Why Tawny Owlets? …..

So how did I end up with Tawny Owlets in the Qube Open exhibition 2017?

Easy, my mum absolutely loves Owls and her house is full of them. To be honest I don’t know when or why it started but at some point in the early years of my childhood she started collecting them and very soon every birthday, Christmas,  celebration and day trip was an opportunity for a new owl.

There are ornaments, cushions, tea towels, mugs, place mats, coasters, pictures, photos, photo frames, jugs, wind chimes, garden ornaments, vases, calender’s, book ends, purses, handbags, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, key rings, fridge magnets, cards, flower pots, clocks, baskets, books,  t shirts, jumpers, a phone cover, chalk board, and I am sure I have missed lots out.

It was a no brainer that I would draw an Owl picture and dedicate it to my mum. But the question then was, what to draw.

Her favorite owls are Barn owls, but I didn’t want to draw another  traditional picture of a barn owl, she has so many, she loves the cute Tawny Owls, but again she has hundreds of images of them in different poses, actually when I came to think about it she has so many images of owls, trying to come up with something she didn’t have was driving me crazy.

And then I heard the title for the Qube Open this year was “New Horizons” and it gave me an idea. I wanted to enter a piece for this years exhibition having missed last years, but didn’t want to do a landscape which would have been the first thing to come to mind.

As a wildlife Artist I was thinking about new life,  opportunities and challenges in the natural world as a perspective on the brief. Watching the birds feeding on my bird table one morning I had a thought. Surely one of the biggest challenges in the natural world’s great challenge is that first,unrehearsed, no safety wires flight that all fledglings make. Wouldn’t a baby bird spend quite a while looking out from it’s lofty home, viewing the horizon to which it will shortly fling itself, as instinct and evolution takes over from common sense?

The answer was absolutely yes and having decided on fledglings looking out of a nest as my approach to this brief it was obvious that it would have to be baby owls. Unfortunately in the name of drawing things that look nice, Tawny Owlets are cuter than Barn Owlets (in my opinion), so  sorry mum, Tawny Owlets it is.

She hasn’t seen the finished picture yet ( she doesn’t do social media), I am waiting until it is framed and ready to go in to the exhibition, but she did see the sketches and seemed to like it, so I am happy with that.

If you want to have a look, please visit the Qube Open exhibition in Oswestry if you can, if not, check out my Gallery page and if you like it, let me know! x

Tawny Owlets for website copyright

 

My first Etsy sale….

So, having just been blogging about my Thistle picture, and its special connection to the time I spent in Edinburgh at the Festival and getting to know my grandma, a lovely thing just happened. I sold my first print from my Etsy site and it turned out to be a print of my Thistle picture.

thistles original no signitureSo, a huge thankyou to my first Etsy customer.

And there it goes again, that thrill and burst of adrenalin, when I find out someone likes something I have drawn so much they are prepared to give me money for it.

As many people who have been part of this journey of mine will testify to, one of my biggest struggles with setting up my “Business” was monetising something I do for love, trying to put a value on my work that involves a price rather than a feeling or sentiment. I think a lot of artists experience this, which is why so many of us are rubbish at turning our talent into a business.

Someone I have a lot of respect for told me a year or so ago, that all taking money for something was, was an exchange of energy, in my case my artwork, and my customers money. My energy has gone into creating my artwork, there’s into creating some money, the only real difference being that the value of money is a more tangible thing than the value of my picture. She said, to view it in this way, rather than thinking of it purely in terms of pounds and pence may help me get over my struggle with putting a price on my pictures.

She was right, it did help make it feel a lot less clinical and as a result I have had another even more incredible revelation.

I love being given money for my pictures, it’s an absolute thrill, a compliment, and a privilege. The fact that someone is prepared to exchange their hard-earned cash for a picture I have drawn is quite an extraordinary feeling, one I hadn’t anticipated and I hope never ends!

Funny old life!

Bitter sweet memories….

