Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mother's Day Hawk Walk

As expected, I haven't had any time for paintbrushes so far this week - and its looking highly unlikely that there will be any painting for the next few days... :(  So instead, I thought I'd share my Mother's Day treat with you...a Hawk Walk with my daughter. We had a lovely time with Lon, the Falconer and Caffrey, the Harris Hawk as we wandered the lanes and fields on Sunday morning. It was a crisp, bright morning but heavy grey clouds were looming in the distance - but luckily for us, the sun shone!! Caffrey is a very experienced Hawk but has been out of action for a while, so this was his 2nd trip out on a hawk walk, in the early stages of him returning to full fitness. What a star he was! The following photos show some highlights of our walk...from my point of view as both proud Mum and excited Trainee Falconer!

Ready to 'rock & roll'..!

...and off we go!

Caffrey coming in to land on my glove...

just look at those talons!!!

Big smiles!

Caffrey took a detour into the hedge...perhaps he saw a vole???

homeward bound.

I hope these photos give you some idea of just how 'up close and personal' we can be with these stunning birds. As usual, I have bucket loads of inspiration for more paintings from this experience...it happens every time I see them! Just watch this space to see what i paint next...I'm pretty sure there will be a Harris Hawk or two...!

Mandi ;)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Daffodils...lots of them!

Another busy week, and we're only half way through! 

I had a fantastic weekend at the Falconry Centre, the highlight for me was flying Sam, the Harris Hawk, twice on my own (under the watchful eye of Lon). I had LOTS of practice using the one-handed falconry knot, and enjoyed plenty of close encounters with the birds during cleaning & feeding! We had some very keen visitors in the Owl Encounter, and thankfully most of the owls were on their best behaviour..all bar Woolley who, being in mid breeding season was intent on luring us to his 'nest' so we could lay him an egg! He wasn't interested in flying, so he went back to his aviary and his fellow friends were brought out to entertain the visitors instead. A big thumbs up to George, Elvis, Ulu & Irwin who all flew beautifully!

Back in the real world... lots of photo editing has had to be done and today I had the pleasure of returning to my daughter's school to work with the year 5 children...drawing and painting daffodils! Once again, these 9 and 10 year olds did extremely well, and this time I remembered to take some photographs of their work. We began by making observational drawings in sketch books, moving on to a coloured drawing using water-colour pencils on water colour paper, which we blended with a damp paint brush to soften the shading.

A selection of water colour pencil paintings by 9 & 10 year olds...Impressive!

A few more works of art from year 5...WOW!!

This is a series of demonstration sketches I drew for the children to illustrate the 'crazy shapes' made by the petals and how to blend the watercolour pencils with a damp paintbrush.

I managed to squeeze one quick painting for myself in this week..a Tawny Owl. If I'm honest, I'm not really happy with this painting - probably because I used water colours on a slightly light weight paper. I'm used to using really heavy 300lbs/640gsm water colour paper, now I'm used to that, nothing else compares!! On the really heavy paper, the paint reacts much better - for some reason it is easier to manipulate - I suggest, if this interests you - try it! My favourite at the moment is Saunders Waterford 640gsm. you can get Rough, HP (smooth) or NOT (medium)

Tawny Owl Detail: The warm and friendly eyes of a Tawny Owl...so cute

The 'un'-finished painting...I think it needs some more work, but that was all I had time for this week!

Well, that's me done until next week..I'm of to the Big Smoke tomorrow (London) with my hubby for some well deserved R&R - I'll be back in time for some Falconry on Saturday!!!

Mandi ;)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Expressions of an Eagle...

What a week...! Firstly, I have to announce my mega exciting news that I am now 'Trainee Falconer' at Puxton Falconry Centre, with Gary, Claire and Lon!!! I'm so excited - not only do I photograph and paint these stunning birds of prey, but now I get to learn all about them, how to handle them and care for them! There is SO much to learn... I've had a lot of animals in my time, including dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, chickens, sheep...this is a whole new ball game.

I'll still be doing all my Art and Photography - Falconry will take up 2 days each week which leaves plenty of time for everything else! Meeting these birds 2 years ago is what initially inspired me to pick up a paintbrush, so it feels perfect that they are becoming part of my life. It would be hard to choose between painting, photography and the birds... Fortunately, for now, I don't have to choose, and they all feed into each other.

