Concentrating on the Native

Time to start planning new projects. I am concentrating on the native for a bit!

While projects with an international wildlife theme are extremely good to do, it is important not to neglect what is local. Unfortunately people can sometimes be more familiar with the issues facing lions, tigers, giraffes, wolves and rhinos and be totally unaware of the issues that affect their local wildlife.

An example of such an issue relates to squirrels. Locally there is a very healthy population of American Grey Squirrels but unfortunately where I live in Scotland, they are not native. The native squirrel is the red squirrel. This is smaller and has been under immense pressure ever since the introduction of the bigger grey squirrel. Currently red squirrels are now only confined to a handful of areas.

The grey squirrel and the red squirrel
The grey squirrel and the red squirrel

While grey squirrels can be fun to watch out in the local woods, I have to confess I would rather see our native red squirrels. Therefore it is vitally important to raise awareness of how the introduction of the grey  has had such a negative impact on our native red populations.

Another issue that I think is quite sad is how remarkably unobservant many people are.  I remember while out walking the dog,  watching people make their way along a path to get to work…  just a short distance up the hill stood three roe deer quietly munching away.

Portrait of Roe Deer- work in progress
Portrait of Roe Deer- work in progress

The deer just seemed to know that the chances of people seeing them was very low.

I always wondered what the reaction of those people would have been if they had just turned their head to the left and saw how close the deer were!

Maybe you would argue that it is a good thing that most people are oblivious! After all, it  could lead to the deer facing greater disturbance.

While that is certainly a risk… I think it is one that is worth taking.  Being the optimistic person that I am, my view is that the more people who are aware of the presence of the deer the more likely they are to value  and care for that area.

Going back to the point I made earlier about people not recognizing  the animals that live in their own country… here is one example… this is the Pine Marten. Well Pine Marten under construction!

Portrait of a Pine Marten- Work in progress
Portrait of a Pine Marten- Work in progress

I wonder if people would recognize this animal as being native to Scotland.

It is a forest dweller that is unfortunately confined to the North of the Country. This gorgeous member of the weasel family has been in decline but thankfully numbers are now rising.

These new drawings of a Pine Marten and a Roe Deer once finished will be added to my gallery of local wildlife. My intention will be to make prints from the originals and use the illustrations as a means of provoking discussion about wildlife issues.

This concentration on local  wildlife will not be to the neglect of international issues.

It is my view that by by raising  awareness of what is happening locally  on the doorstep, it can not only foster an interest… but also provoke a call to action . As people become more involved with the local…  hopefully they will start to identify the connections with the global.

Migrating birds demonstrate this perfectly. People tend to like birds and welcome the return of swallows and swifts. But, for these birds to survive they need to have good habitat not only at both ends of the journey but also on the stop over areas in between. Migrating birds would be a good subject to draw in the future.

All too often people are sympathetic to international causes but their distance creates a remoteness and a feeling of powerlessness. By valuing the local hopefully they will make the connection and support the global too!

Choosing Size for Impact

In recent times all my drawings have been around the size of an A3 piece of paper. I now very rarely draw anything smaller as I feel that details could be lost.

For many of the subjects I wished to draw, this A3 size seems to be the optimum size. Not too big and not too small.

In early January I decided that more impact was needed for a story that I wished to tell. To achieve that I not only went with drawing the piece on black paper but also scaled it up to a bigger size. The initial sketching was started and that seemed to go well… then I never touched it again.

Now I have argued that there was a clash of schedules and l had taken on more projects than I had intended and… yes there is an element of truth in this.

But, if I was being entirely honest with myself there was also an element of fear and perhaps regret at attempting something so big particularly as I regard myself as being at the start of my artistic journey.

Now I could of course have gone the other way and gone smaller. There is no doubt that small, even the miniature can have a wow factor.

I have seen some incredibly detailed pieces of artwork such as watercolor paintings only 2 inches square that are beautiful.

They are exquisite and the skill involved in getting so much detail into such a small space can only be admired.

However, putting to one side the fact that I do not have the necessary skill to achieve so much detail in such a small piece, I am not sure the subtle approach is appropriate for the type of message that I want to put across.

