Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Paintbrushes at the ready as the kids go back to school!!

Hello again!!!
I know its been a long while since my last blog...but Boy!...has it been a busy time! I've only managed a couple of paintings, but there's a good reason...
This Summer...(or should I write "Summer" in inverted commas, as its done nothing but rain???) has seen me through three art exhibitions, a huge body of my paintings going up on display in The Meadows Restaurant at Puxton Park and an invitation to exhibit in Artisan Gallery at Heartlands in Cornwall. WOW!!!! On top of this, I've given art and photography lessons, spent 2 days a week at the falconry centre and photographed a wedding and several portrait shoots!

To celebrate and help promote this success, I've decided to build a new website to incorporate everything I'm doing now...even this blog will be on it! The new website is 'live' as I write, but is in the early stages of creation and will be being developed over the coming months...yet another huge learning curve for me, but it will be a great achievement when it's finished!! I'm really excited about the new website, I hope you'll check it out...

This will be my final post on this blog at blogspot...but this whole blog has been imported to the new site and will continue at the above address, so please keep following me - I love reading your comments on my posts! As I upload more content to the site, you'll also be able to see more of my photography, including weddings, portraits and wildlife photography. I look forward to hearing from you, but before I go, I'll leave you with the 2 paintings I managed this "Summer"!! 

Both are in watercolour on Saunders Waterford 300lbs paper. The owl was meant to be a very loose, washy effect based around intense eyes and beak, but I got a bit carried away with the colours in the background!! It is quite a vibrant painting though! The Harris Hawk painting was more about the contrast between light and dark caused by the strong side lighting on the bird's head. I really like the intensity of the stare - those eyes are so sharp! The close crop to the head also adds impact to the composition - I'm looking forward to seeing this one framed up!

Tomorrow, its BACK TO SCHOOL for my daughter...so its time for me to get out the paintbrushes again and get back into the swing of painting again...in between developing the new website of course....!!!!! Wish me luck, here goes!

Mandi ;)

Woolley, Indian Eagle Owl, Watercolour.

Harris Hawk, Watercolour.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Soggy Summer Holidays...with Art Exhibition Frenzy!!

Hello! What a soggy Summer its been this year. Despite the lack of sunshine, the Summer Holidays have been stupidly busy and very exciting!!
 After the exhibition at Clevedon Pier, I was chuffed to bits to finally hang my paintings in the Meadows Restaurant at Puxton Park. The Falconry Centre at Puxton Park is where my feathered friends live, therefore I feel the most appropriate place on the planet for my paintings of them to be seen! With thanks to Lon and Claire who helped me hang them, visitors to the restaurant can now enjoy their coffee or lunch surrounded by a selection of my favourite paintings of the most stunning birds of prey! If you're passing this way, why not pop in and have a look for yourself?

No sooner were my paintings up at Puxton, it was off down to Cornwall on the train I went to hang yet another art exhibition! This time it was the Portreath Art Club Annual Exhibition. I have been on the 'hanging committee' for the past 2 years which means along with 2 other members, I am responsible for hanging all the exhibiting members' artwork in a pleasing manner. An interesting task with a hint of pressure - trying to fit all the paintings into a  limited space in a limited time, ready for the preview evening. As usual, the exhibition was very successful - despite the bad weather, financial climate and clashing with the 2012 Olympics, sales were good.

Woolley, Rock Eagle Owl. water colour, detail.

Being away on my own allowed me a couple of chances between stewarding sessions at the exhibition, to paint (pretty impossible at home in the Summer holidays with everyone home from school!) My first painting was an experimental watercolour of my old favourite, Woolley. I wanted to work loosely..I got a bit carried away with the colours in the background! I decided to crop into the head as I'm not completely happy with the whole composition, but this part of the painting works well.

Harris Hawk, water colour.

My second painting is of a Harris Hawk, again using water colour. This image is a frame-filling close up of the head, strongly side lit and I wanted to emphasise the light and shade. I'm really pleased with this painting and I think it will have quite an intensity when it is framed and on a wall!

I was unable to stay in Cornwall for the whole week as I had to dash home (or slow train ride!) so I could attend the Private View of the Clevedon Art Club Annual Exhibition held at Clevedon School Science Atrium. This is the time when as an artist, you find out whether or not your art has been selected or not...I was over the moon to discover that my 3 feather paintings had all been selected!!! Woohooo!! The exhibition is open until 25th August 10.30-6pm daily, Sunday 2-6pm. Pop in and have a look!!

