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Happy Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節快樂!

Discovered this gem by Andrew Haslen https://andrewhaslen.com/. Mr Haslen is well known for his beautiful linocuts and watercolours of hares and the moon which would be perfect for the moon festival. However, I personally love this image of a singing yellowhammer as I enjoyed studying these chirpy chaps for my master’s thesis.  Happy Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節快樂!  Enjoy and give thanks for family, friends, the harvest, the largest full moon of the year and, of course, mooncakes!

Sneak preview of new ARG educational materials

After taking a lot longer than I’d hoped, and more late nights than I care to mention, I am pleased to have finally finished a set of artwork for educational materials for reptile and amphibian charity, ARG UK. There will be new factsheets, black and white colouring sheets and stickers. Watch this space, or go to ARG UK directly, to keep your eyes peeled for when the new materials are released. In the meantime, have a look at last year’s batch https://www.arguk.org/info-advice/educational-resources.

ARG UK say, “The beautiful materials are available for anyone who’s interested in our amazing wild reptiles and amphibians. If you are part of a volunteer group please get in touch directly with us at info@arguk.org. The materials have been so successful we’ve expanded beyond ARG UK and some of the Wildlife Trusts, and even Sealife, have been giving them out. In fact, we’ve given out 20,000 stickers over the past year!”

 

Digital sketching fun!

 

If you like sketching, you must try this! Had a hilarious evening with family on a competitive sketching computer game, Drawful!  I’d describe this game as childish fun for grown-ups, teens or older children.  I am not the most techo-minded and don’t really do computer games, but this was brilliant fun! I think it’s a bit like Pictionary or the Catchphrase tv programme, if you remember that little tv gem from the ’80s.  Anyway, you are given some text to illustrate on your smartphone or tablet and the aim is to get the other players to correctly identify your drawing. Much mirth then ensues as people misidentify your scribbles!  We played it using a PS4 and the game is part of the Jackbox Pack.  We didn’t try all the other games in the pack, but of those we did we were really not that bothered, apart from maybe the mildly amusing Swatter.  Drawful is a great game between friends for an evening, we highly recommend it! Here are a few of my efforts for a chuckle…

 

Bird sketching day with Mike Langman at Occombe Farm

We spent a beautiful Sunday honing our drawing skills to capture the essence of birds on a bird sketching day with artist Mike Langman at Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust’s Occombe Farm. My mission was to learn how to sketch like a pro and speed up the drawing. I’m a fan of both Mike’s artwork and Occombe Farm, so I invited my sister and fellow artist, Mai-Ying, along to join the fun.  We were put through our paces, starting with the relatively slow moving (but not sitting) ducks, then hens, then lightning fast songbirds.  Mike gave us tips and taught us clever but simple techniques on how to draw faster, with constructive feedback all along, with classroom sessions in the pretty yurt and outside with the birds, even in light rain!  It was pretty tough for someone like me who often gets bogged down in the detail.  All I need now is to find time to practice what we learned. Thanks to Mike, Damian and Occombe for an excellent day! M 😀

 

 

My best hen sketches. I think there is only one good one per page, if I’m lucky! I went through a LOT of pages!

Damian Offer, Trust Director, ably assisting in the explanation of feather tracts.
Sketching from memory, after about an hour of field sketching.


   

Mai-Ying’s songbird hieroglyphics, sorry, sketches!

Mike’s sketchbooks

Children’s book illustration workshop at RAMM

Yesterday, yes, I was inspired! Thanks to Exeter Illustrators, Tom McLaughlin, Paul Cherrill and Clare Elsom for their wonderful insight, good humour, and guidance through the world of children’s book illustration at a workshop at the RAMM. They gave me valuable creative and technical advice, whilst we sketched throughout the day. I came away feeling invigorated and inspired by their work and by the other artists around the table and their work. The romantic image of life as a full time professional artist/illustrator has dissipated and I now am more aware of the highly organised commercial machine of the publishing house. It is another business after all, with tight deadlines, etc. Hmmmm. Definitely food for thought, maybe one day….. Mx 😀

https://www.facebook.com/exeterillustrators/

 

