Category Archives: Art

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

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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!

 

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

Tawny Owl

Owl Experience

In May we went for an ‘Owl Experience’ at  Baytree Owl and Wildlife Centre in Lincolnshire.  We were booked for one person to ‘experience’ and one person to observe.  I was the observer with my camera.  Although I am not very proficient at photography I just wanted to capture an owl with personality that I could paint.

We met a selection of different owls from the very small one named Frost – a white faced owl with a huge personality – to the very large Eurasian Eagle Owl.  It was a fascinating day – I hadn’t thought about what a large range of owls there are in the world.  Throughout the visit we learnt such a lot about the lifestyle and habit of the owls and even saw many of the young that are reared there.  Unfortunately I couldn’t make a note of the names of all the owls we saw (lack of organisation on my part) but here are a few of the photos:-

There were also many other owls which flew on different days that we could see in their pens.  Of these I managed to photograph a very obliging Tawny Owl who posed for me very nicely.

 

It was definitely a day to remember and well worth a visit.

 

Join in the Big Butterfly Count

Butterfly PosterIt is time for the Big Butterfly Count in the UK.  It runs from 17th July to 9th August and the general public are asked to get involved.  All you have to do is count the butterflies you see during a fifteen minute period at any sunny spot you choose.  This gives an idea of the state of the environment and is a really fun and educational thing to do.  I have done it twice now, downloading the identification chart from www.bigbutterflycount.orgButterfly ID and have learnt a lot about the different species.  The first time I took my dogs for a walk along a nearby track to the forest and was amazed by the amount of small brown butterflies I saw.  Without the identification chart I wouldn’t have been able to tell what sort they were.  Some meadow browns, speckled woods and gatekeepers that I had never identified before, with the flowers of the blackberry brambles being very attractive to them.

Red Admirals

Red Admirals as Asters

The second year I decided to count the butterflies in my garden.  I have planted lots of butterfly and insect friendly plants in my garden, so I was hoping for a lot of different ones.  However I was a little disappointed to find they were mainly peacocks, red admirals and cabbage whites with smaller amounts of commas and small tortoiseshell.  (Quite a lot really, but the identification chart makes you aspire to greater things!)

Isn’t it always the case that when you want to see something it is never there!  To be fair though some species and just not around at this time of year.  The orange-tip flies very early, in the Spring.

Orange-Tip

Orange-Tip

The large blue is a very beautiful butterfly, but one of the rarest in the UK as its life cycle depends on the grubs of the red ant.  This makes them very vulnerable.

Large Blue

Large Blue

If you are interested in butterflies and haven’t joined in with the count, have a go this year!

 

Selling at a Craft Market

I love doing craft markets, fairs and fetes and so on because it gives me the opportunity to talk with like-minded people about the things that really interest me.  I have done a lot of plant stalls where I also sell my greetings cards, but last week I went to a Makers’ Market at the Parish Church in the nearby town of Fakenham.

My stall was predominately made up my artwork, but with spring flowering plants also included to add an extra dimension and to enhance the display.

Usual Plant Stall

Usual Plant Stall

New Improved Stall

I love designing a stall and was so pleased to receive several comments on how pretty it looked – great when that’s the look I was going for.  There are so many interesting people who stop by to talk, I wonder if they realise how much this means to stallholders.  I know it is difficult not to feel that you have to buy something when you stop, but it can also be of great help.  Other people will often feel more comfortable stopping at a stall if there is someone there already and they may buy something!

It was a very enjoyable and worthwhile morning, the organisers were very welcoming, the other stallholders really friendly and the range of crafts diverse and high quality.  To anyone who is nervous about attending a market I would definately say ‘Have a Go!’

 

 

Show your artwork

I have not posted for a while ~ life as they say got in the way.  I have been very busy getting ready for an art exhibition at a local gallery and a makers’ market at a nearby town.  It is not so much the amount of work involved that has stopped me blogging, but the fact that these two things seem to have taken over my brain.  There is so much to plan that I find myself thinking of ideas when I should be doing other things. Happily planning is now almost complete ready for the two events next weekend.

The art exhibition is at a beautiful little gallery in Watton, Norfolk called the Dragonfly Gallery where the welcome is warm and the vibes are inspiring.  The exhibition is called ‘Spring is in the Air’ and is mixed media.  There are 16 East Anglian artists taking part.  These are the four watercolours I will be showing:

Tulip

Tulip

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Crocus

Crocus

Apple Blossom Time

Apple Blossom Time

They are all in simple off-white 10 x 8 frames and I am hoping they will make a nice colourful display together.

The Makers’ Market in Fakenham, Norfolk has taken a lot more planning as I decided to virtually redesign my whole stall.

Fakenham Makers' Market

Fakenham Makers’ Market

It is to be next weekend so I will save that information for another time.  I would love to hear your experiences of craft markets!

The Colours of Advertising

I have to admit to being disappointed!

Trusting to the pictures in advertising, I have bought items and they have not come up to expectation!  Yes I know that is very naive, but that’s how it is.

The thing is that now I have been painting flowers for quite a while, I have begun to look at plant purchases which inspire me to paint them.  So I look at the pictures on the packet (for bulbs, tubers, seeds etc) or on the label (plants).  Seems simple enough, but no!  As I say, I have been disappointed.

It all began last year when I  purchased morning glory (ipomoea) seeds and looked forward to that rich blue.  The flowers when they came were, to put it politely, insipid.  My Viola sororia ‘Speckles’ which looked lovely on the label – white petals liberally sprinkled with violet dots, was actually sporadically sprinkled with pale lilac dots, which could not be seen from a distance.

At Christmas I bought myself an amaryllis which, according to the packet, was white with red stripes.  I watched it sprout, bud and grow with mounting anticipation, paper and paints at the ready until the day it opened.  Cream with peach stripes which, whilst lovely in its own right, was not what I was expecting and the desire to paint it withered.

Amaryllis

Amaryllis

Maybe from the seller’s point of view more sales are made from pictures with brighter colours, but it is …well…….disappointing.

I have finished my watercolour painting of an Himalayan Blue Poppy (Mecanopsis betonicifolia).   I had to use artistic licence here as the plant in my garden is distinctly pinkish.  Not the fault of the advertisers this time as it is probably due to my soil being quite limey, whereas these beautiful poppies prefer it more acidic.

Himalayan Blue Poppy

 

In the future I think I will just have to keep an open mind when looking at advertising material!

 

A Rose for Valentine’s Day

Last summer while working in a local garden I noticed a beautiful rose that made me just want to drop everything and paint it.  The lady who owned it very kindly let me photograph it and now here it is.  Usually when I paint I get to a point where I think it looks awful and it takes a leap of faith to keep going. This time however that did not happen and I enjoyed painting it from start to finish.  That has honestly never happened before!  I mostly painted it wet on wet and I was so enamoured with the changing colours that it kept me going.

I also decided to photograph my work in stages and I found this really helpful to see how the painting was progressing.

I actually took twelve photos but there was little difference to see between some of them.  Unfortunately my photography skills are somewhat limited.

A very kind lady at my art group said you could almost smell the rose!  Music to my ears!  Perhaps I should print the cards on scented paper!

The finished card all ready for Valentine's Day

The finished card all ready for Valentine’s Day