Tomorrow is my daughter's birthday..to celebrate we are taking her group with a group of her friends to the Owl Encounter and then for a Hawk Walk (we'll be flying birds in the Twilight Zone if its raining). So, having a hawk themed birthday party, Xixi has asked for a 'Harris Hawk' birthday cake...this afternoon has been spent baking and creating an edible hawk!!!!! Not quite 'art' but with a stretch of the imagination, could be described as artistic creativity!!!! To tell the truth, I really enjoyed the challenge - I just hope Xi's friends appreciate the end result (I know Xi will!)                          Here it is... Next blog I'll tell you how it tastes!
Harris Hawk Birthday Cake

 See you next time, Mandi ;)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Exhibition in full swing & paintbrushes back in action!!

Hello again! Since we opened the exhibition, my feet have hardly touched the ground. I've managed to get around to the rest of the Year 5 children at school and complete their drawing lessons. We had a local newspaper reporter come in to school and take photos of some of the children and their work. I'm told the report is in this week's North Somerset Times!

I promised you some photos of my new feather paintings. They've been attracting a lot of attention in the exhibition and I've just had my first 'feather commission'! So, here goes... I'll start with my very first attempt at a feather painting, a Peregrine Falcon. This one's one of my favourites!
Peregrine - my 1st Feather Painting

I've done quite a few feathers since and I'm now experimenting with different ways to present them. My initial gut feeling was to make specifically sized box frames (I used 'Picture Frames Express' who I found online and they were excellent!! I ordered a batch of custom sized frames on Sunday night, and the whole order arrived on Wednesday morning!)
Here are a few more feather paintings...

Woolley, Looking At You, Looking At Me.

Peregrine (Beak & Eye)

Fox Cub

If you fancy having a go, I found out that a light spray with hairspray (or art fixative) gives the feather a good base for the gesso to stick to, and that makes a nice surface to paint on.

In my last blog I told you about the Vic Bearcroft workshops I did in Bristol. Well, I've plucked up the courage and had a go at a couple of pastel paintings. In 2010, I saw and photographed  some stunning tigers and snow leopards in Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia. I've wanted to paint them ever since, and now, with a little bit of help from Vic, I've managed to do it! I'm happy with the results although I feel the need for a lot more practice with this new medium - I find it quite tricky manipulating the pieces of conte pencils and soft pastels.

Snow Leopard - Pastel on Velour Paper

Now, after all this experimenting with feathers and pastels, I must get my head back into acrylics and finish off all those paintings I began but never finished!! I've got two more exhibitions to prepare for - The Clevedon Art Club Annual Exhibition and The Portreath Art Club Annual Exhibition, both in August. I'll let you know how i get on in the next blog...until then, happy painting,
Mandi ;)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Exhibition & Roadshow..all in a weekend!

Hello again...from a very excited, relieved and exhausted artist! What a weekend it's been. Saturday was spent with Lon (fellow artist/falconer) on a much needed indulgent trip to Bristol for the SAA's 'It's All About Art'. We had an amazing day out, watching professional artists demonstrate their art techniques, and occasionally joining in with workshops. It was great to see these artists in action and note that they were all very different from each other! My personal favourite of the day was Vic Bearcroft who was demonstrating puppies and kittens using soft pastels on velour paper. I joined in on two of his sessions and found his technique extremely effective - of course I had to treat myself to a few sheets of the velour paper and a set of pastels so I could come home and try a few of my own pictures!! Vic Bearcroft has just won an award in the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year 2012 competition with his Pastel Painting of a Western Lowland Gorilla, 'Makaku'. Look him up, he's AMAZING and I'm now a big fan! I think the competition results are published in the new edition of the BBC Wildlife magazine which has just come out in the shops.

Me having a quick chat with Vic Bearcroft between his demonstrations

Vic Bearcroft beginning a pastel demonstration

My 2nd attempt - Gladys the kitten. I'm much happier with this one!

My 1st attempt - puppy in pastel. I was a little rushed and not in a good position to see Vic demonstrate. I had a great view of the back of his head - not of his painting! At least I gave it a shot! (I'm going to sort his eyes out, he's a bit cross eyed at the moment!)

The SAA (Society for All Artists) is also worth a look...they are a huge organisation connecting and supporting artists from all over the country and they also supply discounted art materials...google them!

So, relaxed and enthused from our day out, Lon and I had to snap back to reality again pretty quickly on Sunday morning...we had to hang our Exhibition!

In  pouring rain, we loaded our cars and set off to Clevedon Pier. We had 3 hours to hang our work in the Toll House Gallery...plenty of time??? Hmmmmmm...well, lets say we managed it, just!   Having to reposition our hanging wires on the majority of our frames took a long time. (Thank goodness I remembered to pack a screwdriver!!) I have to thank my lovely friend, Nicky for being there as an extra pair of eyes and hands and calming influence! After much repositioning and level-tweaking, we met our 1pm deadline and were ready for our Private View.
Wow! It was fantastic to see our art on the walls - such a buzz!! All the hard work was worth it. We had a lovely group of guests who gave us wonderful positive comments about our art.

