Your chance to meet Film and Conservation Legend Virginia McKenna!

Founded by actress Virginia McKenna OBE, The Born Free Foundation is an international wildlife charity working throughout the world to stop individual wild animal suffering and protect threatened species in the wild. This year the charity is marking it’s thirtieth anniversary. In recognition of this milestone, wildlife artist and S.O.F.A. member Pollyanna Pickering  is delighted to welcome Virginia as her special guest when she opens her private gallery at Brookvale House Oaker, Matlock, DE4 2JJ on the 13th of July for a special one-off open day and exhibition.


Pollyanna is proud to have a longstanding association with Born Free, which began in 1992 when she travelled to India to sketch five tigers rescued by the charity from appalling condition in a British roadside circus and flown out to start a new life in a wildlife sanctuary. She has continued to collaborate with the charity ever since, designing Christmas cards and giftware for them – and supporting them through sales of original work and limited edition prints. Virginia has also contributed the forward to two of Pollyanna’s books, as well as the book Wildness which features Pollyanna’s artwork alongside the poetry of the Born Free Foundation’s poet in residence Richard Bonfield.

Visitors to the event will receive an exclusive limited edition calendar featuring twelve of Pollyanna’s paintings inspired by the work of Born Free. Only 200 calendars will be published, each will be individually numbered – and guests will have the opportunity meet both Pollyanna and Born Free Founder Virginia McKenna, and have their calendars signed.

The event will be strictly by admission by ticket only. The price of £25.00 includes entry for two people, one copy of the limited edition calendar, a light buffet and five entries into a prize draw to win an original painting. Only 20 tickets are still available for this event – to book phone 01629 55851 or visit

As well as meeting and chatting to Virginia and Pollyanna guests will have the opportunity to view Pollyanna’s gallery, which will be displaying a one day only exhibition of originals selected to compliment Born Free’s work – and stroll round her uniquely landscaped gardens. There will be the chance to talk to representatives of Born Free about the wonderful work they carry out. Tea and coffee will be available throughout the day. All proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Born Free’s wildlife rescue projects.

Look out for Painting Cats in October Issue of Leisure Painter

S.O.F.A. member Sue Sareen has an article on “Painting cats” due to come out in the October edition of the art magazine “Leisure Painter”.

Sue’s article emphasises and discusses the importance of continuously sketching and painting cats from life and the different mediums one could use to do this.  She also talks about her method of  painting cats freely in watercolour, using photographs as source material.

Sue is also having a solo exhibition in at the Friar Lane Gallery, Nottingham NG1 6DH from September 5th 13th.

Little Cat by Sue Sareen

Wonders of Winter Art

France Bauduin, one of our members, has won the recent Strathmore Wonders of Winter Art Competition run by Jacksons Art Supplies for her painting ‘Cat-ching Snowballs’.  Congratulations France!

cat-ching snowballs by France Bauduin

‘Colour Pencils drawing on 500 SERIES Charcoal, Blue Gray, 64lb of my cat Laila, then nine months old discovering how fun snow can be. The picture was taken in December 2010 after a heavy snowfall; I was throwing soft snowballs and she was literally trying to catch them, thus the title Cat-ching snowballs.’
France Bauduin S.O.F.A.

Working with Acrylics

S.O.F.A. member Sara Butt shares her love of working in acrylics.

In the early years of studying art and experimenting with mediums from oil, water colour, pastel to coloured inks, it didn’t take long to find my soul mate acrylic, I find it works for me, very forgiving and with a good quality pigment paint the layering of colour gives wonderful depth. I have tried many makes of acrylic through the years, but since I have been using Liquitex soft body, I have never felt the need to stray it dose everything I need a paint to do, the pigments are wonderful. I apply my paint by layering from dark to light, the application of this paint layers beautifully and I use far less layers with Liquitex which makes the tubes of paint last a long time, as well as faster results. I only use water with this medium, but rarely needed as they are very soft almost runny, also the colour you mix on your pallet is exactly the colour that dries on your board /canvas, these dry very quickly which suits me.

3 2  1

I use a canvas board with a fine grain (Honsell Armaco ), which I then prime with Gesso. Like Tamsin Lord, I also use Rosemary & Co brushes, I find the Pointed Round Golden Synthetic 301 Series 2/0, 3/0 for main detail larger brushes for back ground are brilliant, excellent value and they really last well even with acrylic paint! A tip for when brushes becomes worn, dip the brush tip into boiling water for a couple of seconds and then place between a sheet of folded kitchen roll press down firmly with the end of your finger on the brush hairs this reshapes the hairs and you’ll get   more use out of your brush.

