Exhibition Fever

Another exhibition! When Cal Kimola Brown contacted me to ask if I wanted to be involved in another exhibition in Clark’s Harbour, I thought I’d give it a go. The time of year (June) might be a bit more conducive to footfall, after all-a virtual blizzard during the last one wouldn’t have helped. In addition, there was no specific theme so I could show a variety of works. I set to, to frame up some pieces, and have ended up with 12 (costs me a fortune in frames), 7 for sale and 5 just because I like them! Trouble is, as I’ve mentioned before, once these go into frames I tend to like them all over again, so it will be a wrench to sell some of them off :(. I’ll get over it, though. It will be fun to see the work of other local artists, too, there are at least 10 artists in total exhibiting. The poster (prepared by Cal, thanks Cal!) gives the details but, in brief, the show is on Friday 8th June (6-9 pm) and Saturday 9th June (10 am-4 pm), at Clark’s Harbour Legion Hall, Cape Sable Island, and costs $2 entry.

So what am I showing? A selection of more recent works and a few real old favourites will be on show. Here’s a taster:

First my most recent piece, ‘Red Squirrel, coloured pencil on pastel paper. I have framed this with a white mat in a gold frame, overall 11 x 14 inch, matted to approximately 8 x 10 inch (but hand-cut mat so actually not exact!). I’m selling this one, framed, for $50.


One of my personal favourites, especially when framed! ‘Porcelain Rose’ is coloured pencil on Bristol board and has been framed in a brown wood-effect frame with two layers of mat board of slightly different shades of white, which I think makes a pleasing effect! It is framed at 14 x 18 inch, matted to (approximately) 8 x 10 inch, and is for sale at $70 framed.


An older piece, but I hope appealing to people who like to see these birds in their yards. “Merry and bright’ is coloured pencil on Bristol paper and has been framed in a brown wood-effect frame with a light cream mat (11 x 14 inch matted to 8 x 10 inch approx.). For sale at $50 framed.

The picture from the poster, ‘Reflections’ is a watercolour pencil piece, on watercolour paper and is actually a scene from Eastern Passage, nr Dartmouth. A white mat and gold-coloured frame competes the look. 11 x 14 inch, matted to 8 x 10 inch, for sale at $50 framed.


This is another one that will be a wrench if it sells! I had great fun with ‘Painted Turtle’ and really like it framed up. This coloured pencil piece, on pastel paper, has be placed in an oversized brown wood-effect frame (14 x 18 inch) with two layers of mat in two shades, white and a pale yellow, which tones well with the colours of the piece  and I think really make it pop.  For sale at $70, framed.


A bit of a departure for me, ‘Old Annecy’ is a French ‘streetscape’, with lots of detail. Watercolour pencil on watercolour paper, this one has been matted in my favourite black mat and framed in a gold-coloured frame (11 x 14 inch, matted to 8x 10 inch approx.). For sale, $50 framed.


Another squirrel, this time a ‘foreigner’, ‘Nutkin’ is a Rock Squirrel, from the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and is coloured pencil on Bristol paper. A white mat and gold-coloured frame completes the look (11 x 14 inch, matted to 8 x 10 inch , very approximately-I must learn to draw in standard sizes instead of covering every inch of the paper!). For sale, $50 framed.

Now here are the ‘Not for Sale’ pieces. I chose these because I wanted to show pictures I was particularly pleased with, that showcase certain genres (eg. pet portraits, people portraits, in case of any commission interest) and because they amuse me…a good enough reason since I do primarily do this because I like it!

‘The Girls’, a portrait of our two pet cats, Bubbles and Joy (named for their outgoing personalities-not!). Watercolour pencil on watercolour paper, 11 x 14 inch.

‘Talking Turkey’, this one just always pleased me and is a very striking image when framed. 11 x 14 inch watercolour pencil on watercolour paper.

‘A Study in Concentration’, a portrait, in coloured pencil on Bristol paper, of my husband Mark (shown with his permission!) 8 x 10 inch.

‘Catnapping’, a portrait of my father and our old pet cat, Teddy, taking a few zzzz one sunny afternoon. Watercolour pencil on watercolour paper, 8 x 10 inch.

‘Cape Island Camo’, Harbour Seal on The Cape, CSI, watercolour pencil on watercolour paper, 8 x 10 inch.

