Tag Archives: wildlife art

Wild At The Margins at Lancaster City Museum

I’m exhibiting paintings and sculptures at an exhibition at Lancaster City Museum next month, alongside Fay Collins. Our work focuses on nature and wildlife and it’s relation with humans and the human environment. Most of my paintings are of landscapes very close to my home, the woodland alongside the River Wyre, and the Lune Estuary, as well as some from Scotland. This is partly because I love to depict places and subjects which I really know, and partly due to the constraints of combining creativity with a schedule imposed by a tiny tyrant who is nonetheless far too big for me to actually carry any distance. So all the places I have painted are places that can be reached with our trusty green off road buggy, I probably ought to have included it in at least one painting. Here are two of my new paintings which will be on show.

The exhibition is on until March 1st.

‘At the Edge of the Sands’. Oil on canvas, 102 x 76 cm.
‘Where The Fox Was’. Oil on canvas, 36 x 46 cm.

Recent bird paintings

I’ve mainly been painting birds and woodland over the winter, I love both. Mainly I head to the coast to watch the birds and these paintings are from the Lune Estuary near where I live, and the barnacle geese from the Solway Firth in Galloway. The entire Svalbard population of barnacle geese overwinters on the Solway Firth and it is really worth a visit to see them.

The Scottish word for curlew is whaup. I was in my twenties before I knew that they were the same bird ūüôā Morecambe Bay is a wonderful place to see them and other wading birds.

Whaups, Morecambe Bay. Oil on canvas, 61 x 46 cm

Whaups, Morecambe Bay. Oil on canvas, 61 x 46 cm

Barnacle Geese, Solway Firth. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm.

Barnacle Geese, Solway Firth. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm.

Little Egret, Lune Estuary. Oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm

Little Egret, Lune Estuary. Oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm

 

Wire bird sculptures

I’ve enjoyed experimenting with wire sculpture since I was 15, when I crafted a trio of chickens out of chicken wire and photographed them amongst our flock of hens, as part of my Higher Art project. Over the last year I’ve started creating things using wire again, as well as dabbling in ceramics and various other things. I think sometimes its just very refreshing to do something in a different way, in this case, I feel like I am drawing in 3D, creating something pleasingly tangible.

I’m working on a couple of herons at the moment, as well as my old favourites the chickens. As always, the legs are the hard bit, but i’m making progress and am quite pleased with how these are coming along.¬†

The herons are designed to be stood in a pond, should you so desire, I will post some pictures asap.

Headless chicken: sculpture in progress

Headless Chicken. My studio has resembled a macabre nativity scene in the last week.

Creatures spilling out of my studio

Creatures spilling out of my studio with my unimpressed dog in the background!

Silhouetted against a beautiful winter sunset -heron in progress.

Silhouetted against a beautiful winter sunset -heron in progress.

Herons on sticks

Herons on sticks! No legs yet but I wanted to see how the bodies were looking.

Scartin in the leaves. I love how they develop a character.

Scartin in the leaves. I love how they develop a character.

Fergus the cat upstaging the chickens

Fergus the cat upstaging the chickens

Sketching at Conder Green, Lune Estuary

I just thought I would share a couple of photos from this morning, I went to Conder Green on the Lune Estuary. Such a beautiful day that even the mud looked nice – reflecting the blue sky. I love the shapes carved by the tidal channels in the salt marsh and mud, and the birds are always fascinating. Today there were lots of redshank scurrying around busily, feeding before the tide covered up the mud. I think they were redshank anyway, they had red legs.

I’m planning a series of larger paintings from my accumulated sketchbooks of the Lune Estuary, I have dozens of sketches of birds and the river, I’d like to do something with them.

My Mighty Midget telescope and sketchbook

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Wellies essential all year round in Lancashire

Conder Green. Glasson Dock in the background and a flock of oystercatcher and knot?) which rose from the opposite side of the river

Redshank feeding on the mud, incoming tide

Blue Mud! An acrylic study I painted from my watercolour sketch.

Sketches of Spring

May and June are my favourite time of year. These watercolours are of gowans, lovely big daisies, which fill up the edges of our garden at this time of year, roses, and just the general joy and chaos of spring. I painted the deer at Leighton Moss, a nearby RSPB reserve. I’d gone with a group to sketch for the day and we were rewarded with seeing so many amazing birds and animals, an otter, marsh harrier, gorgeous young fluffy moorhens, and these red deer mother and young, who stepped out of the woods in front of our hide, like a scene from Bambi.

'June Garden', watercolour

‘June Garden’, watercolour

'Meadow', Watercolour

‘Meadow’, Watercolour

A sketch from a lovely garden in Eskdale, watercolour

Red Deer fawn, watercolour

Red Deer fawn, watercolour

Red Deer, watercolour sketch

Red Deer, watercolour sketch

 

The Last Skydancer limited edition prints in aid of Birders Against Wildlife Crime

Limited edition prints are now available of my oil painting “The Last Skydancer”, which I painted earlier this year in memory of Hope and Sky, two young hen harriers who went missing, presumed shot, shortly after fledging from their nests on the Forest of Bowland. Following the recent news of a further five¬†hen harriers missing in Bowland and elsewhere in Northern England, rendering them all but extinct in the country, I decided to try and raise some money to help tackle the illegal persecution of these beautiful birds. I’ve never seen a hen harrier except on the road signs around the Forest of Bowland. I would like to hope that this painting is mis-named, and that one day I will see a Skydancer swooping over the moors near where I live.

