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For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by both the natural world and drawing, and not being particularly interested in sport I channelled all my youthful enthusiasm into those two things.
A career in art in the early 60’s was considered risky and not a ‘proper job’, so at 19 I joined the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy as a Radio Mechanic. For the next 22 years I progressed through the service, leaving as a Chief Petty Officer Air Engineering Artificer (Radio). Throughout those years drawing for pleasure, occasionally selling the odd drawing for a few pints. On leaving the Royal Navy I started work in the defence industry, where I still work today, and continue to draw in my spare time. My first published works came about when I was introduced to The Framing Centre, Plymouth in 1996, who, upon seeing my work immediately had some images sent to Washington Green. This resulted in my first six images being published in February 1997.
I have been privileged to have exhibited in the Halcyon Gallery’s ‘Wildlife and Conservation’ Exhibitions in 1997 & 1999 and ‘Brush with the Wild’ in 2001
I am what people term a self-taught artist, however, I would prefer to say that I was gifted with an ability to draw.
Still being in full time employment, visits to Africa and other foreign places in search of wildlife subjects, are pretty much out of the question. I therefore have to use every form of reference material I can. This might include video film, photographs, field sketches and of course live subjects when possible. Luckily I have a wildlife park only two miles from my home, and having raised money for the park, I am able to visit whenever I want. Fortunately I have the privilege of being able to have direct contact with any new additions to the park, which have included both tiger and puma cubs.
Ideas for my images come from several sources and will often be a combination of reference material. I am inspired by anything natural, quite often by fleeting observations, such as the way light passes through the foliage. Although these observations do not appear in my drawings it is just the feeling of that moment that makes me feel inspired to draw. As well as my love for wildlife I also take great delight in observing and sketching the shape, texture and form of rocks and old trees. I often use these sketches as reference material for the foregrounds and limited backgrounds of my drawings. Subject wise I have no particular favourites and derive as much pleasure from drawing meerkats as I do from drawing tigers.
My drawings are always done in monochrome and contrary to what people might think, it is not simply the art of using black - there are grey areas in between.
In terms of technique the artist using a graphite pencil has only a limited vocabulary; there is a pure essential line, a shade, and a texture produced by repetition of the line. These basic building blocks are manipulated by variations in pressure as the pencil is drawn along, and by changes of speed and direction of the pencil’s movement. The softest leads can be blended or smudged into areas of gentle tone and on most good drawing surfaces an eraser may be used to reverse out parts of the drawing, thus creating subtle highlights or contrasting areas of light and shade.
The first step towards drawing is holding the pencil properly. A pencil should lie comfortably in the hand, so that it is free to move at the slightest controlling touch. It should not be an alien object that has to be forced.
I achieve texture by moving just my fingers and wrists to achieve fine lines, never more than a quarter inch long. I prefer to have all my pencil strokes in one direction, overlapping them and varying the thickness to build form. Work in graphite pencil should always progress from light to dark, finally being accented in the near black of the graphite at its most intense.
Due to working full time as a communications engineer, I will draw most evenings and part of Saturday, with my only full day of drawing being on a Sunday. This starts by taking our dog for a walk in the countryside close to home followed by doodling on a spare piece of paper for a while. I then commence work on the drawing I have in progress. I usually just work on one drawing at a time, and this can take anywhere between 30 and 40 hours to complete.
If I am starting a new drawing, I will sketch out ideas until I am happy with a composition. This will then be drawn full size, as a working drawing, using reference material. Once I am satisfied that I have achieved the correct composition, I then transfer this image onto the paper on which the final image will be drawn.
I will often listen to rock music while I am drawing and take inspiration from the likes of Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler. When a drawing is really flowing then time will just fly by, but if I start to labour over a drawing, it is time then to take a break. Often a visit to Dartmoor National Park for a few hours does the trick and I can then carry on drawing until late evening
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