Artist of the week: Laura Ding-Edwards
Based in Herefordshire I am lucky to be surrounded by fields an wildlife on my doorstep, I started working part time two years ago and found I had time to indulge in my need to create. My ability to paint animals was a complete surprise, I have always loved creative activities and I had bought some watercolours after Christmas 2016 to experiment.
I hadn't found anything that had inspired me to pick them up until the end of January when my favourite racehorse, Many Clouds, tragically died. Having rushed into trying to paint him I was frustrated that I couldn't, but I quickly discovered that the movement and vibrancy of watercolour really captured the essence of animals and so I set about starting small, creating simple hummingbirds, flamingos, kingfishers and other wildlife. As I shared my images they became more and more popular and quite quickly I realised people were interested in my work.
In March, a colleague asked if I would paint her Springer Spaniel, Rupert, and I advised her that I would have a go but didn't know if I could do realistic looking animals, as it was very different to what I had been doing! Working from a photograph I was amazed to see Rupert coming to life on the paper - I think I was more shocked than anyone when he came out so well!
I posted onto my Rainbird Roots Facebook page and instantly received requests for more! I hadn't planned or expected to end up creating pet portraits for people, it was something that was totally out of my comfort zone, but it has become the bread and butter of my work and I am currently working at a four to five week lead time. Each commission I get is exciting and challenging - I love to see each individual pet come to life in front of me.
I think the key to a good portrait is all in the eyes - the shape, the markings, the reflection of light and shadow. I often spend the majority of the time it takes to paint on the eyes, getting the expression and colours spot on. Nothing makes me happier than being told by owners that I have completely captured their pet's personality in my work, it's such a lovely feeling knowing I have been able to give them a lasting image.
I would say that I still have a lot to learn, being self taught I am still experimenting with techniques but I like to stay true to my particular style and mantra of "colour, movement, simplicity". I find black animals particularly challenging purely because once you have committed to darker areas it's very hard to lighten them up again if they are too dark. My favourite requests are the really shaggy dogs - they work perfectly with my splattery style and are always really fun to do! Springers are great, Old English Sheepdogs and I recently did an Italian Spinone which came out great - the simpler and messier the better!