£16 from every print I sell will be donated to the campaign group Birders Against Wildlife Crime, to raise awareness of the plight of the hen harrier.

You can order a print of The Last Skydancer here. Please note that the prints are printed on demand, and delivery times are up to one month. Postage is free within the UK.

The Last Skydancer. Limited edition print

The Last Skydancer. Limited edition print

Silver Darlings – Acrylic painting of herring at Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary

Fish are a longstanding favourite subject of mine to paint, I love the glow and flash of their colours when viewed underwater, and their beautiful movements. This shoal of herring swims in a mesmerising non-stop circle at the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary. The herring are local, scooped up from the water of Loch Creran, just outside the sanctuary near Oban in Argyll.

Herring used to be called Silver Darlings, and they used to exist in unbelievably vast numbers; the word herring comes from the Old German for ‚Äúmultitude‚ÄĚ.¬†Like so many species which used to be so abundant, however, the herring was over exploited by people, overfished to virtual extinction, and the fishing industry surrounding it crashed.¬†The silver darlings are now relatively rare, although there are reports of slight recovery.

I filmed and photographed the fish, then painted them back at my studio.

The painting is for sale on my online shop here.

Silver Darlings. Acrylic. 2015

Silver Darlings. Acrylic. 2015

The Last Skydancer on show at Platform Gallery, Clitheroe

I’ve just crossed, or rather skirted around the snowy Forest of Bowland to deliver three paintings to the Platform Gallery in Clitheroe.¬†They will be exhibited in “Creativity within the Beauty”, an exhibition of work by¬†artists from across the region. The exhibition commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Forest Of Bowland being designated as an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

I’m exhibiting three¬†recent paintings.¬†‘The Last Skydancer’ is my most recent Bowland painting. I originally conceived it as a study of the mid-winter moorland, before the snow.¬†I wanted to capture the beautiful shades of colour of the moorland, which has huge variety even on a dull day, (as most winter days are here!). I added in a hen harrier, or Skydancer, as they are sometimes called, afterwards.

I had been reading about the plight of this upland raptor which is now all but extinct in England due largely to persecution on grouse moors. Hen harriers love to eat grouse, so are shot by gamekeepers protecting grouse for the shooting season. The Forest of Bowland used to be a stronghold of the hen harrier, but in recent years their numbers have plummeted Рfrom 15 pairs in 2005 to effective extinction by 2014.  Then last summer, their luck seemed to pick up slightly when following a two year absence where no hen harriers bred at all in England, the birds somewhat miraculously returned to the Bowland fells to nest. Under 24/7 survelliance by RSPB staff and volunteers, nine chicks were raised, a bumper crop of skydancers. But shortly after having fledged the nest two of the young birds, Sky and Hope, went missing. It is not known what happened to them. Their radio transmitters and bodies have never been found, and despite the offer of a £1000 reward, nobody has come forward with any information and no perpetrators have been identified.

Despite living on the edge of the Bowland Fells, the closest I have ever come to seeing a hen harrier is on the Forest of Bowland signs, so perhaps it is somewhat ‘cheating’ to paint one. Nonetheless, I painted this in memory of Hope and Sky, the young birds who went missing last autumn. I hope very much that this painting is mis-named and that one day I might see a live Skydancer gliding above the moorland.

There are also two other paintings that I’ve recently finished on display in the exhibition, ‘Sheep, Hawthornthwaite Fell’, as seen in the snowy late winter of 2013, and ‘Autumn Sky over Wyresdale’, which shows the view looking west from the little Bowland fell of Nicky Nook.

'Sheep, Hawthornthwaite Fell', Oil on board 89 x 89 cm

‘Sheep, Hawthornthwaite Fell’, Oil on board, 89 x 89 cm

'The Last Skydancer', Oil on board, 91 x 66 cm

‘The Last Skydancer’, Oil on board, 91 x 66 cm

 

'Autumn Sky over Wyresdale' Acrylic on board, 40 x 30 cm

‘Autumn Sky over Wyresdale’ Acrylic on board, 40 x 30 cm

 

 

Pink footed geese drawing madness

This is a really good autumn for geese as well as harvests. At Martin Mere in West Lancashire there’s¬†record numbers of pink-footed geese down from their summer breeding grounds in Iceland – 36,600 on the reserve, and another few thousand in the surrounding fields. They don’t normally have this many geese until later in the autumn. I went to see¬†them a couple of weeks ago and found it baffling trying to make sense of the spectacle; like trying to keep track of ripples on a river or count¬†stars.

Drawing the geese on the water and preening themselves on the shore¬†was bad enough but trying to sketch them coming into land was definitely the hardest thing I’ve tried to do in a long time. I ended up abandoning pencils and just sketching directly with watercolours, because its faster. There’s no time for rubbing out or a second chance, you just have to draw as fast as possible. I found that I could¬†draw them flying with just a couple of lines, but getting those two lines right meant I had to watch them for ages. It’s fairly easy to draw what you think you see, a lot harder to draw what you do see. Drawing from life can be incredibly frustrating, but I do feel¬†a sense of accomplishment when I¬†draw something that looks OK. Or even OK-ish.

I sometimes question why I like drawing birds and animals so much. I think it’s partly because its so difficult, I like the challenge, but mainly because in order to get anywhere you have to look so carefully, which means you end up seeing interesting things. That Friday I saw three or so enormous carp fish swimming around the geese, their backs right out of the water. The biggest must have been almost a metre long. It looked totally bizarre, like a school of mini porpoises.

Pink footed geese

Pink footed geese

PInk footed geese landing

PInk footed geese landing

Pink footed geese