This week has been busy with both photography and art. As well as a school photo shoot and lots of editing, I spent an afternoon at school with my daughter's class experimenting with water colour pencils. To my delight (NOT!!) we sketched daffodils. (My Mum said to think of them as yellow birds with green legs!!) The children worked in their sketch books to capture the curly shapes of the petals and trumpets, then worked directly on to watercolour paper using the pencils, finally blending the colours with a damp brush. The children created some beautiful paintings! I wish I'd taken some photos - I'll try to remember when I go back next week, so I can show you.

I managed to steal a couple of hours this morning to work on some head studies of Alfonzo, THE most handsome Chilean Blue Eagle! He is a real character, and as I was getting to know him (or allowing him to get used to me!) last weekend, his expressions and quirky head positions caught my attention...
I played with these studies and used different mediums - Acrylic, watercolour then water colour pencils. I did this purely for practice. I enjoyed the watercolour most, and have yet to blend the pencil drawings with water. I'm hoping this will make them look less 'sketchy'.

Alf, Head Studies in Acrylic

Alf, Head Studies in Watercolour

Alf, Head Studies in watercolour pencil (not blended)
Off to catch some Zzzzzzz's now, ready for a day with the birds tomorrow!!!
Mandi ;)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Paintings, paintings, paintings!!!

My 'drawing day' last week really paid off (despite my grumpiness at missing a great day's wildlife spotting...) Having a great batch of drawings to develop into paintings has been very productive! I've had a good week and made time to paint A LOT this week...so I've got plenty to show you! My brushes have been focused on 'cute, fluffy owls'...possibly because I spent a lot of time at the weekend with the birds themselves! I know I'm obsessed with Eagles and Buzzards, but there's just something so adorable about owls.
(An amusing comment from Lon, the Falconer, I'd like to share with you..."Despite our assumptions that Owls are clever and 'Wise', we are assuming incorrectly: Owls eyes are so big in their skulls, there is very little room for much brain - owls are in fact a bit daft!! They are creatures of habit, therefore easy to train - until they hit breeding season when nature and hormones take over!" ....you learn something new every day!)

So now, some paintings...I began with a couple of drawings, using water colour pencils, just as practice to get my eye in. The subject is a very rare black (mellanistic) barn owl called Eve.

I have since blended these with water which has improved the intensity slightly, but I prefer the following watercolours...

Eve, Black Barn Owl, Watercolour.

Eve, Black Barn Owl 2, Watercolour.

I was on a roll, so also painted 'Irwin' - a very cute Boobok Owl
native to Australia.

Really enjoying the freedom of watercolour, I had another go at a Eurasian Eagle owl....

I love the intensity of his stare!

 Having indulged in a fair few owls, I couldn't resist the temptation to paint Alfonzo, my favourite Eagle...he's a Chilean Blue Eagle Buzzard and I love him! The paper I used for this drawing wasn't suitable for watercolours, so I grabbed the acrylics and accompanying brush set, and escaped into my eagle dreamland!... I always start a new bird with the eye and beak, then work my way down the rest of the body...I got this far and thought 'I've got it - that's him!'
Detail: Alfonzo, Acrylic

I didn't stop here though, I carried on, and although I initially thought I'd 'finished' the painting, I now know I need to do a bit more to the background.
Alfonzo, Acrylic.

I'm feeling a few head detail paintings might well be next on my 'to do' list!

To finish my painting this week, I did 4 small watercolours of owls. I purposely decreased the scale to see if I could keep the freedom within a small image - its much easier to work loosely on a large painting! See what you think...
Grace, Spectacled Owl, Water Colour
George, Barn Owl, Water Colour

George 2, Barn Owl, Water Colour

Irwin, Boobok Owl, Water Colour

That brings me to the end of my Art Week and takes us into March...only 4 months left to complete a whole body of 'exhibition worthy' artwork!! I'm looking forward to a weekend with my feathered friends - I'm sure this will provide more than enough inspiration for some new paintings!

Mandi ;)