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Monday, 30 September 2013

Day 30 - Badger

Well I had to finish off my little tribute to British Wildlife with our beloved badger, an icon of our British countryside. The badger was pipped at the post by the hedgehog in a poll earlier this year by BBC Wildlife Magazine to find a national species.

They have long been persecuted for their supposed risk to cattle in transporting Bovine Tb and are currently being culled as a means of controlling them in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

For other paintings of badgers I have done this month click here.

So there you go - thirty paintings in thirty days - I met the challenge - woooooohoooooooo!!!!  If you missed any you can click here and scroll through them.  Thank you sooo much for those of you who have been following and encouraging me to keep going as there were times when I started to lag behind and it was quite a pressure to catch up again!  I'll definitely keep painting our great British wildlife as I've only skimmed the surface in the last 30 days!  

I hope you've enjoyed following - here are the other artists who have taken part on Leslie's blog.  There have been some amazingly detailed works posted, I don't know how they've kept it up.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Day 28 and 29 - Heron and Hare

Heron in flight 
from photo by Gary Jones

I've always had a bit of a fascination for herons for as long as I can remember so I couldn't do a British Wildlife theme without painting one.  I remember my friend and I would always walk down by the River Dee in Chester with a cheeseburger from the burger van after a night on the town to visit the heron who would always be there in the same spot. We nicknamed him Gil Scott the Heron after the American soul and jazz musician Gil Scott Heron also known as 'the godfather of rap'.  Ah memories!  Now I've had to search 'The Bottle' by Gil Scott Heron - here it is on you tube if you're interested !!

Anyway back to real herons rather than influential musicians!  Grey herons are unmistakeable birds which you'll find around any kind of water.  In or near water they will often stand motionless with their head tucked into their shoulders.  I love to watch them patiently stalking fish, the way they move and then suddenly go in for the kill.  Excellent fishermen!

And for Day 29 I painted another hare, this time from a photo by Paul Sherman, a bit slapdash this one as I've had to squeeze two paintings in one evening so that I've only got one to do on the last day of the month tomorrow evening - then I'll have completed my 30 paintings in 30 days  woooo hoooooo!!!!

And to finish today's post here is a photo of the view from the summit Foel Fenlli this evening looking over Moel Famau on the Clwydian range of hills.  Beautiful although a little breezy!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Day 27 - Kestrel!

Kestrels are found in a wide variety of habitats and in fact the place we usually tend to see them is hovering  beside a motorway in search of prey.  The kestrel belongs to the falcon family and are small compared to other birds of prey. Like most birds of prey they have extremely good eyesight enabling them to spot small prey from a distance. When hunting they hover characteristically above the ground, making a steep dive when they spot something tasty!  

This watercolour is of a young female kestrel, about 5 months old which Gary and I had the privilege of flying today at a Bird of Prey experience at Ty Mawr Mansion in Ceredigion.  

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Day 26 - Avocet

The avocet is the emblem of the RSPB, a distinctively patterned black and white wader with that wonderful upcurved beak!  Wonderful birds to paint - for another avocet I did a few weeks back click here.

Tomorrow Gary and I are off on a Falconry Day in Mid Wales - it's been cancelled 4 times before due to weather but fingers crossed it will go ahead tomorrow - really looking forward to it and am sure to find some inspiration for paintings!  Hopefully I'll have time to do a quick sketch for the challenge when we get home tomorrow evening!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Day 25 - Eider Duck

The Common Eider is the UK's heaviest and the fastest flying duck. The Eider is a true sea duck, rarely found away from our coasts -  and a striking one at that with it's angular head and plump body and they make a wonderful sound, a sort of  'ahhrooo'.  The male Eider is Gary's favourite duck and I can understand why - stunning birds!  As with many birds, it is the male that has the most striking plumage. Female eiders are less impressive, with a mottled brown appearance though still easily distinguishable from other seabirds.  

If you'd like to hear what the Eider sounds like then click here and scroll down to the audio!

We finally got back into the mountains of Snowdonia last week after a few months of not being out walking due to very annoying health issues!  So poor old Two Pairs of Boots, has had it's first post for a few months!  Here's a taster to wet your appetite, one of my favourite views of Llyn Cau at Cadair Idris.  

Day 24 - Grey Seal

Grey seals are the largest living carnivore in Britain with around half the world's population living around the British coastline.  This watercolour sketch was done from one of Gary's photos taken on the Farne Islands where there is one of the largest populations of grey seals in the UK.  They were the first mammals to be protected by modern legislation - the Grey Seals Protection Act of 1914.

