Pencil drawing of blackbird

Bird Art -my attempts at photographing them

This post is about my efforts to take photographs of birds.

To be a bird artist you need pictures of birds, ideally ones you have taken yourself.  I have occasionally managed to take a half decent photo, but wanted to do better.

Slightly fuzzy blackbird

First of all let me say it is not a simple thing to do. The experts make it look so easy!  My biggest problem is patience – it runs out very quickly when faced with a view from a hide with absolutely no birds in it.

I recently arrived at a hide to find no room to sit down with my camera.  I could however see
that there were birds a-plenty.  Looking good so far – chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, marsh tits, nuthatch and a greater spotted woodpecker.  I was already planning future paintings in my mind.  Yes – you guessed it – by the time I found a place to sit and set up all the birds were gone!

What have I learnt so far apart from “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”?  Well first of all to just sit, relax, appreciate your surroundings and listen to the birdsong.  Birds will not arrive to order, but that is the exciting thing – you never know what you will see.  Now when I look at a photo of a bird I think about the effort the photographer went to.  It does make you appreciate them more.

Slightly less fuzzy

Getting better

I have not painted a blackbird yet, just a preliminary sketch to get ideas.  They do seem more willing to pose for photos than most birds!

Preliminary sketch

Swallow

Spring Migration – the Cuckoo has arrived!

The swallows are here, the swifts have arrived this week and I heard my first cuckoo this morning.  I get shouted at every time I go to the shed by a Great Tit fiercely defending the offspring, and the baby blackbirds get in the way when I am moving compost out of the heap. It is an easy way for them to find food.  Oh what a lovely time of year it is!

Swallow

Swallow –
Hirundo rustica

Even the baby rabbits munching on the young hydrangea leaves within their, somewhat limited, reach are something to smile about.  Well they deserve it I think.  They have such a struggle with myxomatosis and the new RHD2 which is wiping out thousands of rabbits.  They are such lovely creatures  and get such a bad press because they eat what we are trying to grow.  

There are several nests around the garden, but I am concerned about upsetting them so I leave well alone.

Goldcrests

Goldcrests –
Regulus regulus

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Chrishaywoodart

The Gift of a Handmade Notebook

 

It is very satisfying to design and make your own pad or jotter.  You get to choose the colour, the size and materials to use.  You can have as few or as many pages as you like and create something personal to you.  I have made different ones for specific uses.  Also they make lovely gifts for friends and family.   

  • First I print the cover design on whatever card I have chosen.  This can be textured or smooth, coloured or white, but bear in mind it will need to hold a good crease.
  • I then cut whatever paper I am using for the inside to size.
  • Fold all pages in half and crease.
  • Punch holes where you want the stitching to be along the crease-line and sew together using strong thread.

Stitched together

All that remains is to trim the edges of your notebook and your are ready to go!  The tricky part is actually starting to write in the notebook.  You want it to be special as it is the first page, but this can be a bit daunting.  I read somewhere to leave the first page blank and begin on the second, so I can’t be the only one to feel this.

There are good reasons for using both paper and tablets for note taking, but for me the pleasure of a handmade paper one wins.  What do you think!

Notebooks in my etsy shop
www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Chrishaywoodart

 

Coloured Pencils Artwork – Learning to use new media and techniques

It is a generally accepted view that we should all try something new occasionally.  It is thought to be good for us!  It can give us a new outlook on life, renewed enthusiasm and who knows, we might find that one thing in life that we were meant to do.

Coming back down to earth, in art we are encouraged to move out of our comfort zones and try new things.  This is just what I have been doing this month – coloured pencils.  Every so often I have thought about having a go, but remembering ‘colouring-in’ efforts when I was at school put me off.  It wasn’t something to be proud of.

Having done a lot of research and watched many YouTube videos I finally decided upon Faber-Castell Polychromos which are oil based and have a good range of colours available.  I chose a dozen that I thought would be suitable to create animal fur as a starting point – a mix of browns, black, greys, yellows and a blue and green for eyes.

My first attempt was a cat’s eye and I was pleased with the results that could be obtained although somewhat surprised about the time needed to produce an acceptable result (no definitely not like colouring-in at school!).  I then decided to try the whole head of a domestic kitten.  I have not yet worked out how to do white whiskers over brown fur.  I have used a stylus pen, which puts a groove in the paper which the pencil just glides over.  This means the groove should be left the colour of the paper i.e. white, but it definitely needs more practice.  I would welcome any advice on this one.

Kitten

Paper is not a problem for me as it needs to be very smooth and I already use hot-pressed paper.  I have tried Bristol Board but the HP has a little more tooth to hold on to the colour better.  Other things I have found useful are: a Derwent  Blender and Zest-It, a citrus smelling solvent made in the UK,  which when applied sparingly with a brush also blends and smooths out the colour.

The most important tip I have found is keep the pencils very sharp all the time!

To sum up I would say that I am really enjoying the coloured pencil work, but I still love watercolours and have no intention of giving them up.  Do have a go it you get the opportunity.  They are a real surprise!

 

Dogs as Artist’s Models

Soon it will be time for Crufts again!  Just in case you don’t know it is the ‘World’s Largest Dog Show’ and it is to be held from 9th – 12th March at the NEC in Birmingham.  We used to breed Cocker and Field Spaniels, showing them regularly and Crufts was an important part of the year.  We never did reach the heights, but our black field spaniel ‘Glenaubrey Black Shadow’ did achieve Best Puppy in Breed in 1985.

