Saturday, December 29, 2012

Slow Progress on the Foxes

Progress has been slow on the foxes because I've spent time doing things with the family over the Christmas period.
I'm going to Scotland for a few days from tomorrow but I intend to finish all the pieces I've started before the end of January. Expect to see the bear, foxes, pheasants and a leopard all of which are in varying stages of completion.

I'm deciding what my artistic aims are for 2013 so that will be my first post of the new year.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Red Fox - Part 2

I'm working slowly on the foxes in between starting my Christmas preparations. I alternate working on the leaves with the fox to hopefully keep both fresh. My aim is to finish the top left corner next.
I am impressed with how well the pastelmat is taking both paint and pastel.

I decorated my tree on Friday much to the delight of Cody who likes to investigate the bottom branches. We are always careful to put anything edible on the top branches, it's amazing how far collie necks can stretch to investigate chocolate.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Red Fox and Cub on Pastelmat

I don't think I've ever neglected my blog for so long but I'm back now. I had a few days away demonstrating and then caught a horrible cold which developed into a never ending cough. I'm still coughing but starting to feel slightly more human.

I'm giving the bear a rest due to having 'bear overload' painting for four long days while demonstrating at the NEC.

This is mixed media on brown pastelmat, probably one of the largest paintings I've attempted as it will end up about 28 x 20 inches.
The fox cub is a mixture of soft pastels and pastel pencils and the leaves are watercolour. I'll add the detail to the leaves in pastel later.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Solo Exhibition at Sunnyhurst Wood Visitor Centre

My solo exhibition is now on until the 03/02/2013 at the Sunnyhurst Wood visitor Centre.

The  old Keepers cottage pictured above now serves as a visitor centre and art gallery. If you want to visit the winter opening hours are Thursday to Sunday 12.00 to 3.30pm and the exhibition is on the second floor.
Link : Sunnyhurst wood Visitor Centre

My paintings were hung by two exceedingly pleasant and helpful men, thank you Pete and Keith for all your efforts.

The light was not very good when I went to take some photographs but the above show two ends of the large room.
I took a mix of original work and limited edition prints, 33 pieces in all covering a wide price range. Each piece has been numbered and a list prepared with the title, medium and price so that viewers have something to refer to when walking round.

I had several photographs taken for the local paper so my one hope is that I don't look as awful as I do on my passport photograph. Watch this space I'll post the article when it appears.

Thank you also to Margery for making us welcome and keeping the Nuthatches supplied with nuts so that I could take some nice photographs.

I'm considering taking some pencils and going to do some drawing there one Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Second Attempt at a Grizzly Bear

The first grizzly bear had an accident with my airbrush which decided to splutter and spit blobs of paint out. The result was a bear that looked like he had a bad case of measles.
I decided to paint him this time using acrylic on prepared mdf board.
I haven't got very far yet as I've had a busy few weeks.
My youngest son graduates tomorrow and the ceremony is in London at the Royal Albert Hall.
My solo exhibition starts on the 3rd of November and I have to deliver everything to the venue next Monday and then I'm demonstrating at Art Materials Live at the NEC for four days in November.
Plus I have to fit in some blood tests and an opticians visit in the next couple of weeks. However once I get to the middle of November I have nothing else planned for the rest of the year so should return to posting on a more regular basis.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Do You Feel More Emotionally Attached to a Painting if You have Seen the Animal in its Environment?

.I'm currently working on a grizzly bear, mixed media on Arches hot press watercolour paper

Whilst on holiday in Canada I was lucky enough to see grizzly bears in the wild although not close enough to get good photographs. However a couple of days after seeing them in the wild we visited the British Columbia wildlife park. They had two young grizzly bears, a brother and sister who had arrived at the park when their mother was killed. I took a lot of photographs of the bears interacting and doing their own thing. Eventually I want to paint a large picture of them play fighting.
As I've never painted a bear I decided to start with one bear in a straight forward pose.
I was drawn to this photo both because of the bears expression and the lighting.
I'm not planning on adding a background although I might airbrush some blurry foliage later.