Well, we will see how it all goes this time, at least it will be fun to be involved in an exhibition again. I won’t be able to attend on the Friday evening (I have an appointment in Halifax that day) but hope to be able to get round on Saturday. Maybe see you there! Wish me luck…

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Fluffty Tufty

Some time ago I drew a picture of a squirrel, but not a local one. That one was a Rock Squirrel from Arizona, and the picture had been taken at the Grand Canyon. Well, one of my friends remarked that I’d have to have a go at a Canadian squirrel, and he was quite right. So I decided to try and take some photos as reference, although not at anywhere as impressive as the Grand Canyon. No, these were in our own back garden, where we have a thriving group of American Red Squirrels, stealing seed from the winter bird feeders. I call them ‘American’ here, although they are generally just called ‘Red Squirrels’ but they at a different species to the European Red Squirrels that we saw in the UK (if we were lucky!). Unlike the European species, the American Red Squirrel holds its own against the much bigger Grey Squirrels, although that isn’t a problem here in Nova Scotia, where we never see Greys. When we lived in Quebec, both species were common in our garden, and the Red Squirrels would chase and bully the much bigger Grey Squirrels, which was a treat to watch.

So I took a few shots, the squirrels generally chattering and scolding me although I was quite distant and at maximum zoom. From the shots I took, I liked the following one, which I always think of as the ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ pose, as he looks like he is about to declaim, although I think I will decline to lend him my ears, as I suspect he’d try to snack on them!

As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to do something a little more colourful, after all that grey on grey, and the background of this picture was a bit dull, so I decided to ‘borrow’ a background from another picture, taken a couple of years ago at a local beach (and rather earlier in the year).

All those berries are definitely more colourful than the bare twigs in the original reference.

So everything was going well, and I thought I’d choose a coloured paper to provide a neutral background, and so that I wouldn’t need to worry about adding any sort of bokeh on this picture. This was probably a bad decision. I chose a brownish piece of Mi-Teintes pastel paper and used the smoother side. From the start I did not like this colour-it seemed to suck the vitality out of the piece. As you know, I don’t easily give up so I kept on going, and in the end I was reasonably pleased with it, but it was an effort and this piece took considerably longer to finish than the last one. That’s a testament to how much I didn’t enjoy it. It is a lesson learned, I’d rather do a background than have that experience again, so maybe the Mi-Teintes will stay in the drawer for a while. White paper for the next one, I think.

One interesting thing was the use of the Luminance pencils with OMS blender. They didn’t really blend at all. I’ve been using the lighter Luminance (white, titanium buff, primrose, etc.) for the lighter areas in the fur, and then went in with OMS to blend-the other pencils blended out but the Luminance definitely resisted it. I think that will be useful for keeping features that I don’t want to lose in the blend, but it is something to keep in mind. I know other artists have stated that they don’t use luminance until the end of the picture (if mixing pencils, that is) and I can understand why. Incidentally, Luminance does blend well using the blender pencils, or a white coloured pencil, so all is not lost.

I’m sad to report the demise (already!) of my super pencil sharpener! I was really enjoying getting the very sharp points on my pencils, and I did have the point selector (a tiny, rather inadequate-looking red knob) tightened up to maximum. It seems that this was too much, and now it won’t tighten at all. It is rather poor plastic, so maybe I can take it apart and try to replace it with something else that will tighten up? I shall have a go-I have nothing to lose, after all!

This is the mechanism, and you can see the tiny red knob that has failed on the handle. I am looking for a replacement (one pencil piece using hand-held sharpeners is enough!), but most seem to suffer from a similar silly little knob. I was looking also at electric sharpeners (reluctantly), but I’m really not sure that they will fit all of the pencils I have, which vary in size a lot. The slimmer ones are the Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils, and then there is a range of pencil diameters, right up to Luminance, which are pretty chunky. Unfortunately, many artists here use mainly Prismacolor pencils, which are on the smaller side, and the reviews over this side of the pond tend to favour them heavily. I will keep on looking into that, but its getting urgent- I really miss my sharp points!


‘Red Squirrel’, 9 x 12 inch coloured pencil (Faber-Castell Polychromos, Caran d’Ache Pablos and Luminance) with OMS to blend, on Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel paper.

