Category Archives: Art Chat

Chooks, New Studio and new workshops

It’s got to that stage where I’m bursting out of my spare room studio and my workshops need a more permanent home! So that can mean only one thing – the chooks have to go!

We’ve had chooks for about 5 years now, but my art workshops are becoming so popular that I need a more permanent space.  Our garden room is a great space to work in, but it will be fab to be able to leave all of the art gear in place in a brand new purpose-built studio.

Coral chicken

I’m excited about the new studio, but will be sad to see our chickens go, especially since they have just started laying again.  Still they are off to a good home and will be well looked after.


New workshop dates for June

New pastel workshop dates have been added for June.

Scottish Wildcat pastel workshops
Scottish Wildcat pastel workshop

1 day Scottish Wildcat in pastel –
Monday 19th June

This is a great little piece to get started on if you are new to velour and everything is provided to take you step by step through working on velour.

Chinese Leopard pastel workshops
Chinese Leopard 2 day pastel workshop

2 day Chinese Leopard in pastel –
Saturday 3rd June & Sunday 4th June

This is a beautiful image and is full of colour and texture.  In this 2 day workshop you can really get your teeth into fur and textures on velour in pastel.

Click the images to see the full course outlines.

Coming soon! Adventures in Abstract

If detail is not your thing or if you just want to loosen up or learn more about the principles & elements of design then this new workshop could be for you.

I’m currently creating some great activities and exercises and hope to be able to launch the pilot workshop in late June / early July.

Abstract work is often misunderstood so many artists tend to steer clear, but its a fantastic way to play with colour, new techniques and mediums as well as exploring  the principles and elements of design.  Even if, like me, you love to produce detailed pieces, you might be surprised how an abstract workshop can improve your practise.

The workshops will be over 2 days and a range of mediums will be provided along with a blank canvas for your finished piece.

I will be running a pilot workshop at the reduced fee of £150 per person (for the 2 days) so email me if you’d like to be added to the list for that course.

Well that’s all for now

Hope to see some of you on the new Abstract workshop or one of the pastel sessions.


The Versatile Artist

Not just a wildlife artist…

…this girl is a published wildlife artist, a teacher, a writer, a proof reader, a marketeer…

OK so I’m in danger of sounding like a well-known knicker retailer 😉 , but I guess what I’m saying is that as an artist or anyone working for yourself you have to be versatile.

The Versatile Artist.

I am no longer simply a Wildlife Artist, I write teaching notes and workshop outlines to make my job as a teacher of airbrush and pastel techniques a little easier. I design the workshop structures and create adverts to market them as well as coding the website that handles the bookings…not to mention doing the catering for the workshops.

…and if I’m luck I get to paint too

Versatile Artist - advert
Latest advert for the Artist magazine

This recent advert for The Artist magazine will feature regularly from the May issue, so I spent last weekend choosing which image to use and then deciding on the colour scheme as well as the content and layout that best describes what I’m offering.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not moaning,  just an observing the skills that you have to develop on your journey to success; you have to be so multi-faceted.  Good job I love doing it.

Anyway, at the end of last year I think I mentioned that I was writing an article for Airbrush magazine.  They are based in Germany, but publish an English speaking version too.  Just as well because sadly my cat probably speaks German better than me.

I got the messing with paint gene, not the language one lol

Lynx and Hawker- The Versatile Artist
Lynx and Hawker The Versatile Artist

So I’m very excited right now because I just got the proof of the article sent to me and it will be published in the German version of the mag in March!

This cover gives you a little teaser, in German, but the English version should be available shortly afterwards.

This is quite a large step by step article that charts the progress of my Lynx and Hawker piece in airbrushed acrylics.  The article is choc full of tips and techniques for getting the colours and the textures just right, so if you want to see how I tackle wildlife with an airbrush you might like to pick up a copy.

I’ll post a link to where you can find a copy in a future blog, so watch this space.