As I'm working on the bear I can remember the details of the day, but more than that I can picture the wild grizzlies in their natural environment. I certainly have a stronger emotional attachment to this painting than some of my others.
I had already seen grizzlies in captivity and one distant view of a wild bear on previous trips to Canada but this was the first time I'd watched one for quite a long time behaving in a totally natural manner which to a greater or lesser extent captive animals don't.
It's leading me to think that not only should I use my own reference material but in order to give something of myself to the work perhaps I should only draw or paint animals or birds I have seen in the wild.
That doesn't mean I'll never paint another tiger or snow leopard but perhaps less often than in the past.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Same Wolf, Different Technique

I painted this wolf recently using a mixed media technique and although it turned out reasonably well it wasn't quite what I'd wanted to achieve.
One of my favourite wildlife artists is Carl Brenders who uses a technique which includes the use of airbrush.
My airbrush was hiding in a dark corner of the attic so I rescued it, brushed off the cobwebs and tried to use it. Having been ignored for so long it flatly refused to allow any paint through the nozzle. However several hours of coaxing, bullying and finally taking it to bits restored function.
I started by painting in some of the dark fur in sepia watercolour then blocking in some colour using the airbrush. The next step was starting to paint in the fur using gouache which is the stage I'm currently working on.
I'm not sure how much longer I can resist completing the eyes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Harrogate Autumn Flower Show

I spent last Friday, Saturday and Sunday exhibiting with Made in Yorkshire at the Harrogate Autumn Flower show.
A big thank you to Tracey, Ollie, the other exhibitors and the visitors for making it a really enjoyable weekend.
I didn't feel that it was quite as busy as previous shows and wondered if some potential visitors had been put off after the car parking nightmare at both Spring Flower Show and the Great Yorkshire Show. At those shows the grass car parking had turned to mud resulting in many cars having to be pushed or pulled from the field.
Or possibly with the bad weather this summer people are forgetting about their gardens until next year.
I had a reasonable show with my best selling prints being the three graphite big cats which are now available from my website.
Click on the title to visit my website or email me at if you are interesting in purchasing or want any further information.

'Stolen Moment'
'Snow Patrol'

 The weather was reasonable right up to around 5.15 on the last day when it started raining. By the time the exhibitors were packing up the light rain had turned into a cloud burst. Unfortunately the car was a few minutes walk away. After the first journey the ground water I splashed through met the rain hurling down somewhere in the middle and left me completely soaked from top to bottom.
It was a rather miserable journey home.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Painting a Little Owl in Chromacolour

I'm back home from holiday but still feeling jet lagged. We had a fantastic time but it is always nice to come home, and then start planning for next year!

I'll be demonstrating for Chromacolour at Art Materials Live which is held at the NEC in November. I'm painting some small pieces to leave in various stages of completion to give people an idea of my technique with acrylic. As  paint really slowly I thought if I had a few different pieces I could work on over the four days I could demonstrate feathers, fur, eyes etc
This is a Little Owl from my own reference photograph, 8 x 6, chromacolour on mdf board.
I'm using a mix of raw and burnt umber, ultramarine blue, paynes grey and white for the feathers.

I will work this to completion because I need it for my solo exhibition which also starts in November.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Snow in Canada

I spoke too soon about the weather, on our first full day in Canada staying at Waterton Lakes it was cold and wet and there was a sprinkling of fresh snow on the mountains. However it cleared up later in the day so we went for a drive as it was getting dusk. We were lucky enough to see four
black bears, one with a cub and one strolling across the golf course.

The weather was sunny again today although not very warm until later in the day.
We drove the scenic way to Banff and got some excellent views of Bighorn sheep.

We got an upgrade to our hotel room and ended up with a two bedroom loft suite complete with two full bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen and a lovely balcony with window boxes which a humming bird visited. Pity we're only staying here for two nights.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks

Yellowstone was fabulous we saw two different wolf packs, the Mollies and the Lamar Valley and a Grizzly bear. These were a long way off but we saw many more animals 'up close and personal' including coyotes, bison, elk and mule deer and many species of birds including cranes.

Glacier National park has spectacular scenery but we didn't see as many animals and birds, the highlight being a young mountain goat with an older female, it's mum perhaps.

Today we are going through Glacier again and on into Canada.
The weather has been perfect so far, temperatures in the 70's and 80's.
If I have Internet access I'll try to post more often.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Holiday Time

I haven't got any new artwork to share but I thought you might like this photograph of one of Chester Zoo's lionesses sleeping as though ready to pounce.

