Monday, 20 January 2014

Orang-utans, Pixie Crops and Reiki...

A very belated Happy New Year to you all. I can't believe January is over half way over and this is my first blog post of 2014!!

wildlife artist of the year competition orangutan in gouache painting
'We're the same, you and I' - Orang-utan in gouache 

It's been a busy start to the year. As well as completing this painting in gouache, I've gone full circle (yet again) with my hair and decided that I really wanted to get it pixie cropped again. I obsessed for a couple of weeks, pinning every photo of pixie crops that I could find on Pinterest and looking through all my old photos with previous short haired incarnations of me before heading off to the hairdresser on 9 January armed with a print out of the photos I liked best and getting my bob all chopped off. I have to say I love it although I'm not sure my local town folk have embraced the pixie crop as quite a few reactions have been either to completely ignore the fact that most of my hair has suddenly disappeared off my head or 'oh, it's very short'!!

I also just spent the last weekend doing my stage 2 Reiki - it was amazing and I had such a brilliant weekend with the same group of ladies that I did my stage 1 with back in June last year. Once I complete a few case studies I'll receive my certification to become a registered Reiki practitioner (although I don't plan to unless I could do it for animals!) and I really want to go ahead next year and do my stage 3 which will make me a Reiki Master. 

As for art, I made a resolution that this will be the year that I spend time on the internet 'productively' instead of getting lost in cyberspace and returning to earth several hours later having achieved nothing other than keeping my postman busy delivering random items from Amazon and pinning yet more cute animals and amazing body art onto my Pinterest boards (oh, but I do love Pinterest!)

So, when my super organised arty friend, Angela, emailed a list of upcoming art competitions for 2014, I spotted the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition run each year by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and decided that I would definitely enter it. It's right up my street as not only is the competition all about wild animals, the art work that is short-listed are all for sale and a percentage goes directly to animal sanctuaries/ orphanages to help endangered wild animals. There are several different categories and I chose the one on endangered animals. 

The closing date was to be today, 20 January 2014 and I've been working hard on my piece to get it finished in time as I didn't start it until 6 January but I've noticed the deadline has now been extended to 5 February so I plan to get my super photographer husband to take a better quality photo tomorrow of the painting tomorrow and then I'll get my entry sent off. 

I visited my favourite photo reference website, Paint My Photo, for the perfect reference photo and I knew straight away when I saw it that this beautiful shot by ESP was the one for me. I love orang-utans - they're my favourite of all the primates (including humans!) and I just love the expression on this guy's face - he just looks so wise and world weary. I hate to see any animal stuck in a zoo although with the way orang-utans' habitats are being destroyed for human palm oil consumption maybe he's actually in the safest possible place, sad though that is.

I felt very professional when starting this painting because for the first time in my life, I properly prepared the watercolour paper before I started in a bid to stop it from buckling when it got wet. I ordered some gum strip paper and soaked the paper in the bath for 5 minutes before stretching it on my drawing board with the gum strip. And guess what, it actually worked - no buckling! 

I did have to evict Spidro the spider who'd been living in our bath for the last few months - who knew house spider live so long - I didn't have the heart to evict him before as we never used the bath anyway - we're shower people! I carefully re-homed him in the garage where he should have a better supply of bugs and whatnot! I think gouache might be my new favourite medium even though it means I'll have to look at framing pictures instead of just painting the edges of canvasses as I do in acrylics!

Here are the stages the painting went through: 

A pencil sketch outline

starting with that beautiful face 

A very rough 'undercoat'

building up layers on the face and hair

more layers 
and more layers

and even more layers and detailing

The finished painting 

As well as deciding to focus more on wildlife and animal art this year and less on whimsical illustrations (although I'll no doubt still do the odd one) I became a member of the Association of Animal Artists. They run various exhibitions and events throughout the year and I thought it would be a good way to find out more about the type of events I'd like to participate in.