Walking my dog up the lane this morning, I noticed all along the hedge line, where the cutter doesn’t reach, the thistles were out in flower. Those tricky things that us gardeners hate when they appear in the lawn or even worse among the cabbages and prickle us through the toughest gloves however canny we are about their removal. Left unmolested they produce the most stunning and unique flowers, creating a vibrant pinky, purple crown on the tips of their prickly stems.

 

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It was the beauty of their flowers in stark contrast to the cruelty of their prickles that inspired my Thistle picture. I happened to be living in Stirling, Scotland, at the time, so living in the country that has adopted them as an emblem made the choice of subject even more appropriate.

All of my pictures are inspired by a time, place or moment I have spent somewhere, or with someone and my thistle picture is no exception. It is the only line drawing I did during my stay in Scotland, and leaving, with a sore heart, they are a reminder of a bitter sweet time, much like the plant themselves.

thistles original no signitureThe best thing about my time in Scotland was the month I spent selling work on a stall at the Edinburgh Festival. My Grandma, who I hadn’t spent much time with up to that point, lived in Edinburgh and we had the chance to finally get to know each other. She has passed now, so as I said, bitter sweet memories. But what better picture to remind me of that time than one of the prickly plant with the beautiful flowers!

 

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I sold a card yea!

blog cards

So yesterday was my first day working in the Buy From Shropshire pop up shop in Shrewsbury. Around 15 artist, crafts people, jewellers and creative people have small areas to present and sell their work.

I had some doubts at the beginning of the project, we had three weeks to make it happen and as a newbie to Buy From Shropshire I only knew 2 of the other people  involved.

Add to that until 2 days before the launch event (with mayor present and everything) I had not only not seen my merchandise, but had not seen or mounted my prints or seen my cards! Hence the late nights with labels coming out of my ears.

But we did it and yesterday was my first day as shop assistant, with the lovely Val who makes Jewellery, to keep me company.

I am a complete technophobe so however many times the very patient Anne (who ran the shop selling her beautiful Jewellery before she bravely let us lot in) explained how the till worked, (and oh my god the card machine!) My first sale involved a lot of beeping, paper being ejected from the wrong machine at the wrong time, and very lovely customers smiling patiently as I canceled the sale for the third time before finally being able to open the till and let them give me the £2.50 for the card they had bought!

And then it happened. A couple came in and had a look round and the chap picked up one of my cards and brought it to the till. It was the strangest thing ever. I mumbled something along the lines of “oh that’s one of mine” so into my chin that he obviously had no idea what I said, he paid his £2.50 ( by now I actually got how the till worked) and left.

I  stood there with an enormous grin on my face, feeling like Christmas and birthdays had all come at once, he had bought my card! It cost £2.50, he could have paid £250.00 and it would have felt the same, the thrill of someone buying something I made is amazing whatever is paid for it.

I smiled for the rest of the day and all of the way home, I am actually still smiling now when I think about it.

When you buy something from the person who made it, you give a bit of happiness that means more than the money that you pay from it. Now I really understand why buying from local producers is so amazing.

So looking forward to my next stint in the shop but before that……..

I am off to the local farmers market next weekend to buy my sausages!

 

 

 

Best moment in a classroom, ever…

I had a lovely afternoon, visiting my girls school and giving a chat to their classes about being an Artist today. I took some original pictures as well as prints, card and some of my merchandise, mugs, place mats coasters etc.

Great School Day (1)

It felt a million miles away from all of the workshops I have run over the years because sitting at the front of each class, with huge smiles on their faces, were my girls  looking so proud of me.  And for the first time ever  I was talking about my work not anyone elses! After all of the children I have taught over the years and activities I have run, this has to be the most special moment I have spent in a class room ever!

It reminded me of all the different workshops I have run, teaching art and craft activities and of how much I love working with young people, with all their boundless enthusiasm for creativity.

I remember the season I did at the Jackfield Tile Museum,  at Ironbridge Gorge Museum where I taught school groups about how the Victorians made ceramic tiles, and the “tube lining” technique that created beautiful glazed images on the surface. Of course the fun bit was everyone having a go, leaving me with dull looking ceramic tiles, and getting back beautiful shiny colorful tiles that had been through the kiln.

