The Guest Artist section is a place for artists to talk about their work, techniques and materials. I am sure that one artist explaining how they solved a problem will help other artists and I hope that a community evolves where artists will assist each other with their artistic dilemmas, share ideas and technical information as well as make connections and give each other friendly support.
To join the conversation please add your comment below. It will be great to have some interaction!
Here today to share her art with us is Jackie Garner who is based in Gloucestershire, UK. Thanks Jackie!
Click on the images for a larger view.
JA: Please tell us a little about yourself.
JG: I’m a professional artist based in Gloucestershire. I specialize in painting wildlife, though I also enjoy life drawing, still life and portraits. I’ve always loved both drawing and natural history so it was inevitable that I’d link the two. I’m mostly self-taught but I enjoy taking occasional classes with other artists when the opportunity arises. My finished paintings are exhibited locally and nationally. I enjoy creating a body of work on a particular subject; two of my main themes have been wildlife of the Falkland Islands, and the wildlife depicted in ancient Egyptian art.
JA: What materials and techniques do you predominantly use in making your artwork?
JG: I start off outdoors, getting experience of the subject, sketching in pencil (usually 3B or 4B or softer) on a smooth but heavy cartridge paper. I like off-white paper as it has less glare in outdoor light, and a hardback, spiral bound sketchbook as I like to be able to fold the pages back. I add watercolour to my sketches if my subject has stayed around long enough! If I’m feeling very confident I might use watercolour straight away, rather than sketching with pencil first.
To get a better view of my subject I use high quality Swarovski binoculars or a telescope if the subject is some way off. Sometimes I take photos, though my sketching skills are better than my photographic. Back in the studio I’ll check details of anatomy or plumage using books, photographs or DVDs.
My studio paintings are mostly made using acrylics on a gesso primed board. I start by making lots of abstract marks all over the board to hide the white surface. It’s fun, therapeutic and negates the scary feeling of being faced with a big white surface! Next I’ll block in the subject and look for some of the under-painting that I can enhance to suggest the habitat. From then on the brushstrokes either correct or re-establish earlier marks.
I used to draw out everything carefully in pencil first, but this process is more creative and I enjoy the way the painting evolves. The downside is that it takes longer as I spend a lot of time adding and subtracting different elements.
JA: What challenges (if any) did you face in making this work and can you give other artists any tips for solving similar problems?
JG: The biggest challenge is that wildlife doesn’t stay still! There are various ways to cope with that: I usually only choose one subject per session so that I build up knowledge of that species. At a zoo or wildlife park it’s tempting to try to sketch everything, but sticking with one or two species means you learn more about them. I start by sketching details, such as an eye, a face or a foot, and then it’s easier when I sketch the whole creature as I already have experience of parts of it.
JA: Please tell us something about the idea behind the work you are showing here.
JG: My studio looks out over a neighbour’s cherry tree, which attracts many birds. One day I saw two woodpigeons amongst the blossom. I don’t usually find woodpigeons particularly inspiring but on this occasion the combination of dappled light, cherry blossom and the colours of the birds was intoxicating and I immediately wanted to paint the scene. I wanted the painting to capture the atmosphere so I aimed to keep the brushstrokes quite expressive at the expense of detail.
JA: How does this work relate to your artistic practice, how you approach art over-all?
JG: My paintings are based on personal experience of the subject. I can’t guess in advance how a creature will behave, so I try not to go out with preconceived ideas about what I want to paint. Hopefully I’ll find inspiration for a painting by keeping my eyes and mind open to what’s around me. My most recent work tends to be about how a subject fits in to its environment through repeating shapes and colours. I’ve always liked pattern and structure and this is becoming more evident in my work.
JA: Do you have any art advice you would like to share?
JG: Keep drawing! I’ve heard people say “I know how to draw, now I just want to paint”, but drawing is a lifelong learning process. The better our drawing skills, the more we are able to communicate economically, truthfully and elegantly through the language of paint. Drawing skills will never harm your creativity but a lack of them may do. I spent two years just drawing and I’ve never regretted it.
JA: What is your favourite art material?
JG: I tend to have different favourites for different subjects. I use pencil and watercolour (as they’re so portable) for outdoor sketches, watercolour for small detailed pieces, acrylics for larger studio work, pastels or oils for still life and portraits. Charcoal’s great fun too.