Okavango Delta Aerial

Okavango Delta Aerial

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Zebras underway

Yesterday I drew out the position of the elements of my subjects and background and roughly drew the details of shape. I then covered the canvas with a glaze of burnt sienna thinned with liquin. I had to do this carefully so that I wouldn't scrub out my pencil marks too much. That was then left to dry overnight. 

The canvas is backed by MDF board (which I believe is called masonite in the USA) giving me a solid surface to work on and dimensions that I want, rather than buying a ready made canvas on a frame.

Today I started painting and found myself approaching this one differently to previous work. Usually I start at the horizon and work forward straight onto the glazed surface. But this time I found myself blocking in the landscape and animals to create an underpainting. Not sure why I did this, there wasn't much forethought or considered choice.... it just felt the way to go on this piece. It could be because I have many elements and to get them 'mapped in' with colour first will help me see where I am going. As I say, it wasn't pre-planned, it just kind of happened that way. As this is not the way I usually work, it'll be interesting to see how I continue with the rest of the painting. It's good to change what you do every once and a while, isn't it. 

This piece features a group of zebras casually ambling across the scene. Another painting in which I want a calm feel... a reflection of daily life rather than dramatic event portrayed. I saw a few dramatic events during my stay.... which I will paint, but my over all impression of the landscape was animals quietly going about their daily lives. So I want to try and get that feel for the exhibition too. This painting also features a few blacksmith plovers disturbed by the zebras approach and two elephants, who are tucked away in the background. This will be one of those paintings for the exhibition that are not about the elephants but show that they are very much there in the landscape either by evidence of their passing by with a few 'dollops' of elephant dung or by a glimpse of them through the trees in the background.

New landscape piece

I have so many ideas on the go at the moment, either in my head or roughed out on bits of paper, that I don't know which to do first. Got at least three paintings at the planning stage, 'ready for take off' as it were, so I should have gone with one of them, right?  But then suddenly a new idea hit, so I had to go with the flow of that and after two days of preparation I am now ready to 'fly' with it.

It will be 36" x 11", so a long thin landscape piece.... toying with how detailed I should or should not go with it... so I will just see how it evolves on the canvas. That's all part of the excitement... not knowing what you are going to do with it exactly, until you do it. :)

Sunday, 22 September 2013


I have changed the settings of this blog so that you can now add comments. I thought I had this set up previously, but was alerted recently, by someone who had tried to comment on a post, that this was not the case. I hope I have now corrected this. If you would like to make a comment please do so, I would love some feedback; however as I shall be moderating the comments (to stop spam and other dubious messages) it may not appear straight away.
I look forward to reading your messages. If there are any further problems please contact me via my general art blog, Susan Jane Lees, which has a guestbook.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Artist in Residence at Nature in Art

Last week I spent six wonderful days as the Artist in Residence at the fantastic Nature in Art Museum and Art Gallery in Gloucester. Between February and November they have artists spend a week or less in their studio to chat to the visitors and show them their work. Sculptors, carvers, painters, printmakers, pastelists etc all come to be part of the programme, so each week there is someone/something different to see and learn from.

I set the studio up into zones... so that I could display my zoo work, painting stock, Botswana work and merchandise in different areas for maximum impact.

This is the display of my Botswana work which, I'm pleased to say, generated a lot of interest. 

As well as my studio work done since I returned to the UK I had one of my field sketch paintings and my sketchbook out to be viewed. There was a slideshow running of images taken during my stay of the wildlife and the research work, leaflets and photographs.

I took two unfinished paintings to work on and hopefully finish and had planned to start another piece. But I only managed to get complete the two unfinished paintings. 

This is the first one I worked on.... it is of a lagoon near the airstrip that was favoured as a place for sundowners and we also had a lovely evening bush meal here as well. I had planned this as a backdrop for a small flock of white-faced whistling ducks silhouetted against the clouds, but quickly realised as I painted it that nothing else was needed in the composition; it had enough interest as it was. 

This is the second piece I worked on... a study of a vervet monkey. These were regulars in camp and could be very naughty if doors or windows were left open!
Again I had planned a little more in the composition of this piece... there was to be something up in the top right hand corner that the monkey was looking at... a small insect perhaps. However on painting the eye I felt that the story was in that look. Anything else would be a distraction and ruin the interaction between the viewer and the painting. The more I painted, the more sure of this I became... and this seemed to be backed up by the reaction of the people who came into the studio and saw it.

I had a lovely week and would like to thank all those who came in to see me, whether by design or chance. I enjoyed meeting you all and appreciate your interest and support. To the lovely people who rounded up their sales spend as a donation to Elephants for Africa I am particularly grateful and will be sure to add that to the end of year cheque I shall send them from general Botswana work sales, I know they will be very appreciative of your support. Thank you.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Insight to an Exhibition Talk


I have just put together a new slideshow talk, which I shall be giving to an art group when I am in Gloucester next week. It has taken me five days to write the talk, sort  relevant photo's to illustrate the subjects, resize/crop them and get it to a point that I feel happy to say it is done. Phew! Took me longer than anticipated but then, it always does, doesn't it.

The talk is all about the exhibition project from how it all came about, the preparation for the trip to Botswana, the stay in the Okavango Delta, the progress on the work and touching on the preparation for the exhibition event. I will be showing images of my stay in the Delta, as well as some of the work I have done for the exhibition, including a step by step look into the inspiration, composition and creation of one of the paintings. I shall also take along my sketch book and some originals for folks to see properly.