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Wildlife Sketch: Sketching a Barn Owl

Wildlife Sketch: Sketching a Barn Owl

I am sure there are many artists who meticulously plan what they intend to sketch, draw or paint but this is not that kind of owl.

This little fellow started as a rough sketch, just to capture his face and a few feathers - but what owl can go without a tree or couple of trinkets?

This is Wizard - a beautiful name for an owl - and there is definitely something magical about him!

I hope to sketch him again over the coming weeks and perhaps I will be able to discover a little more about him.



Watercolour Illustration of an Owl

Watercolour Illustration of an Owl

I had been looking forward to holding three wildlife drawing workshops using real owls as the life models this month, at the prestigious Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. Such workshops are a fantastic opportunity to discover the characters of the birds, as well as gain the opportunity to sketch freely.

As the workshops have been cancelled for the time-being, along with all other workshops in the country, I thought I would post a few owl drawings and paintings.

This owl was created a few years ago. It was one of my early 'looser' paintings and in contrast to the detailed paintings that seemed to define my artwork at the time.

Somehow it felt wrong to be painting whimsical little characters and their worlds - like it wasn't the 'proper' art of traditional wildlife paintings that I usually produced. It took a while to show these to anyone, especially other artists!

But there is no right or wrong way; in this case, they are …

Owl sketch in Coloured Pencils

Owl Sketch in Coloured Pencils
Looking through some earlier bird sketches, I came across this tiny owl and my notes from a few years ago.
This was a really small artwork - roughly a couple of inches square. Being such a small piece to work on was quite a challenge, as there wasn't much room to get the detail in. But any time spent sketching is time well-spent.



‘To begin, begin.’ (William Wordsworth)
And so, I began.
And what had begun as a relaxed sketch of an owl - a spur of the moment decision one evening after I had finished my other work – became incentive for a more detailed piece of art.
It began as a 'better start something' project.
It ended as a 'wishing I had started something off properly' project. 
But such workings often serve to gaze in the mind’s eye, for more detailed paintings to be undertaken with the benefit of hindsight... a bigger piece of paper!
"You never fail until you stop trying." (Albert Einstein)

Sketchbook Owl

Sketchbook Owl - A Wise Way to Drawing Wildlife

It can be difficult to know where to start, especially if you haven't sketched a subject for a while. Here's a peep into how to draw an owl.

'The memory bank of images gets rusty. The mind's eye has forgotten what to focus on. The hand has become a wild thing drawing to its own agenda. The brain has lost its pace and order and, all the while, wonders what on earth it might have started!'

So, this little owl began as two big feet.

It seemed a natural place to start.

Then onto its body and head. Two circles. And one big eye.

No wonder attempts at drawing animals or birds can sometimes be disappointing.


It wasn't that the owl had two big feet. 

The owl had become two big feet.


Feathers felt ruffled.

What started out as a quick sketch to try out a new tube of paint became something of a caricature.

It isn't advisable to look at your feet when walking and the same goes for drawing; one of the first rules of sketching an…

A New Season of Art

A New Season of Art




With the spring bulbs pushing out their new leaves, birds gliding in the clear February blue skies (as today), and the daily increase of catkins appearing on the woodland trees in the garden - now is a good time to display something new on the walls.

A few of my original drawings and paintings will soon be available to purchase.

For more information please email: enquiries@clairemurthy.co.uk 

Dawn Chorus in January

Wildlife Garden - January What a delight it is to be met with the dawn chorus so early in the year; when all seems dormant and dull, nature carries on with business as usual. 



Last year was bitterly cold and very quiet in January. This year, although still the coldest time of the year, the birds have fared slightly better as there have only been a few sprinklings of light frost, so far! 

The birds are still enjoying additional food and water when it is really cold but it is surely a good sign for them to be out and about so early in the year!

