Friday, June 30, 2006

Seeing double.

Good evening all,

A few years ago, I did a series of underwater paintings in acrylics. I sold most of them before I managed to get them photographed which is a shame, but I've found in my archives these two paintings of Hawksbill turtles which I thought would make a nice colourful post on my blog.

There's a story behind these two actually, because originally they were part of the same painting. It was an oval picture of a reef with two hawksbills and I thought it was quite nice. Perhaps due to it's unusual shape though, I never sold it and it ended up stashed away in my attic until the day I decided to exhibit at the Florida Wildlife and Western Art Exposition.

I thought the subject was ideal for Florida, and when I heard they they were holding a miniature paintings section I made the bold decision to cut up the painting into two seperate paintings each containing a turtle.

I'm happy to say it did the trick! Both paintings sold at the exhibition. I never got to hear if the same person bought them both or if they ended up in two seperate homes. If anyone knows who has them please let me know!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Final stages of the gorilla.

Three shots showing the final stages of the gorilla. I've included one of my pastel studio to show the layout of how I worked when doing this painting. You will notice that I took the gorilla to a level where I knew he was going to be a success, I then switched to the hard work of getting all the foliage correct, (including the butterflys that I photographed in Zaire precisely for such a painting), and then finished off the gorilla to complete the work.

This painting is now available as special limited edition print, if you're interested please click HERE to contact me.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Step by step gorilla.

I haven't got a lot of time to write at the moment, as I have three oil paintings to finish by 7th july which for me is a very tight deadline.

I thought I'd add the first of the gorilla series though, to show how I tackle a complex painting in pastels. I preferred to go 'bit by bit' with this one doing a little area each day. That way I could feel a reward after each days work. I sometimes find it hard doing a complex painting where I develop the whole thing gradually, because it takes so long before it starts to look good and there's a danger of losing one's attention.

I sometimes vary my approach to each new painting to help maintain my concentration levels.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Gorilla in pastels.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to spend time with gorillas in the wild. I've been face to face with many of the worlds most magnificent animals, from tigers to polar bears but there is something completely unforgettable about an encounter with a gorilla in it's natural habitat.

It took me about four hours trekking through the jungles of Zaire before I caught my first glimpse of these noble creatures. I was just thinking to myself how the jungle had come to resemble an overgrown English garden, and I almost felt I was back there when suddenly my eyes fell upon a huge silverback sitting peacefully amoungst the foliage only a yard or two ahead of me. All illusions of England vanished that instant and I silently and self consciously sat down before him.

That is how it feels when you disturb a gorilla in his home. It's different with lions, or bears, you look at them the way you would look at a cat or a dog, but with a gorilla it's almost like you are staring at your neighbour. You know he is regarding you with almost human curiosity, there is real sentience in his eyes and it's a humbling experience.

I spent several days with the gorillas and had some amazing experiences including being knocked flat on my back, being hit on the head with half eaten fruit that the youngsters throw at you from the treetops and watching in awe as a silverback snapped a two inch thick piece of fresh bamboo with a simple flick of his wrist. I tried to snap a similar piece by jumping up and down on it and couldn't!

I've painted only three gorilla pictures so far, and as they all sold quickly I think it's high time I painted some more...

I've included a picture of my Gorilla in pastels and will be adding pictures of how I did this painting in the next few days.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Why did you become a Wildlife Artist?

In my last post I showed a couple of paintings I had done as a child, and this has raised a question that I'm always asked at my shows:

"Why did you choose to become a Wildlife Artist?"

I think the answer is that I didn't choose it at all! It's something that I have always done. I've included two more childhood paintings ( I have many ) to show that from the very beginning, with my first set of watercolour paints I was painting wildlife.

I have always been inspired by Nature. The grace and beauty of wild animals is something that takes my breath away and for me it was the most natural thing in the world to choose animals as my subjects. Throughout my life I have painted them and will no doubt do so until the day I die.

It's not something I ever made a conscious choice about, it was the coming together of my two great passions, the natural world and my love of art. I think a true wildlife artist should be someone who has a real passion for nature and not just a gifted artist who has decided to paint a tiger or two.

I never really chose to do Art even, it was more like Art choosing me. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world for me to do and deep down I always knew that Art would become my life.

Whats significant about all these early paintings isn't whether they show any real talent or not, but the fact that I kept them for all these years. I kept them because I had the belief even then, that my work would someday be valued.

This is what makes an Artist. The love of painting, the love of your subject, and the self belief that binds it all together.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

For all the talented children out there...

