I was fortunate to spend the last year of my degree at Bristol sketching birds from life, often at nearby Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve, Slimbridge. This was a truly inspirational time, working to produce as many field sketches as possible to practice drawing from life, but most importantly spending time observing the behaviour of birds and watching the weather and the effect it has on the landscape.
Since leaving art college I have worked as a freelance wildlife and landscape artist.
I have aimed to have three or four one man exhibitions each year and have really enjoyed exhibiting at such venues as Birdscapes Gallery, Norfolk and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserves Slimbridge, Arundel and The Wetland Centre at Barnes. An annual exhibition at The West Barn, Bradford on Avon has given me an opportunity to show work based on sketches made in the previous year. In time between my own exhibitions I have shown work in joint exhibitions, for example the Cystic Fibrosis Trust exhibitions at Bonhams and Christies, The Wykeham Gallery, Stockbridge and the Society of Wildlife Artists annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries. I also run sketching courses from time to time which I find very rewarding.
I place great importance in observing wildlife and landscape on location and keep extensive sketchbooks packed with ideas for compositions. I rarely sell my sketches because these are my most important reference source, but all my paintings are a result of observation made in the field. I have found sketching the most enjoyable part of being an artist. There is great excitement from spending time close to wildlife and inevitably this brings some fascinating insights into the behaviour of many species.
When sketching a bird, I first set out to produce some sketches of it’s proportions, if appropriate showing the shape of the bird’s reflection in water. I feel I have really achieved something if I can quickly and accurately record this, then I may if the bird has not flown, go on to look at more detail, making studies of plumage colour in water colour and looking hard at the character of the bird. Next I move on to the bird’s immediate surroundings, so would sketch the water and any nearby vegetation. Lastly I might make some studies of the wider habitat, with a couple of water colour studies to record the weather. Alongside sketches I keep written notes. This gives me lots of information from which to make a picture, but of course often a bird will fly or I may even be distracted to draw something else. I find the process of making sketches extremely absorbing and I completely forget about time!
Sketches are often made spontaneously in pencil in my pocket sketch book, which I carry everywhere. At other times I set out to sketch with much more equipment including water colours larger sketchbooks, telescope and camera.
I have another sketch book which I use to play about with ideas from my field sketch book, which is the link between a field sketch and a painting.
I love the variety of habitats the British Isles have to offer. In early May I camp in the far North West of Scotland. I find this area very inspiring for its wildlife and its landscape. I am particularly keen to observe Red- throated and Black- throated divers in breeding plumage and spend lots of time sketching both species. The area offers spectacular coastal scenery such as Handa Island and the beautiful Balnakeil Bay where last year I sketched Long-tailed Ducks, Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, Whimbrel, Sanderling and Turnstones before producing a series of paintings of the bay itself. I regularly sketch in Norfolk, the North York Moors, the Yorkshire Dales, North Wales and close to home in Ampleforth, North Yorkshire.