Grey Seals differ in appearance from the Common Seal  in that they have a longer muzzle.  The colour of the fur varies from brown to silver grey often with dark blotches.  Grey seals can dive to a depth of over 60 metres. On average they dive for around 8 minutes but are able to stay underwater for up to 30 minutes before coming up for air!

I'm feeling relieved that I'm up to date with these paitnings - only a few more days to go.  Thank you so much those of you who have been following, and supporting and well done to those of you who are also taking on this challenge - we're nearly there!!!!  

If you missed paintings 22 and 23, the hare and the mole you can find them HERE.

If you'd like to catch up with where we've been walking lately I've just posted a new blog on our joint walking site Two pairs of boots, first post in quite a while, pop over to find out why!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Day 22 and 23 - catching up!!

Two quickies for you today as I needed to play catch up!  3 days behind aaarrrghhh!  This hare sketchy was painted from a photo by Gary Jones. Yet another species which has seen a big decline in the last century in Britain - to read more about the brown hare click this link which takes you to the Hare Preservation Trust website.

and for painting no. 23 I've done a little moley - the ultimate digging machine!  About 30 species of mole are said to exist throughout the world but the only mole present in Britain is the European mole - their eyes are small and completely hidden in the fur - so quite a challenge to paint as I do tend to focus on the eyes when painting animals - but I hope I've given my little moley some character!

Now I'd better get on and paint no. 24!!!!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Day 21 - Lapwing

I really didn't think I'd get a painting in this weekend but thought I'd squeeze one in before going to bed so I don't fall too far behind as I very much doubt I'll get a chance to paint tomorrow evening.  Lapwings are beautiful birds which you will find on farmland and wetlands.  I love their splendid crest feathers and the subtle variations of colour on their wings. The lapwing has suffered significant declines recently and is now a red list species.  This painting was done from a photo by Gary Jones at RSPB Conwy.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Day 20 - Red Deer

The Red deer is Britain's largest land mammal.  We enjoy visiting Tatton Park where they have herds of red deer but there is nothing quite like seeing them in the wild as we did last week in the Lake District - although it's pretty difficult to get close to them - they hear you coming a mile off and soon scarper!  We are nearing the rutting season or 'the rut' which begins from the end of September. Stags with their annual new set of antlers compete for access to hinds by engaging in displays such as roaring and parallel walking. which allow males to size each other up without violence.  However it can escalate into fighting between stags of similar size where dominance is not obvious. The dominant stag then ensures exclusive mating with the hinds. Serious injury and death can result from fighting.  

© Gary Jones

The photo above was taken a couple of years ago in Martindale where we went on a walk last week - we saw plenty of hinds in the valley but didn't get as close this time.  You can see a photo from last week's walk here.

Along with many other artists who are taking part in the 30 paintings in 30 days , I am now two thirds the way through the challenge!  Those of you following will know that I've set myself a theme of painting aspects of our British wildlife - and it certainly is a challenge finding time to keep up I can tell you!  But only 10 more days to go!!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Day 19 - Adder!

I know a lot of people don't particularly like snakes but I love them and would be thrilled to see our native adder out in the wild - we've looked out for them in areas where they are likely to be but so far haven't been lucky enough to see one.  Snakes are beautiful and their skin is very soft and smooth to the touch not slimy as many think they are.  I got to hold a big one last year at Trotters Animal Park in the Lake District although I have to admit I did get a little nervy when it looked as if it was about to curl it's head around my neck! For some reason the photo won't upload here.

The adder is the only venomous snake native to Britain but they are not aggressive animals, but generally shy and timid. Adders will only use their venom as a last means of defence, usually if caught or trodden on. They need to be treated with respect and left alone.  They are easily identified by their beautiful zigzag markings down their backs and v shape on the back of the head.

To read more about the adder click on this link.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Day 18 - Common Seal

Day 18 - Common Seal 

We saw plenty of these on our recent trip to Skye and this one was painted from a photo Gary took near Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye.  They are such comical animals to observe, they never seem to look comfortable whatever position they decide to lie in on the rocks, they move so awkwardly on land yet once they are in the water swim so gracefully.  They have the most expressive eyes which I don't feel I've really captured in this painting and they have a natural curiosity which is endearing.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep up with these daily paintings.  It's much more difficult now that I'm back in work and other things are becoming neglected!  but will try my best even if it's just a quick sketch.  Thank you to those of you who are following this challenge,  I really do appreciate your comments and support and hope you're enjoying my look at our wonderful British wildlife!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Day 17 - Otter