Cape Island Camo

We are lucky to live by the sea, although we occasionally question that when in the middle of a wintry Nor-easter! Mostly, though, we love looking out over Barrington Bay from the front windows every morning and enjoying the great variety of land and sea birds, and the other animals that visit the shores of Cape Sable Island. Cape Sable Island is the southernmost point of Nova Scotia, hence its nickname of ‘the Banana Belt’ bestowed, tongue in cheek, by birders elsewhere in the province. Right at the end of the island, off shore from a small settlement called ‘The Hawk’ (named for a shipwreck), is a low rocky, sandy island which seems to go by many names, but most commonly ‘The Cape’. This is the location of the Cape Light lighthouse, a flock of wandering sheep, occasional humans staying in a couple of cottages and regular visiting birders. Mark loves visiting The Cape, and has been raring to get over there this year. He, and a couple of friends, made their first visit of the year across there, last weekend.

The spring arrival has only just started, so there was nothing too surprising, avian-wise, but they did come across this Harbour Seal, hauled out on a rocky beach.

The Harbour Seal, or Common Seal (Phoca vitulina) is a common sight around our shores but you don’t often come across them hauled out like this. They apparently dislike coming ashore in the presence of humans, so the normally deserted shores of The Cape suits them just fine. I thought at first that this was a pup, but it is too early for pups to be around at this latitude (even in the Banana Belt!), so it is probably an adult, or one of last year’s breeding. I loved Mark’s photo and thought it would be a challenge to draw, I’ve never tried a seal before, and as for that location…!

I decided that it would be primarily a watercolour piece, although I was considering whether to go over the watercolour with coloured pencil to add some texture, I know of some wildlife artists that do just that. I decided to start with the watercolour, and decide as I went along whether to add additional pencil. As usual, I started with the main subject although I had lightly drawn in where the rocks and pebbles were to go. The actual animal painting went relatively quickly, utilizing mainly the cool greys from the F-C Albrecht Durer set. Then I turned my attention to the pebbles.

A ‘Work In Progress photo. The seal was pretty much completed but I had just started on the pebbles and it seemed to be a long way to go!

Now I actually like drawing rocks, although this was a pretty daunting background. I decided to tackle it a section at a time. There are a lot of subtle colours in the stones, and I decided to exaggerate these a little, to add a bit of colour into what could be otherwise a rather monochrome piece, and to make the seal stand out a little from the background. I have always found the C d’A Supracolor greys to be invaluable when drawing rocks and stones, they have a blue-ish tinge that is just not present in the greys in the Albrecht Durer set, and I made liberal use of them, especially Grey, Mouse Grey, Steel Grey, Dark Grey and Greyish Black. However, I also used pretty much all of the warm and some of the cool greys in the Albrecht Durers, as well as beiges, blacks, creams, Charcoal Grey, Payne’s Grey and Dark Indigo from both sets. More surprisingly, perhaps, was the use of Granite Pink, Light Flesh, Aubergine, Brown Ochre, Ochre, Light Ochre, Green Ochre, Olive Brown, Caput Mortuum and Caput Mortuum Violet. All those colours certainly kept the interest going and prevented boredom during the 3-4 days it took to complete the background.

You can see the number of pencils in use by looking at my ‘Work In Progress’ tray, where I keep my working pencils during work. I tidy them back into my storage drawers when finished. You will also see a few coloured pencils, in the right hand side of the tray near my water pot. I did go over the seal’s fur with a little coloured pencil in limited colours (one of the cool greys and Payne’s Grey from the Polychromos set, Ivory Black from the Pablos) and I brightened the light areas slightly with the Luminance White pencil. I defined the darks on the face a little better and added a little texture, but I didn’t do much. I found that the pencil did not go well over the watercolour, generally-I suspect that this isn’t the sort of paper that would work well with that technique.

Finally, there was only the whiskers to do. Now whiskers are always a problem. Trying to keep a tiny area white in such a complicated picture does not seem sensible and I have previously used a pigment ink or gel pen for this purpose, but it has never really felt like a good option. I had read that some artists use gouache, a sort of opaque watercolour, for this purpose, but I was loathe to spend rather a lot of money to buy a tube of gouache just to give this a try. Then I came across a set of 12 tubes of Daler-Rowney gouache in Walmart, of all places.

Now, I know you get what you pay for in the art world, so these were not likely to set the world on fire, but I thought that less than $20 was worth expending to give it a try. Real gouache is supposed to cover normal watercolour, with an opaque finish. I tried mixing a little of the black with a lot of white to give a grey, and applied this with my smallest watercolour brush (a 0000 size liner brush, one of my favourites for wetting tiny details in my watercolour pencil pictures). It didn’t work. Although it was just noticeable, it really wasn’t fine enough to define whiskers. I went back to the Signo pigment ink pen in white, and added a little extra definition with a Staples mini gel pen in black. I don’t have a grey or brown gel pen, white is too stark and black too dark! It suffices, but I’d rather find a better solution, since getting nice tapers on the whiskers can be a real issue. I’m not encouraged to shell out for better gouache, though.

