Friday, 25 July 2014

Wildlife in France

I recently came back from a trip to France with my family. We were staying with my aunt who lives in Bourges, about 40 minutes away from the official centre of the country, which gives you an idea of just how smack-bang in the middle we were! It's a beautiful area with an awful lot to offer and we spent some lovely days visiting various sights, including a walk along the Marais. This literally translates as the swamp but it's certainly far from a swamp, or how I picture one to look! It's a series of waterways that runs for miles through Bourges and surrounding areas, creating little islands of land that are used as allotments. 
It was a bakingly hot day (a max. of 38 degrees!) so there wasn't a huge amount in the way of birdlife. There were several families of coots with chicks at various stages of development; some brand-new and still fluffy and other nearly fully-fledged adults. I also spotted a heron flying across the horizon. 
Most exciting for me though was the pair of little grebes I glimpsed briefly. Although I've seen great-crested grebes before, little grebes were a new one for me so I was quite pleased that I spotted them before they ducked under the water and swam off. I actually heard them before I saw them; they have a pretty distinctive call
Not a great photo but they didn't stick around for the paparazzi!
As I said, it was extremely hot for the entire week and this meant that there were a huge amount of butterflies out and about. I snapped a couple which is an achievement I feel, as they are the most difficult creatures to photograph! They either flutter around so quickly you can barely identify them or, when they land, they close up their wings and hide away their beautiful colours! 
Walking along the marais, I also spotted a beautifully coloured moth which I'd never seen before and had to Google for I.D. The only reason I knew it wasn't a butterfly was because of the shape when it landed. When I had a look online, I discovered that it was in fact a Jersey tiger moth. Another first for me!
Look at that fab pattern!
The other thing I noticed while in France was a huge number of birds of prey in the skies and in the fields. That particular area (Bourges, Sancerre etc.) is very much arable which is very different to the grazing land around us at home. There were buzzards, kestrels, hawks, all sorts!

My favourite moments were sitting in the garden and watching the butterflies in the mornings, although I won't miss the flies over there; they bite!

Featured in Etc. Magazine

If you follow my Facebook page or are one of the few who read this blog, you will know I recently did an interview for Etc. Magazine. Well, the issue I am featured in is now live on their website and the hard copy of the magazine is out soon, and yesterday I got to see the finished piece.

You can read the full interview at this link, just look for pages 109-111. Apart from the rather unflattering photo on the first page (I've never liked my arms!) I'm really pleased with it! The journalist asked for some examples of my work and I sent a large selection over but I never imagined they would include so many pieces. That is a bonus really as it shows a good variety and proves I don't just draw dogs!

I can't wait to get my hands on a hard copy at some point next week (hopefully) then it will feel real. Let me know if you have read the article and what you thought about it!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Exciting news for Miss Magpie Designs!

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from one of the feature writers at Etc. magazine asking whether I would do an interview for them as they were interested in doing a feature on my work.  I'm quite familiar with Etc. (a complimentary magazine that is part of the West Sussex County Times) and have seen some lovely features in previous issues about local artists, craftspeople etc. (ha!) so naturally I was extremely excited to be asked!

As they were aiming for publication in the August issue, it had to happen quite quickly to work with the deadlines so I answered some questions via email then had a photographer visit last week to take some pictures of me at work. The latter was interesting as it meant I had to have a HUGE tidy up of my work space, which is at one end of my bedroom (no studio just yet, maybe one day...)
Quite conveniently, I happened to have a portrait in progress on my drawing board so that made it much easier for me to 'pretend' I was drawing for the photos and I think it will help to show a little of my process in the article. I can't wait to get a copy of the issue and see the piece although I'm quite nervous at the same time; especially having my photo in there! Hopefully it will provide a little local advertising for me as I have a reasonable online presence but not too much locally at the moment.

If you live in the Sussex area, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for Etc. in August and let me know what you think!