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Dawn Chorus in the Garden

Wildlife Nature Blog : Dawn Chorus

Just before sunrise, the birds in the garden and nearby ancient woods start singing. It is still dark but as the light slowly drifts across the calm morning sky, it becomes easier to identify the hazy silhouettes of birds moving overhead. One or two crows break the visual stillness, the ends of their wings clipping against each other, briefly, once or twice as they move from one place to another.

Some random notes, or croaks, a line of tune, a duet and before the full light has returned for the day, the morning ensemble has warmed its chords and is in full movement, on time as usual; the dawn chorus.
One music – with deep and shrill sounds interplaying as if musicians competing with each other for their individual pieces.
In the near distance, light is more slowly moving across the garden - a robin or blackbird retaining anonymity for a couple more minutes, in its lack of colour and distorted perspective, takes advantage of the precise time of day…
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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.


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…

Kingfisher in Watercolour and Ink. Bird Painting.


In-between the detailed and the traditional...a different perspective.

Bee and Honeysuckle Watercolour

Another bee painting in preparation of forthcoming workshops and bee-related events.

This  watercolour and ink painting of honeysuckle and bee is the second painting of four bee and flowers in vase paintings that will be available later in the year.

More bee painting workshops and nature drawing sessions will also be available soon - see sidebar for more details.

Using a watercolour wash,wet paint was gently added to water to let the colours merge naturally. Walnut ink was added at the end of the painting to create a whimsical line to frame and add a little structure to the the painting.

The original painting has more detail which isn't showing in this image due the exposure settings.

Summer Flower and Bee

Summer Flower and Bee.

Following on from June's simple watercolour painting of a bee, some ink was added to create this energetic bee and flower painting!

Wet-in-Wet Watercolour Painting of a Honey Bee

Wet-in-Wet Watercolour painting of a honey bee.

No matter how detailed and realistic you want your art to be, sometimes it's fun to let the paintbrush loose on the paints!

The result, here, was an abstract kind of painting - still fairly detailed but not too precise.

This will be used as a base for some ink work, which will give it a little context.

There are plenty of bees in the garden this month to keep the paintbrush busy!

Art Blog Kent Surrey London Sussex.

Wild Strawberries in the Kitchen Garden

Wild Strawberries in the Kitchen Garden

Each year, around the end of June, wild strawberries appear in the garden. They are small, oddly shaped, brightly coloured jewels, peeping out from behind their green leaves. As they grow by themselves, they are another ideal fruit for a kitchen garden which really relies on very little supervision. 

There is something a little challenging about eating a wild strawberry - as though it's a forbidden fruit...

Surely, these tiny treats of the forest are the perfect feast for the small wildlife visitors!

Kitchen Garden Blog - June.

British Countryside Animals : Fallow Deer : Knole Park

British Countryside Animals : Fallow Deer

This medium-sized deer is easily recognizable by its white spots; most deer grow out of their spots but the fallow deer keep theirs.

This Fallow is a female deer, and one who looks like she might have a fawn over the next couple of weeks; being June, it is the normal time of year for such expectations.

She grazed nearby for over an hour, occasionally looking up to check what I was up to, but I wasn't up to much - just watching her, in-between taking a view of the woodland spring flowers and grasses that were growing with such energy. A nearby fallen tree was surrounded by foxgloves that created a pretty background to this deer as she wandered about, pausing here and there to nibble on some apparently tasty tufts of grass.

This deer is one of a herd at Knole Deer Park in Sevenoaks, a Site of Special Scientific Interest owned by the National Trust and set within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that stretches from the borde…