The name of this piece? ‘Cape Island Camo’ was Mark’s description of the seal’s fur and the way it blends in on the beach, and I thought it very appropriate!

‘Cape Island Camo’ (Harbour Seal on The Cape), 9 x 12 inch watercolour pencil (Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer, Caran d’Ache Supracolor), with selected coloured pencils (C d’A Pablo and Luminance, F-C Polychromos), with Uniball Signo pigment ink pen in white and Staples mini gel pen in black, on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper (Canson XL).

Nutkin

At the moment I’m really getting into the coloured pencils, maybe getting the Pablos was the trigger? In any case, I’ve really enjoyed the last two pieces, the Keel-billed Toucan from a few days ago and this one, which has been called ‘Nutkin’ in our house since he arrived on my drawing board. The original reference was a photo that I took back in 2014. We were on a family holiday in the US (Mark, my parents and I) and were visiting the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It never fails to astonish me how very close you can get to the edge in many places, with absolutely no barrier between you and a terrifying drop! Brilliant views, though. The only place where there are extensive barriers is the Grand Canyon village, where there is a visitor centre, restaurants, shops and hotels (and hence lots of people). However, this doesn’t seem to put these little fellows off, the Rock Squirrels that live all over the site.

This cheeky character kept popping up between the bottom of the fence and the edge of the walkway to take a look at us. It was an irresistible photo opportunity, and I thought he would make a nice picture. I realised I have never tried to do animals in coloured pencil, its always been watercolours, so a bit of a challenge there. Also, there was that rusty-looking metal bar that was the bottom of the fence and the busy but blurred-out background foliage. Hmm, I don’t set myself easy tasks for a first go!

It was such fun! I debated doing a watercolour pencil first, to go over after with coloured pencil. I do know some very good animal artists do this regularly. It limits the number of layers that you have to add in coloured pencil, because the depth of colour is already in there with the watercolours. Two things put me off…one was the paper, I did this on the Strathmore 300 Bristol Vellum, and I wasn’t sure how that would take to wetting with water. The other was the need to wait, possibly overnight, until the watercolour dried. I was far too impatient to do that! In the end I did a number of layers with coloured pencil, blended with OMS and them went over again with coloured pencil layers, then a final blend, ending up with details and highlights picked out in the coloured pencil. I was pretty pleased with the final result. You will notice that I used a little artistic licence not to include the damage on his snout in my version!

Because I didn’t want the background to be too ‘in your face’, I did only one set of layers on that, blended out with OMS and then went over the entire foliage area with the Luminance Titanium Buff pencil, which toned down the colours and blurred out the edges enough to give the ‘bokeh’-like impression I was after.

‘Nutkin’ Rock Squirrel at the Grand Canyon, 9 x 12 inch coloured pencil (FC Polychromos, C d’A Pablos and Luminance, and Derwent Drawing Chinese White) with OMS (Gamsol) and Prismacolor colourless blender pencil on Strathmore 300 series Bristol Vellum.

In the Studio, I’ve been looking for some time to upgrade my pencil sharpeners. I’ve been making do with a number of hand sharpeners with reservoirs, from Faber-Castell and Staedler.


Strangely, the Faber-Castell sharpener never seemed to fit any of my Faber-Castell pencils very well. I did find it difficult to get a very sharp point with any of these, and I do like a nice sharp pencil for that detail. I tried a desk-top sharpener from Xacto, purchased at Staples, and that was supposed to fit many different sizes of pencil. Well, it was awful, I lost about half a pencil, trying to sharpen it whilst it just snapped in the mechanism. I’m not sure what pencils it is supposed to fit, but doesn’t seem to be any of mine!

If you are in the market, I definitely wouldn’t bother with this one.

Looking on Amazon.ca (I have some birthday vouchers burning a hole at the moment), I found this sharpener, the Dahle model 155, manual desktop sharpener.


It takes any size of pencil and holds them securely, and you can adjust the point you want by twiddling the little red knob on the handle. The mechanism can be taken out to remove any wax build up on the cutters, if needed.

