Whaleshark and Fusiliers

Whaleshark and Fusiliers

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

They’re Back

The Christmas fairy has come early. I’d recognize that high-pitched ringing trill anywhere. Conjured up from forests far away to the north and alighting in a garden (or supermarket car park) near you, the waxwings have been gifted to our land.
One look through the binoculars and you are smitten. It may be a once in a lifetime affair (once in every winter for the lucky) - you can’t help but fall for them.
Their plumage is as smooth as silk; their wings are decorated with white spots and yellow trims; the wine-red stain under a tail that’s dipped in matching yellow. Oh, and that face; quiffed and crested dandies with a black bib and mask, and a touch of rouge. I’ve seen them described as pink punks but surely not? When did you see punks apply make up with such delicacy and subtleness? Red blusher here; white eye liner there. Waxwings are truly beautiful.

So keep a look out on your berries and listen for the trill..

Monday, 25 October 2010

Blackbird in Rowan by Robert Gillmor

Happy Fiftieth

A lot can change in fifty years. We take the plethora of wildlife images that adorn magazines, galleries (and websites) for granted now, but in 1960 artworks featuring nature were few and far between. The wildfowl paintings of Peter Scott and book illustrations from Charles Tunnicliffe were popular but far from commonplace.
With this in mind a young bird illustrator from Reading, Robert Gillmor, with the enthusiastic support of Peter Scott, Eric Ennion and Keith Shackleton organized the Exhibition of Contemporary Bird Painters in 1960. After favourable reviews the show was taken on a provincial tour for two years and the success and popularity led directly to the formation in 1964 of the Society of Wildlife Artists.
To commemorate the event today’s wildlife artists have been brought together by Steve and Liz Harris at Birdscapes Gallery at Cley, Norfolk. 50 contemporary bird painters exhibiting 50 works for a 50th anniversary show, and looking at the array of work on display I think we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to the forever-young bird illustrator from Reading.
You have to know where you came from if you want to know where you’re going.

In Yellowstone there are two species of bears to look-out for: American Black Bears and Brown, or Grizzly Bears.
Sounds straightforward eh? One's black and the other brown you'd think. You'd think wrong.
You see some brown bears are technically black. This is when the individual is referred as a 'cinnamon' and then you have a brown black bear. Just to keep you guessing some grizzlies are really dark so at a distance you can have black brown bears. Confused yet?
Once again you have to study the structure and the look of the animal to distinguish the two: Black bears have larger ears and fur like velvet (check those bearskin hats). Grizzlies have a shoulder lump and a coarse coat which can take on a two tone look. Black's head profile shows a straight nose; a Grizzly nose can be slightly upturned and make it pig-like (though don't tell it I said so).
Drawing bears is like drawing birds. You look hard and you notice subtle differences. You'd better remember to keep your distance though.....

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

What did Groucho Marx say about clubs that would have him as a member?
At this year’s Natural Eye Exhibition at the Mall Galleries I was pleased to receive the Arts Club Award.
The award, in the form of membership, recognizes a collection of work and is given at the discretion of the renowned Arts Club of Dover Street. Founded in 1893 by, amongst others, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope and Lord Leighton, the Arts Club’s members have included Whistler, Monet, Rodin and Degas. Current members include Peter Blake, Grayson Perry, David Frost, Richard Attenborough, Ronnie Wood, Kim Cattrall...... and now me.
Standards are slipping I guess.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Earning Your Stripes

I’ve never seen so many tigers in one room. There are lots of hunting dogs this year too, and a smattering of meerkats – the power of tv documentaries, or is that tv advertisements. Lapwings and avocets have again caught the imagination, as is the tradition, but there are some surprises - I think I spotted a jellyfish and pink river dolphin (which is more than I can say after a few trips to the Amazon).
Where can you see this menagerie, squeezed under one roof? Maybe the judging of BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year?
No, I’m sitting on the selection panel for The Natural Eye, the 47th annual exhibition from the Society of Wildlife Artists.
Nearly 800 paintings, prints and sculptures from artists inspired by nature, pored over with a critical eye in an effort to sort the good from the not so good. And one artist’s view of what’s good is not always the same as another artist’s view. Ask 11 artists their opinion on a piece of work and you get 11 different answers. A democratic 8 thumbs up will get you in; 7 or 6 will start a discussion; any less and unfortunately it’s not your year…

Of course there are lots of work that meets with unanimous approval and the whole day is an enviable chance for a sneak preview of what will be a delightful show: Highlights for me were a beautiful set of wood cuts from Kruger by Greg Poole; sketches of Gannets riding the air from John Busby and the sumptuous oils of Matt Underwood. These and many other gems have been lovingly created by artists from all over, and now brought together for one show to celebrate the treasures of the natural world.

So a long day over with 800 entries wittled down to 344 – and I think I managed to smuggle past some of my paintings too. Simples.

