Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cross eyed Friend

With their vivid yellow eyes and cross expressions, little owls have always amused me. There are four pairs nesting near to the house and I've taken to feeding them recently. It's been a 'Fairtrade' arrangement - I get great photographs in return.

Being the smallest of our owls - they stand at just 8" tall - they are particularly vulnerable to predators. They will nest alongside barn owls and kestrels, sometimes sharing the same tree. But the formidable tawny owl can spell danger. A tawny owl usually will drive them away and can kill a little owl. Little owls tend to nest down a narrow passage to keep away from unwanted intruders. I've just finished writing about them for the Yorkshire Post read the article by clicking here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A suprise sighting

I had a suprise sighting this morning. I was just eating my breakfast and watching the birds from the kitchen window when a roe deer ambled up the field towards the house. It was a doe and she was looking about, seemingly for somewhere quiet & hidden to have her young. Females can often be seen now doing this. Does are monoestrous, meaning they have one breeding cyle a year. After delayed implantation they usually give birth the following June after a 10 month gestation period. Typically they have two spotted fawns of opposite sexes. The fawns are hidden in a secret place away from predators and they are suckled by their mother several times a day for around three months.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Painting it Blue

It's breeding time again for kingfishers. I have a spot where I have been watching them for two years, on and off, and have learned all their fishing posts. Read more

While I was out watching them, I set this camera on infra red beam to get a photo of one on its perch. Instead, this kingfisher decided to use my camera as a fishing post! I had mixed feelings about his choice: afterwards the camera was covered in slime and fish scales. Still, I have some fabulous photographs for future paintings.

The blue of a kingfisher's back is a bright, irridescent blue. It is very difficult to render in paint, but I've developed a few strategies over the years to make the kingfisher's blue zing. Instead of working dark to light, I put pure white down first and then wash over the pure pigment of phytalocyanin blue, which gives a more vibrant colour.

Casting 1-2-3

Following my visit to the foundry, my duck & rhino sculptures are being cast this week:

The wax of the duck is set into position with clay

The bronze is melted down in a furnace

The molten bronze is poured into the plaster cast which encases the wax
of my sculpture and is left to cool

Any surplus bronze is poured back into bars to be used again later - it's too valuable to waste!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Journey to the Foundry

I've been checking waxes at a bronze casting foundry in North Wales today. I sculpt mainly in clay. The foundry makes an exact replica of my original in wax. This is known as the 'lost wax process' This wax is encased both inside and out with plaster. Molten bronze is poured into the plaster casting and the wax melts out through feeds and is 'lost', the bronze setting in its place. I then treat the sculpture with acids in a process called patination in order to colour the surface of the bronze. The whole casting process takes 3 to 6 weeks. If you want to see my other sculptures click on

Friday, May 1, 2009

Work, work, work...

The pressure is on now to get things ready for my summer exhibition. I've been working flat out at trying to finish a painting of a hare and her leverets as well as designing all the invitations and getting a new catalogue ready for the big day. The exhibition opens on June 13th and runs for two weeks until the 28th....phew! I'll be ready for a holiday then...

Bringing up baby

After this wren nested in my back porch last summer, I trained my camera on his comings and goings. His brood of six chicks were born just as my own daughter came into the world and I began to feel a particular affinity for them.

One day I snapped her perching on this post in the driveway just before he brought in a new food parcel for the chicks. The pose in the photograph was perfect for this painting.