Saturday, 1 March 2014

Drawing and painting

Something I really enjoy is creating little pieces of art for friends and family. I love trying to catch the play of colour and light, and when I paint or draw, I tend to be totally in the moment, losing track of time and frequently ending up covered in ink or paint to boot.  I don't notice when it starts to go dark, or my fingers go numb, or I've missed a meal.  It's the one creative hobby I have which totally engrosses me to the point I can't even manage to converse - not something I normally have a problem with, as any of my friends would tell you!

I've never had much success selling my art, although I have had one small commission (cost plus a notional payment - they used the images and I kept the paintings) from a poultry group we used to attend in Llanfoist (if you live nearby and keep poultry, they are a lovely, welcoming group and I totally recommend popping in!) to create images for notelets - a bit more about that later.  

The great thing about this is, as I have a job, I can just create things that I like, that make me and my friends and family happy, and develop my technique in the direction I want.  And if I am lucky enough to be asked by someone I like to create something special (sometimes at cost, sometimes for gifts) I can take my time over it.  As we don't have a lot of wall space in our little house, the pieces I keep tend to languish in my portfolio - but I enjoy getting them out and looking at them from time to time...

My normal media are pencil, pen or ink and brush on paper, or acrylic on canvas.  I adore (and prefer) the texture, look and feel of oil on canvas - but I just find that by the time the layers have dried I have had to put the painting aside and they never seem to get finished, whereas acrylics suit my reasonably quick way of painting.  You can see one of my acrylic paintings on this post.

 Working in pencil is one of the things I find both easy and difficult.  Graphite is really tactile and flexible as a medium - not to mention familiar, as a pencil was (for me) the first artistic tool I ever held.  Even before I knew I was interested in art or in creating it, I knew how to hold a pencil steady.  I think this is why I find it easiest to get a good finish with a pencil rather than a paintbrush.  

However, the flip side of this is I do tend to go for quite a realistic image when I use pencil which means focussing on detail.  I like to reflect the quality of light and textures - not that I am any expert at this - I still have an awful lot to learn.  One of the things I love about the internet is being able to see the work of people all over the world who are kind enough to share their technique and provide tutorials and information about how they like to work. The above portrait is one of my favourite pencil drawings, which I did about 3 years ago.

The same principle of familiarity applies to working in black pen.  I tend to opt for pen when I want quite a realistic image with lots of detail. I am really comfortable with a pen, having spent most of my school days with one in my hand - and as I doodle constantly I have to keep scrap paper near me at work, to stop me from doodling all over anything important!  When I am thinking, drawing just helps me get my thoughts in order.
I mentioned earlier that I had a request from a poultry group to create images to be used on notelets.  I did four sets of images - and the pen drawings were among my favourites.  Here are two (apologies for the less than ideal photos!)  These were drawn from photos - mainly because it's pretty hard to get birds to sit still to have their portraits drawn.  

The above picture is of a gosling in a teracotta bowl, and the image to the right is of a silver Sebright. I thought the black pen would be ideal for picking out the detail of down on the gosling, and the beautiful laced feathers of the Sebright.  I was really pleased with the results.

The other medium I tend to use is coloured ink, applied with a brush.  I quite often paint with ink, and I love the way the bright, easily blended colours that go down quickly on paper, reminding me of stained glass, and simultaneously of cartoons and comics.  I also enjoy being able to use a slightly more stylistic technique.

This rooster is based on a photo in a poultry magazine.  I know from keeping chooks myself that every bird has its own personality, and I loved that this little guy seemed so sure of himself and stood in such an interesting pose.  

I also thought that the colours of his comb and feathers and the sheen on his wing and tail would really lend themselves to being painted with the bright colours of ink.  

The rooster was one of the early images I did in this style.  It isn't the most perfect image I have ever created, but even now I really enjoy looking at it.

The next ink image for the poultry group was this one of an ex battery hen.  You can see she is a bit bald and only has some feathers left.  This is not un typical for an ex battery bird - I always opted for free range eggs even before I'd ever seen an ex batt.  However, after helping hand out these poor girls to new homes during a day helping out my sisters in law (who volunteer for the fantastic British Hen Welfare Trust) ex batts are close to my heart.