I've also decided to learn to crochet this year!! I have no sewing, knitting, crafting skills like that whatsoever. Although my mum can do it all it sadly didn't get passed on to me. Again, thanks to Pinterest, I kept seeing these gorgeous crocheted granny square throws and decided I absolutely had to have one for the bottom of our bed in all different colours. I happened to ask mum if she could crochet and before you could say, er, crochet, I'd roped her into making me one for my birthday next month!! I then kept seeing these lovely infinity scarves on Pinterest (yes, I've spent a lot of time there over the last month or so!) and decided I could surely learn how to do them so I treated myself to a crochet course from and plan to visit Amazon one more time to get some acrylic yarn and crochet hooks and before you know it, I'll be able to add crocheted infinity scarves to my Etsy shop (maybe).

I think that's me up to date and I'll try not to leave it so long before my next post!


  1. Nic this is by far the most wonderful painting I have seen you post. The detail is incredible. The light and realism is quite exceptional. It is a more than worthy entry for the competition and I wish you every success.

  2. Your painting is amazing Nic, I feel like I could reach out and touch his hair. And I love your new pixie cut - it's darling on you!

  3. this painting is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G Nic!!!! Wowza! I happen to love your new pixie cut. And look at you go and put your art out there-hooray for you. I know you are in for huge success <3

  4. Oh Nic...I LOVE your orangutan! It will be the BEST entry for the competition, I'm sure! And the haircut looks cute!
    I am looking at the painting again and again! Love it!

  5. Wow beautiful ... Glad to hear that you are entering it in the competition. Keeping fingers crossed for you to win! Oh and I love your pixie cut. It looks great on you.

  6. This is a wonderful painting there is a kindness in the eyes and the fur is amazing, I wish you every success with the competition.

  7. WOW!! Thanks for sharing the WIP. Amazing to follow the process. Ans such a great result! Beautyful fur! And such an amount of details! I can only congratulate you to a succesful painting! Good luck with the competition!

  8. good luck in the competition…this is a great painting!! really great!

  9. oh, just saw your new profile pic. LOVE the pixie cut…it's perfect on you!!

  10. The painting is fantastic - good luck! Can't wait to see the hair and let me know if you need any help with the crochet! I have some patterns somewhere!

    ps thanks for the mention - you are more organised then me so far this year! xx

  11. My, you have been busy!!! And I haven't even posted this year even once yet!! January does this to me every year... never has it been so bad as this one though. Your Painting is incredible and you surely have a very good chance of winning! I was gobsmacked when I saw it!
    I also entered a competition this month to... The SWA!
    I'd really love to see the list your friend sent you because I have no idea of where to find these competitions...Let me know when you get a mo :0)

  12. WOW!, Nic! This painting is so real. It's amazing! You're such a talented artist. Good luck to you on all your endeavors. :) I plan on using Reiki on animals, too, rather than on people. I already tried it on my pets. :)

  13. Love the new pixie cut. I just got my hair cut shorter than my usual short cut. And I love it.
    Your orangutan is amazing. You did such a wonderful job. Good luck with the crochet lessons. My mom taught me how to crochet when I was little, but I always wanted to learn how to knit. So I finally took some lessons. I started a knitted infinity scarf last year and haven't finished it yet. Maybe now I'll go back and finish it up.

  14. I find your wonderful, wonderful orang-utan painting breathtaking. I just called my husband in to see it and look through the stages - he keeps trying gouache and loves it but says he never realised one could produce such glowing results. Yet another admirer for you!
    I've seen wildlife painting displays, and been to a talk by a winner of the BBC Wildlife painting competition where he showed slides of his paintings. But I think yours if just about one of the best I have seen, and I truly hope that you win the prize you so richly deserve with this.

  15. This really is an amazing piece! Gouache really suit you. The details are just fabulous, not only in the animal, but also in the stone of the background. I'm sure you have the best chances to win with this entry. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

  16. Wow, how you do that hair is beyond me! It looks like a picture! I really like the expression on his face too! And your hair looks great too by the way. I love short hair, it doesn't take any work at all and it makes you look vivacious (if that's the correct word ....). Glad you're back!

  17. Super spectacular, Nicola. This is one of the best I've seen of an orangutan.


Your comments always colour me happy! Thank you for popping by.


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