Welcome to part two in my short series of posts about my charity auction "Bid For Beavers!" donating 40% of the winning bid to The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Willington Wetland Reserve. Today I'm walking you through my artistic process, as I brought this characterful Beaver to life. (To read my first post please click HERE - this explains all about my auction and how you can place your bid.)
Each wild animal I draw or paint is a labour of love for me, I enjoy every single part of the process and by the time we have finished (as the animals are definitely co-creators with me) there is a part of my heart and soul within their image too.
The reason I create wildlife art is plain and simple; I love them all so much and delight in looking at them, learning about who they are, understanding their unique reason for being here on Earth and what we, humans, can learn from their ancient wisdom and energy to help us to live in greater balance and alignment with the World around us.
My ancestry is Celtic, my maternal side of the family are from the Scottish Highlands and so British Wildlife has a particularly special place in my heart and soul. I am totally fascinated with the ancient Celtic peoples' understanding of each species and how each fit into the tapestry of life and I aim to share this amazing wisdom through my art. My hope is that the more we understand, the more we care and will act together to protect precious wildlife and nature.
So today I wanted to share with you the journey I took in co-creation with this characterful Beaver, who I named "The Heart Shaped Beaver" due to his beautiful silhouette shape. I'll walk you through the process, both practically and intuitively sharing how he emerged onto the paper.
1) The Beavers called to me. Each time I begin to prepare to create my next piece of wildlife art, I sit quietly and ask Spirit to let me know "who" is next. This never fails... I may begin to see the species physically (animals will arrive in our garden or out on our daily walks and/or around me in graphic form, in books, magazines, on the sides of lorries, on TV, you name it! They start to show up and catch my attention. Beavers started to appear about 8 months before Willington Wetlands released the two pairs. I kept reading articles about them, seeing them on TV and having conversations with people where they kept popping up!
2) Who Are You? Once I knew it was Beavers that wanted to come through my next step was to delve more deeply into who they are, their energy and wisdom as well as their physical traits and where they live, what they eat etc. I researched them with a combination of reading and gathering information, which I always love doing. I also sourced several photographic images that I had permission to work with for reference and began to create my own composition, working with several photographs to help me.
3) Initial sketching is next up - I have a strange habit of sketching each new species. I have a very shabby old note book and I sketch them roughly using a biro pen! I do this to begin to get a feel for how to create the 2D outline in readiness for transforming it to it's 3D illusion on paper. The pen and the cheap lined paper affords me the sense of total freedom, not to worry about errors or making mistakes, which really helps me and I play in this way until I feel I have learnt enough to take the sketch onto the finished medium. With Beaver I felt a very strong connection to him and his energy, a very productive, caring being, who reminded me a little of a lovely old wise man, focused on the task in hand (well paw in his case) whether that be building a dam or eating some delicious Willow or other tasty food.
In this case for "The Heart Shaped Beaver" I then moved onto crisp white cartridge paper to create the outline sketch of this attentive and focused Beaver. I used the lightest of strokes possible, so that I could erase them as I proceeded with rendering the drawing with my oil based pencils. Drawing the outline of this beautiful Beaver was very straightforward for me, which is always a joy, not every piece is so easy!
4) Colour Selection: The next stage is to look carefully at the reference images and using my colour charts look out all the colours and tones that I will need to create his beautiful form. I take my time with this to get the colours as accurate as I can. You'd be amazed at how many different colours I used to achieve this piece including blues and lilacs.
5) Transforming -2D outline to 3D. Once I was happy I had all the colours I needed I begin to work with the colours. I started at the top of his head and methodically worked my way down. Using a piece of white paper underhand to ensure the white paper stays clean. You can see some of my progress images here.
I stepped into his watery world and connected with him intuitively as both a physical and emotional being, feeling into how his physical form takes shape, the direction of his fur growth and how his skeletal and muscular structures shape the direction of the fur growth. I get a real sense of his energy and knowing too (called Kenning in my ancestors tongue.) It's very hard to describe this connection in words, but I suppose it is like stepping into his "shoes" to feel how it feels to be him and how his energy and form effects the physical world. Slowly, I took my time working down his body, building layers of colours and tonality.
6) My absolute favourite part: Working on his eyes (and all the species) is always the highlight for me. Eyes are truly the windows to the soul and for me, connecting deeply with them, as I work quietly, allows me to bring forward their character, soul and species nature. This Beaver melted my heart as he is so kind, mild and yet he will tolerate no silliness. This kind straightforwardness was so humbling and inspiring to me.
7) Working through the layers: I continue to work with the layers of fur, building depth and creating his paws and webbed feet, fascinating to feel into how it feels to have webbed feet, to love being in and of the water for so much of the time.
8) Finalising - then comes the time to know when to stop! With Beaver it seemed very clear, leaving enough texture in his thick waterproof coat to hint at the fact that it is most often wet or in some stage of drying out and has that glossy look to it. In total this piece took me around 25 hours to create and I hope you love him too!
So there you have it, a flavour of my process both practically and intuitively with this wonderful Beaver soul! I hope you have found it enjoyable and interesting to learn more about the journey we took together to co-create this piece.
If you'd like to learn more and get involved in "Bid For Beavers!" Read my first post HERE where I walk you through the simple process and link you to the bidding contact page. Many thanks for your support of my art and for the Willington Wetlands Reserve, managed by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (I am donating 40% of the highest auction bid for the Beavers project.)