Otter 8 x 6 inches watercolour

Day 17 - another otter which I'd actually already painted most of but finished it off this evening for today's painting!  Is that cheating a bit?  I painted an otter at the weekend too which you can find on my blog post here - this post also gives some information about otters in the UK.  Here is the last painting I did of an otter swimming.

and hope I'm not boring you with piccies of the weekend in the Lake District - here's another of Blencathra, a beautiful Lake District fell taken by Gary from Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Day 16 - Barn Owl

This barn owl has been painted from a photo by Ann Wilson Paterson of Memories are made with Portraits, an artist who has challenged artists to paint her photo for an Owl Challenge on facebook, and to raise awareness of barn owl conservation projects.  If this one sells I have promised to donate half to a barn owl conservation project.  It also fits in with my British wildlife/nature theme for the 30 paintings in 30 days.  

The Barn Owl is a stunningly beautiful bird. It can fly almost silently and it's heart shaped face collects sound in the same way as human ears.  It's hearing is extremely sensitive which help it to catch it's prey - one of which is voles which was yesterday's painting! Pop over to take a look if you haven't seen it!  Sadly the British population of barn owls has plummeted - and for the usual reasons - loss of habitat etc etc. Thousands are also killed on our roads each year and I have also heard of them dying after becoming entangled in Chinese Lanterns - a recent craze to hit the UK but one which can have a devastating effects on our wildlife.   

and another photo from our weekend in the Lake District ..... some of the red deer that roam the Bannerdale valley, very difficult to get anywhere near them, hence most photos are of them running away!!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Day 15 - Vole

My British Wildlife Painting for Day 15 is the Bank Vole, painted last night in the tent but I waited until I got home to photograph it to avoid the blue tinge of the tent problem again which I had on the last post! It has been painted from a photo by Gary Jones taken at Leighton Moss.

There are three species of vole in the UK, the field vole, the bank vole and the water vole.  All three voles can be found all over Britain although the water vole is now pretty rare. The bank and field voles are believed to be in decline in the UK and the water vole is now one of our most threatened mammals and numbers have declined by 95% in recent decades.  The water vole has full legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

I have also added a better photo of my otter painting in  yesterday's post without the blue tinge!

And another photo from the weekend - Holly and I enjoying the Cumbrian fells with Hayswater in the background...

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Day 14 - Otter!

I apologise for the blue tinge to this one - photograph was taken in our blue tent and it has cast a blue tinge on the photograph!  We're away for 4 days camping in the Lake District but trying to keep up with the painting challenge so did this one quickly on Friday night from a photo by Brian Rafferty (hope that's ok Brian if you're reading this!) 

Otters are secretive and elusive animals - we hoped to spot some while on our recent trip to Skye but unfortunately despite staking out some otter 'hotspots' we didn't get to see any.  In the early 1960s they were on the verge of extinction due to river pollution, habitat loss and hunting. Now they have full legal protection and with cleaner rivers and habitat management their populations are returning.  

I can't say how wonderful it feels to be out and about walking the fells again.  We're in the Lake District this weekend for Gary's birthday and had our first walk in a long time around from Martindale up on to Beda Fell, Angletarn Pikes, and Brock Crags, then back down through Bannerdale where there are wild red deer roaming - a bit of a clue there on what my next painting will be for the 30 day challenge!  Here is a photo of Angle Tarn, one of the most picturesque tarns I've seen so far.....  and hidden away up in the mountains, absolute heaven!

and an updated version of the otter - minus the blue tent tinge!!!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Day 13 - Blackberries

It's that time of year when the blackberries are ready to be picked and lots of us are making blackberry pies.  I love picking blackberries, it's something that brings back childhood memories of collecting blackberries and mum making a blackberry and apple pie for tea.  The birds in the garden have had a good share of mine! I've done this little sketch of the blackberries in my garden for the 30 day challenge.  I'm away camping in the Lake District this weekend and may not have internet connection but I'm taking my paints with me and will try and keep up with the painting a day but probably won't be able to post until Tuesday!  Have a lovely weekend whatever you're doing!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Day 12 - Puffin!

© Sharon Whitley

Probably my favourite seabird - how can anyone not love these birds, often called 'clowns of the sea', or 'sea parrots'. They spend the majority of their life out at sea and only visit our coastlines to breed and raise their young which are called 'pufflings'.  I have seen them on the Farne Islands and on Skomer Island which they use for breeding between March/April and leave again mid August.  It amazes me to think of all those seabirds living out at sea throughout the winter! The little pufflings will be raised in burrows being fed a diet of sand eels until they are ready to leave.