It takes all of my pencils, sharpens them to a great point without breaking and won’t oversharpen and cause damage. The only down-side is a little mark on the pencil barrels where the grips take hold, not something that bothers me. I’m very happy so far with this sharpener; I know, it’s a little bit sad how very happy I can be made by being able to get a sharp point on my pencils!

Ivy

We recently looked after a cat whilst our friends were on vacation. She’s a lovely old lady who was a pleasure to look after…she could teach our two a thing or two about being friendly! Anyhow, I wanted to have a go at a painting of her, because she has very cryptic markings. Not really stripes or spots, more quite irregular blotches of colour that tend to disguise her features a little, so I thought it would be a challenge to try to get her right.
The first challenge was a photo. She’s quite playful and doesn’t like sitting still for any length of time. I think I took my camera over 4 different days before I managed a half-way decent image!

I started with watercolour pencil, but added some detail in coloured pencil. I did a background in watercolour, which was a bit wishy-washy, and then went over it with coloured pencils in two shades of blue, blended with OMS. I was a bit concerned regarding the OMS with watercolour being underneath, but it actually worked very nicely. I tried to add whiskers using the Luminance white pencil or the Derwent Drawing Chinese white, but they really are not opaque enough, so ended up using the pigment ink pen, with a black gel pen for dark whiskers. I was quite pleased with the final image, I do think it resembles her. I hope her owners agree!

‘Ivy’ 9 x 12 inch watercolour pencil (Caran d’Ache Supracolor, Faber Castell Albrecht Durer, Derwent watercolour) and coloured pencil (Faber Castell Polychromos, Caran d’Ache Luminance, Derwent Drawing), OMS (Gamsol), Prismacolor colourless blender pencil, Uniball Signo white pigment ink pen, Staples black mini gel pen on 140 lb coldpress watercolour paper (Canson XL). Looks like I used just about everything in my studio on this one!

Cat-napping

A bit of fun, and another set of new pencils (I told you I was addicted!). This time more watercolour pencils, the companion set to the Polychromos, the Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer. These are the same colours as in the Polychromos and I thought that they would provide a few different shades to my Supracolors and Derwent Watercolours. I thought I’d do a picture just using the Albrecht Durer pencils, to really test them out.

Just after we moved to Canada, and settled into our house in a village on the outskirts of Montreal, my parents came for a visit. I think they wanted to check we weren’t living in a log cabin in the woods (they had to wait until we moved to Nova Scotia for that to come true!) or were surrounded by igloos and bears. It was an indian summer and they arrived off the plane, in October, bundled up in fleeces to be greeted with temperatures in the thirties for the entire stay. Needless to say, warm temperatures and jet-lag led to a few necessary naps, and in this Dad was ably assisted by our cat, Teddy.

Teddy was imported (at a cost of thousands of dollars) from the UK and he was worth every penny. He was originally a rescue cat, as all our feline friends have been. We went for one cat and came home with two (again, as usual), because we couldn’t leave behind his tiny companion, a little black female. They were promptly named ‘Teddy Sheringham’ and ‘Des Walker’ by Mark, after two of his then favourite soccer stars (you probably have to be a long-time Nottingham Forest fan to recognise why). Of course, it didn’t seem to matter that ‘Des Walker’ was actually female and she just became ‘Dessie’. Unfortunately, we lost her to kidney failure a few months before we emigrated, so Ted was the only one who came with us. He was about 12 years old when he emigrated with us and lived to a fine age, 16, in his new home. He was a great personality and was ready to take a nap with anyone!

I took this photo of Dad and Ted, and we have always liked it. Mark suggested that I should try drawing it and I thought, why not? It was such fun to do, it just seemed to flow. A rather detailed preliminary drawing helped, I kept the graphite as faint as possible but it isn’t as much of a problem with watercolour pencils as it can be with the standard coloured pencils.

After that I coloured the background walls and sofa (note that I decided to simplify the background a lot), then on the details of Dad, followed by Ted, finishing off with the throw on the sofa and the cushions. I also decided to add a bit of colour to the throw because I wanted Ted’s fur to stand out from the background. I was very pleased with the finished piece and it is destined for a place on our wall.

