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Oxfordshire Artweeks 2020

‘Fantastic Beasts’ Art Trail

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Tash Noel

As today’s Oxfordshire Artweeks trail takes us into the imagination with fantastical animals from the pens and paintbrushes of Oxfordshire artists Esther Lafferty talks to several artists about the wonderful beasts they paint.

From common or garden to the more unusual, a wide array of species catch the eye of professional artist Melanie Charles https://www.artweeks.org/galleries/2020/melanie-charles who takes a modern approach using bold blocks of colour to build her portraits. She particularly enjoys painting different breeds of cattle, from Highlands to Friesians, in her garden studio to a backdrop of birdsong. “Cows are my absolute favourite,” she explains, “They are very inquisitive and so when I am out with my camera, if I catch one’s eye, it will come over to say hello me, and usually the whole herd will follow! They are such gentle giants, although I do tend to stay the other side of the fence! Cows have adorable eyelashes and soft slobbery noses which are great to paint, and I love how each one has different markings giving them their own character. Most Friesians have black noses so finding one with a pink nose is something special!"

With a rainbow of strikingly bright colours as her core palette, Melanie likes to play with both plain and patterned backgrounds and enjoys researching interiors and contemporary colour schemes that are trending each year, and adding animals to her painted ‘wallpaper’ on occasion.

Although Melanie is best known for her farm animals, apparently screeching to a halt on journeys down country lanes if she spots an interesting character over the hedge, expect the occasional surprise – like sleek mackeral and tufted guinea pigs. Her Glittering Prawn Star is undeniably bonkers on a sparkling blue background fit for a cocktail dress, and it must be the first time a shrimp has starred in an Artweeks exhibition! “I welcome the challenge of painting any quirky animal,” she laughs. “Make a suggestion!”

Many of Melanie’s paintings are large, with the impact of the subject itself, like that of handsome Hereford bull called Alan who on a canvas 5 foot by 4 took up two easels. However, for Artweeks her new series of mini originals, nicknamed ‘Diddy O’s, are just 10cm square so visitors can take a hare or a Longhorn away in their handbag!”

For two very different interpretations of animals, both drawn in ink, artists Myrica Jones https://www.artweeks.org/galleries/2020/myrica-jones and Nic Vickery https://www.artweeks.org/galleries/2020/nic-vickery present the delicate ephemeral beauty of local wildlife and their extraordinary power in strikingly opposite styles. Myrica Jones’ large-scale, sculptural animals are themed around the tension between weight, constraint and power. They are drawn in ink, each in a single colour, and the strength of that colour where the lines are denser illustrates where there is tension and force in the figure’s musculature. In contract Nic Vickery’s, alongside quirky animal portraits in soft pastels with characterful clothing, is showing her new delicate pen and ink hares and other wildlife, their shape depicted from wild-flowers.

Here is a timelapse video of Melanie painting below

Click here for more: https://www.artweeks.org/festival/theme/fantastic-beasts-and-other-fairy-tales

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