After about 40 days, the chick is deserted and stays in it burrow for 7 - 10 days, without food, whilst its adult feathers develop.
Leaving the burrow is a dangerous time for the young puffin, so it emerges at night to avoid hungry gulls. It cannot yet fly, so it tumbles down the cliff face and swims as far out to sea as possible before daybreak. It then starts learning to fly and fish. The following year, the young puffin returns to the colony, although it does not breed until it is four or five years old.

It's difficult to imagine the puffin without the brightly coloured beak but they only develop these bright colours on their beaks for the breeding season.

You can find out more about puffins here

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Day 11 - Red Fox

© Sharon Whitley
Red Fox watercolour
from a photo by Lucy Swinburne

Red foxes have overtaken grey wolves as the most widespread canines in the wild and is the only wild member of the dog family to still inhabit the UK.  They are very adaptable and occupy our inner city areas as well as our countryside.  More can be learned about the red fox here. Beautiful animals!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Day 10 - Wild Boar

Hmm not sure how I feel about this one - this was done late last night and is a bit fast and loose - not to everyone's taste I know but someone out there might like it - I've still not decided lol!  But at least it's still a painting!  I also did a pencil sketch of a wild boar, also from a photo by Dave Webb to get a bit more of a feel for the animal before painting it as I've never drawn one before.

British wild boar became extinct many years ago and they have recently been reintroduced to Britain albeit accidentally!  This wild boar was painted from a photo by Dave Webb who photographs them in the Forest of Dean where there is a population of free living wild boar. There is a bit of controversy over their reintroduction - you can read more about this on the British Wild Boar website.  So what do you think - are you happy for this native species to be reintroduced or do you think it was a mistake?  You are the Judge

Monday, 9 September 2013

Day 9 - Pine Marten

Pine Marten
© Sharon Whitley

A quick sketchy of the beautiful pine marten - still trying out salt effect backgrounds!  The pine marten is another of our native mammals which is sadly virtually extinct from most of England and Wales but can still be found in Scotland. 

Here is some more information about this gorgeous mammal.  The small painting above was done from a photo by Dave Webb who recently photographed these gorgeous creatures in Scotland.  Here is the photo I used as a reference. As you can see I only did the head for speed and will probably do another with the whole body. Isn't he gorgeous?

© Dave Webb

 Dave Webb is a trained tracker and offers wildlife walks on Exmoor through his website with all proceeds going to charity. Gary and I plan to take part in one or more of these walks in the Autumn.  You can find details on his website here.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Day 8 - Red Squirrel

Day 8 of the challenge is another of our favourites in the UK - the red squirrel.  Such beautiful animals, which I rarely see as they are non existent in many parts of the UK and certainly don't exist where I live in Wales.  I occasionally see them in Cumbria when I visit the Lake District where there is a local population of red squirrels.  They also survive on Anglesey.  The grey squirrel was introduced into this country about 130 years ago when a Victorian banker brought a pair back from a trip to America and decided to release them into the wild - there are now a few million of them compared to only 160,000 red squirrels. This is due to competition for food, the transmission of the squirrel pox virus which does not effect the greys but is fatal to the reds - and of course us humans have our part to play in their decline, loss of habitat, deforestation and persecution as they were considered as pests.  Greys are far more adaptable than reds and have thrived.    Although they are an alien species to the UK, they are now part of our wildlife, like rabbits (see last post) and I enjoy watching the grey squirrels doing acrobatics in the garden - the one I have in my garden is a cheeky little chappy but I would dearly love to see the red squirrel thrive again particularly where I live in Wales.  You can find more information about squirrels in the UK here and recommendations to help the red squirrel population here.

In the painting above I tried using salt effect again, and like the effect it has given on the tail but elsewhere didn't work as well!  I also struggled with the face area and ended up touching it up with a bit of pastel pencil so it's a bit overworked but I hope you like it or parts of it anyway!

I hope you're enjoying my little tour around our British Wildlife through these daily paintings - I'm certainly enjoying painting them and learning a bit more about each animal as I go, please feel free to leave your comments below.

To see what other artists are up to for their 30 day challenge take a look here

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Day 7 - Rabbit

© Sharon Whitley
Skomer Island Rabbit

On our visit to Skomer Island back in June, we saw an abundance of rabbits as well as the puffins we had specifically gone there to see.  The rabbit holes make perfect homes for the puffins who nest in burrows at Skomer to raise their young.  This little cutie caught my eye so I decided to paint him or her as part of the 30 in 30 challenge.