I now try to avoid any product that has non free-range eggs and try never to eat chicken unless I know it's free range.  The group members weren't too keen on this image of a straggly hen for their notelets (!) and voted for other images, but this was based one of the first chooks I ever had, so I love it.  She was called Honey because she was so sweet to us - though she was boss of all the other hens, ruling with an iron beak!  She finally grew her feathers back, and though she never laid had a comfortable 18 months of retirement.

The third is a picture of a turkey which I photographed on a day out with friends. The sheen on his feathers seemed to shimmer a different colour with every movement, and I also liked his solemn, sad looking face and the shy way he would look at me when I tried to take his picture, but at the same time standing between me and his hen to protect her.

The final image I created for the group was of a white runner drake. They have such interesting lines and angular bodies.  This one was a real joy to paint and turned out almost exactly how I imagined it would. I tried to keep it really simple, using just black, blue and orange to give the impression of light, and hint at his downy feathers.My sister fell in love with this image - so I popped it in the post to her at Christmas time as a nice surprise.

I also paint pictures of food and a few other things in this way, but I really enjoy painting birds and animals, so the last of the ink images I want to share (just because I like them) are of Canadian wildlife. 

I painted these for friends in Canada who are really outdoorsy and have two little girls.  The Canada goose and a young Arctic hare are in slightly more muted tones than the images above and have a slightly more natural look, though they are quite stylised. 

Well, at the end of this very long post, I'd like to thank you for reading to the end! 

I really hope you have enjoyed the images I have shared - and if you'd like to post up links to any art you may have created, including photos, I would love to have a look, so please do share.  I love looking at the way other people see colour and light.  

Night, lovely followers!  



  1. Wow! You are a very accomplished and talented artist - I'm blown away by the beauty you have created with simple pencils and pens and really enjoyed reading your more than interesting post! Art has always been in my background but now my time is spent with yarns and fabrics - my colour fixes! Looking forward to more . . . .
    Joy x

    1. How lovely Joy! thanks so much for taking the time to read :) I love fabric too - with the added bonus that the work you create is both tactile and oftentimes wearable. I often think that the art that historically, women have created, with the same level of exertion and skill as men, has oftentimes been consigned to the label 'crafts' - a term which I think (and hope) is now being reclaimed!

      To me there is something just as beautiful and elegant in a hand made item of clothing, a quilt or piece of lacework as there is in a painting, sculpture or piece of pottery, and I get the same pleasure from looking at and touching them - one of the reasons why I simply love looking at the beautiful artwork on your blog! Your quilting especially is absolutely stunning - you have a fantastic eye for colour :)

      I'm really glad I could share something that you liked to look at too.

      H xxx

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  3. My kid looks awesome...I think you need to paint a cartoon version of them that is like a magical dream that I can hang in the smallest bugs room next to your awesome mini monster painting...You know you want to...Maybe for Emmas next Birthday? Huh, Huh???

    1. :D I still have to do those aeroplane paintings you asked for! I went and picked out 4 plane images and thought about colour schemes etc, and even cut the paper ready - but I haven't picked up a brush in months (except to make cookbooks) I think I just imagine a life I don't have where one day my house will be so tidy and the DIY will all be done, and I will have a whole day to paint. I think I just need to get stuck in, hehe! xxx.

  4. You really are so amazing, the artwork is incredible. I loved seeing your pieces.

    1. Thanks Meredith - you are very kind! I really enjoy your posts too - both the creative ones and the ones about your lovely family and gorgeous dog :) xxx

  5. I am so glad I found your blog! Your work is just outstanding....and I love your use of pen in those pieces! And your paintings are so very cool! The way you painted those last few pieces by highlighting certain areas of the subject is just beautiful! I was an art major in college and am hoping to get a studio space set up somewhere in my house so I can get back to it!!! A wonderful week to you!! Nicole xo

    1. Thanks so much :) I really enjoyed looking at your blog too! Your kind words mean a lot - and I really hope you get time to sit down to make some art soon :) it really is so fulfilling isn't it? Really glad you came by! Xxx

  6. Such talent! I adore that drake, so clean and minimalist - lucky sister! Thanks for your comment on my blog, lovely to meet you x

    1. Thanks so much Carrie! Lovely to meet you too - I really enjoyed reading your posts. Nice to find someone with a deep love of planting things and watching them grow - it's immensely rewarding, though my plot needs more time than I have been giving it lately. Yours looks just wonderful - it inspires me to make time for mine! H xxx