Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The making of a hare painting

It's taken months to finish, measures more than 5ft long and needed its own, bespoke frame (which I built and then painted in a complimentary wash), but by goodness am I going to miss this painting when it goes to its new owner this week.
It's been with me in essence since the harsh winter of 2010, when I saw an unlikely group of 51 hares massed together in the heavy snow. Hares are usually solitary animals and so I followed them through knee-deep snow knowing that they had to be courting and hoping to see them box.

I spent a long time mulling over the concept of a painting of the group in the snow and at last, once I'd decided on a composition, began the painting this year. I wanted to paint something on a larger scale - and the first issue I had was how to balance the board I was going to paint on on to my easel.

I begin most of my paintings with a base colour of ice-blue for the snow and gradually adding warmer yellows and whites for that frosty crust of snow.
Once the background was ready, I started to sketch in the outlines of the hares.
They looked like ghosts to begin with.
I paint directly from my photographs. You can see here how I used the original photographs I took and organised them in to a composition I liked.

It took days to block in the basic colours of each hare.
I added more and more detail and texture with each application of paint.
Then it was time to go back and add more detail to the background and to each hare.
At this stage I've got it all on bar the whiskers!
Soon it will be time to deliver it to its new home. I'll take it personally and supervise the hanging before I say goodbye.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Welcoming Back Otters

I've been celebrating the incredible success of otters in Yorkshire at the gallery this week.
The theme of my exhibition has been geared around telling their incredible survival story and I've dedicated a new series of otter paintings, run a series of guided walks to find otters and held an evening of talks by otter experts in tribute to it.
There was a time when to see an otter was a rare treat and in fact these shy animals faced extinction in the 1960s.
Now, thanks to a concerted effort by conservationists, they can be seen on every waterway in the UK.
Today The York Press published a feature on my exhibition about their amazing journey from the brink of extinction.
As is so often the way with wildlife, when it came to trying to find an otter to paint for the exhibiton, I was stumped. Although these creatures are now thriving in Yorkshire, my attempts to get any photographs to paint from were constantly thwarted and so, frustrated, I ended up going all the way to Jura in Scotland in search of inspiration.

Read about how I finally found an otter for this painting in my monthly Yorkshire Post column here.
There is a guided walk tomorrow led by Jon Traill from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to look for otters along the River Hull near Driffield. If you are interested in booking a place on it contact us here at the gallery or follow this link to my website.

Monday, November 5, 2012

First weekend of exhibition a success

 The first weekend of the exhibition has been a great success. We've had over 600 people through the doors so far.
 This lady spent ages in my studio, I think she must want to go to the Masai Mara!
 Everyone has commented on how much they enjoy looking at all the photographs in my studio.
 The mugs have been really popular this time.
 My wife Victoria and colleague Jayne decorated the gallery last week - it looks great.
 Danny from Eagle Eye Falconry has been showing children how to handle owls.
 They loved having a go themselves and the owls enjoyed being stroked!

 This snowy owl - Hedwig - is supposed to have been used as Harry Potter's owl in the famous films!
 The 3-6 year olds were entranced by being able to handle these huge owls!
My daughter Lily loved having a go with this owl called 'Teddy'

On Saturday, Michael Flowers led a group on a Red Kite Walk. They saw 34 red kites coming into roost at a secret location near Pocklington. Read Michael Flowers' reprt on his blog:

Richard Hampshire led an otter walk at Tophill Low. They found plenty of fresh of otter signs including tracks and spraint.
On the walk they also saw two underground otter holts and even a kingfisher.
The short eared owl safari was very successful too, with 5 owls hunting during the day. There has been some natural looking posts put up on the land which the owls were using. Although, it was worrying to hear that this land is going to come out of the Stewardship Scheme next year, so fingers crossed it is able to remain as it is and not ploughed up next year.

If you want to book on any of next week's events click here But be quick as there aren't many places left!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Last few paintings finished ready for the exhibition

 Otter of Jura
 Racing Hares
Otter on Waterfall

I've just finished off these last three paintings ready for my exhibition opening tomorrow. Now all that is left is to tidy up my studio....