Tuesday, August 30, 2011


On the Itchen Navigation south of Winchester near St Catherine’s Hill there is a beautifully managed hay meadow. Last week it was at its best long grasses flowering plants offering cover and insects for a flock of jackdaws – a perfect subject. Here’s how it looked with the birds obscured most of the time:-

The only way I was going to make a wildlife painting of it was to take lots of pictures of the birds through a 400mm lens as they displayed themselves. The sketch is a draft compositional study where I’ve tried to capture the different postures of the birds.

I’ve used Rowney FW acrylic inks on a heavy buff coloured pastel paper. I’ll take the study further using soft pastel.

Friday, August 26, 2011

THE DAILY DRAWINGS - well they were once

I did these quick sketches at Mary Arden's House near Stratford upon Avon, a week ago. I'm not sure what breed the cockerell is; the nearest I can get from a chart is a 'Dorking Chicken.' I was hoping I could call him something more exciting. Charles Tunnicliffe did a lovely watercolour of a similar bird being buffeted in a gale. He called it ‘Cock in the wind’ so perhaps he wasn’t quite sure of the breed either. The painting is reproduced in ‘Tunnicliffe’s Birdlife.’ by Noel Cusa.

The second sketch is of a European Long-Eared Owl. I just had time to make a few lines when he was taken away to show his skills. Wild birds only do what they want not always what their handler would like. This owl made one impressive flight onto the lure and no way was he going to repeat the performance. He was a massive bird and obviously he’d decided to save his energy by hopping the short distance to get his meal rather than by taking to the air.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The fairy world has a darker side quite different from fairies as beautiful children with wings on their backs. There is the dark world of Goblins who can attack us and eat up our memory – yes I think I’ve encountered a few Goblins recently.

There was a giclee by Sir Peter Blake of a brick wall with an overgrown border in front – the title ‘I saw a Fairy in my Garden Today.’ Well I’ll have to take his word for it. Then there was a dark little etching by Paula Rego of a woman reading a bedtime story to her child. Neither looked very happy – under the bed a face with a grotesque leer and hovering over the bed a strange creature with massive wings and claws – so no wonder!

The closest I came to liking the stuff in this gallery came with an invitation to open a cupboard. It had an installation ‘The Skullship and the Galls’ by Tessa Farmer. Here it is – there are fairies – I caught one and displayed it as an inset.

I find there's something attractive about it - it's how the natural world is - but it has nothing to do with fairytales.

Mottisfont, a National Trust property near Romsey, Hampshire is offering a summer of magic, mystery and discovery until 2nd. October. There is an art exhibition which explores the theme of ‘fairytales’. There are 30 original watercolours by Cicely Mary Barker painted to illustrate a series of Children’s books. These were published by Frederick Warne. Warne were Beatrix Potter’s publisher and they used a similar format for Barker’s ‘Flower Fairies.’ TM

There was also a nice drawing by Arthur Rackham he was a prolific illustrator of children’s books –best known in this field for the illustrations he did for an edition of ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales. CMB’s illustration was taken from the National Trust flier advertising the exhibition – the Nat. Trust logo at top left – gives the game away it’s not part of her original art work!

It’s worth running a Google search on both Barker and Rackham – they’re interesting artists and both worked at a ‘day job’ until they got established. That’s familiar territory for most of us isn’t it?

They both worked in ink, watercolour, and gouache and the linework of both is superb. Worth studying and making a copy.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

IN FAIRYLAND: pictures from the Elf World.

On our wedding anniversary last week Sheila gave me a charming card with this cover design. An apt choice because I’d been chasing butterflies in the garden for days – without much success! Getting good photographs of butterflies is hard - sketching them even harder. I persevered hoping to find new wildlife subjects to paint.

Nowadays figurative wildlife art is very much concerned with accurate objective representation. This design taken from a 19th century lithograph is an expression of romantic fantasy. The title of the lithograph is ‘The Fairy Queen’s Carriage’. The complete lithograph shows an airborne Fairy Queen sitting on a stalk of apple blossom drawn along by the butterflies.