I'm setting off on holiday on Thursday, flying  to the US and then driving into Canada taking in Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes, Banff, Jasper and Vancouver before flying home from Seattle.
The camera equipment is already packed, less important things like clothes will typically get sorted tomorrow evening.
I will hopefully be doing some sketching, I will definitely be taking photographs and hope to post some on here during my holiday. We are spending the first few days in Yellowstone so I won't be able to post anything until the beginning of next week at the earliest.
I'll be back for the Autumn Flower show at Harrogate with some new art to share.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Red Maine Coon - Finished

'A Cat's Tale'
Mixed Media on hot press watercolour paper.
I was planning on adding a few more steps of progress along the way, but unfortunately my deadline didn't leave me time to stop and scan the stages.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Work in Progress A Red Maine Coon - Stage 1

I've decided to do a work in progress in a bit more detail, highlighting some of the stages I go through to create a portrait. This will be a fairly large mixed media work. There will be no background other than a shadow to ground the cat so once I've drawn the outline and main fur clumps on my paper I start to select the colours.
I'm working on Arches hot pressed watercolour paper.

1. Selecting the Colours
I make a fairly quick initial selection of pencil colours I think I can see in the cat and draw a small square of each on the edge of my paper. I remove this edge from the finished portrait but it helps me to see how the colours work on my support.

2. I compare my selected colours with the reference and discard any that don't work.
Tip - For a red cat I discard any pencils that tend to look yellowish as they end up giving the orange/red fur a greenish tint.

3. I select the colours for the eye and  complete it before moving onto the surrounding areas of fur.

4. If you look at the tail you can see I'm putting down a base of watercolour before adding the coloured pencil.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Maine Coon Cat on Colourfix

I've been working on this maine coon cat in between other things which is why it's going so slowly.
It's approximately 16 x 12 inches on colourfix paper.
I've been using an under painting in watercolour and then adding detail in coloured pencil using the same method that I did with the spaniel but I'm finding it a very different experience to working on watercolour paper.
I thought it might be useful to compare my findings using the colourfix against using a hot press watercolour paper.

  • The coloured paper provides a midtone which means fewer layers are needed to create the fur.
  • Little work is needed to create a subtle background.
  • White fur shows up against the darker paper.
  • Both the watercolour and the coloured pencil sink into the colourfix requiring constant touching up.
  • The rough surface of the paper eats the pencils and destroys brushes, it is advisable to only use old brushes.
I can get fine detail on both surfaces so that isn't an issue.

On balance I think I prefer working on watercolour paper so it will be back to the Arches hot pressed paper for my next work.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

National Exhibition of Wildlife Art

'Ruffled Feathers'
The National Exhibition of Wildlife Art opens on Friday and runs to the 29th July at the Gordale Garden Centre, Wirral.
 My painting 'Ruffled Feathers' will be on show together with another 439 2D and 3D works of wildlife art.
You can see a list of all the selected artists here, and there will be an online gallery available to browse from the 13th of July.
If you are interested in wildlife art it is well worth a visit, plus as an added bonus on the 13th, 14th and 15th there are several free wildlife art demonstrations running from 11.00am to 4.00pm.

Link: NEWA

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Monty the Spaniel - Finished

I have completed 'Monty' the spaniel and have the first giclee prints available.
The total worldwide print run will be 350 but I'm splitting that into two print sizes.

Large Print
Total Available 99, numbered 2 to100
Image Size approximately 9 x 12 inches
Mounted/Matted in polar white to 16 x 20 inches
Price £40 plus post and packing £4.00

Small Print
Total Available 250, numbered 101 to350
Image Size approximately 7 x 9 inches
Mounted/Matted in off white to 11 x 14 inches
Price £25 plus post and packing £3.00

They will be available from my website from next week but if anyone wants one now or more information please email me
Next week I'm going to give write a post about how I get from the original to the print.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Spaniel Continued

I've continued to work on the spaniel. I know his fur is looking a little bit too neat but I'll rough it up at a later stage.
I intend to paint quite a lot of the bodyas I want to avoid the 'floating head' look.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Spaniel in Mixed Media

I started a painting of a spaniel while demonstrating at the Patchings Art Festival.
First of all I added watercolour using a barely damp brush and then picked out detail in coloured pencil. The size is approximately 16 x 12 inches and it's on hot press watercolour paper.
I found that the addition of the watercolour really speeded things up and also created a really soft fur effect, I'll be using this technique again.

Thanks to all who came to talk to me at Patchings and also those that bought my work. It was lovely to see old friends and make some new ones. It was also nice to come away inspired after seeing work from so many talented artists.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Patchings Art Festival

I've been to Nottingham today to set up my stand for the Patchings art festival which starts tomorrow.
The festival runs from the 14th to the 17th of June and is open between 9.30 and 5.00 Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 9.30 to 4.30 on Sunday.
If you are visiting the festival come and say hello.