Educational resources for Amphibian and Reptile Groups UK

Work in progress in my studio, ie dining table :)
Work in progress in my studio, ie dining table 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long time no paint! Family life with two toddlers and day job have not left much time for much time for painting, or anything else. However I am pleased to say, with a lot of help from grandparents and hubby, I managed to squeeze in time to do some artwork in collaboration with the Amphibian and Reptile Groups UK. This is a charity that does fantastic nature conservation work to protect our wonderful scaly and slimy friends.  I was honoured to be approached by the group and, after several months of painting when I should be sleeping, I am pleased with the results. ARG UK have got some graphic designers to whip the images into some fun educational factsheets, colouring-in sheets, plus stickers available to all.

Do you know any children who might be even slightly interested in what a grass snake likes for dinner; why adders dance; how to tell your sand from your common lizard; what is a madfall ddwr gribog; and how long can slow worms live in the wild? If the answer is yes, go straight to the ARG UK website and download factsheets and colouring sheets for free! You can also buy sets of stickers for a very good bargain price!

Wall mural: Haytor Bluebells & Wild Garlic – the end!

After 14mths break, I decided I must finish this mural, sooner rather than never! And finally, after another 5 hours, I have finished the unfinished animals, ie the buzzard, dipper, stoat and red admiral. Yes, i would love to do more, ie a swallow, swifts, amongst others, but

I found it very tricky getting the right tone for shaded light areas. Buzzards are not muddy beige underneath, they are cream/white, but it appears so as its in the shade. I hope this looks right to any birders out there!

Wall mural: Haytor Bluebells & Wild Garlic – almost the end!

I’m afraid there will be no more mural postings for a while 🙁 at least a month or two…

This week I added honeysuckle flowers, a dormouse and a half finished red admiral – approximately 3.5 hours in total.  By which point two things happened, which has meant a temporary stop to mural works.

a) small person needed to move into his own room after having already been made to wait patiently for over two months (!) and

b) I need to press on with an exciting new piece of artwork for a wildlife charity that does great work for animals that I have a particular fondness for.  (I will go into more detail when the artwork has been given the thumbs up!)

I believe the mural is not finished and I still have plenty of things I want to add to it.  Without ‘giving away the ending’, essentials include completing: the red admiral; final piece of ‘unpainted’ wall that is the dipper in the stream; there is the ghost outline of a weasel or stoat – which I hope did not jinx the road traffic incident death of a real-life local stoat recently – very sad; and lastly the buzzard in flight that took me 2.5hrs to draw.  I could stop after these four, but the wishlist includes: swallow, house martin, swift, garden cross spider (so small person will not be frightened of spiders), another butterfly species, possibly a dragonfly, and in the distance Devon Red cattle, Belted Galloways (I love their mint humbug look!), sheep, possible ponies.  Then ideally, when all is finished, I would add two layers of varnish with UV protection to prevent fading/discolouration and minor paint scratches (small person would have to vacate the room for a while during this process to avoid fumes.)  The grand total of time spent on the mural to date is approximately 67 hours, but obviously it will take a lot longer!  I’ll see how I feel later, whether I just finish the four animals or add all the extras with sugar on top!  I like to think the client is happy with the mural so far.  He went to sleep fairly quickly for his first nap in the room (it helps make the room darker!) and has gazed at the details, but he does gaze into space sometimes too!

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Wall mural: Haytor Bluebells & Wild Garlic – ble bat, bluti, goldf & roe buck

After the owl and brown long eared bat, I felt it was time to get some colourful creatures into the mural.  In this case, the blue tit and goldfinch.  Will work on some butterflies soon as someone rightly pointed out that the mural seems to be vertebrate animals (ie larger charismatic types) only, so far.  Actually, I was already planning on adding a few inverts (ie insects and friends), but just haven’t got round to them yet… I think the little birds and bat bring the tree branches to life.  Plus, as they are tiny, the viewer can have fun trying to spot the animals. I ummed and ahhed about whether to add the deer, but glad I did now as there was a definite void in the picture before.  Bat took one hour, two birds took 2.5 hours and roe buck took 3 hours, taking the grand total to 61 hours.

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