Pesky Critters

After all the recent coloured pencil works I had an itch to have another go with watercolour pencil. But what to draw? Of all the references I had printed, nothing quite hit the spot, except for a rather old picture of a couple of Raccoons. This picture was actually taken by my father, back in 2004, when we visited a sort of wildlife safari park for native Canadian wildlife (Parc Omega at Montebello, Quebec, if you are interested). It was always a good day out, and we took most of our visitors over the years when we were still living near Montreal. Now were are in Nova Scotia, we have Raccoons raiding our bird feeders in the yard pretty much every night.

Now, not everyone likes Raccoons, they are so good at raiding food sources, bins, etc, around homes that many do call them the ‘pesky critters’ of the title. However, for we who came from the UK, they are totally enchanting. Even when they manage to undo all of the special wires that Mark puts on the feeders to try and keep them out, and then carry off a whole peanut feeder into the woods, we still love them (Mark can generally retrieve the feeder in the spring!).

One problem was that I didn’t seem to have the original photo; instead I had only a smaller image, reduced for the web. Perhaps that should have put me off, but I decided that it would be ok, as long as I kept the piece small. It would be a chance to try something a little looser and quicker than the more recent pictures.

Well, it is certainly looser. I did quite enjoy it, although maybe the final piece doesn’t quite look like the picture I had in my head. The pencils really are not the medium for loose watercolour! I did think about going over with coloured pencil, but decided not to do so on this piece. I think I have got it out of my system, though-back to something a bit more detailed next time.

‘Pesky Critters’ (Northern Raccoons). 7 x 10 inch watercolour pencil (Caran d’Ache Supracolor, Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer, Derwent Inktense), with Sakura Souffle white gel pen (for highlights and whiskers), on 140lb cold press watercolour paper (Canson XL).


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…

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),