Beverley Sweetman: Wildlife & Animal Artist

Question: Can you tell us about yourself/your artistic background and education?

Artist: I am an Artist / Illustrator and Mosaic Maker. I create highly detailed pieces of work in a variety of mediums: Watercolour, Walnut Ink, Acrylic and Mosaics in glass and ceramics.

I was born in Bedfordshire and trained as Graphic Designer / Illustrator and studied Art, Illustration and Design for Print before embarking on a busy and rewarding career in graphic design and marketing.

My illustration and painting skills rather fell by the wayside until about 8 years ago when I decided to rekindle my interest in watercolour painting as a hobby. Around about the same time I did a short course in mosaic making.

In the beginning friends and family asked me to paint their pets and create small pieces if mosaic work.  Then five years ago I decided that I would take the plunge and leave my job in a law firm to set up as a full time artist. Since then I have gradually built my reputation as an artist and designer. I now run painting and drawing workshops, and regularly take painting commissions alongside creating bespoke mosaic designs.

Question: Can you take us through the process that you go through to complete your masterpieces?

Artist: I work mostly from photographs, either ones I have taken myself or I work with a number of wildlife photographers and use their images as reference. I often combine several images together to create a composition I like.  

Depending on what medium (watercolour, walnut ink or acrylic) I am going to paint in I draw up the subject and mask out the areas of textures and highlights. I then lay down a series of light washes with large brushes before building up details with finer brushes. My larger paintings can take anything from 20 – 50 hours to paint.

Creating a mosaic on the other hand is essentially a design process, much of which I do in Photoshop to simplify subject matter down to areas of flat colour. Once I am happy with the design I transfer it on to a piece of marine ply and cut out the base board shape with a scroll saw. I then hand cut glass and ceramics pieces and adhere them to the base board design. Finally I grout the mosaic, this is the best bit as it brings the mosaic to life.

Question: What is it about animals that draws you to paint them?

Artist: I draw most of my inspiration from the greatest designer of them all ‘Mother Nature’. I love to study the shape and form of the creatures in the animal kingdom, exploring nature’s complex shapes, rhythms and patterns. Sometimes this takes an abstract form in my mosaic work, other painted works are complex and detailed illustrations of wildlife, farm animals, birds, fish and insects.

I have a particular interest in British wildlife and regularly paint hares, foxes, puffins and butterflies, my absolute favourite subjects to paint are Bees which I have painted and create mosaics of many times.

Question: Throughout your time painting what has been the most important thing you have learnt?

Artist: Be brave, try new things even if you fail. Keep moving forward with your ideas, learn new skills, adapt techniques and grow your creative ideas by working alongside other creatives.

Question: Do you have any art influencers? If so what are they?

Artist: My paint brushes are by far my most important tools, I have a large collection in all shapes and sizes made from different mediums to cover all needs. Although I have some very lovely sable brushes I particularly like a synthetic brush as I like a brush with a bit of spring in it.

Another essential tool I can’t do without is a very old calligraphy pen that I use to apply masking fluid to base artwork for creating texture and highlights to the paintings.

Question: What are your most important tools you use to create your masterpiece?

Artist: I am particularly interest in how artists produced their art works hundreds of years ago. Although I may not always particularly like the subject matter I love to look in detail at the old masters such as Carravaggi, Rembrandt, Canaletto. I am totally in awe of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings, they are truly inspirational in the art of really looking at a subject in detail and accurately conveying what you see to paper.

I am equally transfixed with the vibrancy and attention to detail that Pre Raphaelite painters such as Fredrick Leighton and Dante Gabriel Rossetti exhibited in their artworks, some would say it is all a bit ‘Chocolate box’ and over romantic but fine detail always grabs my attention.

Some may ask where does ‘art’ stop and ‘design’ begin, so I am also drawn to the clever thinking of modern contemporary artists such as Peter Blake, David Hockney and also the visual simplicity of the Pop Artists.

Question: Do you showcase or exhibit any of your work? If so, where can we find your work?

Artist: I regularly exhibit my work at local art shows in an around the home counties, such as Art on the Common (Harpenden) and The Big Art Fair (Hitchin) and have taken part in The Hertfordshire Open Studios. I took part for the first time in the online The Surrey Contemporary Fair earlier this year and will be exhibiting again later this year at the Windsor show too.

I also had the privilege to have an elephant sculpture design chosen for The Big Trunk Art trail which takes place this summer in the centre of Luton.

Question: What are your future plans, and how do you see your career as an artist developing?

Artist: I would like to develop my interest in the processes of the old masters and the ancient Byzantine mosaic artists. With this in mind I’m excited to be creating some collections of work that encompass the old processes. I also feel I need to look at sustainability and how eco friendly my art practice is. Therefore I hope to explore new painting process such as egg tempera and use pure pigment mediums incorporating the old methodologies of centuries ago. 

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