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The British Birds Collection

I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to share a brand new collection of five paintings with you.

The British Birds collection pays is a love letter the birds I see in my garden every day. Some might call them ordinary, but they contribute so much colour, sound and joy to my world, and inspire me to see beauty everywhere I look.

The British Birds Collection (L-R, T-B): Pete & Ann the Blue Tits, Chris & James the Sparrows, Bertie the Blackbird, Russ the Robin, Bethany the Goldfinch

About the British Birds Collection

My love of birds began during the pandemic when I was at home all the time, and I would look out my window and see these lovely little creatures occasionally flitting across the garden. They’d always been there, I’d just rarely noticed. I started to fill my garden with bird feeders and I saw them more and more often. I learned their names, their plumage, their songs. They became a part of my family.

Once I noticed them in my garden, I started to notice them everywhere. They never fail to make me smile, no matter where I am, or what I’m doing. This collection pays homage to the birds that some might call ordinary, but which bring so much colour, sound and joy to the world. I can’t imagine life without them. Not a day goes by when I don’t see these birds, and chances are, you’ve seen them too. You just have to be paying attention.

The paintings in this collection represent the five species of birds that I see most regularly. As we have names for the birds that we see in our garden, so the birds in these paintings have names. Each bird has its own special personality, and it is my hope that I have captured just a bit of it to share with you.

Pete & Ann the Blue Tits

Pete & Ann the Blue Tits

Blink and you might miss them – the blue tits flit in and out, picking up a seed and retreating to a safe place. Luckily, we know they’ll be back soon for another one. Their sunny colours remind us of spring, which is very welcome in mid winter when you see a little streak of blue amid all the bare grey trees.

Chris & James the Sparrows

Chris & James the Sparrows

We can always tell when there are sparrows about – we might not be able to see them, but the cacophony of noise coming from the ash tree leaves us in no doubt that they’re there! These tiny birds are braver than most, and will come down to the deck with birds several times their size for a shot at a mealworm.

Bertie the Blackbird

Bertie the Blackbird

We’ve watched the same pair of blackbirds in our garden for five years. Every day, they perch outside the back door and demand we put out food, especially for them, and every summer, they raise a family and bring their fledglings to the deck to meet us. It’s a privilege to have been adopted by them!

Russ the Robin

Russ the Robin

Robins are for all year round, not just for Christmas. Ours likes to join us when we’re gardening, although his “help” isn’t always very helpful, especially when he’s decided to perch on the lawnmower to show off something tasty that he’s found!

Bethany the Goldfinch

Bethany the Goldfinch

These small and somewhat squeaky sounding birds are always a welcome splash of colour at our feeders. With their bright red faces and yellow wings, you really can’t mistake them for anything else.

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Go Your Own Way (feat. Anne-Marie the Puffin)

This painting came to life when I asked my social media following for a suggestion of what bird to paint and what their message might be. My friend (and at this point also a collector) Anne-Marie suggested I paint a puffin, with the message “You Do You.”

I posted almost hourly updates about the painting in my private VIP facebook group as I created it, which is always fun! The blue background was inspired by water, as I saw puffins in the wild just off the Isle of Sark, and they were bobbing about being all cute.

When the time came to name the painting, I was stumped. There are six puffins in this image, and naming the painting after all of them would have been a mouthful! I chose to name only the one who is pointing in a different direction to all the others, and was inspired by the real-life Anne-Marie to make the message about her journey.

Anne-Marie is an engineer, and a few years ago, took the bold step to go freelance and create her own career, on her own terms. She’s a fabulous and unique human being who brings so much joy and life to those around her, and as a former engineer, I know how hard it can be to own your own space in an engineering environment when you’re not like those around you! She’s truly an inspiration to me to follow my own dreams and be my authentic self.

The short bio of this painting reads:

Go Your Own Way is a painting about choosing your own path. When everyone else is doing the same old, same old, Anne-Marie the Puffin is checking out her options, thinking about what she wants, and forging a path that’s hers and hers alone. How about you?

I hope this painting inspires you to go your own way, to be the architect of your own life, and choose you.

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It’s Okay – Stephen the Seagull

Stephen the Seagull is where this collection began. Stephen is grumpy, and that’s okay. He doesn’t think he should hide his feelings because they might make other people uncomfortable. Stephen says “It’s Okay to express how you feel.”

I was going through some really tough life stuff, and the thought of forcing myself to be positive and paint bright happy birds was exhausting. I went looking for a really grumpy bird, something that would express how I was feeling, and when I landed on Stephen, it was just meant to be. The muted tones, greys and darks are all an expression of anger and frustration, and I just poured it into the painting. Funnily enough, I felt a lot better afterwards.