Link : Patchings Festival

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tawny Owl in Mixed Media - Final Stage

'Ruffled Feathers'
12 x 16 inches, mixed media on watercolour paper, painted from my own reference photographs.

I'll put my owl to one side for a few days before I make the final adjustments. Now to go and finish the snow leopard and the other owl.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Graphite and Coloured Pencil on Drafting Film (Polydraw)

I've been experimenting with doing a graphite drawing on one side of drafting film and then turning it over and working with coloured pencils on the reverse side.

This is the start of the graphite drawing. I used harder pencils 4H, 2H and just added a little B in the very darkest areas because the softer ones would smudge on the polyester surface.
I drew in the cat's eye and some of the surrounding fur making sure not to smudge the graphite.
Once I'd done a couple of inches of I turned the drafting film over and started working in coloured pencils.
You can see the graphite showing through the area not yet worked in coloured pencil. The graphite acts as a grisaille and has really increased the contrast of the piece.
Because the graphite is on the other side of the drafting film it doesn't smudge and muddy the colours.
One thing I need to keep in mind for next time is that I need to draw the graphite image in reverse so that when I turn the drafting film over I'm working the right way.
The final image is replacing the white backing board with a black one, a mid tone will work better but I can't find one at the moment.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tawney Owl Continued

I've continued to work on the tawny owl painting slowly down the body. I decided the tail feathers looked hard to work out so I'm leaving those for last.
I'm thinking about adding the stump in graphite as I don't want to take the focus away from the owl. I'll have a play in Photoshop before I decide.
I've decided to do a series of owls as I have some nice reference photographs of both the barn and little owls.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Snow Leopard in Graphite

As well as the graphite pheasants and the watercolour owl I'm working on a large drawing of a Snow Leopard.
The reference is my own photograph that I took several years ago at Marwell Zoo. The design of the cage meant I could stand directly in front of the leopard to capture the whole animal. The lighting is good which you will be able to see better once I get a little more drawing done.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Garden Birds

I haven't really done much more on the owl so I thought I'd post a couple of visitors to my bird feeders.
For the past two days a pair of Bullfinches have been taking seeds from the feeder. The male is much shyer than the female and tends to hide in a bush, dash out and get a seed and fly back in the bush. The female is much less timid and sits on the feeder eating seeds for quite long periods of time. I did manage to get a couple of them together but didn't dare open the patio door so the photograph is taken through glass.

We also have a small flock of Redpolls and Siskins that visit usually two or three times a day, these have become quite tame allowing me to get some nice reference photographs. This is a male siskin with some seeds in his beak making him look a bit odd but showing his lovely bright breeding plumage.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Very Wet Harrogate Flower Show

The weather at Harrogate Flower Show was dreadful, I think I've developed webbed feet and possibly pneumonia. Despite that I had a really good show and enjoyed exhibiting with Made in Yorkshire for the first time. I found the whole set up very professional and the other exhibitors very friendly and helpful which made the experience much better than it could have been.

I worked on the pheasant although my hands were so cold most of the time not much drawing got done.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Harrogate Flower Show

I'm continuing to work on my pheasant in between printing cards and prints ready for Harrogate Flower Show.
I have to set up my stand tomorrow and the show runs from Thursday the 26th until Sunday the 30th. If you visit the show come and say hello, I'll be in the Made in Yorkshire marquee working on my pheasant.
Keep your fingers crossed that the weather is better than the forecast.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tawny Owl in Watercolour

I've started painting a tawny owl in watercolour. I intend to include the full body as in my reference photo the bird is wet and has ruffled feathers due to a strong wind which is a little bit different. I was also ruffled at the time as it was a really wet and windy day and I got down to eye level with the owl. I took the photographs of the owl at a local game fair.

Unfortunately I've been quite badly bitten so have one hand completely bandaged and the other hand and arm so badly bruised I can't bend my fingers which means I might be slower than ever on this one. It's a long story involving bitches in season, frustrated male dogs and my hands going too near snapping teeth.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Little Owl in Mixed Media

'Little Owl'
Mixed media on drafting film

As a complete change from the cats I've started working on one of my older paintings that I've ignored for a considerable time.
I'm using coloured pencil and acrylic on drafting film.
I see a little owl most evenings when I take Clinton a walk down the lane, unfortunately it usually sees me first and hides in the middle of the bush it likes to sit next to.
The curlews are also back, I usually see between 2 and 4 walking about searching the ground or flying over the fields. I love the haunting cry of the curlew especially when you get several all crying at once.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Two New Cat Images

'Family Portrait'
Mixed Media on Board, 11.5 x 14 inches

Mixed media on colourfix paper, 11 x 17 inches

I've managed to complete my first two cat images for 2012. Both are painted using mixed media, Playtime is coloured pencil and acrylic, Family Portrait is coloured pencil and pastel, with a pan pastel background.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Brown Hare - Limited Edition Giclee Print Available

'Run For Fun'
Limited Edition Giclee print
Image Size 9 x 7 inches
Matted/Mounted in white to 11 x 14 inches.

