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A MESSAGE FROM GARY:









TURTLE HATCHLINGS DRAWING UPDATE


16th February 2013











9th January 2013

This is the latest update of my loggerhead turtle hatchlings drawing, now with the very apt title, THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY.
Since the last posting I have spent eight and a half hours continuing drawing the foam patterns. Plus I spent a lot of time just looking at my picture deciding where to create these patterns to have a balance that works for me. I've "sharpened" and darkened up the front wave... now have to do the second one!

I've decided to publish this drawing in an edition of between 250-300 copies + APs, and within that edition offer the print in two sizes. One will be a similar size to the original drawing (52 inches x 13 inches... 132cm x 33cm). The rest will be smaller, probably half size, for those people running out of wall space! As with my last two prints it will be printed using the Gicl
ée process and if everything goes smoothly I plan to release it late March.

If you want to see more regular drawing updates "like" me on my facebook page.












16th November 2012












19th September 2012











7th September 2012











27th August 2012









Following the return of my zest for drawing, with zebra foal and hippos under my belt, I have now restarted on the drawing I first began a year ago. For ages I was scared to continue on such a large drawing, worried I’d spoil it somewhere along the way. Now with my confidence back, I’m happily moving on with it. I’m pleased with my progress and look forward to really getting involved with the patterns of the foam, something new for me.

By the way, the reference photos I’m using for it have an international flavour; the loggerhead turtles are from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, the waves from Ibiza and the sand patterns taken in the Maldives!



13th August 2012


NEW HIPPOS DRAWING ALMOST FINISHED


The air up here in the Sierra Nevada mountains seem to be great for my creativity! I've nearly completed my second drawing since arriving at the beginning of July.










These are the same two hippos we saw in Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater as  portrayed in 2008's Baby Love. We took so many useful reference photos that day that I knew I wanted to put down on paper one day. I wanted to try for a very bright, shimmering feel to this drawing.

I now just have to tighten up the patterns in the water and tweak certain areas on the hippos before fixing it. I may then add tiny bits of detail before giving a final overall fix. It should be all finished within a week.

I will publish this and my recent zebra foal drawing as limited edition prints in early October. 

Visit my Facebook page if you want more details of a stage by stage progression of this hippo drawing. I also explain in writing the hours spent drawing, the materials I use and ideas etc.



24th July 2012

FINISHED ZEBRA FOAL

Here is my latest drawing of a zebra foal. I began sketching on 8th July and finished it 23rd July. It has taken me a total of around 29-31 hours to actually draw. I used between 4H and B pencils, then right at the very end I used a Derwent onyx pencil which is the equivalent of a 9B pencil. The range of pencils I used was less than usual as zebras are so contrasty. This is why I chose the subject ... to get me back into drawing after a lean spell. I also used a plastic eraser and blue tac to help create the whole picture.


I'm very pleased with my zebra foal; it's punchy, dynamic and cute! ...and it HAS got me back into drawing.










































I'm thinking of SPARKLE as a title as I think it really suits the drawing. Plus it is the title of Whitney Houston's latest film. I really enjoyed the original 1970's version of this film which starred Irene Cara. It is loosely based on The Supremes story. As I really like all three artists the title fits on many levels.  

I will publish it as a limited edition print later this year, probably early November.

If you want more background on this drawing you can see seven stages, from an early sketch up to the finished picture on "photos" on my facebook page. I also explain each stage in words.




14th July 2012


SURPRISE LATEST DRAWING!

The last few months of my life has been filled largely with packing up our London home and looking for a new place to live in the UK.... very time consuming! We have found our latest London bolthole, a compact brand new flat 23 floors up with a floor to ceiling view overlooking the Olympic park. Because of this I haven't done any drawing for a while.

We have just relocated to mainland Spain for 8 weeks over the summer period, in a villa in the town of Orgiva with mointains all around. I wanted to start drawing as soon as we moved here... new surroundings and all. Although I really want to get on with it, I have been rather stuck with my turtle hatchlings drawing.... too many unknowns... waves, sand and the sheer size of the piece.

So I decided to start on an "easier" drawing to get me back into the flow of drawing. Because of the very limited extreme tonal range, zebra and penguins are quick and easy to draw compared to the more subtle elephants. Also the coat of a zebra has a velvety smooth quality to it in comparison to the far more time consuming textures of  big cat fur.

























These are the first two stages of this latest little piece. I'm pleased and relieved that I'm getting on so well. The first example on the left took me about 5-6 hours to complete. Much of the time was spent making sure the proportions were correct and that I was happy with its "look". The second example, with all the rough stripes in place, a further 3 1/2 hours. I have now got to the point where I can really see how it will feel in the end and I'm content with it.... gangly legs, the swish of the tail and all. The next stage will be to begin drawing the eyes and then the face in more detail, then I'll feel even better about it.

I'll post more updates in time. For an even more immediate way of keeping up with this drawing's progress, click "like" on my facebook page. As long as I continue to get on well, I'll be regularly posting the latest versions on facebook.   



SECOND AND THIRD PEEK AT LATEST DRAWING

The artist block that I’ve had for quite a few months is over…. for now. I say “for now” because I have regularly experienced this dreaded block for many short periods during my career. Occasionally in the past the cause has been related to sad periods in my life (family and friends ill or dying). But I’m feeling great right now. This time it was more down to fear. I had built up the idea and concept of this drawing in my head for over a year before I even started on it. Then when I did actually sketch it out I was nervous to continue with any real detail for fear of messing the project up. Seems silly now, but there you go…. that’s the power of the mind.

Finally after a few weeks of hesitantly sketching and putting in rough detail, a few days ago I began adding darker, more permanent detail. Once this happens the drawing begins to flow out of me more easily.

















The picture above is the area I’ve been concentrating on so far. This loggerhead turtle hatchling isn’t finished yet but it gives you a pretty good idea of what it will look like soon. This species, as their name implies, have very large heads. They are also quite uniformly dark in colour.








Above is a photo of the whole drawing. Apart from adding more light shading to the gentle waves, foam and sand, I also mapped out the markings on three of the hatchlings shells. When the drawing is finished, I plan to have a few patterns on the sand left by the waves and faint tracks made by the tiny turtles as they make their way to the relative safety of the water. It’ll be a drawing full of many patterns and textures which I hope will turn into a very lively piece.

My goal is to have this drawing completed by early May at the very latest. After 3 weeks of printing and signing/numbering time, the turtles drawing would be ready to publish in time for my artist in residence at Nature in Art. This years dates are from the 1st - 4th June inclusive.















Above is the same drawing a few days later. I’ve been working on a second turtle and also started a bit on the third to give me a better idea of how the balance of my composition is working. The drawing is beginning to fall into place as I have the first nearly completed turtle to work on as a template in tone and texture for the ones that follow. The speed at which I can draw with confidence, increases.

I will post updates on this page so you can see the progress with this drawing, but if you want more regular updates then…..

PLEASE JOIN ME ON FACEBOOK

Click “like” on my facebook page to have the most immediate way of keeping  bang up to date with news and photos of my latest drawings, charity info that I feel may interest you, photos from my various research trips and news of any prints I’ll place for auction on the Giving Lots charity website. On average, I do between one and four posts a day …. less if I’m busy drawing. It is also interactive as you can leave comments or ask any questions.

Because of the immediacy of Facebook, I’ve decided against also doing a blog … it would just replicate Facebook. I know a lot of folk have a resistance towards Facebook so for those people, “Gary’s page” and “latest news” on my website will give you updates, although only once or maybe twice a month. Better still subscribe to the mailing list and you’ll receive a few emails a month.


All the very best


Gary_sig








FIRST GLIMPSE OF MY LATEST DRAWING


Here’s a peek at the very early stage of my latest drawing. It’s looking down on a group of loggerhead turtle hatchlings scrambling down the beach to the sea. I’ve made the scale life size although the print will be a bit smaller. The actual size of the drawing is 1,350mm x 320mm. It is much less grey than it appears in this photo.






