Sunday, July 23, 2006

New Book.

Greetings everyone!

I'm happy to announce that a new book has just been released containing my artwork. It's a really beautiful book by Joanna Skipwith of Silver Jungle Ltd. covering tigers painted by Artists from myself through to Rubens and Dali. I am proud to share a book with such people and particularly proud that all profits from the book go to 21st Century Tiger who spend 100% of all donations on helping to keep tigers in the wild.

The book is available at the National and Tate Gallery and is available through Amazon and 21st Century Tiger.

If you are visiting my blog for the first time, please take a look at the archives, I've been adding pictures and articles for some time now and I'm sure you will find something of interest.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Painting at Nature in Art.

Those that came to see me as Artist in residence at the Nature in Art Museum a couple of years ago might remember me sketching this leopard in pastel. It's very different for an Artist to work infront of an audience compared to working in the solitude of your own studio, and for this reason I had decided to just start sketching freehand without any idea of what the result would be.

I usually have access to lots of photographs that I've taken when composing a picture but for this one, all I initially wanted to do was a leopard in a characteristic pose with it's paw hanging down so I started freehand without any reference whatsoever. I figured that if things didn't work out by the end of my week then at least I'd have entertained people as I struggled with the pose. To my suprise as much as anyone elses though, the leopard began to look pretty realistic and for a moment it was quite a scary feeling as I hadn't considered any background elements at all.

You might notice from the pictures, that I considered adding the leopards back foot but decided against it as I felt it upset the composition and drew unecessary questions about the leopards anatomy behind the rock and I felt I was pushing the limits of belief as it was. I'd initially thought of a branch for the leopard to be on, but each one I tried seemed to alter the composition of the painting in a negative way, and so I settled on a rock to cover a multitude of sins and keep the simplicity of the picture which I instinctively felt was it's strengh. I could so easily have become over ambitious and ruined things at this stage. I also considered a second rock to the bottom right, but again, decided this was unecessary and brought the sky down to the bottom.

It was these final decisions that made all the difference between this picture working or failing.
It could so easily have ended up in the dustbin but by keeping the picture simple and true to the initial sketch it worked and has now become my third best selling image!

~In Art, Sometimes less is more.~

It's difficult to teach such intuitive things. Teaching technique is basic and easy, but understanding the philosophy of why one painting works and another fails is something all serious Artists should meditate upon.

As a matter of Interest I will be painting once again at Nature In Art Next year.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The old man of the mountain

A few years ago I decided to visit the Canadian Rockies. It's the kind of landscape I always dreamed of as a child with it's huge mountains, endless forests, pristine rivers and lakes. I loved exploring Banff and Jasper national parks and tried to cover as many mountain trails as possible.

One morning I set off from Jasper on what was supposed to be a short trek looping around some spectacular lakes and returning me to the main Jasper highway 13 kilometers later. It was a beautiful walk, a real feast for the senses and I felt so extremely happy that I hardly noticed the hours slipping by until I suddenly remembered I was supposed to have looped around a lake by this time. I'd noticed several paths leading off the main track that I was on and began to wonder if I'd lost my way somehow. 'Maybe the lake is just a little further on' I said to myself and continued along the trail.

My spirits picked up a little when I saw a signpost nailed to a tree ahead of me. When I reached it it wasn't exactly what I wanted to read! It said 'Warning, Grizzly bear seen on this trail yesterday at 4pm. proceed with caution' by this time it was too late for me to turn back as I wouldn't make it back before nightfall. I decided to continue and about half a mile further on I noticed a tree where the grizzly had scraped its claws through the bark leaving deep cut marks, not the most reassuring sight as the sun began to set.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse that day, as the landscape began to change from pine forest to head high dense bushes, the very worst environment for a bear encounter as I would be more likely to suprise the bear and trigger an incident. The thing I most feared was a mother with cubs in such terrain.

As darkness began to fall upon the forest I was reminded of when I was 17 years of age and attended a boxing gym about 5 miles from my home at the end of a long dark country lane. I used to finish my boxing late at night and the only way for me to get home was to run the 5 miles along the pitch black road. Having been born with a vivid imagination every dark bush ahead of me became a mad axe murderer and every sound behind me a psychopath chasing me dagger in hand! Now here I was in another long dark lane where every brown bush began to look exactly like a hungry grizzly.

In my boxing days I overcame my fear of the long dark lane by impersonating Muhammed Ali! Running along the lane shouting quotes such as "People call Joe Frazier the heavyweight Champion of the world.. clumsy, ugly, flat footed Joe Frazier! he's too ugly to be the worlds champ, the worlds champ should be pretty like me!" I must of looked a ridiculous sight, but in my 'Ali trance' the 5 miles flew by and I was soon safely home. ( All the mad axemen must have ran when they heard Muhammed Ali coming their way and thankfully I never bumped into Joe Frazier coming the opposite direction! )

I have to confess Muhammed Ali visited the Rocky mountain trail that day, once again coming to my aid and warning any bears ahead of me that a human being was approaching. I didn't run of course, but made the whole forest aware of my presence as I walked.

Hours passed and I eventually came across a path with a sign that read 'Jasper 7km' and in the direction I had come from it read 'Jasper 27km' At last I had rejoined a path that would return me to Jasper!

I didn't encounter the grizzly that day, but in my minds eye I saw him on a ridge ahead of me, turning to look at the creature that had dared to enter his kingdom.

The old man of the mountain was the result of my experiences that day.