My latest print is now available to purchase. It has been taken from my graphite drawing and I am limiting the edition to 200 prints worldwide.
For this print I have added the title to the white space at the bottom of the image and I will sign and number each print in pencil.

The print will cost £22.00 plus £2.00 post and packing.
If you are interested you can buy direct from my website, or email me for further details.

I'm having a 'mad march hare' auction on eBay for the first print listed (it will be numbered 2/200) starting at £1.00. Once this one sells the prints will revert to the normal price of £22.00
Click here to join the auction

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cats, Colourfix Paper and Colourfix Board

'Family Portrait'
Mixed Media on Soft Umber Colourfix Board
I've started the second new cat painting for 2012 and decided to try a new surface.
I'm using a colourfix plein air board in soft umber.
The colourfix boards are archive quality 2mm white board ready primed with Colorfix Fine Tooth Pastel Primer. I decided to give them a try after reading that they are acid free, lightfast and fully permanent.
The boards come in several colours and have a standard workable area of 12 x 16 inches.
There appears to be slightly more tooth than on the colourfix paper this does mean you go through coloured pencils quite quickly but means more layers can be applied. I have found no problem applying acrylic paint both to the board itself and on top of the coloured pencil.

I purchased the boards online from Great Art as I found they offered the best price.
Link : Great Art

I have another new surface to try, Canson Mi-Teintes Board, cat number three coming up.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Mixed Media Cat on Colourfix

I'm working on the first of my cat paintings for 2012.
This is acrylic and coloured pencil on blue colourfix, plenty of work still to be done on the background. There is more above the cat< I've just included the bit that fit on my scanner.

I'm going to be doing at least a couple of shows with Made in Yorkshire this year. The first of these will be Harrogate Spring Flower Show held on Thursday 26th April to Sunday the 29th. I'm hoping to launch a series depicting animals and birds from the UK.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pheasants in graphite

I'm working on a graphite drawing of a male and female pheasant.
It will be about 16 x 12 and I'm using mellotex paper.
I've only included the part that fit in my scanner because my camera doesn't like the lack of light today.

The original reference images courtesy Alan D. Wilson,, used with Alan's permission.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hare Continued

I've almost finished the hare. I need to make a few adjustments with the foreground but it's almost done.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

William the Borzoi

I started William several months ago so I really need to finish him. Apart from his neck I still have some detail to add to his muzzle but he's getting there.
The image is taken from his owners photograph, watercolour and coloured pencil on paper.

After William I have another dog to paint then I'm moving on to some wild animals and somewhere in the mix I need to start painting this years feline offerings.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Coloured Pencil Tips - 1 Selecting a Colour

One of the things I want to do on my blog is develop a series of mini tutorials. These will be expanded in my technique guides and I plan to discuss each topic in detail when I start to write my book.
Tip 1 describes two methods I use for selecting the local colour of an object.

1. Aids to Selecting the Local Colour
a) The Homemade Colour Chart
I have created a series of colour charts for my pencils, the image shows two sheets for Polychromos pencils.
To make the charts I cut a colour chart from one of the art magazines into A5 sheets so that for each colour I have a record of the pencil number, the name and the lightfast rating.
I stuck these onto some white card leaving space at the end for a sample of each colour. I used an actual drawing surface, in this case Arches Smooth Watercolour paper for my strip of colour which was drawn using progressively more pressure.
The next step was to laminate the card for protection and finally punch a hole through the colour.
You can then use the sampes if you are struggling to decide on a local colour by choosing the colour you think is closest from your samples and placing the punched hole over your reference. By isolating the colour it makes it easy to see which pencil to use.

b) The paint chart method.
I described this a few years ago but for ease of reference have included it again.

While visiting a DIY store I picked up a selection of paint shade charts in the colours I was likely to use.
Again I punched a hole in each colour and use in the same way to the homemade chart.
Although these aren't pencil colours once you select the nearest paint colour you can hold your pencil against the shade chart until you find the nearest match.