 
It’s taken me a long, long time to get to this point - far too long. I started actually drawing it in August 2011 while in mainland Spain but I’ve had trouble continuing with it - the dreaded artist’s block has knocked my confidence. I’ve had this before so it’s nothing to really worry about. It is a shame though because the drawing first evolved in my head while I was in Australia back in February 2010 and the idea fills me with excitement. I really want to get on with it and make it into the drawing that’s been swimming around in my head for a couple of years.

After a lot of mental preparation for the design, I roughly drew numerous baby turtles on separate pieces of paper and then spent hours, on different days, moving them around until I had what I felt was a pleasing, balanced and natural looking composition. After sketching the waves on the actual paper I then added all the turtles in the positions I’d carefully chosen.

















The photos I am using for turtle references are ones I took after dark one night when a bunch of around forty hatchlings were released by the rangers on the Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef. It took just a couple of minutes for them all to reach the relative safety of the sea. The pictures I took were with flash, not very good at all and purely for reference. Also I didn’t want to get too close and distract the babies from their goal.

We spent two amazing weeks on this tiny island with 300,000 birds. We were lucky during that time to see three groups of turtles being released. The rangers closely monitor the breeding turtle population and when it’s time for the babies to hatch, the rangers dig them up out of their underground nest just prior to when they’d do it naturally to allow as many as possible to survive their ordeal.

Left to nature, turtle hatchlings instinctively climb upwards to reach the surface. If a rock or other objects are in the way, the turtles get stuck and die from exhaustion. If they do make it to the surface, there are many predators eagerly waiting for dinner; crabs, gulls, frigates and other birds.
 
By intervening, the rangers give the turtle population a better chance of survival. All marine turtle species are endangered so they need all the help they can get.

A very important feature of my drawing will be the gentle lapping waves and swirling patterns of foam. I photographed various waves in Ibiza - the ones taken at Lady Elliot Island were less impressive. My recent trip to the Maldives gave me added information for the speckled patterns left on the sand by the water, so it’s a very international drawing!

I’ll keep you posted as and when I continue with my drawing. I hope you like the concept. I’ve tried to do something a bit different - nothing remotely like any of my other 200 + previous drawings.

 












August 2011

Dear Friends 

We’ve settled into a relaxed lifestyle in Andalucía. It is a beautiful part of Spain, steeped in history, dramatic landscapes and peppered with orange, lemon, almond, fig and olive groves. This month I’ve written a few observations about the area, plus how I’m progressing with my latest picture, choosing titles for my prints and news about an upcoming auction on this page for famine relief. But first, something about my cheating ways…

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SOMETIMES IT’S GOOD TO BREAK THE RULES…

The villa we’re staying in over the summer has a small library of books, consisting mainly of novels. But one rather weathered, non-fiction book caught my eye… “The Art of Drawing in Lead Pencil”! Published in 1922, and according to the sticker, bought for 10 shillings and 6 pennies, from W. H. Smith and Son in Birmingham, UK. This historical book was written in a dry, school textbook style but I read it with great interest.

Alongside the text, there were some exquisite illustrations; sensitive and beautifully constructed drawings of buildings, landscapes and people.
Something Rula (Lenska) said when we did the documentary “Drawn to Wildlife” together came flashing back to me while reading. She commented off-camera that I was an instinctive rather than an intellectual artist. I really hadn’t thought about it before (no pun intended) but it’s true.

It was reassuring so many of the tips mentioned in the 219 page book I instinctively knew. Things like which pencil to use to create a certain tone and how to evenly graduate that tone over the whole drawing, the importance of a strong composition when using “black and white” where there’s no smokescreen of colour, to put something of yourself in your drawings so they don’t look mechanical and too photo-like, adding a “sense” of colour and so on.

The author writes a lot about the honesty of the pencil. You can’t mask mistakes with a splash of colour to avert the eye, or go over the same area too many times. That creates a roughness to the paper texture. Again, the lack of colour can highlight a boring composition or a badly drawn picture.

You can’t really cheat with this medium, but then again…

I was taught the groundwork of really looking deeply at your subject, about form, line, texture and perspective by my secondary school art teacher. She encouraged me to focus on pencil drawing and suggested I took my “A” Level art very early, age sixteen. I failed.

Something both she and the author of this book emphasised was to shade, stipple and cross-hatch, but never smudge. “Smudging is cheating” Miss Brown would say when I tried this method.

Since leaving school I have used this “cheating” smudging technique all the time. I think rules are there, if not to be completely broken, at least to be chipped away at a bit. To me, it is just another technique, one that works really well and gives me the results I aim for.

I love smudging, making contact with the paper with my (clean) fingers. At times I use a smudging stick for intricate areas, and occasionally tissue paper for large areas where I want an even tone. I use the tissue for my water and underwater drawings to create a soft, haziness.

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OUR NINE WEEK STAY IN MAINLAND SPAIN…
WEEK ONE…  

I’ve set up my studio in a light-filled room situated on the first floor of the villa we’re staying in. I have a large table with an angle- poise lamp and a CD player. There is a stunning, clear view of the Sierra de Lujar, a range of imposing mountains, through the windows ahead that fills me with optimism for our nine weeks stay.

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DAILY WALKS…

We walk our two dogs along the local river every morning. Our girl in particular absolutely loves water; rivers, stagnant ponds, muddy puddles, swimming pools, the sea, she does not discriminate.

Unfortunately she has to be walked on a long retractable lead otherwise there’s no stopping her. A few years ago before we started doing this, she ran off for over 15 long hours. We believe she is part Podenco Hound, an Ibicencan hunting dog renowned for it’s keen sense of smell and wanderlust spirit.

Both dogs are part Belgium Shepherd and both are absolutely gorgeous!

During a longer than usual, one and a half hour walk, we saw a little Spanish Pond Turtle walking along a track. I’m really quite knowledgeable about animals, but I only know what type it was as one of the five reference books I brought out with me to the mainland is called “Turtles and Tortoises of the World”. I’m using the book as added reference for my Sea Turtles drawing.

What a handy coincidence.

The familiar brilliant flash of pink, black and white as a Hoopoe flew by reminded us of beach walks in Ibiza.

The winding tracks of a Snake tantalised us for more exciting sights in the coming weeks.

Much later as dusk descended, a Little Owl screeched loudly, informing us of its whereabouts, while Bats flitted by on silent wings.

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THE CURREY CLAN VISIT…

Some of Dave’s family have just been out to stay with us. His eldest brother Mick recently returned from the Galapagos Islands with some wonderful stories to tell of his experiences… swimming with Sealions, Penguins, Sharks, Turtles and walking among a huge variety of land animals, all unconcerned by human presence.

It is a destination both Dave and I have had high up on our “must do” list, but Mick’s enthusiasm has made it zoom right to the top.

I’d love to draw Penguins “flying” underwater, bubbles following on behind… and a Giant Tortoise… and Marine Iguanas…

Since retirement, Mick and his wife Jo have made the most of their spare time and travel has filled much of it.

Incidentally, my trusted drawing board that has served me well over the last 26 years and probably the next 26, was kindly given to me by Mick. He was an architect by profession. He regularly paints in watercolour, as did his father who did one each day in later life. The Currey family all possess artistic genes.

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PICKING THE RIGHT TITLE…

When I started publishing my prints in 1990, the titles were simply the same as the animals I was portraying in my drawings. Then after a few years, I sometimes began duplicating the species… Jackass Penguins, Ring Tailed Lemurs, Brown Bear Cubs.

The shops I dealt with started having problems explaining which Bear Cub or Lemur print they actually wanted to order. It was at this point I began dreaming up titles to fit my drawings.

I try to pick a title that evokes a similar emotion to the drawing; powerful, humorous, tender, noble, uplifting, elegant, thought-provoking.

I sometimes bounce ideas off of Dave; ask him which he prefers out of two or three choices that I’ve conjured up.

