Working with stencils requires a certain amount of planning and design.  My sketches are all part of that process.  I’ve found that I need to see the birds in terms of shapes and lines right from the start, so that I can develop the stencils more successfully.  Bird with strong markings or patches of colour work best.  The smart plummage of the Tit family or the striking a black and white of an Avocet are a dream. Others can prove to be more challenging!

I spend lots of time watching birds and getting to know them. Are they noisy, brazen birds that are easy to see out in the open, or are they the sort that skulks amongst the undergrowth? Are they loners or do they enjoy a gregarious flock?

Garden birds have become very familiar whilst others take more time to find and study.  Sometimes it is just a fleeting chance encounter that inspires me.  Each time it is different.

Ideas for compositions come when I’m out and about. The process of watching, researching and sketching helps me to understand the character of the birds, and it also fires my ideas for possible compositions.

raptor drawings
gannet drawings


Once I have created my stencils I can use them in a variety of ways.  Often I create complex multilayered works that take time, thought and care.  They are often complex compositions exploring the way the subject matter inhabits all the other compositional aspects of the image such as the landscape, trees and plants.  I often create stencils for these elements too and use them to build up a many-layered image.  You can see this process here.

Works on brown paper are an extension of my sketches.  They are more intuitive and energetic.  They allow me to play with new stencils, produce alternative, minimalist compositions and explore other ways of creating a context for the birds.  Sometimes this is more abstract, sometimes it makes use of a small part of one of the larger, more complex composition such as a branch or some leaves. Each piece is unique but I am able to ‘reprint’ images using the same stencils.