Stephen the Seagull

It can be hard to express difficult feelings, particularly if you’ve ever been told that you should present a face of “I’m fine” to the world all the time and deal with your problems in private. That can be really isolating. I resonate with Stephen, because he doesn’t have any such worries. He doesn’t stop to think about whether he *should* express his feelings, he just does.

It’s no secret that when you embrace how you are feeling instead of trying to ignore it, the difficult feelings don’t seem quite so bad for as long. Sharing your feelings with people can be intimidating, but the people who love you want to help you. Stephen’s challenge to you is: “Are you embracing and expressing how you’re really feeling right now?”

Stephen is painted in acrylic, india ink, and charcoal, on canvas collaged with coloured papers and wax pastels. He measures 30 x 22 x 1.3 cm. Initially, there will be 6 x 8 inch prints.

You can hear me talking about Stephen here:

@themshed.creative

Stephen the Seagull is GRUMPY and he says “it’s okay to express how you’re feeling.” #birdart #artist #supportsmallbusiness #positivityart

♬ original sound – Robin (they/them)
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It’s Okay – Bobbi the Robin

The “It’s Okay” collection is coming TODAY. I’m so excited that release day is finally here!

This is Bobbi the Robin. Bobbi is loud, and beautiful, and absolutely okay with being a presence unlike any other. Bobbi says: “It’s Okay to stand out.”

Bobbi has a secret – before I started the collage background, I wrote all over the canvas. I wrote all my hopes, and my fears, my frustrations, and things I love about myself. Unashamed and authentic expression is the foundation of this painting. The background is painted the colours of the non-binary flag – it’s not exactly in common usage, but if you know, then you know.

Bobbi the Robin

I spent a very good chunk of my life trying to fit in. I knew I wasn’t like everyone else but I tried to be, because any time I poked my real head up and said something that someone wasn’t expecting, someone had a swipe at me. I wasn’t particularly happy, and to be honest, I wasn’t very good at fitting in either. Eventually, I decided I couldn’t do it any more. I was going to be real, I was going to be me, and if people didn’t like that, tough. I had to accept that there was a *better* life waiting for me if I owned my voice.

When you stop trying to fit in and you accept that you’re just going to stand out, you find you can do things you didn’t realise. You meet other people who aren’t afraid to stand out, and they encourage you to keep going, even when you’re questioning whether you’re strong enough. You find inner strength and a whole new love for yourself, because you learn what you truly value, and you let go of the things that you don’t. I quit a job that I’d been doing for ten years and now I paint birds. It’s been a wild ride, and the only thing I’d change is that I’d have done it sooner.

Bobbi is a painting about my journey, and I hope they inspire you to take the next step in yours. Bobbi’s challenge to you is: “what amazing things are just waiting for you to be brave enough to own your voice and stand out?”

Bobbi is painted in acrylic, india ink, and charcoal, on canvas collaged with Who Gives a Crap? papers, and wax pastels. They measure 30 x 22 x 1.3 cm. Initially, there will be 6 x 8 inch prints, as well as some very fetching greetings cards.

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It’s Okay – Nadia the Waxwing

The “It’s Okay” collection is coming this week!

Nadia has “a resting grump face” – she might look like she’s grumpy about something, but that’s just what her face looks like. She doesn’t care, and nor do any of the other Waxwings (or other birds for that matter). Nadia says “It’s Okay to be who you are.”

I came across Waxwings when I was looking for grumpy looking birds. Unlike the other grumpy birds that are clearly shouting about something, Waxwings naturally look like they’re a bit angry about something all the time. Society so often wants us to present a certain way, but what if you’re not like everyone else? What if you’re super emotional all the time, or you’re not expressive at all? Why should you try and act differently in order to be acceptable to other people?

Nadia the Waxwing

It can be really tough to love yourself when you’re constantly told that you’re supposed to present differently. Here’s a secret – people who want you to change are intimidated by you – they are actually insecure about themselves. They can’t handle people that make them realise they’re not happy with who they are.

When you love yourself exactly as you are, the people who want to change you don’t hang around, and you’re left with the people who love you just as you are. I speak from personal experience! Nadia’s challenge is “are you changing who you are to fit who other people want you to be, when you could just be yourself?”

Nadia is painted in acrylic and india ink, on canvas collaged with brightly coloured papers and wax pastels. She is sitting on a branch of cherry blossoms. She measures 25 x 20 x 4 cm which is a slightly odd size, so there may only be one size of print, but there will be greetings cards.

You can hear me talking about Nadia here:

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It’s Okay – Jeff the Pigeon

The “It’s Okay” collection is coming this week!