Occasionally I ask other friends their opinions. I showed my baby Giraffe portrait to one friend, Ashlee and his reaction was “ah it’s gorgeous”…a title was born! A few years later, my second baby Giraffe picture was much easier…”Gorgeous Too”!

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FRIENDS BEAT PRESIDENT OBAMA TO THE TITLE…

My Hippo drawing “Baby Love” was nearly called “A New Dawn”. I completed the atmospheric drawing just as Barack Obama was elected President of the USA. I watched the historic moment happen on TV with red wine and a group of friends from Russia, the Netherlands and the UK. The mood in our living room was electric. I tingled with excitement as he was elected, and “A New Dawn” sprang into my mind. It fitted so well with the “feel” of the Hippo piece… but so did my other idea, “Baby Love”.
In the end, I decided to keep to my first choice as it was very personal to me on different levels (see Baby Love on gallery page for more info about this). Barack was going down in history anyway and would do just fine without my help!

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WEEK TWO. THE TURTLES' PROGRESS…

I’ve decided to make the scale of my latest drawing life-size. At birth Loggerhead Turtles are tiny, only 40-50mm long (shell length). When I have it reproduced as a paper print it will have to be scaled down a little to fit the maximum paper dimensions but the canvas version will remain at life-size.

I’ve drawn many very rough sketches of individual baby Turtles so I can move them around and select exactly where I want to place them for best effect. Most will be scrambling purposefully towards the sea, with a few already reaching “home”.

In case you didn’t read last month’s page, “Home” is the title I’ve picked for my latest drawing. I think it will perfectly fit the mood I want for my picture. I already more or less know how the drawing is going to “feel”. Intricate patterns on flippers, shells, and the swirling, bubbling sea will be emphasised, highlighted and played around with.  I’m especially looking forward to manipulating the pure white foam into a drawn-out design.

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ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER TURTLE…

The next day started off well with another close sighting of a Spanish Pond Turtle. A good omen I think…

A spot of sun bathing, then more sketching Turtles, changing their positions around… I’m getting there. I just need to look through more photos for references of waves lapping gently on the shore then I should be able to start on the actual drawing.

As I write this, Dave is busy surfing the net, looking at Galapagos tours. We are at “that age” when we realise within the next 10, possibly 15 years is the timescale for us to make the most of travel experiences and with it, all the reference material I can collect for my drawings.

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MAKING WAVES…

I’ve found all the references I need for the gentle waves and foam so I will go to the nearest town and get them printed out. I only want them to give me a rough idea of how lapping waves look; a lot of it will be drawn from my imagination to look the most appealing.

While looking through my thousands of photos I couldn’t help but be reminded and amazed as to just how close we got to the Turtles; within inches and even closer on many occasions. One in particular kept swimming underneath me and floating with its shell resting against my heart… take a look at the first (self portrait) photo on my Wild Australia page.

They were some of the most endearing and memorable encounters with wild animals I’ve had.

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WEEK THREE. TIME TO BEGIN…

What I’ve done so far with my latest drawing has nearly all been flying around inside my head, more so than any previous ones. I’m excited but nervous at the prospect of finally transferring these various ideas onto the actual paper…I must admit I’m stalling; the fear of it not living up to my (or your) expectations is getting in the way.

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AMY AND DUSTY REMEMBERED…

Woke up to the sad news about Amy Winehouse; such a waste of a fragile talented life that had the potential to shine brighter and brighter. I love the retro Motown/jazz feel to her music especially on her eleven million selling “Back to Black”.

In the early 2000s I happened to be in the HMV store in Oxford Street, London when she made an early promotional appearance for her first CD, “Frank”. I thought she sounded great with a strong unique voice.
  
She paved the way for Adele, Lady Gaga and a host of other women who have become famous largely through their talent not their looks.

In turn one of Amy Winehouse’s influences was undoubtedly the late, great, but also highly troubled Dusty Springfield. Her singing talent eclipsed her looks and a big beehive and tons of mascara was synonymous to her 1960’s image.
 
Just weeks ago I read “Dancing with Demons”, a book about Dusty’s colourful life, a life cut short by cancer. There were loads of great stuff about her music and it was very revealing about her personal life, but what I found the most interesting, was why she was labelled difficult to work with.

She was passionate about music, and was an absolute perfectionist, sometimes recording her vocals one word at a time to squeeze the very best tone and emotion out of her voice. How amazing is that?! She also had an acute sense of what she wanted from the musicians backing her (nearly all men); a certain raw exciting sound.
 
What strongly came out of the book was, because she was a woman, she was considered an annoyance. I’m sure anyone passionate about their music strives for the best in the studio… Elton John, Bono, Sting, Paul McCartney. I imagine they are all “difficult” to be around when creating, but you don’t hear of them being labelled with that derogatory term.
 
Women certainly weren’t treated as equals back in the sixties and seventies. This has changed a huge amount now, but there’s still a way to go. You still regularly hear of Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez and many other women singers and actresses of being classed a “Diva”… a wonderfully statuesque, positive word, now relegated by the media to a mere put-down.

I wonder whether it’s the newspaper, magazine and televisions’ way of not so subtly keeping women down in public perception.

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MEZMERISED BY THE BEAUTY OF ALHAMBRA…

Our nearest big town Granada, is a forty five minute winding drive away. It is a beautiful place with, undoubtedly the high point being the world heritage site, the Alhambra. It is an amazing Moorish palace perched high on a hill overlooking the town.

I was blown away by the sheer beauty, symmetry and great attention to detail of the Alhambra; the intricate designs on the creamy sculptured walls, pillars and archways, the huge, ornately carved wooden doors and ceilings and the striking tiled walls and floors in terracotta, turquoise and cream. At times the gloriousness of it all almost became too much for my eyes to take in. I’ve never had bricks and mortar effect me like that before.

As a bonus for me they had a temporary M. C. Escher exhibition displayed in one of the buildings. He is renowned for his intricate drawings and some of his art bears similarities to the style of the Alhambra. He twice visited the area.

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WEEK FOUR… LET’S PLUG MY BOOK!

I’m very pleased with how my 2010 book Drawn to the Soul turned out. The rough design had been floating around in my head for a few years. I knew I wanted lots of white space around the pictures and for the accompanying type to be in simple italics. Graphic designer friend, Paul selected a typeface sympathetic to my drawings.
 
He and I worked together solidly for five full days in front of his apple mac, designing, tweaking, enlarging, reducing, moving drawings around until we were both happy. I really valued his artistic input and definitely want to work with him on my next, bigger and better follow-up!

There are only around 165 books left out of an edition of 1,000 signed and numbered copies available from the shop. I’m pleased to say it has received a great reaction from many people who have purchased it. I think it would make a unique Christmas present to any animal lover. So why not get an early gift or two while you can! Plug over…

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A STOOP TOO FAR…
 
Until very recently, one of my Sunday rituals was a visit to the local newsagents to pick up a couple of the tabloid newspapers.  It was something I grew up with and it has been one of my “guilty pleasures”, a pretty harmless way I thought to fill an hour or two. I didn’t realise just how low the gutter press would stoop to get their stories. I dread to think what will be unearthed next in this nasty ongoing saga.
 
I’m getting my news coverage from the television from now on. I hope I’m not being naïve…

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TWO FIRSTS…
 
I’ve been around for 56 years and never been stung by a Wasp… that is until today! And it was on my drawing hand, just where I have a spot of arthritis! It was painful especially for the first minute or so but paled into insignificance compared to Tsetse Fly bites.
 
In Tanzania I received about 100 in a single day… that was very memorable! For the next few nights it was unbearable; I regularly woke up scratching myself uncontrollably like an old flea-bitten Dog.

Back to Spain and another first. Straight away we went for a walk in the mountains that completely took my mind off Wasps. Within ten minutes we had some fantastic sightings of Spanish Ibex, wild mountain Goats; saw nine or ten in all, three from only 50 metres away. They were very wary of us, and sure-footedly scaled the mountainside with ease to observe us from a more comfortable distance. The clunking sound of dislodged rocks echoed through the gorge, breaking the silence and adding even more to the thrill of seeing them.