Here's a sneaky peek - apologies for the poor picture quality, these were taken with my phone.

Lon Sandford's graphite drawings
My paintings (painted feathers on LHS)

my paintings on canvas
paintings by Ann Hughes

Our Exhibition is now open to the public and is showing for the whole of July in the Toll House Gallery, Clevedon Pier, North Somerset. If you're travelling up the M5, its 10 mins from Junction 20, (follow signs to seafront) so pop in and see us! (free entry daily. M-F, 10-5, Sat & Sun, 10-6.

Just for good measure, here's our poster one more time! Hope you can make it, bye for now,
Mandi ;)

Friday, June 15, 2012

I've gone a bit 'Owl Crazy'!

Hello again! June has turned out to be as busy this year as it has been for the past few years...its my busiest month for sure as far a photography goes. With preparations for the exhibition in full swing too, there has been little time to paint, even though my mind is screaming paint paint paint!!! I've managed to start work on a couple of new paintings - both are combining 2 of my favourite animals...my new 'favourite' an Eagle with my old 'favourite', a horse. Not surprisingly, but unintentionally, the horse in this painting resembles my old horse 'Girlie' (who's show name was 'Twilight Zone' - an interesting coincidence, as we now fly the owls in a barn called 'The Twilight Zone'!!) So, Alfonzo and Girlie are the stars of this painting...The following pictures show the development. After several rough sketches to decide on composition, I began by lightly blocking in the bird and then masking it so I could work on the horse and background without losing its position.
Stage 1 Eagle lightly blocked in and masked, horse developed

Stage 2 Background added.

Following this, I removed the masking to reveal the Eagle and then worked on the bird.

Step 3 Masking removed.

Step 4 Detail & Tone on the Eagle.
This is as far as I've got with this painting (which is Acrylic on paper) as I ran out of time, but its not far off completion...its currently in the phase where its placed on one side, but still in view so I can look at it from across the room until I can decide what to do next! 

In the mean time I snuck a very quick drawing on to a canvas and did a very quick block in for my next painting...same theme, horse and bird. I can already see changes to be made...I think I'm going to blend out the whole bottom right hand corner. 
Horse & Bird II  first light block in. Acrylic on canvas.
So, a manic June is halfway through and zooming by, quicker than I can cope with. We've had gales and storms instead of sunshine - its all been a bit mad really. A very wet and windy day gave me the opportunity to spend some quality time with both camera and birds...these offer me  inspiration, escapism, grounding and awe...they definitely keep me sane! I hope you enjoy the following photos - they make me smile, I hope they have the same effect on you - enjoy!
George, Barn Owl
Eddie, African Spotted Owl

Elvis, Great Grey Owl

Irwin, Boobok Owl
Ulu, South African White Faced Owl

Irwin, Boobok Owl

Ruby, Milky Eagle Owl

Ruby, Milky Eagle Owl
Bumble, Siberian Eagle Owl
Ulu, South African White Faced Owl

Bumble, Siberian Eagle Owl
GVT (General Von Talon) Peregrine Falcon

This made my day! As I was photographing Elvis, the Great Grey Owl, he was intrigued by my camera and kept fling over to me to have a closer look.

Until next time, let's hope for some sunshine & happy painting,
Mandi ;)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A little bit of painting - a lot of mounting and framing!!

Hello again, (said with a smile!) as the sun has finally decided to shine again!!! So much has happened in the last few weeks...where do I start?? With exhibitions looming ever closer, I have begun to mount and frame my favourite paintings. Its a bit of a chore compared to painting, but offers a real sense of achievement when you can see your work presented professionally! My good news today is that I've had 2 paintings selected for the Royal Bath & West Show...I've never entered before, but after a friendly nudge from Lon (fellow artist and 'bird nut') I took the plunge and had a go. I'm really glad I did now, and I'm looking forward to popping across to visit the show next week to see it all for myself!

Preparations for our Summer Exhibition at Clevedon Pier's Toll House Gallery are in full swing. Myself, my mate, Lon Sandford and my Mum, Ann Hughes are Showing  "Feathers & Fur, The Way We See It" From Monday 2nd July to Tuesday 31st July. We are all looking forward to seeing our art on display after many months painting and drawing, working towards this show! Here's a sneak preview of our poster...

Working with the Birds of Prey has been awesome (as usual!)...and to top it all, this weekend, I brought home a baby kestrel to babysit for the night! Totally delightful to be sat on my kitchen floor with a baby kestrel snuggled into my neck under my hair!!! My daughter was pretty taken with it too...cuddles all round for us!