I thought about the  creative activity days I ran at the countryside volunteer center outside Shrewsbury where we taught kids  about the countryside and conservation using art as the learning medium, creating huge banners, collages, wall art, sculptures, a butterfly garden and mini ponds to name but a few.

And of course more recently the years spent working For Andrew Logan at his Museum running all kinds of creative workshops, most recently at the end of May supporting Andrew with workshops in schools on Anglesey as part of the Beaumaris Arts Festival.

I also remember the students who used to come to the Museum from Colleg Powys, to help at the festivals I organised, and all the incredible experiences they had care of Andrew and his amazing friends who worked with us at so many events.

All brilliant experiences, and times that I enjoyed immensely, but none of them came even close to standing in front of my own children, with my own artwork, showing their class mates my pictures and seeing the smiles on their faces as I told the story of my own Artistic journey.

 

An amazing few days…I did it!

What an amazing couple of days I have just had.

On Friday I had a lovely stand in the Buy From Shropshire Shop in Shrewsbury and on Saturday I did my first show with all of my prints, cards and merchandise.

The picture says it all.

Or does it?

Behind the lovely picture was virtually no sleep, a large dose of nerves, butterflies in my tummy as well as on my cards and a huge amount of support, understanding and patience from my partner and kids!

Wednesday I collected my prints cards and merchandise and saw it all for the first time.

All over my sitting room floor!

haymeadow and shop 161

 

Then I had 20 prints to mount and 2 pictures to Frame. Holly Blue print for the Buy From Shropshire shop, Buttercup Meadow for the Hay Meadow Festival.

 

haymeadow and shop 095

 

Thursday was set up time at the shop, only one day to go before it opened. I got most of it done and the opening of the shop on Friday was lovely, even though I was still putting prices on my cards 10 minutes before my chat with the Mayor!

 

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Putting stickers on my merchandise after we got home that night until 11 pm and up at 5 am to finish packing the car, we headed to the Hay Meadow Festival at The Bog by the Stiperstones!

 

 

My new mascot Mr Frankton was fairly unimpressed by the early start.  As were we when the sky’s darkened and the wind picked up. My nice new Gazebo turned out not to be as sturdy as we thought ( having had no time to practice putting it up) and with no way of tying down the flapping sides, there was no way of protecting all my lovely newly framed pictures.

I was getting close to tears, when a lovely organiser lady offered me a free space in the Marquee! Thank you for that! it saved the day.

 

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I have never done this before so working out where to put everything really took some doing. But we did it, and in the end it was amazing.

 

The picture doesnt say it all but it was worth it in the end!

Everyone I spoke to at the Hay Meadow Festival was lovely, the whole experience was incredible. It was worth every minute of the work I put in to see everything looking so pretty and to have people say such lovely things about my work.

The Bog is just up the road from where I grew up, so I met some very familiar faces from many years ago, including my primary school teacher.

It felt like the perfect place to have my first show, just over the hill from where I first started disappearing for hours with a sketch book to try and capture the beautiful Shropshire countryside I was growing up in.

It was a lovely start to this stage of my Journey as an Artist.

Where next I wonder……

 

How did I get to the Hay Meadow Festival?

Over 20 years ago, after exploring India and Napal for a few months, I returned to the UK with an extremely unpleasant gut infection. Numerous courses of antibiotics were not working and I was feeling extremely under the weather. Not fit enough to work but determined to try and do something useful with my time, I stared volunteering at The Countryside Volunteer Center just outside Shrewsbury. It was a great experience, I learnt lots about the natural world that I love, and began my journey into pen and ink drawing. It was even better when an old friend turned up to gain work experience in his first post graduate position.

There along with managing Shropshire’s footpaths as a group we pursued a number of conservation projects and activities, including running creative days for kids using arty activities along side conservation and  countryside themes,  funded by the National Lottery.