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A SWELL TIME…

Me and my big mouth. By the next morning my insignificant sting had transformed my delicate right hand into Michelin man’s, complete with incredible itching. “The lengths he’ll go to get out of starting on his new drawing” I hear you say! Well it’s true, I won’t be drawing for the next few days due to the swelling. I can’t even grip the pencil.

According to Wikipedia you can only get an allergic reaction to a wasp sting if you’ve been stung before. I have no recollection of that happening, only by a Bee when I accidently stood on it.

We went for another wonderful mountain walk, and this time saw more Ibex and a brief scampering Pine Martin. Don’t expect drawings of Ibex or Martins though. It’s a very different scenario seeing an animal briefly or from afar, to getting enough good sightings and reference photos to piece a drawing together. A portrait of a mature male Ibex with majestic sweeping horns would make for an impressive picture though…
 
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DRAWN TO AUCTIONS…

Throughout my career, my prints and drawings have been in countless auctions. Some at the leading auction houses Christies, Sotheby’s and Bonham’s; many have been at charity events.

I have tried to go whenever possible, for the great thrill they give when the bidding rockets way beyond the guide price. It’s not about the money because in nearly every case that doesn’t go back to me.
 
In the late 1990’s quite a few of my drawings were resold by their owners at Christies. They all went for considerably more than the original early 1990’s price. In the case of my Asian Elephants drawing, “Mothers Love”, it increased over 26 times, from less than four hundred pounds to more than ten thousand. At that same auction, “The Charge” and “Pride and Joy” also sold for similar impressive amounts. I was there and it felt fantastic... and the money for the newly drawn “Pride and Joy” did go to me!

As you may know, I keep back a few of every print edition for charities, and an auction is the ideal platform to sell these at. I’ve lost count of the number of prints that have sold in charity events, but it’s at least 90 that have gone under the hammer, for between £250 and £3,000. Most have been in aid of Born Free and EIA.

I plan to organise a solo exhibition within the next few years. A large part of that show will consist of well over 100 different limited edition prints. There are only about 10 prints, including the early Greenpeace ones, that I don’t have any copies available out of the 125 prints published to date. A show like this will need a wide open space. The mammoth Mall Galleries in central London would fit the bill perfectly….
 
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SECOND VISIT TO SEE THE ALHAMBRA AND ESCHER…

While my hand was still unable to even hold a pencil let alone draw, we decided to take a second look at the magnificent Alhambra, choosing a later time and seeing a more subtle light spotlighting the decorative archways, pillars and walls. We weren’t disappointed.

I bought a beautiful book on the art of Escher that was published to complement his exhibition held at the palace. Also got an “Escher” tie that’ll be perfect for wearing at my next posh event!

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A LITTLE MAD? I DO HOPE SO!

My swollen hand has reverted back to boney. Along with the swelling, also went the mild, constant but worrying pain that I’ve had in my right hand for a few years! I assume it was caused by overuse from signing my signature so many thousands of times, drawing and general writing.

In homeopathic remedies, I’ve heard that something contained in the stings of certain insects can “cure” RSI pain. Could this be true?!

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THE FAMINE IN EAST AFRICA…

No home, hardly any food or water, malaria and other diseases prevalent, possible attacks by strangers, maybe no parents to care for you… it doesn’t bear thinking about. The heartbreaking horrors in East Africa have dominated the news.
 
An auction will take place on this page of some of my older prints soon. We’ll do this after the holiday period when the potential for raising the most money will be highest. All will go to famine relief. “Mothers Love” will be one of the prints auctioned. More details soon…

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ALL CHANGE…

Well that’s all for now… and that is also the final time my ramblings will grace this page. As it has sort of morphed into a blog, we have decided to start an actual blog site which you can visit whenever you want. I’ll give you written and visual updates of my latest drawings, news, events, thoughts, etc. You’ll also be able to add your comments and make it more interactive and immediate. I hope you’ll enjoy these changes.

Come September “Gary’s page” will be used in future as a showcase for charity auctions, competitions, special offers and any other bright ideas we can conjure up. For a couple of months we’ll keep the last few months postings up for you to view at your leisure.
 
I hope we are moving in the right direction for you.

Enjoy the summer sunshine.

Goodbye.


Gary_sig









July 2011


Dear Friends

Sorry for the delay with this months letter. We’ve been busy relocating to mainland Spain for the summer.

I’ve included this month my personal account of Virginia McKenna’s amazing birthday celebrations, the various plans for the coming months and my thoughts and ideas on framing my prints. Plus who do you think has just won “Best Published Artist of the Year” this year? I think you’ll be surprised…

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VIRGINIA’S SPECTACULAR BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS…

Friday, July 17th 2011 was a special night.

Nearly 400 people came together at the stunningly refurbished Savoy in London to celebrate the 80th year of our champion for animals, Virginia McKenna. There was a real feeling of love and admiration throughout the whole room.

I was so pleased to be there, to feel that warmth and to re-affirm one of my main reasons for drawing animals…to support the people dedicated to protecting creatures without a voice. In terms of compassion, Born Free reigns supreme in my books.

My partner Dave really doesn’t feel comfortable all dressed up to the nines, at grand occasions, but I knew Rula was going and was delighted she was my glamorous partner for the night. Like me, she too would have moved mountains to be there… and she loves to dress up!

Amongst the many other long-term friends of Virginia’s and Born Free were Joanna Lumley, Martin Clunes, Nicholas Parsons, Leslie Philips, Jenny Seagrove, Helen Worth, Nick Knowles, Donal Macintyre, John Altman and the Rocky Horror Show’s creator, Richard O’Brien.

I chatted to him for quite a while before realising who he was. In my defence, he was dressed quite differently… in rather feminine attire… well in fact, a dress. I should have known when he said with a knowing lipstick smile and a chuckle in his theatrical voice, “I’m as bald as you under this wig”.

I’ve sometimes been likened to Richard O’Brien… bald, short, pointed features, bit arty looking… but on this night we couldn’t have been any more different, neither of us our usual selves. I was “dressed” up in a graphite grey suit and a petrol blue textured tie with a silver Dolphin tie pin.

Born Free trustee, Jenny Seagrove complemented me on my attire for the event saying my tie/pin combo looked like the Dolphin was swimming wild and free in the ocean, perfect for a Born Free “do”. It was an unconscious choice I must admit. The graphite coloured suit on the other hand wasn’t.

I took a lovely photo of Jenny, Rula and Virginia all looking stunning, at the champagne reception.










































I chatted to quite a few familiar friendly faces from previous Born Free events as our champagne glasses were regularly filled up. Andrea and Martin from Dayfield Graphics came all the way down from Yorkshire. As well as generously printing loads of free things for Born Free for many years, they have also produced all my giclee canvas prints since 2005’s “Spirit of Elsa”. I also caught up with lots of the lovely folk at Born Free.

I was pleased to finally meet the radiant Jill Robinson, founder of Animals Asia and a dear friend of Virginia’s. Many years ago, Jill set up a safe haven in China for “Moon Bears” that were victims of the barbaric Chinese medicine trade. The sanctuary is home to over 230 rescued Bears; each have names and are cared for and cherished as individuals. Some lack paws, legs or teeth, but they don’t lack love and respect.

I will draw a Moon Bear sometime in the future…












































PHOTO:  RULA WITH JILL ROBINSON

Jill was there with her co-worker, the also radiant Nicky Vyvyan-Robinson who I first met way back in 1992 when she worked for Prince Charles. Nicky moved to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation for many years and has now been working as a PR, education and events organiser for Animals Asia the past four. It was thanks to Nicky and colleague Kay’s powers of persuasion that I became a judge on DSWF’s “Wildlife Artist of the Year” competition.

It makes me chuffed every time I write this, but Nicky, Kay and Jill all have my prints hanging in their homes. I love the fact that people who love, work closely with and really know animals, appreciate my drawings.