The birds were up singing against a gusty, dark sky and silhouetted branches this morning - and will only get louder as the days move towards Spring.
To celebrate their cheerful notes, here are a couple of links to some past notes done during the 30 Days' Wild Wildlife Trusts Nature Challenge.

Wake up with the Birds

Wild Sounds

Dawn Chorus in the Garden

Wildlife Garden Blog

Art Workshop Christmas Robin at High Elms Country Park

Art Workshop Christmas Robin at High Elms Country Park 

My next art workshop planned is set in the beautiful natural setting of High Elms – home to a host of British wildlife and countryside birds and plants  and past home to John Lubbock, naturalist and friend to neighbour Charles Darwin.

This one-off Christmas art workshop offers participants the chance to create a beautiful mixed media plaque featuring Britain’s National Bird and well-known symbol of Christmas – the robin, which you can take home and use as a festive wildlife-themed stocking hanger or decorative wall art.

If the weather is good, we might find time to step outside into the wildlife garden to spot a resident robin in its natural habitat.

The workshop will include some demos, tips and the chance to try out mixed media art effects - drawing on my experience as a local wildlife and nature artist.

All materials will be provided. Refreshments will also be offered but please bring lunch (or visit the on-site, awa…

Local Art Exhibition Croydon

Art Events : Local Art Exhibition in Croydon

The Croydon Art Society is holding its annual exhibition of members' works in Croydon at The Croydon Clocktower, Exhibition Gallery. This exhibition marks The Society's 130th Annual Exhibition.

Steeped in local art history and with an ever-growing list of excellent artwork to add to its record, Croydon Art Society boasts a number of well-known past artist members and is still recognised today for its artists and artwork - locally and further afield - even as winner of The Artist and Leisure Painter Magazines Art Club of the Year 2018.

Local watercolour artist Cicily Mary Barker of the Flower Fairies was a life-long past member.






A host of subjects will be on display, including: portraits, landscapes, still life and wildlife, plus pet portraits, boats, cars and a whole deal more for a super art display. Well-worth a visit! Artwork will include a variety of professional grade paintings in watercolour, pastels, oils, acrylics and m…

Donkey Pet Portrait Painting : Pastel

Donkey Pet Portrait Painting in Pastel.

This realistic painting of a donkey in a field was carried out using soft pastels.

Painting a detailed, realistic animal portrait takes time and close-observation.

Pastels are a good medium for traditional fine art as they can build depth on the page through an iterative process of application. Coloured pencil, watercolour, acrylic and oil are also used to create traditional fine art animal paintings and pet portraits.



This donkey has a gentle expression and kind eyes willing to connect with the human spirit - perhaps it's why donkeys appeal to all ages.

They are often affectionately depicted as weight-bearing, 'package' transport and as plodding, slow-coaches giving rides on the beach - but this doesn't allow for their individuality to shine through  their hum-drum routines.

Fortunately, for many, this is no longer the case, as donkeys nowadays are treated with more care - and often regarded as another furry family member, al…

Mixed Media Art Workshops

Mixed Media Art Workshops

What better way to gain an appreciation of mixed media art than to attend a mixed media art workshop!
Mixed media art gained publicity with Pablo Picasso, when the term was coined, and modern mixed media artists over the last hundred years, or so, but the art of using more than one medium, or media, has been a way of creating art for hundreds of years; illuminated manuscripts, as an example that is usually associated with traditional art, combined ink, paint and gold leaf.
Mixed media art simply brings together more than one medium: watercolour, oil, gouache, ink, paper, gold leaf, materials, objects; any number of these can be used in a variety of ways and combinations to create a piece of art.
It can be bold or subtle and range from almost 3d to virtually flat in design. It can be abstract, modern, traditional or a mixture of different styles.
However or whatever mixed media art is – it is a fun creative way to develop artistic skills and observations for anyon…

Bee Art at the National Honey Show Sandown Park

Bee Art Workshop at the National Honey Show Sandown Park
Come prepared to enjoy this fun, creative session making a bee painting of your choice. 
You will be free to use a range of art materials and try out a few techniques along the way. Experiment with painting, drawing, stamping, stenciling, doodling and gluing in a variety of ways to create your own style of bee art. 
There will be guidance on drawing a honey bee, plus a few ideas for extending your interests in bees through the joys of art. 