Monday, 31 May 2010

The Quiet Time

Another test from a wi-fi lap top. Looking forward to watching beavers next week.


So I'm still wrestling with the technology and hoping to master this blogging within a week. I'm off soon to one of my favourite places on earth - I'm taking a group to Yellowstone and Grand Teton, also adding on some personal time - that's over four weeks in the land of Yogi bear.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Wildlife Artist of the Year Awards

It’s that time of year again – the colourful world of wildlife lands at the Mall Galleries as part of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) Wildlife Artist of the Year awards. For months artists around the globe have been beavering away hoping to scoop the biggest prize in wildlife art (actually there were no beavers on show but you know what I mean). Painters and sculptors from Africa, America, Europe and the UK send their work to be judged and then dream about how they’d spend the £10,000 first prize.

For the third year I was short-listed and joined the many artists in balmy London and hoped for the best. The standard of work was higher than ever - my particular favourites were the sculptures from Nicola Theakston and Adam Binder. The judges agreed with me on the latter and Adam took away the big prize for his beautiful bronze of a polar bear. But hey, I didn't go away empty handed: my painting of 'Ice, Kittiwakes and Belugas' won Wild Places category (shown).

It's another from an on going series from Svalbard and was a seen from my trip last year - a day to remember. I'd been watching the throng of kittiwakes for a long time and finally noticed the belugas surfacing (also saw a swift on the same day - only the 20th for Svalbard - but that's another story).

But I'm rambling here. Back to Monday night.
Once again the staff and volunteers at DSWF had choreographed a fun evening with light hearted speeches from David Gower and from the man himself David Shepherd, now nearly eighty. Prizes were presented by actor Robert Lindsay.

Much can be said about the genre of wildlife art, with comments that run the gamut from popularist, photographic, and over- sentimental, to decorative, celebratory, and beautifully observed. It depends on your viewpoint and your taste I guess.
What is without doubt is the enthusiasm, care and craft that every artist had brought to this particular event. And this is never truer than the passion shown again by David Shepherd, his family and his dedicated and friendly team at DSWF.
The facts speak for themselves: through his own paintings and prints, millions of pounds have been raised for charitable conservation work worldwide. Now even more is directed to projects through Wildlife Artist of the Year - long may it continue.

So, I'd better start thinking of next year's entry - fourth time lucky maybe? Once again folk who like painting animals will be appreciated by those folk who like watching animals.
As Wolfie from Tooting would say ' power to the people.'

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Does What It Says On The Tin.

It beggars belief doesn’t it? After a worldwide moratorium on hunting whales set in 1985 the IWC are recommending a lifting of the ban. Hang on; surely the world is a different place than 25 years ago? Don’t we watch and study whales now, not kill them?

What possible justification is there to resume the slaughter? So we can supply a few tonnes of whalemeat to Japanese sushi bars? We have adequate substitutes for whaleoil and I’m confident that whalebone corsets have had their day. I’m struggling to think of one good reason here.
Do they really believe that recovering whale populations are having an effect on fish stocks? That wouldn’t be anything to do with fishing fleets and trawling nets a mile wide would it?

In raw economic terms, the global whale watching industry is worth tens of millions of dollars – whales are worth far more alive than they are dead. But then there’s a clue in the title; International Whaling Commission. That’s Whaling not Whale or Whalewatch. Check the IWC website yourself and look at History and Purpose (and I’m quoting here):
The purpose of the Convention is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry. ………
These measures, among other things, set limits on the numbers and size of whales which may be taken; prescribe open and closed seasons and areas for whaling; and prohibit the capture of suckling calves and female whales accompanied by calves.
I particularly like that last bit – prohibit the capture of suckling calves - they’re all heart are’nt they?
No, the future of the world’s whales and their conservation is governed by the International Whaling Commission. And let’s read that bit again: …… make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.
We may as well ask paedophiles to run the brownies.

Friday, 23 April 2010

I'm finally getting the hang of uploading images and so I'd better start blogging.

I've just returned from Extremadura, thankfully just before the volcanic ash shutdown (my co-leader Mark wasn't so lucky and finally made it home Fri 23 - he did get some extra birds though, making up for the chaos at Bilbao).
So what of Extremadura? It's a very special part of Spain, south and west of Madrid and bordering Portugal - it draws me back again and again. I've always visited in April when the migrants are arriving and flowers are covering the rolling steppeland. Throw in some special species like eagle owl, little and great bustards, pin-tailed and black-bellied sandgrouse and you can see why I've been back so many times. I can't imagine a spring without the sound of calandra larks and bee-eaters. Enjoy the sketches.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Hello World

so I've finally been dragged into the shiny new world of blogs, websites and more stuff to keep me away from painting at the easel. Encouraged by my buddy Ian at Planet Whale, who is now a fully fledged Jedi knight and Lord of the web, this is my first official blog or as they say here north of the border, a wee blether on the netty.

Website finally up and running - I'm sure there's some fine tuning to do but checkout