There were so many high points during the evening. A huge admirer of Virginias’, the Queen guitarist Brian May appeared on stage with West end star Kerry Ellis and treated us to their unique interpretation of “Born Free”. A poignant new verse was especially written for the night, by the original lyricist, Don Black.

Don also wrote “Walk away”, one of my favourite sad songs of all time and “If I never sing another song” for Matt Monro, the song about a Rat, “Ben” for Michael Jackson and the lyrics to Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musicals “Sunset Boulevard” and “Tell me on a Sunday” among so many other well known songs. He was also there in person to celebrate with Virginia.

John Barry who wrote the music to “Born Free” sadly died earilier this year. He also co-wrote Bond themes and many other songs.

Someone you don’t automatically think of as a songwriter showcased a beautiful and very moving song “Nothing really has changed”. It was her special gift to everyone in the room. The writer was Virginia. The song and the performance by Sharon Rose, a young Zimbabwean singer had the audience completely entranced. You could have heard a pin drop.

I think that was my highlight of the night with lyrics so personal to Virginia on many levels.

In start contrast, Ronnie Corbett told a very funny, very long and very rude joke that had the crowd roaring with laughter. Only he could have got away with it!

Jenny Seagrove and Martin Clunes guided us through an interesting visual account of Virginia’s life, both personal and professional, recounting her many starring roles in films, plays and musicals. She gave up all this “fame” to focus, with husband Bill, on more important matters… animals.

Rula read a touching, self composed “Ode to Virginia” which I thought you might like to see…try reading it in a deep, husky, expressive voice…

“We’re here at this wonderful soiree

To celebrate the Queen of Born Free...

An amazing and beautiful woman

An inspiration to you and to me....

She tirelessly works to remind us

That each creature has a born right...

Of freedom and peace on this planet

And for this we all need to fight..

I remember when I first met you

Saving Dolphins and Elephants too..

How determined you were that no beast in this world

Should ever be caged in a zoo...

The work you have done with your beautiful son which started with “Elsa’s” “Born Free”

Has grown and developed to world wide acclaim

For every human to see....

I feel blessed and honoured to be here

To celebrate your 80th year...

Born Free is a part of my life now as for each and everyone here...

Bless you gorgeous and precious Virginia many more years may you reign....

And carry on saving the Beasties on this our planet insane...

May this year bring you health and great blessings

From whoever looks on from above...

And may we all learn from you and the work that you do..

That nearly all can be conquered by love...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY VIRGINIA..... YOU’RE A BEACON OF LIGHT

AND THANKYOU FOR HOSTING THIS MAGICAL NIGHT...”

I first became aware of this talent of Rula’s when we travelled together to Nepal in 1995.  She cleverly wove together an ode about all the different characters in our group and our shared experiences. She sang it with her lovely sister and my great friend, Anna harmonising, as we all sat around a camp fire. It was a wonderful ending to our Elephant expedition.

More recently, Dave and I were given an ode Rula wrote especially for us after she and Anna spent a relaxing holiday with us in our Ibiza home.

Back to the plot…A varied auction mixed together fabulous exotic holidays to India and Africa, luxury weekend trips in Europe, a walk on part in Doc Martin, which Joanna Lumley very nearly won, an exclusive tour of Corrie and a much publicised, lavish gold Tiger necklace “Shere Khan”. This dramatic Catherine Best creation sold for £240,000! Coincidently, Catherine recently bought the framed copy of “Supreme” that I put in the Tiger Gala auction earlier this year in aid of EIA, Born Free and WildAid UK.

My Snow Leopard L/E print went under the hammer for £2,000. I had secretly hoped it would make even more for Born Free, but hey, not bad for a print that originally sold in 1993 for £42! It was bought by a man whose family is heavily involved in Tiger conservation in Ranthambore National Park. So it has gone to a great new home in India, far better than lying hidden in my plan chest.

My Crocodile print sold in the silent auction for £350. This was £100 higher than the previous maximum known secondary market price.

I was sitting all evening with Rula to one side and the Blue Peter “Children’s book of the year” winner, Lauren St John on the other; had great interesting chats with both. On the same table were the directors of “Wild in Art”. In recent years they have been putting on public art displays of huge animal sculptures in cities throughout the UK; remember the Superlambananas in Liverpool or the Lions in the Pride of Northampton? They would like me to do “something” with them in 2012…

Sandwiched between the chats, the auction and the performances, our vegetarian (fish option) meal was delicious and Born Frees’ very own wine, “Wild Thing” flowed a treat.

The spectacular evening raised a grand total of over £210,000 for Virginia’s Born Free. What an amazing result and a fitting tribute.

If you would also like to give Virginia a birthday present, please go to the Just Giving website and leave a belated message for her and a donation for wildlife. It will make Virginia so happy.

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VIRGINIA’S MUST-READ BOOK, “THE LIFE IN MY YEARS”

If you haven’t already read it, the paperback version of Virginia’s moving book about her life, is now available from Born Free at only £14.99. Animals will benefit…

After the brilliance of the ball still in my head, I picked the book up again and started re-reading bits. It is beautifully written in such a way that each chapter stands alone. It all oozes Virginia!

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EIA’S LASTING LEGACY…

The environmental campaigning charity, EIA has saved the lives of millions of Elephants, Whales, Orangutans, Turtles, Birds and many other species during their 27 years. They have also been at the forefront in the reduction of CFC gases worldwide and many other important environmental issues. EIA has also been a fantastic training ground for many people. Some started off as volunteers.

The current campaigns director of Friends of the Earth worked at EIA for 5 years. Two of the founders of WildAid UK were with EIA for many years as were the three founders of Global Witness. The director of communications of the RSPCA was at EIA for around 12 years. There are more still I could list.

Impressive for a small group started in 1984, by three friends with a vision, Allan, Jenny and Dave. If you believe, anything is possible…

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SURPRISE VISITOR TO IBIZA…

Speaking of EIA, finally after 11 years of wanting to visit, Allan Thornton co-founder of both Greenpeace UK and EIA spent three days with us in Ibiza catching up. He had just been in Barcelona as an EIA expert, delivering a speech to over 800 important people within the commercial industry and was very encouraged and hopeful with the general response. A brief wind down in Ibiza was just what he needed after the intensity of that meeting.

Allan now lives in Washington, USA with his wife and two children and is the chairman of EIA USA. He has one original drawing of mine and many prints around his home.

He was awarded the OBE a few years ago for his environmental work. He finally picked up his award recently from Prince Charles.

He’s a really great ideas man and was eagerly trying to get me enthused about cracking the lucrative US art market, suggesting conservation groups to approach and species to draw. You may remember it was Allan’s enthusiastic support that got me involved with Greenpeace and limited edition prints in the first place, so I should be listening to his good advice!

He left the island feeling relaxed.

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NEW BADGER PRINT “BLAZE” SOLD OUT…

Blaze has all sold out from the publisher… that’s me!

In line with just about every UK print publishing company, I am reducing my edition sizes. The economic climate has definitely affected the art market. There are now only a handful of high street framing shops left from the long list I’ve been dealing with for many years. Croydon, gone; Sheffield, gone; Gloucester, Peterborough, Wolverhampton, Rugby, Cambridge, Gravesend, Poole, Blackpool, Bournemouth, sadly all gone.

My biggest selling shop was just a few miles away from where I grew up in Beddington, Surrey. The Framing Centre, Croydon would sometimes order around 100 prints from each edition. This was the case for “Nile Crocodile”, “Plea for the Rainforest” and “Supreme”. They had the launch of “Sabu” there and sold over 120 copies! Over the years they had built up an e-mail list of nearly 1,000 collectors. John, Cathy and Simon finally shut their doors in 2006 after 21 years of selling many thousands of my limited editions.

My website was set up in April 2009 and has been a lifeline for me. My business is still going well, although admittedly not like it was 10 years ago.