Before framing I give my painting a couple of coats of matt varnish.


Canvas board, Gesso and Gerstaecker varnish (matt)

Liquitex soft body


 by Sara Butt S.O.F.A.

Do you have particular materials or techniques you’d like to recommend to other members? Do you have a particular brand of paint or pastels you love to use? Where do you buy your supplies from, do you have a great local art supply shop or do you use an online store? If so we’d like to feature you and your work along with those recommendations on the blog. Contact the editor.

Pet Photography Tips

S.O.F.A. member France Bauduin shares her tips on photographing pets.

In my previous article, I explained how you could create original compositions from your own photos. Here, I would like to give you a few tips to help you take great action shots of your pet.

1) Choose the right camera

Mine is small and light, making it possible to take pictures with a single hand. When shooting pets, it is always useful to have a free hand so you can capture their attention by snapping your fingers or shake a noisy toy to make them look at you.

I also have a Live View Finder I can pivot upward, so I can take pictures of my subject at eye level (between 15 and 30cm for a cat) without having to lie flat on my belly.   It allows me to move and follow my subject (up to a point) and gives me more opportunities to take good pictures.

My camera also has a Sport option that allows me to take many pictures per second in good light conditions (without flash) and generates more possibilities to capture a good action shot.


Sequence of 3 photos taken inside one  second with Sport option on a bright hazy day (best conditions for black and white cats)


2) Choose the right light

Natural daylight is usually best when photographing pets.

Avoid harsh sunlight around midday, especially with white pets. You will achieve better results taking your photos around mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Bright hazy/cloudy days work well when you plan to replace the background with other photos, as you do not need to match shadows. They are the best conditions for black and white animals.

In some occasions, flash photography may give good results with black subjects but natural sunlight is usually better to show their coat’s highlights.

pet-phptgraphy-tips (5) pet-phptgraphy-tips (4)

Portrait of Milo (a commission) from a photograph taken in the sun


3) Choose the right spot

Instead of chasing your animal, sometimes it is better to position yourself in a good spot (with the sun at your back) and wait for them to come play in front of you, shaking a twig or throwing a ball to entice them in your direction. (Ask help from the owner if it is for a commission)

Having a solid object (bush, fence, wall) behind your subject increases your chances that the automatic focus will be on the animal and not something far behind them.


 4) Choose the right time

Know your subject and anticipate the most likely periods for good action shots. With kittens, it is usually after they wake up from a long nap, a period that can last a good half an hour before they run out of steam again.

My best advice is to always have your camera ready and close by.

pet-phptgraphy-tips (6) pet-phptgraphy-tips (7)

“Timmy in trouble” The lucky shot that inspired this earlier drawing.

As a rule, I always recharge the battery of my camera after downloading any photo shoot of 100 or more pictures.


5) Shoot, shoot, shoot

Practice makes perfect.   Well, perhaps not but the more you take pictures, the more likely you are to get a great shot (even if it is just by luck).

It takes indeed many trials and errors to get the timing right. With my camera, half-pressing the button actions the automatic focus. The trick is to keep it half-pressed until I see a good opportunity and then depress it completely. This shortens the delay and thus heightens my chance to get what I want.

pet-phptgraphy-tips (9) pet-phptgraphy-tips (8)
Gold & Silver playing with a red ribbon in natural daylight. Perfect pose.

More importantly, make sure to download and look at your photos the same day so you can see (and remember) what worked and what didn’t so you can improve your technique.

Next time you’ll be able to:

  • Eliminate those shots when you are too close/too far away or when the light is too poor/too bright.
  • Reduce fish eye effects (distortions) by centring your subject and using the zoom option to the maximum
  • Identify surroundings/circumstances generating more likelihood of good shots
  • Identify the best time/light to take pictures according to the season (and weather)


Again, if you are going to spend dozens of hours on a particular drawing, it is worth spending a few hours getting a good photograph of your subject, remembering that the composition can still be improved afterwards with tools like Photoshop or simply using a different background from another photo.

pet-phptgraphy-tips (10) pet-phptgraphy-tips (11)

Earlier attempt at changing the background from a photograph with another.


