the subject.  She then did some lovely delicate studies of the maple seed above and features of the Tawny owl model in the classroom.

Jaen loves colour and she really ensured that the drawing was accurate before she added her array of colours.  We looked at ways that she could portray the irredescence of the inside of shells using watercolour, without having to use white paint as the base colour.  It's amazing what colours you can see when you really take the time to look at something !

Mary initially worked on a small study of a Physalis fruit and whilst letting the layers of watercolour dry, she started to draw this sheep's horn.  It had ridges radiating down from the top to the narrow end and she was able to portray these without drawing every single one, but still giving an accurate representation of the subject.

Roger really wanted to explore the qualities of different grades of pencil and to concentrate on what can be achieved, whether it be making a few lines to represent a subject or completing a more detailed drawing but using some broad pencil movements.  He achieved both, but particularly the latter, using a model of a Coot and drawing it with a softer grade of pencil such as a 6B.

Friday, 17 February 2012

New website

At last my new website is up and running and is live as from now !  Hopefully there are not too many glitches, although the 'contact page' is not yet active.

Enjoy and the address is:

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

New Year, new approach !

The allium lino-cut design has been put on hold this week as I have got my teeth into some more acrylic work.

This I tried for the first time last year on a smaller scale, but now I am working on a piece which is 40cms square.  The support is a natural linen canvas already primed (from Pebeo), and I love to keep the colour of the canvas as the background colour rather than cover it in pigment.

I suppose what I am trying to do is to take botanical portraiture in a different direction for me.

The subject is a cluster of Hornbeam seeds, that I found still hanging from a tree.  As some of you know, I love to paint brown subjects and this is definately proving to be a challenge !

I'll keep you posted on the progress, but in the meantime here are some initial images to keep you going.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Allium lino-cut

In July I visited my friend's farm in Devon.  In her vegetable garden were some onions that had some flowering tops emerging.  I just loved the way they all stood at different angles and the character of each flower head and how the delicate paper-like sheath was coming off of some of them.


Over the last couple of weeks I have been trying to decide how to portray them - the delicate detail of the flower heads lend themselves to watercolour, but their structure has persuaded me to create a
lino-cut of them.

Above is the first preliminary sketch with the main subjects that I want to include.  I have tried to keep it simple too.  I may even include some other plants in the design too - Fennel comes to mind.

The following pictures are from the veg garden on a sunny July day last year.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

'Fur & Feathers'

Had a really good day today taking a workshop at Rowlands Castle Painting Society.  The subject was 'fur and feathers', and I initially introduced techniques using colour pencils - blending colours using blending pencils and pen, leaving highlights, using embossing tools and how to capture iridescence in plumage such as Peacock and Hummingbird feathers. 

As well as using colour pencils we also used watercolour paint - favourite subjects closen from the resource table included jewel-like Jay's feathers and profile views of a Fox.

All of the students worked so hard and as you can see the results are amazing.

Thank you to all for making me so welcome !  (more pictures below)