Why £71 Billion Is Not Enough

This week the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the creative industries  are now worth over £71billion to the UK’s economy per year. That’s a staggering £8million per hour! Which is fantastic, of course, and is rightly being celebrated. Growth of almost 10% was achieved by the creative industries in 2012, outperforming all other sectors of UK industry. Employment in the creative industries increased by 8.6 per cent between 2011 and 2012, a much higher rate than for the UK Economy as a whole (0.7%). The government’s new Create UK scheme aims to double the value of exports from the creative industries to £31bn by 2020.

Yet at the same time the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD) brought out their report which said, among other conclusions, that art subjects in schools are undervalued, talented pupils are being discouraged from taking art subjects in favour of more academic subjects, less able pupils are being pushed towards art subjects, opportunities for pupils to meet creative practitioners or engage with original art are being reduced, and CPD for art staff is minimal.

I can’t be the only one to see a staggering disconnect here. How are we ever supposed to significantly increase growth in the creative industries if we discourage future practitioners from taking the subjects in the first place? It’s ridiculous to despise creativity in school and then champion it in the workplace.

For me, the most depressing part of all of this is that nothing seems to have changed in the thirty years since I was at school. Have we learned nothing in that time? Talented pupils being discouraged? Check. The less able being sent to (disrupt) the art class instead of the academic subjects? Check. No opportunities to meet creative practitioners? Check.

Can you imagine a situation where we actively discouraged keen scientists from taking science classes? Or “You’re good at maths, but it’s not a suitable subject. You’d better take history instead.” It would be risible. Yet that situation happens over and over again to teenagers who want to study art. When choosing O Level options, I had to have a special meeting with the head teacher in order to be allowed to take art. No student should have to plead or fight to be able to take their best subject.

How many working hours have been spent by creative people finding their way back to the careers they always wanted? What if those hours were spent doing the job they were passionate about? Couldn’t we have achieved more than £71 billion if that were the case?

I HAVE A DREAM. How about we actively encourage the pupils who are talented at art subjects? We give them opportunities to develop their skills and expand their horizons.  We bring creative practitioners into schools, so teachers and pupils can be inspired by the varieties and possibilities of creative careers. We stop making adequate geographers, mathematicians, lawyers, nurses, mechanics, caterers, administrators etc. out of people who could have been outstanding in the creative industries.

Talented pupils have, for decades, been discouraged from studying art in schools. If the result is growth in the creative industries 6x faster than the wider UK economy, what heights can we reach when talent is nurtured, educated and encouraged from the outset? We must stop this culture of negativity around art education, and start building a workforce that is talented, trained and engaged. Then we can really hit the heights.

£71 billion? Not nearly enough.

DCMS announcement

NSEAD report



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The Wildlife Artist’s Handbook – Update

Lately I’ve been busy promoting The Wildlife Artist’s Handbook on various internet sites. It suddenly dawned on me that the one place I haven’t talked about it since publication… is on my own blog. *FAIL*

Front cover designNever mind, I can rectify that now. The book was published right at the end of 2013, but fortunately just in time for me to get the Christmas orders out. Waiting for the consignment to arrive was a nail-biting time, because the ship bringing the books from the printer to the UK was delayed en route. Every week the publication date seemed to be pushed back, until it seemed that publication might not even happen until 2014. Thankfully, after a few heart-stopping moments, everything was resolved in time and the book was published in December.

I was so excited to hold my own books in my hands at last, and really thrilled with the result of two years of hard work. Even better is the response I’ve had from other artists. Those who kindly supplied images of their work for the book, have been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve been so happy to hear comments such as “It’s a brilliant book”, “I’m so pleased to be associated with your book” and “You’ve done a fantastic job” from my peers. Artists were very generous with lending their work, so I’m very glad they feel the result was worthwhile.

Perhaps more importantly though, is the feedback from the buyers themselves. My aim was for the book to be useful, and certainly both verbal and written feedback has proved I succeeded. Of the eight reviews so far on Amazon, seven have given it the 5* top rating, and one person who was buying the book for a relative gave it 4*. (You can see the reviews on the book’s Amazon page.) Not only has the text proved useful, but many people have told me how much they have enjoyed the images.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so maybe the most telling statistic is that the Handbook’s sales figures. It sold double the first year’s sales target in just the six months following publication. No wonder the publishers say they are “delighted”!

So that’s a very positive start. I have signed copies available, and the book is on sale at the usual online and High Street retailers. (Even W H Smith, the only big name not to stock it initially, has done a U-turn and now has it available.) If you don’t have a copy yet, perhaps it’s time to treat yourself. Go on, you deserve it.