Here is some information about rabbits that you may not have known, 

Originally from Spain and south-west France, the rabbit was brought to England in the 12th century AD by the Normans and kept in captivity in warrens as a source of meat and fur. Many escaped into the wild and eventually become so common that farming them was no longer economic. Helped by fast breeding, a diet of virtually any vegetable matter and persecution of predators, the rabbit slowly established itself in the wild in Britain, despite originally favouring a warmer, drier climate.
In the 1950s, the disease myxomatosis was introduced to curb their numbers and the rabbit almost became extinct, but is once again a common animal of the countryside. It can be a serious pest for farmers, eating and damaging crops.
The male is called a buck and the female a doe. The main predators of rabbits are the stoat and the fox, although young animals also fall to birds of prey and weasels.
from the British Wildlife Centre website from the British Wildlife Centre website

Friday, 6 September 2013

Day 6 - Another Badger

Day 6 of Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 challenge, and it's another badger.  I tried something a bit different with this trying to give a more abstract feel to the background blurring the badger colours into the greens and using salt to give a bit of interest - I quite like it but it's one of those things that doesn't always work and you can never recreate the same twice. I tried a similar effect with a painting yesterday and it turned into a complete disaster and I spent too much time trying to rescue it to no effect! 

I've made this poor badger's eyes look terribly sad, which wasn't what I set out to do but they say an artist's emotions can come across in their work so whether that has happened here I don't know or maybe it's just one of those things - I know I am terribly sad about the enforced cull which I could understand if I could find any evidence to suggest it might actually work to stop the spread of Bovine TB but I fear very much that it won't make a difference and thousands of these beautiful animals will have been slaughtered for no reason.  

I'm enjoying the painting a day challenge and am actually ahead of myself at the moment which is good because there are bound to be days when I won't be able to paint - so I've got a bit of a buffer to fall back on!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Day 5 - My Garden Frog

I have a little wildlife pond at the bottom of my garden which has matured nicely since Gary made it last Summer.  We noticed a frog peeping out of the pond weed a couple of weeks ago and over the next few days we kept a look out for him - we soon realised that there was more than one and have since counted five at one time in the pond.  Gary has taken some lovely photos of them so I did this painting from one of them.  The colours and patterns on our common frog are sooooo lovely!  

Here he is in the photo ...... isn't he a cutie! CLICK THIS LINK for information about frogs you may not have known

30 paintings in 30 days

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Day 4 - Hedgehog

My painting for Day 4 is another little favourite of our British wildlife, the hedgehog - anyone get these little characters in their garden at night?  I haven't that I know of as yet.  As with much of our wildlife in Britain, there is evidence of a declining population of hedgehogs.  You can find out more about one of our favourite native species on the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website .

 Take a look at what the other participating artists on the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge have been doing HERE.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Day 3 - Badger

Day 3 of the Painting 30 paintings in 30 days challenge - I'm thinking of sticking with this theme of British WIldlife/Nature for every painting, if anyone has any suggestions as what they'd like me to paint let me know and if you can provide a photo even better!  

Of course the badger cull has now started in England in Somerset and Gloucestershire, a very controversial issue and one which saddens me to the core.  More information on badgers can be found here on the British Wildlife Centre website.  Simon King's views on the badger cull can be found here, he provides a coherent, rational argument against the cull based on scientific evidence.

Take a look at other artist's day 3 paintings HERE

Monday, 2 September 2013

Day One and Two - Harvest Mice

Here is the first painting for the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge I've signed up to here!  Harvest Mouse from a gorgeous photo by Dave Webb, wildlife photographer.

....and the 2nd another harvest mouse from a photo by the same photographer....

The loss of our field margins, hedgerows and grassland habitats is a threat to this species.

Find out more about Britain's smallest rodent here

Sunday, 1 September 2013


I have a monthly challenge on my art page on facebook where I post a photo and ask other artists to paint or draw it and a few have been joining in - it's all just a bit of fun.  For September I thought I would have a badger as the challenge, partly to raise awareness of and out of respect for the badgers involved in the despicable cull that has started in Somerset and Gloucestershire.  A few other artists have said they would like to join in but unfortunately I've had a couple of people who agree with this cull posting their views too!  It seems to have died down now and hopefully they will leave us to paint badgers in peace.

The problem is neither me nor Gary have any badger photos - I've managed to get a couple from a wildlife photographer but if any of you out there have any more that I could use for the challenge I'd really appreciate it!

I very naively thought this cull wouldn't go ahead - and am so saddened and sickened that it has.  At least living in Wales, I know for now the local badgers here are safe, as the Welsh Government have gone for the vaccinations option.  The watercolour above is a quick one I did from a photo I found on a google search - if any bloggers out there would like to join me in painting a badger I would love you to join me!  I've also just joined in the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge HERE .  Should be fun and will keep me painting!