Creating a Step by Step article

Describing what you do step by step sometimes comes hard to an artist.  How many times have you sat down to start a piece and 7 hours later realised that just maybe the rest of the family may want dinner at some point?

So stopping and starting to write down just what you are doing to achieve a particular texture or effect can disturb the flow somewhat.

Get out the camera

I learned a long time ago to photograph my pieces as I go.  It’s easier than stopping to write and the images can be used for lots of things:

  • Marketing on social media
  • Creating teaching notes
  • Magazine articles
  • Adverts
  • Great memoir to accompany a commission

You don’t need anything too fancy either if you plan to upload shots to the web – your phone will do nicely if you are going to publish images online.

For printed materials, then a bit more finesse is required.  The images need to be detailed enough for print quality.  Lucky for me I have a professional photographer in the shape of my lovely husband John. So the promise of a bakewell tart is all I need to secure some professional images lol.

There are times too when you need both hands on the drawing, so a second person is needed to take the shot.

Since I can’t show the Lynx and Hawer piece yet, I added a piece I did earlier of a beautiful kingfisher. Click the images to see a larger view.

A great set of images like this can then prompt you to explain some of the techniques as you review them later with a cup of coffee.

Anyway hope you enjoyed the ramblings of the versatile artist 😉

See you soon

Jilly x



Competition Artwork

Every year I set out to be ready with artwork for the plethora of competitions that seem to all kick off at the beginning of the year. In reality only the advertising kicks off, but its enough to send me scurrying to my easel with a head full of ideas.
….and you guessed it every year I am painting like a maniac to make sure I have new work to show.
So here’s one I’ve just finished…

Tiger in pastel
A beautiful imposing beast of a tiger

I love Tigers, well I love all cats really, but Tigers are so colourful and look so regal.  This is from one of my own reference shots and not only is it a competition piece, but its the subject matter for my latest pastel workshop.

If you like the look of this chap and fancy learning how to re-create his likeness in pastel on velour, there are still workshop spaces available – but only 3 for 4th April.

For other dates click here to check the workshops page on the main website.

Pastels not your thing?….try airbrushing

There are not many courses available in the UK where Wildlife art is taught, so I decided to create my own. It’s not as complex as you might think – like anything, just takes a little practise to get to grips with a new tool.

If you fancy a taster session watch this space, the course outline will be available in the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime email me if you are interested.

Next competition piece is under way

So to give you a flavour of what you can do with an airbrush, here’s the start of the next competition piece.  This is sadly not my reference, but was downloaded from the Wildlife Reference  Photos for Artists site – a fab ref library for any artist.

It’s a beautiful shot from the very talented photographer Emanuel Keller.

Anyway progress so far looks like this:

The piece is approx17.5″ x 11″, acrylic on canvas.

I tape the canvas to the drawing board and transfer my sketch using  red graphite paper which is less prone to smudging.

Next I mask the Snow leopard using frisket mask so that I can concentrate on the background without worrying about keeping the main subject clean.

I gradually build up layers of texture and colour to create the rock face.  At this point I’m about ready to leave the rock face and start on the Snow Leopard.

Join me next time for more progress.

Take care



Pastel workshops dates for 2016!

Book a place on one of my pastel workshops  now for the first part of 2016 before all the spaces go!

Happy New Year everyone!  No doubt you have all started 2016 with a basket of New Year’s resolutions, so what about learning something new at one of my pastel workshops?

2016 is getting off to a cracking start with more new pastel workshops added to my list, but they are filling up fast.

Fancy getting to grips with some big cats in pastel, or even having a crack at a portrait of your own pet!

Once you have learned a few simple techniques, its easier than you think and you never know, you might have awoken an unknown talent.

Stress relief

Did you know that clinical research has proven that drawing and creative time can relive stress and even lower your blood pressure?

It’s not surprising, I’ve lost count of the number of times I have sat down to start a piece of work and found that the hours have flown by; its like waking from a creative nap.

