as a wildlife artist
love to be able to draw and paint wildlife. How do I get started?
Being able to express the beauty of wildlife and communicating through
art is very rewarding. An understanding of anatomy will help you
get the proportions and muscle tone right. I firmly believe in drawing
skills as a basis for creativity. Dont be put off if it doesnt
come as easily as youd like as Ive said in a
blog post, everyone
can learn to draw. Try joining your local art group so you can
learn from others by sharing ideas or drawing and painting techniques.
Take some classes, read some books, and above all, practise, practise,
how can I draw something thats always moving?
Firstly find a place where there are plenty of subjects such as
a local duck pond, zoo or wildlife park. I usually choose one species
per sketching session so I build up knowledge of that subject. I
start by looking carefully and seeing how much I can notice about
my subject: the angle of the back, length of bill, proportions of
head compared to body
Next I start sketching parts of a bird
such as the head or a foot, again building up knowledge. Finally
Ill start a sketch of the whole bird. As soon as it moves
Ill start a second sketch, then a third. Eventually it will
return to an earlier pose and I can add to that sketch. If you choose
a venue where plenty of the same species are present, other individuals
may well stand in similar positions so even if your first subject
moves you can still continue drawing.
a keen amateur and want to turn professional. What advice can you
Firstly its important to be realistic about what a career
as a wildlife artist entails. Painting wildlife often makes up a
fairly small proportion of your day. You need to be photographer,
writer, marketer, designer, accountant, administrator, researcher
Its a business like any other.
Assuming youre happy to do all that, Id recommend testing
the water, so to speak. Try selling your artwork via local galleries
and see what the impartial reaction is from the art-buying market,
not just from supportive friends or family. Start to build a client
list and a track record. Its better to turn professional in
response to the demand for your artwork than in the hope you can
create demand later. In the present ecomonic climate its harder
to sell original art than it was just a few years ago, so be prepared
to diversify, perhaps into illustration or teaching. My
Wildlife Artist's World talk covers a lot
of information about the realities of a professional art career
and my book The Wildlife Artist's
Handbook provides plenty of practical advice on exhibiting
and selling wildlife art.
the best medium for painting wildlife?
It really depends what effect you want to create. Pencils and watercolours
are perfect for sketching and field work simply because theyre
so portable. Pencil can also be great for the detail just
look at the work of Gary
Hodges or Clive
Meredith. Watercolours are ideal to capture the textures you
find in nature such as the softness of fur and feather. Acrylics
are versatile, vibrant and robust great for expressive mark
making. They dry quickly and you can paint over the underlying layers
as your painting progresses. They are thick enough to give texture
but can also be thinned down for glazes. Oils are similar to acrylics
but slower to dry so you need more patience. But if youre
a wildlife artist, youll already have patience in abundance!
are the hallmarks of great wildlife art?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say, so
whats great art for one person may leave another one cold.
However, personally I think great wildlife art has to be true to
nature. Im not advocating photo-realism but whatever the style
of the painting I want it to be believeable appropriate habitat,
an understanding of anatomy, and a sense that the artist experienced
what they are aiming to portray. I hate to see fur that looks as
if its just been blow-dried in the wild, animals get
dirty! I dont want to see thinly disguised copies of other
artists work but rather a genuine response by an individual
to their subject. My favourite wildlife paintings either show me
something new about the subject or make me feel I wish Id
art materials and products would you recommend for wildlife artists?
You can see a selection of my favourite art materials and books
on my recommendations
page. Wildlife artists often brave the outdoors on field sketching
trips in some pretty inhospitable places, so as well as the artist's
usual array of art materials I've also suggested good optical equipment,
cold weather gear, etc.
you illustrate wildlife books?
I'm always being asked this, and the simple answer is Yes! One was
published in 2012 and three more will be in print by the end of
2013. Plus there's another in progress and one possibility in the
pipeline. Please see my illustrations
page for more information. I'm always happy to discuss a new
illustration project so if you are an author or publisher feel free
to get in touch.