Somehow, the year has already progressed to Autumn. Whilst I always feel sad about the nights drawing in and the cold damp weather, there are so many wonderful things about this time of year. The light is particularly beautiful, as are the misty mornings, and there is plenty of foraging to be done. One of the highlights for me is hearing the screeching of tawny owls. I am a little bit obsessed with owls! I understand that this is the time of year that the young owls try to establish their own territories. The screech (think “ke-wick!”) that you hear is that of a female owl and the sustained hooting, or “hoo hoo hoo,” is the response of a male tawny (https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/birds-prey/tawny-owl.
I live in rural Kent surrounded by trees so these wonderful birds tend to wake me in the night! They often roost in the hollows of trees as I have tried to describe in this little watercolour. We tend to forget that these nocturnal creatures exist until they surprise us at night.
Well, I was trying to think of a unique name for my newsletter and this coincided with the robin’s usual disappearance from our garden this time of year. The garden has felt strangely empty since then and he was therefore in my thoughts.
In the winter, it is incredible how spherical a robin can actually look, its feathers puffed out and insulating it from the cold, so I decided to incorporate my feathered friend’s roundness into the design. I painted the illustration of the robin in watercolours, referring to a photograph I took of him in the Winter. So, without further ado, here is the logo:
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How will the newsletter differ from the blog? Well, I hope to include more exclusive content, such as informing subscribers about ideas and products I am developing, projects I am working on and exclusive offers. It will also offer a little more insight into my day and personal interests. Of course, the blog will still be here. I plan to keep this up to date with new work, tutorials and any news (including, I sincerely hope, my robin’s safe return). You can subscribe to receive email updates for the blog in the same way.
I thought that it would be helpful for beginner artists and insightful for non-artists to show the process of creating a painting. There are so many different techniques with watercolour and each painting will develop differently according to the subject but this is the way that seems to work best for me for depicting animals.
Step 1: The Drawing
A realistic painting must begin with an accurate drawing. It is very difficult (sometimes impossible!) to correct mistakes in watercolour so I spend as long as possible checking the proportions of the drawing before going in with paint. Spending longer on the drawing saves a lot of time in the end.
I was using a few similar reference photos for this hare.
Step 2: Add Light Colour Washes
I begin by adding the palest colours (I think of these as the pastel colours). I ensure that the paint is very dilute at this stage. I try to use the largest brush possible (in this case, a size 8 sable). The watercolour paper should remain translucent and this effect is easily spoiled by using thicker paint. Keeping everything light at this stage also ensures that I can still see the drawing underneath.
In order not to “lose” the drawing as more colour is added, with a fine brush (size 1 or 2), I added the darks around the eye and pupil (remembering to leave the highlight of the eye white) and other important defining areas of the drawing.
There are a tonne of beautiful watercolours colours available but I usually mix my own colours from the primary colours (red, blue and yellow). I rarely use black and or white pigment (preferring to make use of the white of the paper instead) so, when adding colour, I avoid painting areas that should be white. This little hare has white flecks in its coat so I could not have tackled it in complete washes of colour and therefore used more of a piecemeal approach.
Step 3: Adding stronger washes, darker colours and fine detail
I continue to add slightly stronger washes of colour. I do this in one of two ways. Usually, I ensure that each wash is completely dry before adding the next, but sometimes I may add one colour into another wet colour so that the colours blend together on the surface ( known as “wet into wet”).
I add the defining darker colours and shadows, remembering to leave any white areas. I begin to add the detail of the hare’s rough coat with the smaller brush.
Step 4: Adding more colour, shadows and fine detail
I added stronger yellows, browns, blue and purple tones. I strengthened any dark areas, e.g. the eyes, nose and tail by adding another layer of stronger paint. I added more fine detail, such as the claws, whiskers and hairs. Lastly, I added a watery shadow made up of a purple-blue hue.
My father is a bird enthusiast. In fact, he is rather like Pied Piper where birds are concerned. I don’t if this ability to befriend birds is inherited or learned, but, for the past few years I have been stalked by a particularly friendly robin with a taste for cheddar cheese! Robbie, or Robs, as he is affectionately known to us, calls at our door from about January to Autumn. Currently, he is busy feeding his mate (cheese is a popular offering) and we are looking forward to seeing his offspring hopping in and out of the flower pots near the doorstep again this year. I hoped you might enjoy the picture of him watching me from the upstairs window. He has been known to hover in mid-air, like a humming bird, to attract my attention.
I am finding that pheasants are a favourite subject for many people and these beautiful birds are fortunately also regular visitors to my garden. A beautiful cock pheasant presented me with a perfect opportunity for reference, when he too started appearing at the doorstep recently. I will put the painting up on my shop when it is finished but here is a picture of its progress. In the meantime, here is a link to the pheasant products currently available. Perhaps I will also paint a robin!
Hopefully more exciting than my last post is an illustration for Sundridge Gallery (owned by my parents so this project is long overdue) with its many window panes! Here is the link to the picture on the gallery website. http://sundridgegallery.com/about-sundridge-gallery/
Well, I could pretend that my working day is entirely focused on painting. The reality is, of course, as with any small business, that there are other practical and administrative matters to contend with. My friend gave me the paperweight as a joke (she knows how I love paperwork)! At the moment, fuelled by coffee, I am doing bookkeeping and getting organised for my tax return. I also have to manage my website orders, reply to email enquiries and update my website content regularly. There is quite a lot of admin really. I can’t help feeling that all this bookkeeping is valuable time away from the easel but it is an essential part of my business as any small business owner will know.
Later, when I can stand no more, I plan to make a start on a painting to illustrate a website!
I designed and made this little elephant decoration as part of a new range of handmade products to complement my animal artwork. He is sewn by hand and is a bit of a one-off, being made with pure wool felt and lambswool. His legs and trunks are bend-able! He is now available in my shop, so if you’d like him to cheer up your tree, please be quick as he is a limited edition! Keep an eye out for other animal creations to follow.