Check out the dates confirmed so far for this year and treat yourself to a great creative day out- with tea, coffee or juice on tap,  a light lunch, plus a bit of stress relief thrown in!

Great value at only £95 (all materials included)

Click on Rufus here to find out more about my pastel workshops.


New pastel workshops announced
What a beautiful boy

See you soon


New workshop dates: Pet Portraits in pastel

New Pet Portrait Pastel workshops scheduled!

Beautiful British Blue
Beautiful British Blue

I am now taking bookings for my next Pet Portraits in Pastel 1 day workshop:

  • Saturday 13th June 2015
    9:30 – 4:30
  • Light Lunch included
  • All materials and equipment provided
  • A fab art-packed day
  • Fab price! £95 per person

If you can’t make this date, then check out my other Art Workshop dates

Book early to avoid disappointment

Visit my website to make payment online or contact me directly to learn more

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Here be dragons!

Well they might take  bit of time, ‘cos they’re just drying at the moment!

I have been wanting to do this for ages, ever since I saw this:

Dan Reeder is an absolute master of papier mache and cloth sculpture and rivals even Daenerys Targaryen for some striking dragons and mystical creatures.

So I have started on my little dragon project and all his ‘bits’ have been made and are on my studio windowsill drying out.  This is a perfect project to do while you’re waiting for an oil painting to dry.

The parts don’t look like much at the moment, so I can’t wait until I can start to assemble them:

Lordy! This was a messy job, but great fun and something you could do with the kids.  Took me back too to creating papier mache puppets at school.  Remember that Flour and water glue? Well these days you need latex gloves or you’ll be washing your hands for weeks.

Well that’s it so far.  Have to wait for these bits to dry before I can do any more, but I might just go look at the eyes that I bought 🙂

See you next time

Jilly x

Wildlife Heritage Foundation

Its not a day out unless you get up at silly O’Clock is it?

For us, it had to be 5 am! What! I don’t even get up at that time during the week let alone a Saturday. So what tempted me out of my snuggly warm bed…?

What a fab place to spend the day.  the Wildlife Heritage Foundation is in Smarden in Kent, so about 2.5 hours from us.  I had booked a photography day for my husband John, sister-in-law Helen and me.

John is a professional photographer and Helen is a very keen amateur.  I just snap away and sometimes get lucky 🙂

From an artists viewpoint, the WHF is a fab place to top up your reference shots.  You can see from those I’ve posted that there are times when you can get a lens through the enclosure grid…

Brian the Sweet friendly Cheetah
Brian the Sweet friendly Cheetah
Amur Leopard waiting for a morsel of meat
Amur Leopard waiting for a morsel of meat




…and time when you just have to hope its out of focus enough.

It’s not so bad for an artist because we have the ability to ‘see past’ the out of focus grid and turn it into a great piece.

So there we were trying not to be dragged in for a close-up with the Amur Leopards when the cry went up from behind that the most dangerous animal in the park was marching around…

The most dangerous animal in the park
The most dangerous animal in the park

The funniest thing is that this little lady was fearless when it came to her babies.  She had to be ‘escorted’ to the lake behind the clouded leopards, in case one of the inmates decided on duck for lunch!

All in all a fantastic day out and if you’re a wildlife artist – its heaven.






16th Annual CamCat championship show

If you’re in the Stevenage area this weekend (27th March), I will be attending the Cambridgeshire Cat Club’s 16th annual show.

I will be continuing with my portrait of Amber and taking commissions.

The show is held at Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre, Lytton Way, SG1 1LZ.
See you there!

Shows and sore throats

Yesterday I attended my first cat show!

It was the Southern British Shorthair Show at Addlestone in Surrey and as I am owned by a British Shorthair myself I didn’t know where to look first.  They are such beautiful cats in an amazing palette of colours as you can see from Poppy here…but more of her later.

