I work mostly with animals from the countryside around my home and the places I visit. I have worked with cows from Pembrokeshire, donkeys from Dorset and chickens from a local farm.
I choose animals that capture my interest and connect with me. Usually the one that looks me in the eye and tries to lick the camera.
I am always on the lookout for new characters and my family often find themselves waiting patiently in the car while I lean over gates and through fences trying to get the best view. I cycle a lot and often take my camera with me just in case.
When I start work I try to select a quirky image with an interesting perspective or expression. Initially the most important part is the negative space. I like the animal to fill the paper to give a sense of it looking in as it passes a window or perhaps a stable door.
I work on canvas or hand-made, textured paper. The torn edges help to capture the sense of a fleeting moment. Often I apply a thick base coat of paint to create a ground texture. You can see brush strokes and drips of paint under the paintings. Other times I like to leave the paper or canvas showing through. It lets the viewer see more of the story of how the painting was made, and I just love the natural surface of hand-made paper.
I apply materials such as hessian, newspaper or gauze for pattern and texture. Texture gets me excited and I love to experiment with techniques. I might apply thick paint with a palette knife and scratch into it with a stick for chicken feathers or work over smooth paint with soft pastel for the softness around a moose's mouth. It interests me how you can show contrast between such things as fur and bridle or a cockerels feathers and comb.
Once the collage is dry I paint the animals, using acrylic or emulsion. I sometimes finish the works with pastel before adding line, usually in charcoal.
Each artwork represents the time, from beginning to end, of what happened to that piece of paper. Like a sculpture that holds the story of the process of making it. If the cat walks over the wet paint I just leave the paw prints and carry on. If the paper rips I just stick it with tape or patch it with another piece of paper. Often I paint over an old painting. What is now a donkey could once have been a chicken or pig that just didn't make it to a finished piece. You can sometimes see the previous name collaged under the surface. You can also still see the masking tape in the corners from where they were attached to the easel.
Each animal has a brief 'story' to give a glimpse into their life and let their new family imagine the rest. Naming the animals is often the most difficult part. I spend a long time with each animal in my studio. I like to really get to know them and imagine what their life might be like. I like the idea of them doing farcical things such as a cow surfing or a goat using chopsticks. They could be part of a whole community that we know nothing about....
When you buy one of my animals it's like bringing another member into the family. Each painting is unique, I don't make prints. I may paint more than once from one of my photographs, but there is only one Florence, Ernie or Mildred.