Wendy Corbett Biography Continued:

Over a period of time I tried my hand at a variety of jobs ranging from farming to forklift truck driving, with no real sense of direction. In my late 30`s I worked with my father as a sign writer and lettering artist for a number of years, until computers and modern technology, as with most people, did me out of a job. Again I had to rethink what career path I wanted to take. I had been experimenting again with my art in any spare time that I had, doing animal commissions and trying out different mediums and techniques.

It had long been a dream of mine to live by the coast and one day I made a spur of the moment decision to move to Devon, with the intention of one day becoming a full-time artist.

My first real opportunity to show my art came when the gallery in Kingsbridge, where I live, changed hands and I plucked up the courage to go and show them my portfolio. I was delighted when the owners took some pieces to try, and I’m glad to say that, I have not looked back since. I exhibit with them regularly, which leaves little time to do anything for anyone else. I have, however, submitted to and had work selected for P.A.W.S., a national wildlife art competition, and was delighted to win the monochrome section award. I have also had my work exhibited at the ‘Society of Wildlife Artists’ exhibition at the Mall Galleries.

The two subjects I paint are my two great passions - wildlife and the sea. I hope that, because they stir something deep within me, I transfer that to my work. Whether I am working on wildlife drawings or pastel seascapes I tend to lose myself in my work; I become completely absorbed and the time just fly’s by.

I study the animals I draw in great detail, from books, film, and visits to my local zoo at Paignton, who do lots of environmental and conservation work. I know the animals do not behave in the same way as they do in their natural environment, but it affords me the opportunity to observe them at close quarters. In a lot of the enclosures the only thing that separates you from the animals is a huge sheet of what I am sure is very toughened glass. At such close range you can feel the power of these magnificent creatures - who wouldn’t be inspired by this?

The photos I use have to say something to me, I do seem to be particularly drawn to that special bond between mother and baby, there is just so much love there that it is almost tangible. I try to convey that ‘magic’ that initially inspired me and hope to make the drawing come to life.

I get my love of the sea from my mother, who always made sure we had a holiday on the coast every year. I can remember wonderful summer evenings sitting on the beach, long after everyone else had gone, watching the ocean and going for a last swim when the sea was still warm from the heat of the day.

This was the reason I moved to Devon. I never grow tired of watching the sea; I love the way it changes with the light, creating different moods and atmospheres. I particularly like stormy skies and seas. To stand in a storm force wind that you can lean in to and watch the waves crashing onto the shore, taste the salt on your lips is amazing - there is nothing like quite it. I am truly fortunate to be surrounded by such inspiration.

I started using pastels fairly recently and I’m amazed that I had neglected this wonderful medium for so many years. Pastels are instant, I can put on broad sweeps of colour and the card is transformed. I start by putting on the colours very roughly, which gives me the mood of the picture. I work on card, which has a sand texture. This suits my style as it allows me to put the pastels on quite thickly and merge them together creating a feeling of movement, which is perfect for my subject, be it clouds or sea. I put on layers of different colours and then blend them, creating either a soft feeling for the sky or rolling waves and surf of the sea - I just let it ‘happen’.

In stark contrast, my wildlife drawing is very intense; it can take several weeks to complete one piece. I sketch in the composition very lightly and then build up the pencil working from light to dark; it is very much a continual thinking process. These pictures take much longer to come together. They can sometimes be almost finished before I know if I have got it right or not, although usually as soon as I have done the eyes it springs to life and I know if I have captured that something special - the essence of the animal.

Using two such completely different techniques and mediums is good for me, it stops me getting stale; they compliment each other really well being such opposites. My day begins with exercising my dog Lucy, a Springer Spaniel. This early morning walk is my thinking time, when I gather my thoughts together and plan my day. I also sometimes use it to get more reference material if it is a particularly interesting dawn.

I usually start work around 9am and I try to have a particular piece of work in progress on my board, even if it is only in rough. I only ever work on one painting at a time. I could not begin work on a new picture until I have finished the one that I am doing; I’m sure this is something peculiar to me, as I know many artists are able to do this. I do, however, have in mind what I am going to do next, infact I probably have four or five different ideas in my head.

I like to have music on while I am working, sometimes just the radio for background music, or if I want to crate a certain atmosphere I choose an appropriate C.D. I work until 6 or 7 in the evening, depending on the time of year, as I have to fit in another walk for Lucy. Again if I feel it looks a promising day for research this walk may be an extended one.

I don’t have much free time and I suppose I spend it in much the same way as most people do. I enjoy socialising with friends, which usually involves food and wine. I do try and fit in exercise as well such as swimming or the gym. I find this helps me to wind down and relax muscles that have become tight during the day.

Click here to return to the art of Wendy Corbett.