Like you, I am no expert photographer and for or every hundred of pictures I take:

  • One third go straight to the bin (off focus, too dark, white washed, incomplete etc…)
  • About half are clear enough but too ordinary to draw
  • 10 to 15 may show good action shots but with little flaws
  • Only 1 to 3 of them may be what I consider very good photos worth drawing (with or without improvements)


But with digital, who cares? I only print the photograph I will draw and keep the rest classified for future references.  And once in a while, oh perhaps one photo out of a thousand or so, I get lucky and take that “great” shot where everything works.

pet-phptgraphy-tips (12)

A great shot of Gold and Silver playing together with a pheasant feather.

pet-phptgraphy-tips (13)

Best of luck to all and remember: Keep clicking!

By France Bauduin S.O.F.A.
France Bauduin’s web site.

Do you have particular materials or techniques you’d like to recommend to other members? Do you have a particular brand of paint or pastels you love to use? Where do you buy your supplies from, do you have a great local art supply shop or do you use an online store? If so we’d like to feature you and your work along with those recommendations on the blog. Contact the editor.

Ella Goodwin exhibiting in Wymondham

Ella Goodwin S.O.F.A. associate member is taking part in a local exhibition in Wymondham, just outside Norwich. It’s presented by printmaker Amelia Bowman and Ella will be exhibiting a large showcase of her illustration in what is a lovely setting at Wymondham Arts Centre.


The Private View is on the 15th April – 6-8.30.
All S.O.F.A. members and friends are hugely welcome and we have wine and cake sponsorship so good to get there early!



Getting to Grips with Gouache

S.O.F.A. member Tamsin Lord shares her love of gouache.

The medium of choice for my feline art is Designers’ Gouache, which is a range of opaque water colours.  They are so called because they were developed for use by designers, illustrators and commercial artists to create crisp, vibrant visuals and illustrations in solid colour.  I was first introduced to gouache during my art Foundation studies years ago, and instantly loved the striking colour palette, tight control and fast drying qualities they offer.

Gouache is adaptable and various mediums can be added to create effects, it can also be fully intermixed with Artist’s water colours.  I use both types of paint in my feline pictures; I find by combining them I can produce controlled, colourful paintings which also have elements of fluidity and soft texture.

I particularly enjoy combining gouache and water colour when working on eyes.

I particularly enjoy combining gouache and water colour when working on eyes.

Curlicue Cat by Tamsin Lord

Curlicue Cat by Tamsin Lord

Gouache is a forgiving medium, although you do need to take into account the opacity ratings when using light colours over dark.  It’s also important to be aware of colours which are rated as ‘bleeding’ on the colour chart.  I learnt this lesson several years ago when I applied white over magenta and ended up with a pink rinse kitty!  Saying that, I rather liked it and went through a very colourful ‘Curlicue Cat period’ (this little chap on the right being one of them!)  There are ways round bleeding though, as you can use a Bleedproof White as an in between layer.

I apply the gouache in layers and it is intended to be applied fairly thickly.  If diluted with too much water it may ‘powder off’, on the other hand, apply too many thick layers and it can crack (gum Arabic can be added to reduce this problem).  This link is to a short video which shows one of my paintings progressing.

Tamsin LordA variety of brushes are suitable for use with gouache depending on the technique used and finish required.  When I paint cat fur (which you’ll notice can be quite prolific and chaotic) initially I used a fine sable rigger which is a brush widely used for painting rigging on ships and is great for holding colour to flow through the stroke.  However, whilst trawling through Rosemary & Co’s brush catalogue (which I can highly recommend) I thought I’d give their Golden Synthetic Pointed Riggers a try and was very pleasantly surprised, they hold the paint excellently and I find offer a little more spring than sable, which actually suits me better.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it and here are a couple of online retailers I can recommend:
Cowling & Wilcox ~ for Designers’ Gouache, Artist’s Water Colours and Other Art Materials
Rosemary & Co ~ for Handmade Artists’ Brushes.

 by Tamsin Lord S.O.F.A.
The Fiendish Felines on Facebook

Do you have particular materials or techniques you’d like to recommend to other members? Do you have a particular brand of paint or pastels you love to use? Where do you buy your supplies from, do you have a great local art supply shop or do you use an online store? If so we’d like to feature you and your work along with those recommendations on the blog. Contact the editor.

Exhibition Photos

Slide Shows
See the photos of each exhibition as a flash slide show. Click the links below and sit back and watch the show. These will be quite large photos and may take a while to load.

SOFA London 2013
SOFA London 2012
SOFA London 2011
SOFA London 2010
SOFA London 2009
SOFA London 2008
Or if you don't have flash see them as a photo album.

Photo Albums

SOFA London 2013
SOFA London 2012
SOFA London 2011
SOFA London 2010
SOFA London 2009
SOFA London 2008



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