My purpose is to raise awareness of wildlife issues and I want to shout as loudly as possible which is why I took the decision to go big and bold with the Orangutan and baby. The message of loss of their habitat to make way for oil palm plantations is one that should not be ignored.

Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby
Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby First work in progress

However what is the point of aspiring to shout a message when I am fearful of doing so!

It was time to confront the fear!

The whole of last week was spent confronting that fear

second work in progress of Orangutan and Baby
Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby 2nd Work in Progress

This drawing of an Orangutan and her baby measures 70 cm x 50 cm and is the biggest drawing I have ever attempted.

To overcome the fear, I ignored the subject and just took small areas at a time mapping out the different shapes. Now I am slowly building up the layers. Approaching it this way has made it less daunting. There is also the opportunity to really focus in on the details of different elements such as the hairy hand, the nose, the mouth and the the arrangement of the hair in the mother as well as striving to capture that close relationship between mother and baby.

It is important to get this right and I won’t rush it. I will do a little bit at a time and carefully work out the best way to interpret each part of the drawing as I continue to rotate between other drawings.

Unfortunately it will take some time before I am ready to shout about this but it is better to get it right!

An Orange Phase

I recently watched an artist painting a landscape with shades of purple to give emphasis to a dramatic sky. He suggested that this was his purple phase!

It made me think about the tiger I had recently finished with its strong vibrant shades of orange and how I had enjoyed using these colours to build up the fur texture.

I have decided to go through an orange phase!

Anyone who knows me would not associate me with the colour orange!

They would associate me with blues, greys, and blacks which are cool colours.

Orange, on the other hand, is regarded as an energetic colour. It is associated with sunshine, heat, warmth, joy, enthusiasm and stimulation. Therefore I have decided to embrace the colour Orange, well… for a while at least.

Here are some of my current works in progress that use shades of Orange.

The Red Fox Work in progress

Portrait of a Red Fox
Portrait of a Red Fox

The Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly Work in progress

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

The Orangutan and her baby Work in progress

Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby
Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby

Please note the dark background for the above portrait was chosen and the work started before I had fully embraced this Orange phase. The inspiration behind the decision to draw the Orangutan and her baby came from the campaign to raise awareness of the devastating impact that growing  Palm oil has on the habitats of the beautiful animals.

My Gorilla Preference and a Cheery Robin

I have now completed my second Gorilla. In the first drawing, I used Pierre Noire pencils on Canson paper and this produced a good texture but it was a bit sketchy. Therefore I started a second drawing on Pastelmat using pan pastel and color pencils.


The first drawing on the left, I described the Gorilla as looking mournful and this second gorilla on the right, I would describe as having a secret that he is not willing to share. It is hard to state a preference, but I guess I am going to go with the second drawing of the Gorilla. He is a bit more refined looking even if he is not willing to share his secret!

I am in awe of Gorillas ever since I watched David Attenburgh on the BBC Natural History program ‘Life on Earth’  sitting right in amongst them. They were quite tolerant of his presence and that of the accompanying film crew!

This was then followed up by reading the book ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ by Dian Fossey. I remember being inspired by her fight to focus attention on the plight of the Gorillas.

All the hardships she endured which tragically culminated in her own death was quite a powerful story. If it was not for her and the dedicated work of others, would we know as much about Gorillas as we do now and would there be any Gorillas left?

When I downloaded the initial reference image from Wildlife Reference Photos it described the Gorilla as a Lowland Gorilla.

My researches have revealed that current thinking suggests that there are two species of Gorilla each with their own subspecies. The two species are the Eastern Gorilla and the Western Gorilla. Whichever species my Gorilla is, whether he inhabits East Africa or West Africa, all Gorillas are critically endangered.

In the wild Gorillas face ongoing habitat loss, a constant threat of disease, being hunted for bushmeat and body parts being sold as trophies for the wildlife trade.

Unfortunately, with their habitat in a part of the world that faces many social and environmental challenges, it does not make the conservation of Gorillas easy.

For more information visit:

RobinwbOn a more cheerful note, I have included my Robin to brighten life up because if you live in the part of the world where I do, then this time of year is rather dreary.

Also, I would like to thank you for reading my blog and best wishes for the year ahead.