This mixed media workshop will provide a space where you can unwind for a couple of hours and immerse yourself in relaxing hands-on, creative activities - whether you are new to art or a seasoned painter. 
The aim of the session is relaxing enjoyment and you will able to take home your contemporary bee art painting to hang to the wall or give as a special gift to someone else who loves bees! 
Claire Murthy paints, illustrates and writes about wildlife, farm animals, birds and pets who reside in an…

Fine Art Horse Portraits and Paintings

Fine Art Horse Paintings and Portraits

Having spent many years caring for my own ponies from a very young age, volunteering at stables and working with the Horse Rangers during my gap year, I have a certain familiarity with them, which only comes with time and experience; from knowing their different breeds, anatomies and natures, to the stables and fields they live in; to counter-balancing their agility in the jumping ring and anticipating their twists and turns cantering across rough ground in Richmond park and along the ridges of the South Downs.

I painted the horse in the field in 2012 and the black horse a year or so later. Both paintings were done in keeping with a traditional, fine art portrait style and both with soft pastels.


This striking black stallion lived up to the spectators' hopes as he danced on his hooves at a large agricultural show, aware that all eyes were on him!



The horse below reminded me of a pony I once knew with an alter ego of a bucking bronco. Eventu…

Hawthorn Berries in the Kitchen Garden

Autumn Hawthorn Berries in the Kitchen Garden

It's late September and the hawthorn leaves are starting their seasonal change from the rich green fresh leaves of late Spring to the dry-looking, brown-edged, somewhat disheveled leaves that signify the early stages of Autumn.

The term 'haw' is an old English term meaning hedge and hawthorn berries are an important and attractive feature of the British native hedgerow; there are certainly hawthorns in many London parks and gardens, Kent and Surrey countryside and hedgerows.

Haws have a place in both the wildlife garden, as they provide good shelter and nutritious food for birds and other countryside animals, as well as the kitchen garden - for they are largely edible.


From their flowers and young leaves to their berries that have a pungent zing of over-ripe apples, they are a very edible addition to kitchen garden, and as with the many other delights of this kitchen garden - they grow themselves!

They have many culinary uses…

Botanical Art Journal

Botanical Art Journal

Sketching nature can take many forms. This watercolour and ink study of a bee and some blackberries from the garden started out as a rough sketch of the berries and the bramble leaf.


The process of sketching can be relaxing as well as a means of developing observational skill and discovering more about flowers, fruits or wildlife. Most importantly, sketching is an enjoyable activity. Regular botanical and nature sketching will soon fill a botanical art journal.

Once this nature sketch of the berries was done, the bee was added, then the ladybird. The pencil lines were enhanced with watercolour and ink, then text and lettering were added freehand to fill out the spaces on the paper and explore layout options.

Slowly, a botanical journey was underway on a warm afternoon, a perfect moment for sketching, as the bees buzzed around some nearby flowers in the background and filled the day with summer - resulting in a composition that would make a delightful entry in a …

Pond Life : Duck in Watercolour and Ink

Pond Life : Duck in Watercolour and Ink

A pond is habitat to a variety of wildlife and birds in addition to the pond-life that lives in the water.


The first alert to action around the pond is often a commotion and some splashing around in the water, usually caused by ducks, geese or swans.

Observing and sketching birds can be an enjoyable way to become familiar with their anatomy, patterns and colours. Sometimes a sketch can seem to carry little information; it might be lacking detail or it doesn’t appeal in some other way.

This watercolour and ink painting started as a quick sketch. A 6b blunt pencil was used, resulting in a heavy sketch without much detail.