More Hawk Walks have been on the agenda...and to top the sheer pleasure of walking through countryside with an incredible bird, the countryside itself has been stunning! Green fields of long grass dotted with zillions of buttercups and apple trees bursting with pink and white blossom...can it get any better?

Another couple of afternoons at school with Year 5, this group drawing trainers, has once again proved very productive...there are some very talented 9 & 10 year olds! Check out some of these observational drawings made with watercolour pencils...

More excitement this week has included seeing the Olympic Torch pass through Nailsea. Such a buzz as everyone gathered to catch a glimpse of the torch...crowds waving Union Jacks madly as the procession made its way along the street. Its so nice to be part of something that makes everyone feel happy!

With all this going on, I've had little time to paint...just a layer of colour on my big textured 'Woolley' painting, an acrylic of a juvenile peregrine falcon against a seascape background and a portrait of Rogue, a Gyrlin (Hybrid cross between a Gyr Falcon and a Merlin) on a Falconry Glove.

'Woolley'  Acrylic with Texture Paste (second layer)

Juvenile Peregrine Seascape, Acrylic
'Rogue on the Glove' Acrylic (unfinished)

I'm already looking forward to seeing what the next couple of weeks bring...
Until next time, 
Mandi ;)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Texture & Printmaking - my focus this week!

 Another week has flown by...and yet more art works have been created. After all the excitement of the prospect of using texture within my work, I have come to a sudden halt in the creation of my collagraph prints. I have made a series of collage plates to print, but I am unable to gain access to my printing press (its buried under canvases, frames and boxes!!) So for now, I can show you the plates (which look quite beautiful in their own right!) and the series of mono prints I made last week. Due to the fact that all my painting/printing is done on my kitchen table at home, I have used water based printing ink (rather than my preferred choice of oil based ink) because it is SO much easier to clean up!! The down side of this for me is that the water based ink does not give such a subtle print. Until the time comes when I can clear a studio space somewhere, this is something I am going to have to deal with - and who knows where it might lead me on my experimental journey?

So, first here are the collagraph plates - made by painting with pva glue on cardboard, then when dry, the whole thing is varnished to make it waterproof. (it has to be waterproof because to print from theses plates, damp paper has to be used...if the surface of the plate is not sealed, the damp paper reactivates the glue and it all sticks together - Not good!!) I hope you get an idea of the lovely textures that can be achieved using this technique...when I get around to printing them, you will be able to see the  beautiful quality of line that this surface creates!

Barn Owl Collagraph Plate

Boobok Owlet Collagraph Plate

Boobok Owl Collagraph Plate

Barn Owl  Collagraph Plate 2

Woolley, Eagle Owl Collagraph Plate

Eagle Owl Collagraph Plate 2

The next set of images are mono prints - again using water based ink. (a mixture of acrylic paint and printing medium)

Eagle, monoprint
Falcon in flight, monoprint

Eagle Head, monoprint

Harris Hawk, monoprint

Eagle Owl, monoprint

Barn Owl, monoprint

Then, I played with them and added a bit of acrylic paint to add a hint of colour.... These now render the prints above non-existent. As its name suggests, a monoprint is a 'one of a kind' .

Eagle, monoprint with colour wash
Barn Owl, monoprint with colour wash

Falcon in flight, monoprint with colour wash
Eagle Owl, monoprint with colour wash

Hawk in flight 2, monoprint with colour wash

Eagle Head, monoprint with colour wash.
You can see the difference between a mono print and drawing -  these prints were made by drawing, but the act of drawing on the plate through the back of the paper  picks up extra ink which creates this atmospheric look to the image.

With 'texture' being a bit of a focus this week, I made a start on a large scale (3ft x 2ft) textured painting, using the acrylic texture paste I bought last week! Trying this new technique, I decided to use Woolley, a familiar subject to paint. I've only made a basic start - there's a long way to go on this one! I've used the texture medium both on its own, and mixed with the acrylic paint...what you see here is the 1st application. I'm working on framers board which I primed with gesso so it looks pretty stark black and white - I can't wait to get my teeth into this... Hopefully, I'll find some time in the next week - but its looking very busy... Sadly, this photo doesn't show the texture very well - hopefully it will become more apparent as the painting develops?

Woolley - Acrylic on Board 3ft x 2 ft
To finish this week's blog, I am pleased to show this next painting, and to wish its new owner a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!
This is a portrait of 'Yuri', my friend Lon's dog. Slightly daunting, painting a portrait for a fellow artist, but I am pleased with the result!

'Yuri',  Acrylic, 10" x 12"
So that's me, all blogged out until next time!
Mandi ;)