I was honoured and delighted to be asked to join the Calligraphers and Illustrators this year at Art in Action, at Waterperry Gardens near Oxford. This meant having the chance to sell my natural history art, botanical illustrations, and cards to all the thousands of visitors who attend this amazing annual event. I also got to demonstrate how I work, and talk to anyone who wants to ask about what I do, how, and why.
Setting out painitngs on the kitchen floor
First thing to establish was which paintings to take and where to place them. This required a lot of shuffling about on the kitchen floor til I was satisfied. Setting up on site took all of Wednesday, but it was wonderful to see the whole Calligraphy & Illustration tent come together as the demonstrators hung paintings and set out their stalls, under the expert and kindly eye of Jaqueline Sinclair who organises this tent. I was delighted to be opposite Rakhman Bakoev, who paints the most gorgeous Uzbekitstani traditional minatures, and next to Shelley Perkins who creates limited edition prints of atmospheric scenes full of natural imagery and animals.
Rakhmon Bakoev's stall
I brought a lot of specimens with me; working from the real animal simplifies matters so I have a wide assortment of dead insects, bones, and odd bits of taxidermy that I displayed (for more on this please watch my Youtube video "Birds, Bugs, & Bodies in the Freezer").
My stall at Art in Action, complete with stuffed rabbit and Hoopoe
We were fed and watered by Art in Action, and throughout the four days I was brought endless cups of tea, and found my painting water miraculously renewed every morning. The organisers treat the demonstrating artists like royalty; we had banquets, wine and a chance to vote for the "Best of the Best" (submissions by demonstrators and teachers of their favourite work which was voted on), and a special theatre show by some of the performing artists on site in the open air amphitheatre.
Art in Action theatre show
For the visitors, there is the most fabulous array of artists showing how they create their work, and the opportunity to talk with and buy from these artisans. I particularly enjoyed visiting the International tent (where I spent my sales profits on a gorgeous Indian miniature of a peacock) and the Nature in Art tent, where wildlife and natural history illustrators creating work in the same field as mine were in situ.
There are practical classes available in everything from pot throwing to enamelling, and a dangerous art materials market where I brought a Rosemary & Co Brush (having been advised that they'[re as good as Winsor & Newton Series 7 ones - watch this space for my verdict...)
People emerging from practical classes at Art in Action
The spaces between tents are dotted with sculpture and people chatting, soaking up the sun, or planning what tent to visit next. Everyone seemed to be in a wonderful mood, and were all generous both with their time, comments, and purchases.
Sculpture outside the lllustration tent with Waterperry House behind
Me working on the Comma butterfly with specimens in evidence...
I had some brilliant conversations; there were lots of fabulous taxidermists like Becky Dick of Taxtiles; I met another scientific illustrator I only know throgh facebook and Instagram, Claudia Hahn; I had an intense conversation about froglette immunity with an amphibian zoologist; discussed extracting DNA from a kiwi fruit (worth researching, VERY cool); met many other botanical illustrators who had ideas about mechanical pencils and various techniques; talked birds with experts; talked dragonfly larvae with wonderfully enthusiastic children; became rather embarressed by how generous people were in their feedback on my botanical sketchbooks; did a fair amount of industry talk with Shelley and co-exhibitors Mark L'Argent and Ruth Rowland; and even managed to complete (and sell!) a painting of a comma butterfly I'd been working on.
My illustration of the Comma butterfly Polygamma c-album
Of an evening, after the visitors had gone and before I returned to the comfortable on site camping; I wandered in the glorious gardens, and ate supper next to the thickets of flowers in the herbacious borders.
I was lucky enough to make sales, and on the evening after taking down and packing up, the Art in Action volunteers fed everyone an enormous delcious supper before we took to our heavily-laden vehicles and drove away from the wonderful and dream-like bubble of Art in Action 2015.
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Category: Scientific Illustrator out and about