‘Cat-napping’, 9 x 12 inch watercolour pencil (Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer) on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper (Canson XL).
So, what about the new pencils? Well, they definitely felt different when applied to the paper, and maybe even a little waxy when putting one colour over another to blend. It definitely took some getting used to. I missed some colours that I like using, such as the Supracolor grey, which has a distinct bluish tinge. The Albrecht Durer set has a lot of greys, though; six shades of cold grey and 6 of warm, along with Payne’s Grey and a dark sepia which has grey tones, but none of these have the bluish tinge that I find so useful for rocks (but no rocks in this picture, so that was ok). Having said that, the variety of greys was very useful in this picture, especially for Dad’s trousers and Ted’s fur.


Another couple of colours that are new to me are Caput Mortuum and Caput Mortuum Violet. You would want to use them, just for the names alone! Incidentally, I do love having the names of the colours, those sets just with a pigment number are no fun in my opinion. Anyhow, Caput Mortuum translates to ‘Dead Head’ in Latin, although it was also a term used in Alchemy that meant ‘worthless remains’ and described the inert residue left over from a chemical reaction. For some reason, this was often a rusty violet in colour, so the name was also used for a purplish red-brown synthetic iron oxide pigment. It actually makes a good colour for the darker areas of the skin, so I used it on Dad’s skin. I don’t fancy telling him that he has ‘dead head’ skin, though!.

By the end of the piece I was enjoying using these pencils and I’m pleased with the acquisition, I think they will complement the other watercolours very nicely. I particularly liked the flesh colours, I think I made a nicer job of the skin in this picture than in my previous attempts at portraiture.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the information on ‘Caput Mortuum’. With a name like that, I just had to check it out!.

Wild Cats

Wild cats! Well, not really wild, although they are probably pretty miffed. Quite a few years ago, when we still lived on the outskirts of Montreal, we visited the Biodome at the old Montreal Olympic site. It’s a pretty good use of the old Olympic velodome; basically a zoo but with different areas devoted to different types of habitat. There is a tropical region that you can wander through, with birds and animals free-living amongst the trees. There is also a typical Laurentian region (i.e. the habitat around Montreal), with the sort of shorebirds, fish and animals seen there (no Black Bears, though), and an Antarctic region with a lot of penguins (behind glass in this case, or it would be pretty chilly). Somewhere in amongst all of that was an exhibit made to look like a high rocky cliff, with some logs and vegetation. I remember there was a sort of mesh curtain between us and the cliff (which was set pretty far back from the viewing area) that I believe was there to stop the occupants being bothered by the sight of the visitors. Way back, and high up in the cliff face, was a cleft, and in that were two Canadian Lynx. I tried a couple of photos, not expecting much, using my bridge camera on maximum optical zoom (around then, that was probably only 12x, or possibly 16x) and, to my surprise, managed a half-way decent shot! I’ve always liked the composition and decided to try to do it justice in a painting.



Maybe not the sharpest of images, but quite remarkable given the distance and that it was taken through a mesh curtain! These really are the most wonderful-looking animals, a bit like Bobcats but slightly larger, less spotted and with much bigger tufts on the ears. They are usually solitary, except for a brief period in the breeding season, so this is probably not a totally natural pose, but I do like the way they are snuggled together. I don’t know the sexes of the animals (there is no way to tell), but in my head I felt the one sitting more upright was a male and the other a female (I’m probably completely wrong on that!).

I contemplated using coloured pencil (especially the new set, still to come out of the tin in anger) but decided to go with my trusty watercolour pencils and was pleased that I did. I started with a pretty detailed drawing in graphite, to make sure that the features were all placed correctly (I was enlarging from the photo a little, too) and then followed my usual procedure to paint in the eyes and noses (beaks when doing birds). I always feel if I get those looking right, then the rest will just flow, because the personality is all in the eyes. In this case, the direction of the gaze of the animals, especially the upper one, was changed to have him looking directly at the viewer rather than off to the side slightly; I do think this stare captures the attention. For once I had the camera nearby and snapped a ‘work in progress’ shot when I had just about finished the first cat. I think that it captures something of my method with this piece.

I actually completed both cats before starting on the surrounding rocks and wood. It was a surprisingly colourful cliff! The final touch was the whiskers, completed using the same white pigment ink pen that I used for the same purpose when I painted our own pet cats (‘The Girls’). I did enjoy working on this picture, the watercolour pencils do remain my favourite medium right now.

‘Canadian Lynx’, 11 x 15 inch watercolour pencil (Caran d’Ache Supracolor, Derwent Watercolour, Staedler Karat) and pigment ink pen (Uniball Signo) on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper (Canson XL),