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Art Masterclass   

                              September 2007

Each month presents a feature from either The Artist or its sister publication, Leisure Painter.        

Art masterclass  

from The Artist, the monthly magazine for amateur and semi-professional painters, giving practical instruction in painting and drawing in watercolour, pastels and oils, as well as news of art events, exhibitions and competitions open to leisure artists;

This month: an  'Artists  of the world' feature from the current edition of The Artist, the magazine for amateur and semi-professional painters.






Wildlife on a pedestal

Tim Hayward works in watercolour and gouache, portraying animals and birds with meticulous integrity, and in a setting that enhances their beauty



Tim Hayward has been fascinated by natural history since childhood.

He grew up in the countryside and soon became interested in watching wildlife and looking at the work of wildlife artists. At first he copied their drawings, but then started to make his own drawings from specimens and direct observation. Later, after studying graphic design and illustration at art college, for many years he worked as a freelance wildlife illustrator, an experience that has proved extremely valuable now that he is devoting all his time to painting for exhibitions and commissions.

Initially Tim adopted a fairly traditional approach, painting birds and animals in their natural habitats. Gradually, however, he has placed more emphasis on the design aspect of the work, considering how the various elements such as line, shape and colour can inform and enhance the painting, while ensuring that the featured animal is accurately depicted and therefore convincing.



Hobby Amongst the Swallows, watercolour and gouache on paper,

24x40in. (71x101.5cm)

Dew Flirts, watercolour and gouache on paper, 40x26in. (101.5x66cm

He is not obsessive about accuracy, but if a painting is to capture the interest and imagination of the viewer and have the impact he seeks, then it must be true to the subject, he believes. For the past few years Tim has been exploring the theme of 'Pedestals'. The idea was that the birds and animals should be 'elevated', both literally and metaphorically, by placing them on a carefully chosen plinth of some kind, perhaps of wood, stone or marble (which are textures that he also enjoys painting), so that they would command more attention and admiration. At the same time the background, a simple, atmospheric space rather than a specific habitat, would emphasise the beauty of the wildlife subject.

This idea has been immensely successful and is one that continues to offer interesting possibilities. "It is important to find a pedestal that works both aesthetically and conceptually with the particular bird or animal," Tim says. "I try to find something that will echo a form, shape, colour or texture within the creature I am painting. For example, for Dew Flirts, above, I chose a pillar that I had sketched in the Forum in Rome. There is a dancing maiden on one side of the pillar and this seemed to complement the dancing hares"

Working drawings

For reference information Tim relies on field studies made in a sketchbook, drawings made from skins and taxidermy specimens, and his own photographs and reference collection. To date he has concentrated mainly on British native species, often visiting places such as falconry centres and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge, where there are good opportunities to observe and sketch wildlife at close quarters. Currently, however, he is exploring a new theme: birds of paradise.

For most of his paintings he uses a combination of watercolour and gouache, exploiting the contrasting strengths of these two media to create the textures and surface qualities he wants.

Usually he starts with watercolour for the background and foundation washes where necessary, then adds successive layers of gouache, working dark to light and slowly developing the effect of fur or feathers.

Flamingo, watercolour on paper, 58x42in. (147x107cm)

Turtle Dove, watercolour and gouache on paper, 32x24in. (81x61cm)

"With patience and using good quality brushes you can produce extraordinarily detailed effects with gouache," he explains, "and of course it dries quickly.  The only frustrating thing is that it tends to dry lighter".

"In contrast, watercolour has a marvellous purity and translucency and will dry evenly over a large area.

It is ideal for capturing subtle changes of light, which is a quality that I usually like to incorporate into the background area of my paintings".

Paper and brushes

"Mostly I work on stretched Arches 300gsm (140lb) Not watercolour paper; sometimes on illustration board. I prefer the Arches paper because, although it has a slight texture, this does not intrude. Essentially I need a fairly smooth surface that will enhance the detail and brushwork.

"My brushes are mostly sable, sizes 3 and 4. Occasionally I use a size 1 for detail, and larger sizes, 6 or 10, for bolder marks. Also sometimes I use a hake for broad washes of colour or perhaps something more unusual, such as a badger hair shaving brush, for a particular texture."

Because of the subject matter and the style of work, it is important that Tim has a clear idea of the composition and the aims of the painting before he commits anything to paper. So in the studio, having decided on the animal or bird that he wants to paint, and with reference to the field studies, photographs and other information, he begins by making a series of thumbnail sketches to help resolve a suitable composition. Ideally he is looking for a design that infers movement—a bird about to fly, for example.


Golden Eagle, watercolour and gouache on paper, 54x36in. (137x91.5cm)


  Red Squirrel, watercolour and gouache on paper, 34x21in. (91.5x53cm)

Then he makes a working drawing, which might be scaled up or down until he is completely happy with the composition. He transfers this carefully onto the watercolour paper, as much as possible avoiding any rubbing out that might damage the paper surface. Next, with a fine brush and some light umber watercolour, Tim paints over the pencil lines and then carefully rubs them out. He uses masking fluid to block out the animal shape, so that he can concentrate initially on the background.

"For the background I start with a clear water wash over the whole surface," he says, "with the paper almost flat — just a slight tilt towards me. Then, I apply the first watercolour wash. This is followed with a succession of washes until I arrive at the effect I want, which may take two or three days to achieve.

"Having used this technique for some time now I am fairly confident about creating the right effect. However, if I think the background is starting to look overworked, then I might resort to putting the painting under the shower and gently washing off some of the colour. This is quite a nerve-racking process, but it often produces incredibly interesting results. Once I am happy with the background, I'm committed!"
Painting the animal

The next stage is to remove the masking fluid and begin painting the animal. Again, the initial work is in watercolour, at first blocking in the whole shape and establishing the main tones, although generally starting with a darker sequence of tones than those ultimately required. The reason for this is that the successively lighter colours will reduce the tonal values.


Tawny Owl, watercolour and gouache on paper, 21x16in. (53x45cm)

Thereafter Tim works mainly in gouache, meticulously building up the layers of fur or feathers and adding the necessary highlights and details.

About halfway through this process, if everything seems to be going well he paints the animal's eyes.

"It is so important to get these right," he says. "If they are not convincing, you are lost. Immediately the eyes are successfully finished, the animal comes alive — suddenly there is the sense that I am stroking a living creature rather than just a sheet of paper, and it is all very exciting.
"I like to keep the whole painting developing at the same pace and therefore my brush is constantly dancing from one area to another, balancing tones, shadows and so on. Of course, in order to create the right character and likeness for the animal there is a lot of intricate work and detail to consider, and this might imply the use of very fine brushes. But in fact I generally work with larger brushes than one might think, sometimes fanning out the hairs of the brush to achieve a particular textural effect.

"Perhaps the hardest thing is knowing when to stop — it is a matter of recognising the moment when you are no longer being constructive, but are starting to fiddle."

As his work process demonstrates, Tim's paintings are invested with much thought, care, time and integrity. His aim, he says, is for "simple yet aesthetically pleasing paintings". But in fact they offer far more than that. In his immensely skilful, individual approach to wildlife painting he perfectly combines fact and imagination to create works of compelling interest.




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