Saturday, 19 January 2013

Hyacinth Macaw

Well it's that time of year again when it's time to enter the DSWF Wildlife Artist of the Year competition. I seem to always enter the 'endangered species' category, probably because unfortunately the most beautiful animals on this planet are now threatened with extinction. The Hyacinth Macaw is a perfect example. A truly stunning bird, it has been on the IUCN Red List as endangered since the year 2000, due to the destruction of it's habitat and being captured for the pet trade. 

So as such I thought it would be the perfect subject to paint for this year's competition. The most difficult challenge was recreating that vivid blue plumage. I used a mix of Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue and Intense Blue. I wanted a bit of contrast against the blue, so I added some purple as a highlight, and Paynes Grey as a shadow. I kept the feather detail to a minimum as I wanted the colours to merge and run into each other, to create texture and pattern. 

Let's keep fingers crossed that the judges like this painting enough to include it in this year's exhibition!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Gordon Setter

It seems fitting for me to begin 2013 with a new blog post, which admittedly has been a long time coming! I must admit I have been quite lax with my art in recent months, but I aim to be much more prolific this year.

This piece is a Christmas present commission that I painted in early December. Dogs are a subject I rarely paint, but after this I think they are something I should tackle more often! This Gordon Setter proved to be a beautiful subject for watercolour. The rich blues, blacks and golds in the fur are a striking combination when blended together, and the fluffy fur was fun to paint with my messy, splatty brushstrokes.I think it actually looks like she has just emerged from a good swim in a pond! 
What I feel is most successful, is that there is a lot of 'life' in the face of the setter. With any animal I always put a lot of time into getting the eyes right, which gives the piece a great sense of character.      

Sunday, 3 June 2012


It has been quite a while since I last picked up a paintbrush. I don't have any excuses, I suppose I have just had a 'block' of some sort!

However, as I comeback I wanted to attempt a subject I haven't tried before. 
Any young animal is a challenge, and I thought a great subject would be a puppy. This is 'Tala', my parents' new German Shepherd. I kept the paint application very loose, working on very wet paper, allowing the colours to bleed into one another. I later added darker patches onto the still wet paper, to add shadow and tone, adding extra water where I wanted lighter fur areas. The finishing touch was some smaller splashes and flicks of thicker paint to highlight her fluffiness. The most difficult part of her to paint were her eyes. I added bright highlights of white to make them shine, then wet the paint around the pupils and lifted it with some tissue to further highlight the colour of the irises. I don't normally work this loosely, but I think I will try and do it more in the future as I am very pleased with the effects.

In other news I have submitted 3 paintings to the 2012 National Exhibition of Wildlife Art. Fingers and toes crossed that they shortlist at least one of my paintings!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Tiger in Water

Believe it or not, tigers like nothing better than to cool off in lakes and streams, and will even hunt in water. The most famous tigers to display this behaviour are those in Ranthambore National Park, India.

As tigers are incredibly threatened at the moment, I thought they would make the perfect subject for this years DSWF wildlife art competition.
This is actually my second attempt at this image. I did not anticipate how hard the reflections could be - they can very easily turn into a big watery and muddy mess! I kept them very simple, by wetting the shape of the reflection area, then adding loose blobs of either red, orange or blue/black. Once the area had almost dried, I added the surrounding water, letting some areas run into the reflection.
I put the most detail into the tiger's head. I used layers of fine 'brush splatters' to create a furry appearance, more so on the longer fur under the ears.
I have kept the background neutral, as this means the main focus is on the tiger and the water. Foliage or riverbank could easily make the image muddy and dull.
After some reassurance, I am now happy with this watercolour, and will enter it in the 'Endangered' category, along with the Red Breasted Geese. Wish me luck!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Eider Duck

I will be completely honest and say this painting was a pain in the backside to do! Usually my subjects are quite static, so this time I wanted to add a bit of action, and have the duck rising out of the water and stretching it's wings. I watched 2 Eider Ducks bathing in the late afternoon light at the WWT wetland centre, so had plenty of reference, but I just could not get the wings correct. I spent ages sketching out the lines in pencil, and even when I applied the paint the right wing looked pinioned and at an incorrect angle.
Even so, I perserveared and eventually produced an image I am fairly happy with. What I enjoy the most about this image is the water. Splashing the page roughly with blue and black ink created some great movement, and the colours on the bird are soft and warm.

My next aim is to produce something for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist competition. A Tiger will be the best subject for the Endangered category methinks.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Red Breasted Geese

On Saturday my mum and I visited the WWT reserve in Barnes, West London. It was a beautiful sunny day, and perfect for watching all the lovely wildlife there. My favourite wildfowl there were the Eider Ducks, and these colourful Red-Breasted Geese. They were lit up by the late afternoon sun, and just crying out to be painted!
This was quite an ambitious image for me to paint in watercolour. Water is one of the trickiest things to paint, especially when coupled with reflections. I took inspiration from Lars Johnson's watercolours of wildfowl. He uses simple loose brushstrokes on wet washes to produce a loose impression of the bird in the water. He also uses the white of the paper to illuminate the subject. I have a habit of covering even the white parts of my subjects with colour, so I wanted to try this method instead. I am quite pleased with this image as it is my first painting since the summer!
The red, black and white of these birds make a lovely contrast, and I will probably re-visit them again to paint, but first I am going to try some Eiders.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Poland Cockerel

Whilst visiting Wiltshire with my boyfriend last weekend, we walked past a farm and saw this weird but wonderful cockerel. This breed of chicken is called a 'Poland'. It's most eye-catching feature is the fantastic hairdo, which reminds me of David Bowie's character Jareth from the film Labyrinth (if you haven't seen this film already, watch it, it's amazing!).

Unfortunately the feathers over his eyes seemed to completely obscure his vision. Every time the wind blew and the leaves rustled, it ran around erratically not knowing what on earth was going on! However, I just had to paint him. I had to paint him in sections, otherwise the different reds and browns would have blended into each other. Looking at this painting has made me realise that I really need to do something with my backgrounds. I need to introduce more colour around the subject, instead of just a small area at it's feet. I think this will have to be my project going forward.