Time moved on as did we both, onto knew projects and jobs, and for me 2 years over seas teaching English in Japan.

Twenty years later that  friend  is still working in Conservation, and is managing the conservation project at the Bog. He is also organising this years Hay Meadow Festival.

So it felt like the perfect place to do my first ever outside event with my new stall.

I will be taking my prints and cards, my mugs and coasters, place mats, fridge magnets, and more, all of which are being expertly produced as we speak.

I have even created a new work of Art just to celebrate the occasion, “Bumble Bee at Buttercup Meadow” Not quite finished in the below mosaic.

Am I nervous, yep absolutely, this is a huge step for me and one that I have waited a very long time for.

But the great thing about this upcoming event (Saturday 24th June, The Bog,  Pennerly just by the Stipperstone!) is that it is being organised by a friend and  some of the people there will know all about the journey I have been on, have listened to all my ” I can’t do it’s”, ” I ‘m not good enough’s” and “I ll never sell anything’s” so will understand what a big deal it is for me to have finally made it to this point.

So a big thanks to all of them, looking forward to Saturday, fingers crossed for the weather and hopefully see you there!

 

How it all started: My speckled wood Butterfly Drawing…

I have been drawing since I was tiny, special presents were always pencils, pens crayons and colouring books when I was younger, painting in number oil sets, pastels, inks and water colour as I got older. But I was a generalist in terms of the mediums I used, although my subjects have always been the natural world and landscapes.

Having spent a little time in my early 20’s traveling in India to explore all of the fabulous temple architecture that I had studied during my degree, I unfortunately picked up a rather nasty gut infection and had to return home earlier than planned. Struggling to over come the illness I had contracted I started volunteering for a local countryside center on the outskirts of Shrewsbury.

Along with managing footpaths, and clearing woodland areas, looking after the onsite wetland area, entertaining visiting school groups and generally helping out, I was asked, once my love for art was discovered, if I would mind doing some illustrations for the bi monthly magazine the group produced. The first one they wanted was for an article on the Specked Wood Butterfly.

I was happy to, but because the magazine was two tone the drawing had to be in black and white and because of  printing and digitising restrictions, had to be drawn to scale just about.

My frustration with not being able to achieve enough detail was solved when I discovered Rotring pens, and instantly bonded with the 0.1 mm nibbed pen  (about the size of a human hair) that gave me all the precision and detail I needed.

 

Speckled Wood Butterfly

So it was that I came to draw my first ever pen and ink wildlife pictures, nearly 20 years ago! I love my Speckled Wood Butterfly drawing for many reasons but mainly because it started me on a journey I may never otherwise have begun. I have continued to draw with my trusty roting pens, but have gone on to explore different kinds of inks, introducing colour, washes, and brush work over the years.

I am still exploring and pushing the boundaries of what I can achieve both in detail, composition and colour but the simplicity of the black and white drawing process, the clarity and the honesty of it, I will always treasure.

Beaumoris Festival

It was great to be back working with Andrew Logan, at the Beaumaris Festival in Anglesey. A couple of fabulous school workshops and some setting up of the Traveling Museum which will be there over the Bank holiday weekend.

beaumoris and meadow 019

Andrew also has an amazing exhibition in the Calofan (leisure centre) in Beaumaris and will be out and about at the Festival over the next few days. One of the schools was studying the 1960’s so we created an amazing giant 60, with Andrew’s secret recipe resin, glass, mirror, Gems and loads of glitter.

One of the best bits was the expression on the lovely teaching assistants face when he mentioned he had spent time with Andy Warhol, the Artist they had been studying for that term.

Andrew’s wonderful Gallery space, The Andrew Logan Museum of Sculpture is in the beautiful village of Berriew near Welshpool. It has been there for over 25 years and holds some fabulous examples of his work including an incredible 30 foot high “Cosmic Egg” covered in mirror and Gems. If you fancy seeing something that will blow your  mind, make you smile and brighten up your day, take the time out to pop in. It’s open weekends over the summer, and now that Andrew is living in Berriew you may get to meet the man himself!