This is why my edition numbers will now be lower. I should have done this a few years ago. If I’d published 2009’s “Majesty” as an edition of 400 copies, it would have sold out very quickly. “Family” would have long since sold out if I’d done 1000 copies rather than 1250. It’s a similar story with “Elsa” and “Little Foxes”.

As it will be the forth in the set, I will keep “Mystery” my next cat portrait in the series the same as the previous three at 850 copies. I hope to bring this out towards the end of this year.

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MY TURTLES DRAWING, PLANS EVOLVE FURTHER…

I‘ve been busy looking through my thousands of Australia photos for the various references I need to begin my next drawing of Turtle hatchlings. The drawing formed in my head as I watched them scamper down the beach to the sea. I took many photos of this scene and also numerous others of waves lapping the shore and the patterns they created, little shells and coral pieces, tracks and other potentially useful references.

As I’ve been getting all these references together, my perspective on the planned drawing has shifted slightly. I intended the largest part of the drawing to be the sand and winding tracks, but I now want the water and the swirling patterns of foam to be the largest area. The main subjects though will still be the many tiny Turtles with their intricately patterned flippers. I’m finding it exciting the thought of finally bringing my various ideas together onto paper.

Currently “Home” is my favoured title for this drawing. The sea is the environment where Turtles truly come alive, “flying” gracefully though the water.

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TURTLE FACTS…

Turtles have been around for over two hundred million years, sharing our planet with the Dinosaurs. They have evolved very little since that time.

Turtles are omnivores, eating coral, jellyfish and other small sea creatures as well as underwater plants. Green Turtles are the closest to being vegetarian. Unusually, they start life being largely carnivorous before changing around adolescence to eating mainly sea grass and algae.

The females lay between 80-200 ping-pong ball sized eggs. The leathery, white eggs take around 56 days to hatch. They all surface at the same time, usually after dark when it is cooler and more safe from predators. Only one in a thousand though survive to adulthood. Those that do can live half a century or more.

When laying her eggs, the female goes into a hypnotic, trance-like state. She begins to revert back to normal as she returns home to the ocean.

The largest species, the Leatherback Turtle can grow up to eight feet in length. It is the only Sea Turtle without a shell.

Turtles live practically all their lives in the sea. They are reptiles that need to breathe air to survive. They are able to hold their breath for hours so they can rest or sleep underwater. They drown quickly though if caught in fishing nets, as panic sets in.

There used to be millions of Turtles roaming the oceans. Now there are thought to be just hundreds of thousands left. All seven species are in possible danger of extinction, with one, the Kemp’s Ridley Turtle critically so.

Man is the biggest threat to their survival.

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SUMMER PLANS…

For the next nine weeks I will be living in a small Spanish town nestled in the valley of the Sierra Nevada mountains together with Dave, our two dogs and my drawing ideas. The surrounding area is a national park. When we briefly visited last October for a reccie, we saw 12 huge Vultures riding the wind currents on a particularly blustery day… so windy in fact we couldn’t identify them for our eyes watering.

Upon our return to Ibiza with my Turtle drawing (hopefully) complete, we‘re then off to the Maldives for three weeks of snorkelling with Whale Sharks, Manta Rays, Turtles and whatever else the Indian Ocean offers us.

It’s going to be a full summer.

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OTHER DRAWING IDEAS…

While in mainland Spain, I also have three other potential drawing ideas ready and one that is already part completed of Asian Elephant heads. I was working on one a little bit in between chatting during my residency at Nature in Art this year.

The Nepalese references for this drawing date way back to 1995. Rula and Anna will be very happy when I complete this one as they were there with me and the Elephants, both wild and domesticated.  
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MY VARIOUS IDEAS ON FRAMING...

I sometimes get asked my opinion on framing my prints. Here is my slant on things…

Choice of framing is very personal. Some people chose frames and mount boards to match their décor. I think this can sometimes be at odds with my drawings. Others focus more on being sympathetic to the style of the art.

Types of frames as with interior decoration and fashion constantly change with the times. What looked great 20 years ago now may seem a bit jaded and tired looking. Reframing can transform and revitalise a print and make you look at it with fresh eyes.

If you saw my retrospective exhibition “Drawn to the Soul” at Nature in Art last year, you may have noticed a wide variety of frames grouped together. I think they all worked well as a group. What they all had in common was simplicity in style and “colour”.

I don’t think it’s necessary to stick with exactly the same frames, just the common thread of my drawings that unifies them.
I chose to frame my most recent drawings in a simple off-white frame and mount board. I felt it gave a fresh, modern feel and showed off my drawings in an understated and sympathetic way. It made you look straight at the art and not be confused by a fussy frame.

This is the main reason I like my canvas prints, because of this simplicity of line.

Before my “white frame phase” I went through a brief chunky gold/silver one which I thought was very tasteful. I had “Baby Love” and “Gorgeous Too” framed like this. Unfortunately the moulding was discontinued just months after I started using it.

Because 2006’s “Angel Eyes” was such a bold, dark drawing I had it framed in a chunky graphite grey metallic moulding with matching slip, but I wouldn’t have chosen it for say “Swimming Polar Bear” or “Sabu”. I think it would have overwhelmed the more delicate tones.

Although I put really dark greys in my pencil drawings, there is no black there. It is not possible with a pencil. For this reason I steer clear of black frames and mounts as I feel the contrast make my drawings and prints appear greyer than they actually are. In a similar way, by using colourful mounts I think this makes my drawings look drab and “colourless”.

My choice of frame for between 6-12 years ago was a pale gold/silver traditional shaped moulding with a matching slip. “Family” and quite a few others were done in this style. This again was discontinued.

I have always used either white, off white or pale cream mount board. Recently I have favoured one called, rather appropriately, “Spanish white”. Usually I have them double mounted creating a more solid, expensive feel… it is of course more expensive!

I haven’t ever used a grey mount but have seen it used with my prints and as long as it’s a pale to mid grey, it looks good. I personally would chose a neutral shade of grey that matches the graphite of my prints.

I’ve begun using double or treble thickness mount board. Again this is more expensive but gives a chunky, pared down look.

Every so often, I like to move pictures around in my home, put them on different walls or even in different rooms. I find I get so used to seeing them in the same place I no longer really “look” at them. They become part of the furniture. By moving them around, I see them afresh. It can also reinvigorate the room.

In fact in the last few days we have just had a major re-jig of our home and moved around 22 pictures! We hung my three Cat portrait canvases in our living room with space for the forth to be added in the winter. Here’s a photo of them.


 
Framers generally feel dry mounting is detrimental to the value of limited edition prints. Although it can smooth out any buckling and look good, I wouldn’t recommend it and have never used this method myself. But if you are buying my prints purely because you like them and not for their secondary market increase in value then I suppose it doesn’t matter about this… or my next piece of information.

It is not recommended to hang pictures above a radiator or in direct sunlight, but I must admit I have done both of these. Also humid conditions like bathrooms are not a good idea, but then again I’ve hung a canvas print of Elsa there for a few years. She gazes soulfully down at me while I soak in the bath every day… she seems just fine.

Although expensive, I’ve recently started using the new and much improved non reflective glass on my originals. It cuts down on glare no end.

In closing, I’m sorry if I’ve disrespected your “lovely” choice of midnight blue frame with marbled jet black and silver mount, but it’s only my opinion. If you are happy with your choice, great.

I hope this information may be useful to you.

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WHO WON BEST SELLING PUBLISHED ARTIST OF THE YEAR?…

Each year the Fine Art Trade Guild (FATG) holds an awards ceremony, the “Oscars” of the art publishing world. One of the awards is for “Best selling Published Artist of the Year”. It can only be awarded once to any artist. Any published artist can potentially win.

The winner of the award is found by the FATG. Each year they ask 200 UK galleries (picked at random) their best selling artist of that year.

Thanks to you, I won the award in 1997. Other previous winners include David Shepherd CBE, the late Beryl Cook, Mackenzie Thorpe and Jack Vettriano.