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Society of Wildlife Artists 50th Anniversary Exhibition

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern

This week is Private View week. You know how it is, none for ages and then two come along together. Today it’s the Lloyd’s Art Group exhibition, where I’m exhibiting seven works. This is my first year with the group, so I’m excited to see how it all unfolds. The Lloyd’s Art Group exhibition is open 10.30am – 4pm, Monday 28 October – Friday 1 November 2013.

Tomorrow is The Society of Wildlife Artists 50th Anniversary Exhibition private view at the Mall Galleries. Sadly I didn’t enter the SWLA this year, as the hand-in dates clashed with my teaching in Scotland. Never mind, I’m keen to enter next year, and I’m sure I’ll be even more motivated after tomorrow afternoon. Many of the SWLA artists kindly agreed to my using their images in The Wildlife Artist’s Handbook, so I am much looking forward to seeing their new work. The SWLA exhibition is open 10.00am – 5.00pm, Thurs 31 October to Sunday 10 November.

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Bird Name Quiz – the Answers

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… (insert drum roll here)…. here are the answers to last week’s Bird Name Quiz.

  1. Starling
  2. Long-tailed Tit
  3. Sparrowhawk
  4. Kestrel
  5. Nightingale
  6. Shelduck
  7. Woodpigeon
  8. Redstart
  9. Fieldfare
  10. Dunnock

If you like puzzles, especially those with a wildlife theme, check out my Mindbender Puzzle ebooks http://www.jackiegarner.co.uk/wildlife-art-eBooks.htm. They’re absolutely free, so you have nothing to lose… except your cool!Redstart

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Bird Name Quiz

Delving in the loft the other day I came across some of my father’s old books. Amongst them was an absolute gem, handed down from my grandmother’s family. Published in 1890, it is titled Glossary of Dialect and Archaic Words used in the County of Gloucester.

Chaffinch Many of the words relate to the county’s agricultural heritage and, to my delight, there are numerous mentions of bird, animal and plant species.

Some of them came about very obviously, based on colour or sound. Anyone who has ever listened to a Chaffinch will immediately understand when the name “Pink” came from. “Witwall” is rather harder to understand. How that represented a Great Spotted Woodpecker is open to conjecture.

Prize for the most names goes to the Green Woodpecker, which rejoices under the names of: Eckle, Equal, Equaw, Eeckwall, Hakel, Heckle, Hickwall, Laughing Betsy, Wood-spite, Yaffel and Yuckel.

Just for fun, here are ten bird species, listed only by their dialect names. Can you guess the ten species?

  1. Black Steer, Stare, Steer
  2. Mumruffin, Poke pudding, Oven-builder, Underground Oxeye
  3. Blue Hawk
  4. Brown Hawk
  5. Oodle, Woodwail
  6. Burrow-duck
  7. Quice, Zoo-zoo
  8. Firebrand, Firetail
  9. Felt, Veldwer, Vildyveer, Vilt, Velt
  10. Blue Isaac, Chubby, Haysuck, Hayzick

All are well-known species, and all were/are seen in Gloucestershire.

Answers next week.

Don’t forget, the most comprehensive book of birds in Gloucestershire ever produced is now available, and features ten of my illustrations. http://www.jackiegarner.co.uk/birds-of-gloucestershire.htm


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The Birds of Gloucestershire

Barn OwlThose of you who came to Bird Fair will have seen that I had a display on my stand about the forthcoming book The Birds of Gloucestershire.

Earlier this year I was approached to produce some of the illustrations for the book, and I subsequently painted ten monochrome watercolours. I was given a list of the required species and was able to choose which ones I wanted to do. I chose: Barn Owl, Dipper, Lapwing, Little Egret, Nightjar, Peregrine, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Red Kite and Wren. As a lifelong Gloucestershire resident and birdwatcher, I felt an emotional connection with all of them.

The editors asked if I would devote a little of my stand space at Bird Fair to a display about the book. I was happy to oblige, especially when I saw some of the sample layouts, colour photographs, and other artwork by such luminaries as Sir Peter Scott, Robert Gillmor and Keith Shackleton. The designers and contributors have done a great job.

During Bird Fair two of the book’s designers (www.bbr.uk.com) visited my stand and were able to show me the page layouts of “my” species. They also showed me a comparable book so I could see the quality of materials. The Birds of Gloucestershire is going to be a really beautiful book!

It will be a large book too, with over four hundred pages and a 34mm spine, which must go some way to justifying the £45 RRP. Rest assured though, it’s currently available for a mere £20 +p&p as a pre-publication offer. You’ll need to act quickly though, as the current offer only lasts until 2 September. So if you picked up a leaflet at Bird Fair, don’t delay – and if you didn’t, here’s a downloadable version of the flyer: Gloucestershire Birds.