Later, it was sketched again from the original sketch and references, with watercolour and ink added for a more creative painting.

Sketching at the pond or park is a great way to build resource material for more detailed or adventurous paintings and drawings. It's also helps with understanding an animal or bird in more det…

Sketch Woodland Wildlife and Habitats

Sketch Woodland Wildlife and Habitats
Come along to an outdoor art workshop to sketch nature and enjoy a little time outside this summer under the canopy of native woodland in a historic country park.


Workshop: Friday 30th August 2019 : 9am - 1pm



This workshop is suitable for anyone who enjoys nature and would like to creatively record their findings in a sketchbook or nature journal.


Bring your own sketchbook, nature journal or paper, a pencil and anything else, including colours, that you would like to use to seize the spirit of the outdoors.


Nature Journaling, or Nature Sketching
Nature sketching, or journaling – it doesn’t matter how you describe it –  helps make a note of your personal thoughts and memories of the moment. It can help discover more about the local wildlife and habitats encountered outside. It can become a reference for creative or more detailed art activities later.


Get Started
Upon arriving at BEECHE (Bromley Environmental Education Centre at High Elms) for your…

Wildlife Garden Bees and Flowers

Wildlife Garden Bees and Flowers.
This garden sketching workshop will focus on the Wildlife Garden at High Elms Country Park this summer: bees, flowers, plants and fruit, birds, butterflies, bugs, pond-life and even a natural history specimen of a rabbit, in case the regular rabbit visitor doesn't make an appearance on sketchingday!

Workshop: Friday 16th August 2019 : 9am - 1pm

Join us to create botanical sketches and detailed observations of bees and flowers, fruit and trees, birds and pond life from the Wildlife Garden; sketches can be used as preparation for later artwork and nature compositions or as a record of your memories from the garden visit. Add notes to sketches from garden species to use as reference material for further inquiry into the wildlife and plants that grab your attention.

We will be based in and around BEECHE Visitor Centre, spending time outdoors for as much of the workshop as possible.

You will have the opportunity to observe, sketch and make garden journa…

Nature Garden Sketches

Nature Garden Sketches.

Nature Art Workshop: filling the sketchbook with flowers, fruits and flyers from the country park garden.

Workshop: Saturday 10th August 2019 : 11am - 3pm

Visit High Elms Country Park this summer for a relaxing day out, sketching its formal gardens and wild patches: nature garden sketches of flowers, fruits and flyers (butterflies, bees, birds, dragonflies) are in abundance in the gardens and wildlife patches of this beautiful country park managed by id verde for Bromley Council and historically linked to Kent countryside, just along the road from the home of Charles Darwin.

You will be offered refreshments upon arrival and meet the BEECHE Educational Team Member, whilst you view, sketch and make brief notes on the natural history items displayed at the BEECHE Visitor Centre.

We will then walk a short distance to take in the view across the formal gardens and pause briefly to sketch the garden landscape.

Capture the different flower and plant structur…

Pond Sketching Workshop

Pond Sketching Workshop at High Elms Country Park
Art event in and around London and Kent.

An outdoor art workshop for artists, non-artists, nature-lovers and nature experts - anyone who enjoys spending relaxing time outdoors.

Workshop: Friday 9th August 2019 : 9am - 1pm
Jump-start a nature journal or simply fill up your sketchbook with views and discoveries from in and around the pond:
Sketch the pond plants, wildlife and birds that frame the pond above water to make a record of the pond landscape in your sketchbook. Fill your journal with sketches of the textures of the bulrushes, the patterned feathers of a waterbird, the structures and flying motions of dragons and damsels.Try out pond-dipping and wonder at the strange anatomies of the underwater pond-life that appearsmagical beneath magnifiers - have a go at drawing them. Possibly see water boatmen, stickleback, newts, frogs, water skaters and water snails. Record the aspects of nature that interest you personally. Make a mark, add a …

Sketch Nature Workshops

Sketch Nature Workshops at High Elms Country Park.