There never been a time since then that we have been without dogs, although not always spaniels.  Notably the Basset Hounds with so much character.  They live on in memories only so I just had to paint one.  This is Jeeves :-

Jeeves

Jeeves

 

Boxer

Boxer to remind me of the breed I grew up with

Labrador a commission painting

This is a painting I have just finished of Scoobie, a blue roan cocker spaniel, with a lovely personality and impeccable temperament.  Sometimes I think it is easier to paint your own dogs as you know their character and can paint that in.  Certainly you are filled with memories as you work.

Scoobie

I really enjoy painting dogs, but sometimes they are difficult to photograph.  If it is your own dog they want to come and see what you are doing and have some fuss rather than sit still, but someone else’s dog can be even more problematic.  Some will only sit when their owner tells them and then keep looking at them for reassurance all the time.  It can all get very exciting and mayhem can ensue with great hilarity. It’s certainly not dull though!

 

 

 

Great Tit

My RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Count

I have been getting ready for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch for several weeks now.  I always like to feed the birds in the garden in the winter, mainly to help them, you understand, but it is wonderful to be able to watch them so closely.  As the Birdwatch date approaches I find myself watching that bit closer and finding tastier morsels to put out in the hope of being able to record something unusual.

This last week I have been fortunate to see a female siskin and two bramblings along with the usual visitors.  What excitement!  However I think it must have been the low temperatures we were experiencing then, because come Birdwatch time and higher temperatures there was no sign of them. Do they know we are trying to count them do you think?  Well that’s just how it is!

Here is just a selection of the birds I see in my garden:-

Blue Tit

Blue Tit

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

Great Tit

Great Tit

Long-tailed tit

Long-tailed tit

Coal Tits on a Cherry Tree

Coal Tits on a Cherry Tree

My aim is eventually to have a go at painting all my local birds.  There’s a long way to go but the research will be enjoyable!

 

Nuthatch

Nuthatch

The nuthatch really stands out in the crowd!  Not only because of its beautiful colouring, but also because it is the only british bird that creeps down a tree.  The tree creeper and the woodpeckers all search for the insects they feed on under the bark by going up the tree, but the nuthatch will go up or down.

I am not fortunate enough to have seen a nuthatch where I live in Norfolk, although this does not mean they are not there. I do not have the patience to wait for birds to appear, although it is very exciting to see something new.   I can remember a few years ago, whilst walking in Derbyshire,  we stopped en route for a coffee.  There were several bird feeders hanging near the door to the pub, which were very much in use.  On one which contained peanuts was a nuthatch, completely oblivious to the comings and goings of the pub just a few feet away. Where birds accept and feel safe around humans it is so much easier to watch and appreciate them!

With its beautiful colours and markings it just cries out to be painted!  This time I have gone for a smaller piece – just 6″ x 6″ (15 x 15 cm).

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

 

Oh what a beautiful bird is the peregrine falcon.  It is the fastest of our native falcons and can reach 120 mph when hunting.  During the last century numbers in this country fell to around 400 breeding pairs, thought to be caused by persistent pesticides.  Thankfully this trend has reversed and there are now around 1,500 breeding pairs.

One success began in 2011 when peregrines began to nest on Norwich Cathedral.  A platform had been put up by the Hawk and Owl Trust after peregrines had been sighted in 2009 and 2010.  In the wild peregrines nest in mountains and cliff ledges, so the Cathedral spire was thought to be ideal.  This proved to be the case and the public can now view them at a watchpoint in the Cathedral Close. http://upp.hawkandowl.org/

My peregrine watercolour was conceived whilst looking at the pictures of the Norwich peregrines.  I will be taking him and others to the Art and Craft Exhibiton at Wymondham Arts Centre in Norfolk, UK at the end of this month.

 

 

Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

I painted this in memory of a lovely lady I used to garden for.  She adored her garden and one of her favourite plants was the blue hydrangea.  She would grow them in very large half barrels in special acid compost.  In the part of Norfolk where I live the soil is alkaline and the hydrangeas grow in various shades of pink.

It is a fact of human nature that we always seem to cherish the rare or unusual.  I am sure those who garden on acid soil would love to grow  the pink hydrangeas.

The painting took me quite a while as it was important to show all the different shades of the warm lilac blue in the many bracts.  The flower itself is insignificant, with the modified bracts holding all the colour.  As the whole is essentially a ball shape (hence the name mophead hydrangea) the shading had to show this whilst not being too dark as to lose the light airy feeling.

I have chosen to paint in a botanical style, but a looser style would also work – they are so spectacular.  It makes you feel good just to look at them.

 

       “Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realising one’s sensations”

Paul Cezanne

Swallow

Summer Visitors

As I write we have less than two weeks left of summer here in the northern hemisphere.  Autumn officially begins on 22nd September this year and you can already feel the beginnings of change.  The light is starting to mellow from the harsher sunlight of summer and the foliage on some trees is starting to change.

We count ourselves very lucky to have a pair of swifts come every year to raise a brood under our roof edge, but they have long since left to spend their winter in Africa.  Their arrival in the Spring is awaited with great anticipation – will they make it this year?  It is such a relief when they finally arrive and a joy to see them swooping and screaming through the air on summer evenings.

Swallows no longer seem to be attracted to our part of the village but I could not resist painting one after having seen several in the air round me as I worked one day.

They are still around but it is a sign that summer is finally over when they begin to congregate on the telegraph wires in preparation for their long flight south.