I was taking a well earned break and enjoying a cup of tea with the latest issue of The SAA’s Paint Magazine. When I turned the page I was thrilled to discover my pencil portrait A Lifetime of Laughter smiling back at me.
My drawing was Highly Commended in their Artists of the Year 2020 competition, which is a great honour as there are entries from so many artists whose work I admire.
Back in 2018 I also had the good fortune to receive the award of Highly Commended for my pencil portrait Amur Leopard which was also a finalist that year.
Entries for AOY 2021 are now open, so join me and enter too.
Looking back at 2020 in pictures, this is my year in art. Amongst all the other things that life has required, and the particular and unexpected challenges of 2020, making art has remained a constant source of joy for me. There is a certain peace that comes with putting your attention on one task, and the distraction it offers from the regular thoughts when that task is challenging. Being creative, in whichever way it manifests for you, can be a form of meditation. For me it is an opportunity to disappear into something else for a while, to challenge my abilities as well as my preconceptions, and to really focus my attention on what is.
I will never tire of the magic of watching a drawing unfold in front of me. Despite knowing the techniques that I employ the visual illusions of shadows and highlights creating a sense of form work every time, and this never ceases to delight. I love the tangible nature of art, that I have something to show for my efforts, and appreciate the time I get to spend really getting to know the individuality of my subjects in this way.
Top row, left to right: Bonny Miss Bonnie (pastel), Billy the Kid (pastel), Jay (pastel), Pepsi (pastel), Melissa (pastel)
Bottom row, left to right: An Apprentice of Indigo (coloured pencil), An Age of Indigo (coloured pencil), Lisa and Danny (graphite pencil), Barn Owl (pastel), What a Hoot! (pastel)
Introducing this wonderful Eurasian eagle owl, the star of What a Hoot! This is the third happy creature to feature in my series of joyful animals against blue backgrounds.
There are eagle owls living wild in the UK, and although I have yet to see one myself, I have had the great pleasure of getting up close to some which are in captivity at sanctuaries here in Cornwall. I find them to be particularly magnificent, in part due to their sheer size and strength.
This beautiful owl was a treat to paint in soft pastel, especially as it looks as if it is chuckling to itself, which only serves to endear me to it even further. One very wise, and I suspect witty old owl.
I think that this portrait speaks for itself, Miss Bonnie is just irresitable! For me, portraiture is about finding an emotional connection between the subject and the viewer. Sometimes this is deeply sentimental or nostalgic, and other times I aim to make art that generates a big smile.
Ever since I painted my pastel picture Chewing it Over, starring a rather comedic looking giraffe, I have wanted to create a series of artworks with bright blue backgrounds and cheerful animals. Bonny Miss Bonnie is the second artwork in this now growing range of gleeful pictures.
Dear little Miss Bonnie is so full of life, almost bounding onto the page as if just popping up to say hello or to ask us to play. Her joyful expression makes me smile right back at here every time I see her, so I created this artwork to share the Miss Bonnie love and to brighten all of our days.
For this artwork, I used pastel pencils and worked on Pastelmat, whereas previously my pastel work was predominantly on velour paper. It was, I have to say, a very steep learning curve. I now understand Pastelmat a lot better than I once did, and am excited about the possibilities it offers me as an artist to work to a high level of detail with pastel. Miss Bonnie is just the beginning.
Many thanks to Tracy Lian Miles, Miss Bonnie’s human, for the wonderful source image.
I am fortunate to be able to call this beautiful couple friends of mine, and this image brings back many great memories of their wonderful wedding day.
Drawing people you know brings a different set of challenges to it than drawing a stranger. Of course achieveing a likeness is always my foremost concern, and it can help when you know the subject, but there is a risk that as an artist you are also able to be less objective.
Their choice of photograph for the source image was excellent as it really captures Lisa’s natural beauty and her radiance on their big day, and the kindness and pride that just shines from Danny.
When you think of portraiture, faces are what typically spring to mind. This drawing is a great example of what else can be involved and how complex a portrait can be. With silk, lace, flowers, embroidery and jewels all to be detailed, it called for numerous different techniques in the drawing. These challenges though are also what brings the image to life, and keeps me learning as an artist.
It was a joy to create this, especially knowing Danny and Lisa, and just how much love they have for one another. It is a privilege to be a small part of celebrating that with them.
My pencil drawing, Amur Leopard, has been selected as a finalist in the The SAA Artist of the Year 2018 competition! It is entered in the category of Animal or Wildlife so I have no doubt that the competition will be steep. The original artwork will very soon be heading to The SAA headquarters to join the other finalists for the next round of judging.
This was a very challenging picture to draw as anyone who has subjected themselves to drawing that much fur and white whiskers will appreciate, so I hope it withstands close scrunity by the panel. Fingers crossed!
Greetings cards featuring Amur Leopard and also limited edition prints of this and other artworks are available to purchase.