The winner just announced for 2011 is Rolf Harris CBE.

Although he’s been painting for as many years as I can remember (I’m 56) it is only recently he has started bringing out limited edition prints published by Washington Green and DeMontfort Fine Art. Some are of wildlife such as Lions, Leopards and Zebra painted in very vibrant colours. His editions are of 195 copies.

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IN CLOSING…

I really enjoy writing these pages each month… do you enjoy reading them? Judging by the page visits you do, but am I on the right track with the content? I’d love your feedback and questions.

Thank you to those who have already taken the time to send e-mails.

In a month I’ll let you know how my latest drawing is progressing, why I “cheat”, how I choose the titles to my prints and much more…

Until then, enjoy your summer.

Very best wishes to you















June 2011

Dear Friends

Welcome back. It has been a varied and very busy month for me. What with Blaze being published and posted out, my 4 day stint at Nature in Art, the DSWF “Wildlife Artist of the Year” competition / exhibition and Eurovision!

I have also now sent out all the 50 prizes for my recent competition so unless you are overseas you should have received your prize. Please e-mail me if not.

As always, my four days at Nature in Art was great. This was either my 18th or possibly 19th time at the museum as “artist in residence” and some of the people I met have been coming for just as long. It’s lovely to catch up with so many familiar faces.

Thank you to everyone who visited especially those who travelled far, from places like Wolverhampton and Sheffield. It doesn’t quite beat previous years visitors though from Scotland, Norfolk and the Isle of Wight! I really do appreciate the effort involved.

My latest print, Blaze was published around the same time as my visit, and has gone down very well. As of 10th June, there are very few copies remaining, so if you want one, please order straight away.

As I write this next part, Eurovision will be on tonight (May 14th) so it seems only fitting that I give you the results of your “favourite print” poll. The clear winner is…

1.    SNOW LEOPARD…followed by…
2.    SABU
3.    NILE CROCODILE
4.    IBERIAN WOLVES – HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
5.    PLEA FOR THE RAINFOREST
6.    FAMILY
6.    BENGAL TIGRESS AND CUB…1994
6.    ANGEL EYES
9.    GREEN TURTLE
10.  THE ORPHANS
11.  GEORGE ADAMSON WITH BOY AND CHRISTIAN
12.  IN DREAMS
13.  CHEETAH (TALL)
14.  JAGUAR 1989
15.  GORGEOUS
16.  IGUANA
16.  OSTRICH
16.  POLAR BEAR SWIMMING
19.  BABY LOVE
19.  SUNLIGHT AND SHADOWS
19.  LOVE AND PROTECTION
19.  FRIENDS
19.  AFRICAN ELEPHANTS 1988
19.  FRIENDSHIP
25.  SOULMATES
25.  THE SPIRIT OF ELSA
25.  ELEGANCE
25.  SITTING PRETTY
29.  SLEEPYHEAD
29.  BABY AFRICAN ELEPHANT SUCKLING
29.  JAFF
29.  THE CHARGE
29.  STEALTH

I think it is no surprise that Snow Leopard came in a clear winner at number one, with more than double the votes of the runner-up, Sabu. I was pleasantly surprised though with Nile Crocodile coming in just behind at third place. This huge drawing was the focal point of my retrospective at Nature in Art so maybe seeing it in the flesh helped its position.

For me seeing it framed up certainly re-affirmed it as a drawing I’m really pleased with. It had been safely rolled up in a poster tube for nearly ten years, only surfacing occasionally to show friends. Nile Crocodile was number two in my favourites poll (scroll down to May letter after this months for my personal top 25 drawings and why I chose the top three).

A total of 60 different prints received your votes. I worked the poll out by giving three points for a first place, two for second and one point for a third…a bit like the alternative voting system!

Incidentally, I conducted a similar poll in 2008. Snow Leopard was also the clear winner then, with Sabu again at number two. Following on at number three was The Orphans, then Green Turtle, 1989 Jaguar, Plea for the Rainforest, Iberian Wolves and Gorgeous. Three and a half years ago my Nile crocodile received not a single vote! A total of 57 different prints received votes in 2008.

So “Snow Leopard” was your choice in 2008 and again in 2011 by a mile. Which  leads me seamlessly onto…

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If it’s the one print of mine you’ve always wanted, now’s your chance to own the 1993 “Snow Leopard”. You can place a bid for a beautifully simple but expensively framed copy by e-mailing me. Let me know the highest you are willing to go and someone will bid on your behalf. The reserve price will be £1,000, so mail me any figure at all, above that figure. Who knows, you could end up being the owner and even if not, you helped push the price up for wildlife.



The live auction will actually happen on June 17th during the Born Free Foundation Ball in celebration of Virginia McKenna’s 80th birthday. Tickets for the Ball are now all sold out. I felt this celebration at the Savoy was the perfect occasion to offer my most popular print to honour a truly inspirational woman. All money raised will help wildlife through the charity Virginia and her late husband, Bill Travers co-founded in 1984.

The print is extra special because I managed to get it co-signed by Virginia herself. If that isn’t enough, I also asked Rula Lenska, Pam St Clement, Jenny Seagrove and Alison Steadman to add their impressive signatures too. It is the only one with that mixture on so is truly unique within the edition. On the actual night of the 17th June, I will try and get a few more famous signatures added on the back of the frame!

Then the icing on the cake; the print is number AP 30/30.

As mentioned last month, I’ll only have one copy remaining after this one goes and will be selling that last one at my next solo show in two or three years time.  

Also at the Ball, but this time in a silent auction, will be a beautifully framed copy of my 3rd most popular print, as voted by you, the Nile Crocodile. The reserve set on that one is £200. Again please e-mail me your highest bid and someone will bid on your behalf. All money will go to help wildlife.

Please e-mail your bids by the morning of 17th June. I’ll let you know what they both went for in my July’s page. I’m praying for great things!

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My partner Dave has recently written a great novel called “Stripped”. It is very loosely based on his ten years experience in Indonesia combating the illegal timber trade. “Stripped” is a fast-paced eco-thriller and is an ideal holiday read. I was amazed turning the pages, not knowing where the plot was leading me to next; Bali, Brixton, Singapore and Borneo are all visited during the 318 pages. It involves a heady mix of murder, the tabloid press, the timber mafia, the police, religion, politics, sex, drugs and even a bit of rock and roll! It had me gripped, intrigued and full of admiration for his writing skills.  

To see more glowing reviews and how to buy “Stripped”, go to his website. You can also see many of his stunning photographs taken over a 38 year career in his galleries section. Dave trained at the Polytechnic of Central London in the very first year a photography degree was taught outside of the USA. He received a Bachelor of Arts.

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Here are a few photos I took recently of my ultra-glamorous friend Rula at home posing next to a couple of her favourite drawings of mine.























Rula has just finished her current stint in Coronation Street… for the time being. For her next role in the autumn, she will be starring in the “Calendar Girls” tour joining a great cast including Lynda Bellingham and Ruth Madoc. The tour starts in Glasgow on the 30th August. It then travels throughout the UK for a week at a time, taking in Blackpool, Belfast, Wolverhamton, Liverpool and eight other theatres before finishing in Richmond on 28th November- 3rd December 2011. Believe it or not, I haven’t even seen the film, so am really looking forward to watching what the Guardian reviewed as “a show whose feel good factor is sky-high”.

Calendar Girls has been the fastest selling UK tour ever, so book your tickets quick!

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I’m very excited about a new Hollywood film called “Born to be Wild” which is about to go on general release in the UK. It is by the same company who produced the very successful “March of the Penguins”. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, it is the tale of two wildlife rehabilitation centres; the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Kenya and Birute Galdikas’ Orangutan Centre, Camp Leakey in Borneo.

I’ve been fortunate to spend considerable time at both amazing places and met with the two inspiring women who set up the orphanages and who devote their lives to wildlife.  

My drawings “Plea for the Rainforest”, “The Orphans” and “Joy” were all inspired by my visits to these places and both centres feature in the two documentaries made about my art.