Later this year there will be a book launch and an exhibition of the artwork at Nature in Art. Watch this space for details.


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The Birdwatcher’s Yearbook 2014

I’ve been a great fan of The Birdwatcher’s Yearbook for over twenty-five years, so I’m thrilled to have been chosen to paint the cover image for the 2014 issue. Past artists include Chris Rose, Peter Partington and John Threlfall. The only difficulty has been keeping the painting under wraps until the publisher Buckingham Press Ltd, was ready to release it.

The brief was to paint a pair of birds, with one looking directly at the viewer, in any medium and style. The format had to be square, and the painting had to be at least twice the size of the reproduction. I could choose any species from the British List, providing my chosen species hadn’t been used as a cover image before.

I had a few species on my short list but decided to choose Smew, as it’s a bird I love to see and a popular one with many birders. So without further ado, here’s the painting…

Smew Pair

… and here’s how it looks as the cover image

BYB14 cover mock-up

The Yearbook is an indispensible guide for birders, containing ornithological news, tide times, nature reserve information, bird clubs contact details, sightings checklists, book and website reviews and much, much more. See more details here: The Birdwatcher’s Yearbook

The Yearbook will be published in October 2013, and I’ll be showing the painting at Bird Fair 2013.

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Bird Fair 2013

It’s nearly time for the British Birdwatching Fair (aka Bird Fair)…. for the twenty fifth time. Can it really be the 25th anniversary? A lot of water under the bridge, and a lot of money raised for conservation – over £2,000,000, to date.

A previous year's display.

A previous year’s display.

As usual, I’ll be in the Art marquee, on Stand 50 & 51, with a display of artwork, prints and puzzles, and a small display about two new books: the Birds of Gloucestershire and The Wildlife Artist’s Handbook. Plus I’ll have my cover illustration for The Birdwatcher’s Yearbook 2014 on display.

As well as art, there will be competitions, talks, trade stands, cruises, and an auction taking place, all nestling in the glorious scenery of Rutland Water. If you love the countryside, it’s certainly the place to be.

One of my favourite parts of BirdFair is painting the mural. More than forty artists take part over the three days, with each of us choosing a couple of species to paint. This year the theme is American Grasslands, and I’ll be painting Scarlet Ibis and Prairie Falcon. There’s a real camaraderie amongst the artists, and it’s great to see the mural taking shape during Bird Fair. For some artists the only time they ever paint in acrylics is on the mural, and for the sculptors it may be the only time they ever paint.

The best part of Bird Fair though is the chance for like-minded people to meet up, have a great time and raise money for conservation. It’s a really happy fair: fun, informative and friendly. You can’t ask for more than that.

Do come and say hello if you are coming to the Fair. Here’s the link to plan your visit:

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The Wildlife Artist’s Handbook

I know I’ve been away for a while, but now… I’m back! The reason, as you’ve probably guessed, is that I’ve been super-busy writing and illustrating the Wildlife Artist’s Handbook, while keeping up with all my other projects. It’s finally with the publisher, going through all the tweaks necessary before the official publication day. Anyway, I though I’d update you with the book’s final incarnation, as it has evolved somewhat during its short life.

Front cover designThe Wildlife Artist’s Handbook is a practical guide to wildlife art. Originally commissioned as a How to Draw and Paint Wildlife guide, it soon became apparent that something different was required. After all, there are already plenty of How To books available. It was time for a new approach. My belief was that a handbook would give a more complete picture (no pun intended) of the wildlife art genre, so here is the new structure.

Firstly, wildlife art is set in context, by looking at the rich heritage of wildlife portrayal in art history – (a great excuse to show some fabulous artwork from cave paintings to the present day). Next the book keeps faith with the original concept, giving practical drawing and painting techniques. Wildlife doesn’t exist in isolation, so a chapter on fieldcraft and working outdoors follows on.

It helps to be aware of what goes on beneath fur and feather, so a look at the basic structure of birds, animals, insects and fish is the next chapter. Although the science is important, the purpose of wildlife art is to produce a piece of art, so a chapter on composition helps readers to communicate their visions to the viewers. Wildlife artists use a range of media, so a chapter about print-making and sculpture suggests the breadth of the genre while providing inspiration for future possibilities.

In these days of digital images, it makes sense to include photography. Some readers will choose to work from photographic reference, while to others it is an anathema, yet most of us have to cope with photographing our work and submitting images to competitions, websites and blogs. We all need to keep abreast of the laws of copyright. The photographic chapter covers all of this, beyond the scope of the How To books.

