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"Beauty in your backyard"
Chris Christoforou, 12 November 2010

See him at www.artprofile.co.uk.

All photographs on this page are Copyright of Chris Christoforou © 2010
and cannot be used without prior permission from the artist

Chris's family moved to England when he was 4 years old. From his mid-twenties he worked as a graphic designer and then as designer and art director in the film and television industry. This soon led him to concentrate, successfully, on his passion for natural history and wildlife art.

As well as some very reasonably priced limited edition prints, he had brought many samples of his incredibly detailed wildlife paintings, mostly in acrylic. His entry in the Art Profile website has even more of them (shot better than I could manage this evening) but here is one to be going on with.
His usual process is to integrate animals, birds or insects into appropriate backgrounds. He has a big collection of high quality photos of backgrounds and subjects, and even some professionally stuffed or mounted wildlife.

His aim in this profusely illustrated talk was mainly to show that you don't have to go far afield to find fascinating backgrounds or subjects.

Up to the coffee break he concentrated mostly on near-to-home backgrounds, flashing up one impressive slide after another - many more than could possibly be used here. So, what a challenge it is to do him justice in a few paragraphs!

He said he likes to get the photos well composed, paying great attention to lighting, but he will often use several shots and still crop the scene for artistic reasons.

This "Nest-building Robin" for example, was from a photo taken in a friend's garden and the ivy from one taken in a woodland. The two were put together to create the painting in acrylic.
The wildlife appeared at first to be almost secondary. He enthused, for example, over this old shed, just commenting, that it would be ideal with a barn owl flying out of the black doorway.

It was an afterthought that all the photo's interest was really in this cropped (portrait) area, giving more black space for the owl.
Background for a butterfly?
Background for a bird? A dipper?
A close-up detail of a rainbow makes a much more dramatic background than the whole arch (for a foreground deer?)

The foggy silhouette, with barely visible dew droplets just asks to have a bird or squirrel added . . .
. . . and there must be a handy rabbit for this one Snow can provide interesting backgrounds, but it's generally better to try to get to it before people have ruined it.

Sunsets are a good excuse for birds.

Paths give you a way to guide the eye to an animal you may not otherwise notice. Triangles, in particular, are a big asset for composition.

Oh yes, and acid green doesn't sell: it clashes with people's home decor.

One scene can be used several times and so may deserve several photos.
For example, this part of a poppy field just asks to have an insect added to the cow parsley . . .
. . . whilst this one prompts the addition of something like an old horse and cart to the road.
The moral is that you need to look at things in different ways.

Fungi are interesting and do attract insects but a painting from this one is becoming a jigsaw.

Incidentally, the very low light levels in many fungi habitats mean that you need a long exposure with a tripod.

Chris had a lot of slides of flowers but room here is limited. However, I can't resist the way this dandelion provides a "sun" for any insect you may want to paint
. . . . . or maybe a fairy. "The yanks love them"
Although Chris did mention the wildlife subjects earlier, he left most of them until after the coffee break. Several hints emerged:

Look for details, like whether or not the slits of a cat's eyes are visible
Movement left-to-right looks better to the western eye
An animal's stance makes all the difference
For wildlife, sit in a stationary vehicle: they won't notice you
Sometimes you don't have to integrate several photos because nearly everything's there, although you may need artistic license.
These examples (from the multitude Chris presented) illustrate some of these points:
the excited stance of the dog
flip the butterfly left to right?
add more yellow flowers under the common blue butterfly?
the ready-posed black and red moths.
Red kites

If you're going to do birds, practice on seagulls

Ideal for putting into an interesting background . . .
. . . and so are these "metamorphoses"
- -

By the way, for veins in dragonfly wings
a sharp pencil is better than a brush
Chris also does more formal work, like this one

showing various butterflies with their favourite flowers

All in all, a most impressive and inspiring evening.

It's been almost impossible to summarise but I hope this has given you a flavour of it

All photographs on this page are Copyright of Chris Christoforou © 2010
and cannot be used without prior permission from the artist

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