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Since moving to Ibiza, my interest in the Eurovision Song Contest has been rekindled. This is all thanks to Ronnie, a great German friend who’s been living on the island for about ten years now. He really gets into the spirit of the whole event and hosts a “Eurovision party” each year. We all get given a pen, a sheet of paper and a glass or two of alcohol and become “serious” judges passing comments on each song.

I think as long as you don’t compare it to current music trends, Eurovision is great fun…really! Even in the 1960’s when we used to regularly win, the music wasn’t at all similar to what was in the UK charts, but it was jolly sing-along stuff.

The morning after…Oh well, the UK didn’t win but I thought Blue with their anthem “I Can”, were very good, coming a respectable eleventh place with 100 points. In Ronnie’s complex home voting system, I made them joint second with Sweden, after my favourite Slovenia. I had placed Azerbaijan, the eventual winner, seventh. I felt there were only two really abysmal songs this year, not a bad ratio out of 25. Ronnie was especially excited as Germany were the hosts as they won last year. They put on a really spectacular event. 

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Must see TV for me is American Idol. I watch it each year and this season especially, the diversity and quality of the talent has been amazing. It is the first year without Simon Cowell as a judge and I think it’s got even better...it’s now more about the music.

I love watching peoples’ talents blossom and shine. The singers haven’t just done straightforward karaoke versions of famous songs but have very much put their own stamp on them.

I’ll miss the finals though as it all happens the weekend I’ll be at Nature in Art as artist in residence. I predict Scotty to win it. He has a rich deep tone to his traditional country voice.

A week or two later…Scotty did win.

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The recent David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Ball held at the Natural History Museum was a fantastic success. It raised around £140,000 for wildlife! What a great way for David to celebrate his 80th birthday and for DSWF to continue their important work.

Sadly there is always far more work to be done and never enough funds to do it with. Charities desparately need public donations in these troubled times so although the £140,000 will be very useful, more is always needed so please give them your support.

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The deserving winner of the DSWF’s “Wildlife Artist of the Year” competition was David Filer from Zimbabwe. He created an incredible, authentic and atmospheric drawing of African Elephants that was “painted” with pencils rather than drawn! Take a look for yourself on the DSWFs website for all the prize winners and highly commended. There were so many fantastic pieces of art entered this year. Also you can vote for your own favourite at the same time in the “Peoples Choice” award.

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Please e-mail me with any questions you want answering about my art. I’ll post the replies on this page in future months.

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In the meantime, here are a few more pieces of trivia…
 
I’ve mentioned Roz Kidman Cox’ name a number of times before as one of the people who helped ignite my career in the early 1980’s. She was the editor of (BBC) Wildlife magazine for many years. As well as commissioning me to illustrate two articles (8 drawings), encouraging me to enter the “Wildlife Illustrator of the Year competition (I was highly commended), putting me in touch with book publishers and buying an original, she also offered me some freelance office work.

Among the jobs I did was to return unsuccessful entries for the magazines recently launched “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” competition, which was very much in its infancy. I also manned the actual exhibition for a number of days, when it was held in a small gallery within the huge Mall Galleries.

As you may well know, the BBC Wildlife magazine “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” is now a massive international competition with an exhibition that starts at the Natural History Museum and then tours throughout the UK, including Nature in Art.

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What a small world… In 1992 while in Venezuela, I briefly met a bird-watching couple. We were all three in our element at Hato Pinero, famous for its abundant birdlife. Four years later I bumped into them again in another remote part of the world, Bardia National Park, Nepal!

Similarly, I met a German girl at an eco commune in Ibiza who was whizzing off to the UK the next day. So was I. Who should I see crossing a road in London’s busy West End two days later?

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In 1995, on the very same Charing Cross Road as the story above, I bumped into my favourite singer Clodagh Rodgers. I mentioned a few months ago, on this page, that she is the singer I listen to most of all when drawing.

I’m not sure who was more shocked, as I rather loudly and excitedly blurted out “Clodagh” to her… as if she didn’t know her own name! Once calmed down, we chatted for a little while. She was starring in the West End at the time as Mrs Johnson in “Blood Brothers”. I had seen the tragic tale twice and loved every minute.

One year before in 1994, I sent Clodagh a copy of my “Snow Leopard” print as a thank you for the immense pleasure her singing had given me over the years and I actually put that dedication on the print. She hung it in her sons’ bedroom. I wonder if she still has it?   

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Favourite animals to draw? Definitely African and Asian Elephants, closely followed by Ring Tailed Lemurs. Snow Leopards are pretty special too with that thick spongy fur and beautiful markings. I’ve drawn Green Turtles a few times now and I’m really looking forward to doing some more after the wonderful close encounters experienced with them in Australia. Then just about everything else!

Least favourite? Only in terms of the smooth skin, Dolphins can be a bit of a challenge as I love drawing detail and there really isn’t much there at all! When they are underwater, the detail needs to be even less to create a hazy atmosphere. But I love Dolphins as animals so I’ll put up with it as I know I’ll be drawing them again and again!

The bottom line is, as long as I’m in the mood for drawing and the composition excites me, any species is good.    

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I think the most remote area in the world I’ve visited has been Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania. It is approximately the size of Wales and is the second largest park in the country. Dave and I stayed there for two weeks with friend Lissa Ruben. She wrote and photographed the book “Cry from the Wild” which included my Orphans drawing.

It took us two full days driving, from the capital city, Darussalam, often on very poor roads, to reach our destination. Eventually, we arrived at the picturesque Fox’s Camp. We stayed in log cabins situated right next to the Ruaha River. There were some days we were the only guests and often went on game drives for hours without seeing another vehicle.

On a few occasions, a herd of Elephants visited our camp and we managed to be within yards of a few day old calf, still with pink eyes. Hippos lived in a pool five minutes walk away and bees swarmed around the fragrant white flowers of the Baobab trees come sunrise, creating a loud but soothing hum of a wake-up call. We sighted Greater Kudu and Sable Antelope. It was paradise.

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The best place I’ve been to for teeming birdlife was Hato Pinero in Venezuela. Exotic species like Jabirou Stork, Hoatzin, Scarlet Macaw, Sun bittern, King Vulture and Curassow were spotted among a huge list of over 350 possible species. Unusual animals I saw included a Lesser Anteater, Capuchin and Red Howler Monkeys Capybaras, Armadillo, a huge sleeping Anaconda, Ocelot… and Jaguar footprints!

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I believe things happen for a reason. As a teenager, I worked in printing firms for seven years and gained lots of composition skills through it which now comes in very useful!. I also used a scalpel knife to cut up negative film many times every day. The blade’s extremely sharp but I became very comfortable holding and using them. I still use them today when drawing, to sharpen pencils, to create a bevel on erasers, to carefully scrape graphite from a drawing and to cut up signs for when I’m artist in residence at Nature in Art.

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When we moved to our home in Ibiza, we had two well established ponds already in the garden. We’ve seen Black Crowned Night Herons and Grey Herons and also Kingfishers around the pond eyeing up the many Frogs and Fish that live in it. Yesterday for the first time we saw a Little Bittern in the reed beds and today have seen it two times more. We also have a number of rescued Terrapins that live in the area as well.

The next day…I just crept down to look for the Little Bittern again. Didn’t see it but did get a brief glimpse of a beautiful Night Heron.

Seeing both these unusual birds means less frogs and fish in the pond though.
 
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I’ve been to two talks given by David Shepherd, a highly entertaining showman, powerhouse artist and an example to all wildlife artists on how to really put your money where your heart is.

I would love in principle to give talks; to command an audiences’ attention with witty anecdotes and heartfelt pleas as David does so very well, but it’s just not in me. My drawings are my voice.  

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Please come back to this page next month for more “stuff” including photos of the Born Free Foundation Ball at the Savoy which celebrates Virginia’s 80th birthday. I’ll also answer a few of your questions.

With my very best wishes



 




















 


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