We’re off to Stratford tomorrow to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ back to enjoy Shakespeare’s fairy queen this time.

The artist is Richard Doyle 1824-1883 and the lithograph is part of The Stapleton Collection/The Bridegman Art Library.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Yesterday the daily draw became absorbed into the beginnings of a watercolour. I didn’t want the Little owl project to go off the boil. With owls the eyes are the expressive element for me so after making a careful pencil drawing that’s where I began to apply colour.

The image has been cropped out of a quarter sheet of Saunders Waterford so there will be room to add an environmental background.

Monday, August 08, 2011


Daily if I can! This is a Little Owl drawn from memory. It’s the smallest UK owl and we got acquainted at the nearby Kington Rare Breeds Centre where he posed for a digital photograph.

I had a long look (10mins) at the image last night to try and memorise the owl’s basic shape and proportions. Then I concentrated on the feather pattern and finally the feet and beak. Then off to bed.

The drawing was made this morning in a cartridge paper sketchbook with a Pentel Sepia Colour Brush. He’s a nice compact form that I was able to record with light nervous touches. Then suggestions of the feather structure were added. I think it’s vital not to overdo this kind of sketch – a mistake I often made with earlier drawings.

I’m reasonably happy with this drawing as a quick statement but there are things I remember that have been missed. The head was tilted slightly upwards as he looked at me and the eyes were large and bright to give a lovely alert expression. Reason for another look at the photograph.!

I developed this obsession with memory drawing from studying the work of Lars Jonsson at an exhibition he had at Slimbridge. He does lovely watercolours of seabirds from a campervan parked on the seashore. He observes the birds intensely for about 15 minutes then works from memory. That’s a process he has to repeat if the bird moves of flies away
Not being as skilled as Lars I have to resort to dozens of photographs. They don’t always give you what’s needed and a quick drawing from direct observation can sometimes reveal a pose or a change of direction that the camera missed.
The drawing was done in the time it takes to drink 2 cups of coffee. I’ll use the stopwatch on my iphone for a more accurate check in future!

Sunday, August 07, 2011


I admire the work of Kate Atkinson who is a member of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) because of its expressive quality which verges on abstraction. I was taken by the following quote from her page on the SWLA website.

“Over my son's school life I have documented as often as possible the twenty minutes or so when the bus comes, by making gouache and sometimes acrylic paintings very fast and without forethought. They are as much about the weather and light as about the changing fieldscapes over the seasons.”

Setting aside a time each day for practice is a good idea which I’m trying to follow. I’ve not managed Kim’s ‘Daily Painting’ method – it’s simpler use of the time to draw. Fast drawing without forethought doesn’t produce results I feel I can show anybody so I’ve developed a memory training variant. This sketch was made in an A5 sketchbook with a Pentel Colourbrush. I looked hard at the subject for 5 minutes then made the drawing from memory.

Here’s a link to Kim Atkinson’s page on the SWLA website where you can see some samples of her ‘Daily Paintings’


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Thursday, August 04, 2011


The Ludlow Art Society is showing commendable foresight by accepting digital prints for its 65th Summer Exhibition. Here are the 3 prints I will be sending in.

The Exhibition will be at the Harley Centre, Ludlow. 20th - 29th August. 10.00am to 5.00pm
The starting point for my digital prints is a freehand drawing made with pen or pencil which is scanned and saved as a digital file. This is then opened in Corel Painter X. for further hand drawn additions using a stylus and graphics tablet.

The finished artwork is printed on Somerset Enhanced Velvet paper using archival quality inks. Somerset Velvet is a paper made from cotton fibres specially for fine art reproduction.

All of my digital prints are published as signed numbered limited editions. The numbering is shown to the left of the signature below the print.

The permanence and lightfastness of the print is comparable to a watercolour.