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Russ HeseldenRuss Heselden   AFC Russ Heselden
Wildlife in the landscape; oil, acrylic and mixed media
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Sparrowhawk - Stage 1
This was a painting which I did as a wedding present for my nephew, photographed ten minutes in. Having planned the painting in my head, based on something I had witnessed in the field, I start to outline key elements of the composition. Sometimes I'll stain the canvas in advance, but with this painting I just plunged straight in! At this stage I'm not being too precious - elements may change if the whole thing starts to look hideous at a later stage. That's the beauty of oils - you can paint over mistakes. Here I've just sketched in the main design and added a few colour notes.

Stage 2
Three quarters of an hour in now, and I'm starting to get a clearer idea of where the main colours and shapes are going to go. The blues are a bit garish, and I decided to tone them down later. At this stage my progress was hampered by the fact that a cat decided to sit on me while I painted.

Stage 3
Allowing for tea breaks and cat-related disruption this shows the painting at about the two hour stage. I was working all over the canvas to achieve unity, and starting to emphasis the lights and darks. I intended to put a bird in there somewhere, but at this stage it was actually still a toss-up between two species...

Stage 4
Here we are three hours in, where the image was definitely beginning to develop. You can see that a currently unfinished cock Sparrowhawk is zipping through at the top right of the painting. Having decided where it was going I played with some of the colour bands so they directed the eye towards it, but in the finished piece my intention was that it would blend in rather than stand out too much.I wanted the painting to be as much about the landscape and the 'experience' as the bird itself.

Stage 5
The point at which, having added some detail, I finally decided to call it a day. I could have carried on but I've found from experience that discretion is the better part of valour. It's all too easy to ruin a painting by taking it too far. As soon as it's working, stop!

Direct Correspondence to:Russ Heselden
Russ Heselden
c/o Russ Heselden Wildlife Art
Crabapple Cottage, 13 Low Road
Hingham, Norfolk
Tel: 01953 850145
  Worldwide Nature Artists Group
Email: heselden860@btinternet.com
Home Page: Russ Heselden's Latest Website
Russ Heselden Russ Heselden

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Member of the Artists for Conservation Foundation www.natureartists.com.