BOOKINGS AVAILABLE NOW!

High Elms Country Park
Introduction to Summer Nature Sketching Outdoor Workshops


SKETCH NATURE : ART WORKSHOPS: Introduction to outdoor Summer Sketching at High Elms, on the borders of Kent and London.


Bright and happy thoughts, contentment and peace of mind’ - Lubbock, past owner of High Elms.
Follow the footsteps of Sir John Lubbock who enjoyed spending time outdoors observing the natural world around his home, which is now a local nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) situated on the borders of London and Kent,but also within reach from areas of Surrey and Sussex.

Unwind as you observe and sketch some of the local nature and habitats within the grounds of this beautiful countryside. It is located just along the road from the home of Charles Darwin in Kent, and offers 250 acres of woodland, meadows, formal gardens, wildlife garden and ponds to explore.

The four workshops throughout August off…

Art Events : Art Exhibition Surrey

Art Events : Art Exhibition Surrey

The Croydon Art Society is once again holding an exhibition of members' works at the prestigious and beautiful landscape of Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking Surrey.

Artwork will include a variety of professional grade paintings using watercolour, pastels, oils, acrylics and mixed media. A host of subjects will be on display, including: portraits, landscapes, still life and wildlife, plus pet portraits, boats, cars and a whole deal more for a super art display.

Art exhibition not far from London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent borders.




Cinnabar Caterpillar

Cinnabar Caterpillar.
Nature is glorious in the sunny months of May, June and July - blooming and blossoming in the wildlife garden, large green spaces, parks and nature reserves.


It should not have been a surprise to see such a striking caterpillar at the High Elms Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which is just along the road from the home of Charles Darwin and historically shares some its wildlife and botanical species with his own local meadows to make this a particularly beautiful an interesting corner of Kent - but it was!

The caterpillar was instantly spotted at the top of these dazzling yellow buds of a ragwort that were growing along the side of a trodden path, not too far from a conservation wildflower meadow - 'Chalk Grasslands'.

It would have come from a large batch of eggs, laid by a cinnabar moth, on the underside leaves at the base of the ragwort. As it matured, it would have moved away from the crowd to find more food for itself; the caterpillars clim…

Wild Raspberries

Wild Fruits: Raspberries.
Many kinds of wild fruits grow along the hedgerow and wild patches of land that increasingly border gardens and public parks and spaces.

In the local woods, wild raspberries peep out from beneath their bright green leaves to delight the passers-by. Blackberries, elderberries, sloes, cobnuts and sweet chestnuts add to the choices for a keen forager. These are some of the fruits that can be discovered in the woods, without even having to search for them. There are probably enough to keep a forager in constant supply of nutritious woodland and wayside fruit, nuts and berries.


With, what can seem like, an ongoing battle between growing a kitchen garden and developing a wildlife nature patch, a decision might have to be made by many gardeners - dig your heels in and carry on regardless, fighting a losing battle with the local wildlife over who gets which fruits and vegetables, or apply the old proverb 'if you can't beat them, join them'. It can be qui…

Nature Sketching Workshops

Nature Sketching Workshops

Sketching outdoors takes many forms!
Come along this Summer to High Elms Country Park, for some outdoor sketching workshops!

There are many ways to enjoy and benefit from sketching! The outdoor sketching at High Elms is a combination of several forms of sketching. Here are some different approaches to filling a sketchbook that will be woven into the four nature sketching workshops created by Claire Murthy, local wildlife and nature artist.

Landscape sketching.
It can be the long, drawn out days of Summer, out in the wildflower fields, pleinair sketching - a traditional way to capture beautiful scenery, surrounding wildlife and buildings and serve as aide-memoire to the experience or to be used later as reference work for landscape paintings and drawings. At High Elms we will be doing some quick landscape sketches of pond areas, woodland patches, wildlife gardens and formal gardens to record the habitats and environments of different plant, animal and other nat…