Setting up
My lovely husband packed the car for me at 6:30 am while I prepared some lunch to keep me going.  As ever I had decided to take the kitchen sink just in case.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a child I went everywhere with a suitcase full of felt tips and crayons and pencils and paints…it’s still a bit like that now.

So it’s not surprising that 8 trips to and from the car later I had managed to set up.  The organisers had placed me in the foyer just infront of the results frame, an ideal spot really.

I have 2 pieces of sturdy trellis that are hinged in the middle.  This provides an ideal frame work to show off a few framed originals.
The tall pull-up banner was great value for money as people can see you from afar.
I guess the most important thing is to make sure that you are drawing while you are there.  People love to watch artists at work and this was no exception.  Since competitors were there all day it gave them a chance to see a portrait evolve from the very start.
My demonstration piece
The obvious choice for a British Shorthair show is a British Shorthair! My British Shorthair, Amber, to be exact (although she would contest ownership – in her eyes I’m on the staff).  This is a great shot captured by John as she helped him to set-up in his photographic studio. (She was making sure he’d left nothing in the reflector bag).
I decided to create the piece in pastel on velour – just ideal for cats, especially shorthair like Amber.
I used a grid to transfer the drawing from the original to the velour, then started on the eyes.  I love to do the eyes first as I can immediately start to see the piece coming to life.
Next I blocked in some colour using soft Sennelier pastels.  Finally I start working my way around the image layering the detail in with sharp Derwent pastel pencils and graphite pencils.
This is as far as I got during the day.  I spoke to so many people that I lost my voice by the end of the day.  there was so much interest and it was so enjoyable.
I’ll add the whole WIP to my main website as it progresses to the finished piece.
Many of the compeitors came over to let me know how they were getting on and those who were competing for the first time were sooooo excited!
So what about Poppy?
Well Poppy was also attending her first cat show; in fact Popy was the first pet that her owner Kim had ever had.
…And she won her class! Clever Poppy!
Poppy’s mum has decided to celebrate with a beautiful comemorative portrait – quite right too.
Once we’ve agreed on the right image work will start, so watch this space.

Too much to do, so little time….

There is so much happening right now it’s crazy!

I’m deep into study at the moment and it’s very distracting as it’s linked directly to artistic stuff and so the more I write about art, the more I want o just draw… Arrrgh!
My Open University course is about Entrpreneurial Opportunities, so I have decided to use my portraiture business as the subject.
Well that’s all very well until you start coming up with more ideas!  I found a great website for templates called Mirkwood Designs
I had started thinking about producing greetings cards – which sent me off on a tour of UK printing houses to look for the best deals ;0)
Then I thought about presenting the cards as notelets or small packs of cards, blank inside, that could be used either to write a note or as a greetings card; that led me to Mirkwood because I want to be able to present them in some sort of wallet.  Mirkwood have templates for all kinds of things which distracted me even further…
Cats and Dogs on show
In the meantime I had made enquiries about booking cat and dog shows and the paperwork is now arriving for booking.  Hopefully, the first will be a cat show 6th March in Milton Keynes – so watch this space for more details.  I’m quite excited about that becuase I’ve never actually been to any cat or dog shows.
I will be demonstrating my skills and hopefully selling some of these new products – if I ever finish my assignment.
More study
In an earlier entry I mentioned that I started the Pet Portraiture course at the London Art college.  Well, I’m in the middle of assignment 2 now.  I’m producing three pieces –
1 acrylic of Henry sleeping (you can see the pastel version in the mian gallery of my web site). I wanted to compare the two mediums, so I will post up the results at the weekend. 
2 coloured pencil of this beautiful ginger kitten peeking from behind a curtain.  The image is royalty free and from a strangely named image library called Morguefile and it’s by a great photographer called Scott Liddell 3. Pastel of the two kittens washing which was posted in my last entry

Well I can’t spend all day chatting – I have an assignment to finish ;0)