The final chapter helps the reader to establish their art according to their own interests, and looks at pricing work, undertaking commissions, exhibiting and using social media to connect with other artists and collectors. The concept of this chapter is to support the reader as they gain in confidence of their art skills and start sharing their work with a wider audience.

The Appendix lists organisations (with website addresses) around the world, where wildlife art can be seen and studied. A Further Reading list offers suggestions for books on both the practical and aspirational aspects of wildlife art.

Ultimately, The Wildlife Artist’s Handbook is a book that acts as a companion to the reader as they progress from the first tentative drawings of a moving subject, to being confident enough to share their work with a local, and then global, audience. It is a dual purpose book, offering practical advice, and showcasing wildlife art from history and from thirty contemporary professional artists. Whether or not the reader picks up a pencil, they will enjoy the inspiring images from this beautiful book.

The Wildlife Artist’s Handbook comprises 55,000 words and 250 images. RRP £16.99.
Publication date: 25 November 2013, but available for pre-order now. http://www.jackiegarner.co.uk/wildlife-art-books.htm

If you’d like further information about The Wildlife Artist’s Handbook please contact me: artist@jackiegarner.co.uk.

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How to Build an Art Collection on a Budget

Yesterday I tweeted excitedly about my preparations for BirdFair (I’m exhibiting along with many other wildlife artists in the wonderful Art Marquee). Someone responded that visiting the art marquee could be very expensive. Now, it’s not clear whether they meant that they were bound to succumb to temptation, or that they expected the art on display to be expensive, or something else. But it got me thinking – can you build an art collection on a budget? And if so, how?

The answer, you’ll be glad to know, is yes. And here’s how:

1. Contemporary art is often cheaper than you’d think.
The price of the latest pieces from the likes of Hirst and Emin is always hitting the headlines, but in reality most original art is priced in tens and hundreds rather than thousands. For example, at the recent NEWA exhibition, the selling prices of hundreds of pieces of original art started at around a hundred pounds.

2. Follow your favourite artists on social media or check out their websites regularly.
Sometimes artists have promotions or sales. Keep up with what they’re doing and where they’ll be, and you could be in the right place at the right time to snap up a bargain.

3. Christmas gifts.
If you see a piece you really like, why not get family members to club together towards a Christmas or birthday gift (or both) for you. You’ll get the piece of your dreams and they’ll love knowing that they gave you a unique gift that you’ll really treasure. Be sure to invite them round when it’s in pride of place!

4. Payment plan.
Ask about spreading the cost of a piece or artwork. Artists understand the realities of a recession as well as anyone, and above all they’ll want their artwork to go to a good home. Suggest paying over a few months and you’ll get the piece you want and they’ll know their painting went to the right person. Win: win!
(NB Look out for my future post on UK gallery instalment plans)

5. What’s on.
Check out the ‘What’s On’ sections of websites and local press. If there’s a local art sale you can bet it’ll be promoted in the Press, and there’s a strong possibility there’ll be a bargain to be had.

6. Check out your local flea markets and boot sales.
We’ve all seen the programmes where someone arrives with a grubby piece and proclaims “My Mum bought it at a boot sale for £5” and it turns out to be an early Picasso or a Ming vase. You’re left wishing it could be you. Well, it could!

7. Signed limited edition prints.
If you can’t afford originals, signed limited edition prints make a great alternative. With the giclee print method, the quality is excellent and colours are lightfast so you can go on enjoying your print for years without fear it will fade.

8. Raffles
Charity raffles sometimes include paintings or prints. Buy some tickets and you could end up with an original for just a few pounds’ outlay. If you don’t win, at least you’ll know you’re helping a good cause.

9. Buy unframed.
If you can’t afford the framed original, why not consider an unframed piece now that you can frame later?

10. Follow up & coming artists.
Consider investing in unknown and up & coming artists (providing you love their work, of course). Not only is their work cheaper than their famous cousins, but you might find in a few years time that their work has gone stratospheric and you’ve made a canny investment. Sound good?

11. Set aside a budget, any budget.
Plan a budget every year for an art piece. It may be only a few pounds, or if you get a sudden windfall, it could be a more. But just by allocating a budget every year you’ll be able to indulge your love of art without feeling guilty. And you get all the fun of planning what to add to your growing collection.

12. Know your art.
Spend time at galleries and exhibitions. Not only will you have a great time, but you’ll get to know the market, and be better equipped to spot a bargain when the opportunity arises.

Owning original art shouldn’t be the province of only the rich. In the words of Hedy Lamarr: “A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires.”

Happy collecting!

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