Rachel Drury – Saturday 20th October

An excellent turnout, including a number of new members, met to watch Rachel Drury do a demonstration based on British wildlife. Rachel is originally from East Anglia and grew up on a farm up amongst animals and nature. This experience has stayed with her and provides the inspiration for much of her art which features pheasants and other British wildlife. She is now based in Ledbury and is the resident artist at the Malt House in Ledbury as well as exhibiting in galleries throughout the UK and overseas.

As her demonstration Rachel produce a painting based on a photograph of a green pheasant. Although she uses photographs as a guide her work is based on her observation of animals and experience of holding them. She also brought along ‘Phillipe’ her stuffed pheasant who acts as a model for her paintings. Her starting point was a blank white canvas on which she did a rough pencil sketch of a running pheasant. Her approach is based on applying several layers of acrylic paint. The first stage was to fill in the background. To do this she has a jar of acrylic paint which is her ‘background’ mix and is applied without diluting with water. The exact content varies but this provides a neutral grey background to the painting. She explained that a plain background provides a more modern look to the paintings. The only addition to the background was the application of a small amount of black to produce a shadow under the bird.

Rachel uses a variety of acrylic paints but likes the consistency of Daler Rowney System 3. She never cleans her palette, which just gets thicker and thicker with paint. The second stage was to block in the pheasant and define the main areas that make up the body, head and feathers of the bird. This was quite roughly done and there were still small gaps where the white canvas came through. The picture was then developed with additional layers of paint, more details being added as the painting progressed. In some pictures the head of the pheasant was built up in layers to almost give a 3D look and stick up from the canvas.

The details required a close observation of the pheasant and brushstrokes were consciously made in the directions that represented the different types of feathers on the bird. A further final layer of paint was applied and the details further developed. The final stage was to add detail to the tail feathers, the legs and the feathers on the back.

Rachel noted that she didn’t really need the photograph and worked instinctively based on her knowledge of the bird. She used a large brush with a point for all stages of the painting. She also noted that acrylic colours tend to fade when they dry. She consciously applied the brighter colours quite boldly to counteract this.

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