I greatly appreciate all the feedback I get from my website and from this blog. One thing that in particular makes me happy is the email I receive from children who have been inspired by my paintings and want to become Artists themselves.

I would like to say a big thank you to you all. It's good to have goals in life and for me to be someone others aspire to become is a real honour.

Thank you for the wonderful pictures you send me that always seem come with the words:

"It's not as good as yours but..."

As I always point out, you should not compare your work to mine as I wasn't always able to do what I do now, and who knows? by the time you are as old as me you might be better than I am!

To help make this point to you all, and to help you make a fairer comparison between your work and mine, I have added two paintings I did as a child. One a pencil sketch that I did when I was 11 years old that I sketched from life whilst on holiday in Scotland, and the other a watercolour painting that I did whilst at school ( For the school wall no less!) when I was 10. I hope this will show that people like myself didn't always paint the way we do now, but with dedication and practice, we have honed and improved our skills over many years and ....


Monday, June 05, 2006

A tiger portrait in pastels.

It was about this time last year that I was asked to hold a private pastel class in the art of big cat portraiture. I chose this siberian tiger as the subject for the class. I sketched out two identical tigers, one I gave to the student and one was for me to demonstrate with.

I started the class by asking the student how she would start the portrait and quietly observed as she set about it with bold sweeps of colour. After an hour or so we discussed her progress and I then started on mine.

I think she was a little suprised to discover how differently I would approach it. It was interesting to me also, to see another Artist rushing boldly into things without a carefully considered and failsafe method. I joked about my own approach being like a battle with myself as the General, how everything must be considered, how I would proceed methodically and cautiously, avoiding mistakes until I could sense I had a victory. Only then would I unleash my big guns reaching for the bold softer pastels.

I do approach painting this way. Bit by bit claiming ground until a winning painting is achieved. There are of course, some Artists who can boldly rush in and produce a winning picture within minutes, but for every one of those there are many who rush in and fail.

For me it is all about slowly developing a picture, testing it, listening to it,and monitoring every new stage which if done correctly, seems to me to reveal the next stage more easily and then the next, giving me the feeling sometimes that a painting paints itself!

As you can see I begin a portrait using the Carbothello pencils very lightly colouring and shading areas until I can see the character of the portrait developing.
I'm using mid tones to form an undercoat of colour upon which future layers of pastel will be added. I'm already thinking about the background. I like to use colours in the background that are the same as the eyes. This draws attention to the eyes and adds a harmony to the finished painting. Colour balance and harmony are essential and I'm probing and testing the portrait at this stage to see how far I can go with such ideas and trying to visualize the finished portrait.

In the mid way phase you can see I am adding a second layer of pastel to the nose. I have chosen a lighter tone to stand out against the undercoat. This will consist of careful strokes showing the direction of the fur. I'm also at the same time using a darker, redder tone to stroke between the lighter lines adding depth. (I've used burnt umber to do this to the fur near the eyes.) The eyes have had more attention too, they have become deeper in tone which has prompted deeper tones in the background also.

The finished portrait shows the full range of bold colour that I eventually end up with. I like everything to have a harmony and you will see that all the colours in the background are taken from the tiger itself, carefully arranged to present the tiger in the best possible way without competing with it. It is essential that a background does this. It should never draw attention to itself, it should be like subtle music setting the tone in a romantic restaurant, essential, but not necessarily noticed.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pastels continued...

Good evening all,

I think it's important sometimes, to cover the very basics first when it comes to talking about techniques. I was once taken to dinner by a fellow Artist and after discussing the techniques of painting fur in oils throughout the meal, he asked me to demonstrate my techniques at his easel. I agreed, but when I sat down at his easel and looked at his collection of brushes I realized to my horror, that I wouldn't be able to demonstrate anything with such a worn out horribly maintained collection of brushes as he had. The problem with his fur technique it seemed to me, started with his brushes and I advised him above all else, to get the right tools for the job!

The same could be said of pastels. I seldom have use for blunt rounded pastels. My techniques require a lot of sharpening and in a particular way. I have included a photo to demonstarate how I sharpen my pastel pencils not to a single point, but to a knife edge which is perfect for fine lines. I do the same with all my pastels, I'm not always using them for fine lines, but the chisel shape also helps lay down a controlled amount of pastel when you scrape it along the surface like a knife over butter. Without these clean sharp basics to work with, I'd feel like someone trying to mend a swiss watch with a spanner.