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Enthralled by Birds

PUBLISHED: 11:42 23 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:04 20 February 2013

'Balancing Act'

'Balancing Act'

Character portrayals of native birds of the South West is the focus of a new exhibition by Tim Hayward

Character portrayals of native birds of the South West is the focus of a new exhibition by Tim Hayward


Tim Hayward has a genuine passion for the species which comes through in his work, portraying each bird with its own distinct personality and with fierce anatomical accuracy. Birds are a wonderful subject, all shapes and sizes, beautiful plumage and a sense of vitality. An awareness of them enhances a simple walk, and the pursuit of them can lead one to a huge variety of landscapes.
Having studied Illustration and Design at Somerset College of Art, Tim spent the first half of his career painting depictions of wildlife for national and international publishers, producing work for The Natural History Museum and RSPB amongst others. He is now primarily focused on his solo exhibitions.
His studio is an organised chaos of bookcases, easels and plan chests, heaps of paper and sketchbooks, jars full of brushes, stuffed birds and animals... but in the middle is one relatively tidy space where he paints. I do experience the usual donations of dead things on the doorstep, which most wildlife artists receive, and I always do my best to record them quickly. Always useful.
Tim lives and works in the village of Holcombe Rogus on the Devon/ Somerset border. He moved to Devon in the mid-80s.
Devon is a lovely county to live in with the variety of landscapes, fantastic wildlife, and peaceful way of life. The village is a lively place with a great community atmosphere and still retains a school, shop and pub. The view from his studio window is of gentle farmland. The occasional buzzard will perch in a tree across the lane, peregrines and ravens fly overhead, while kingfishers and otters can be seen in the local stretch of river. When he has time, he fly-fishes on the River Barle where dippers and wagtails sometimes fly by, close enough to touch.

From his home, the hills and coombes of Exmoor and the dramatic sea cliffs of Cornwall are within easy reach. The beauty and drama of the wildlife and landscape found in this area of the South West have provided the focus for his new exhibition of the native birds he knows and loves the tawny owl, barn owl, peregrine falcon and domestic fowl.
From the fierce determination of the swooping falcon to the comical pomposity of the cockerel, Tim continues to demonstrate his imaginative and often whimsical approach to wildlife painting. His subjects are brought to life by his dramatic and humorous character portrayals, intensity of colour and playful interaction between the subjects and their surroundings. Tims subtlety in rendering textures in watercolour and gouache, and accuracy of line and form, demonstrate a lifetimes study and fascination with wildlife. Tim relies on field studies made in a sketchbook, drawings made from skins and taxidermy props, and his own photographs and reference collection.
In the studio, having decided on the animal or bird that he wants to paint, he produces thumbnail sketches, which are worked up to a full-size drawing, guided by his field sketches, taxidermy props or other references. Once he is happy with the composition, he transfers this carefully onto 300gsm Arches paper or illustration board. Next, with a fine brush and some light umber watercolour, Tim paints over the pencil lines and then rubs them out. He uses masking fluid to block out the animal shape. For the background I start with a clear water wash over the whole surface. The process of building up the watercolour background can take several days.
To paint the animal, Tim removes the masking fluid and initially blocks in the shape with watercolour to establish the main tones, starting from light to dark. Then, working mainly with gouache, he carefully builds up the layers of fur or feathers, adding highlights and details.
Capturing the eyes of the animal is fundamental to the success of the painting, as he explains. Its so important to get these right. If they are not convincing, you are lost. Once the eyes are successfully finished, the animal comes alive suddenly there is a sense that I am stroking a living creature, and its all very rewarding!"



New Works by Tim Hayward will be on show at Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery, London, 21 April 7 May, www.jonathancooper.co.uk.

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