This is Jeff the Pigeon. Jeff doesn’t look like all the other pigeons – he’s got a droopy wing and that’s okay. Being different is what makes him special – he’s super memorable because he doesn’t look like everyone else. Jeff says “it’s okay to be different.”

Jeff is painted from a photo I took of a pigeon that visits our garden. Being different doesn’t bother him or any of the other pigeons – he visits with his mate, he eats and flies and potters about our garden like he owns the place. He is accepted. We call all of our pigeons Simon but we gave Jeff his own name because we always know it’s him! (We named him after the character Jeff Winger in the TV series Community.)

Jeff the Pigeon

I LOVE being different – in my previous job as an engineer, I looked so unlike everyone else that if someone heard me ask a question at an event, they’d come and find me afterwards to talk more. It can be hard, but it’s very satisfying!

The power of being different is that people are drawn to you because there’s just that extra something about you. You know you’re not like everyone else, so why should you try to be? Jeff’s challenge is “what is different about you that you’re hiding because you’re worried that people won’t accept you?”

Jeff is painted in acrylic and india ink, on canvas collaged with brightly coloured papers and wax pastels. He measures 31 x 25 x 1.5 cm, and there will be two sizes of prints.

You can hear my talking about Jeff here:

@themshed.creative

Introducing… Jeff the Pigeon. Jeff says “it’s okay to be different.” Being different is your superpower – whar differences are you hiding that you could be embracing? #birdart #positivityart #artist #supportsmallbusiness

♬ Forever – Labrinth
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It’s Okay – Pico the Toucan

The “It’s Okay” collection is coming this week!

This is Pico the Toucan. Pico doesn’t think like other birds, and that’s okay. He asks a lot of questions, like “why are things done the way they are?” Pico says “it’s okay to challenge the status quo.” 

Pico is inspired by a bird from a recent film, and the message of that film is “your worth isn’t defined by what you do, but by who you are.” It took someone really special to stand up and say “the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect all the time is wrong. We need to change the story.” I’ve lived a lot of my life feeling that I was only valued by others when I was achieving things. I might never have changed if someone hadn’t stopped me and said “why do you think that?” Now I can see that lots of people love me just because I’m me, and that’s okay.

Pico the Toucan

Challenging the status quo is really important, because if we never question why we think the way we do, or how we do things, we’re going to miss a lot of wonderful discoveries and all the amazing new stories that are just waiting for us to write them.

Pico’s challenge to you is “where in your life are you giving yourself a hard time because someone says you’re not enough? What status quo is waiting for you to say I’m not going to take this anymore?

Pico is painted in acrylic and wax pastels on a book page collaged canvas. He measures 30 x 23 x 1.8 cm, and there will be two sizes of prints, as well as greetings cards.

You can hear me talking about Pico here:

@themshed.creative

Introducing… Pico the Toucan. It’s okay to challenge the status quo. An explanation of the meaning behind this art. #artist #birdart #positivity

♬ original sound – Robin (they/them)
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Sunflowers for Ukraine

Like many others, I was stunned by the news that Russia were invading Ukraine, and my heart went out to all the people displaced from their homes, losing everything and unsure of what the future might hold. I felt compelled to do something to help, and art is what I’m good at. Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine – in fact, Ukraine is the world’s largest producer of sunflower oil. So as a symbol, it felt right.

I pretty much exclusively paint birds, so flowers were a new challenge. I felt nervous being pushed out of my comfort zone, and that felt right – standing in solidarity with those in pain is about understanding what it means to suffer. I’m in no way comparing my experience to that of Ukrainians, but that constant sense of discomfort kept me grounded to the reason why I wanted to paint the piece.

The background is a collage of wrapping papers from Who Gives a Crap toilet rolls – this is a toilet roll subscription service here in the UK, and the wrappers are lovely – they’ve been donated to me by several people from my village, to whom I am very grateful! I like the subtle nod to the brand – Who Gives a Crap about Ukraine? We do!

The inclusion of Vincent the dunnock was a nod to my own style, but he’s more than that. We have dunnock in our garden – they’re very similar to sparrows in size and shape, but they’re a lot more brown. When they’re hopping about in the undergrowth, you sometimes don’t even see them until they move, because they’re small and they blend in. In my painting, he’s dwarfed by the size of the vase and the flowers. He looks small and lost in an environment that is so much bigger than he is and so different to my garden. This can be interpreted multiple ways, but here are the two that struck me. First is the idea that we as individuals are so small compared to the world around us – it can be so easy to feel overwhelmed by things that are happening that seem to be totally out of our control. Second is the thought that many people in Ukraine are right now feeling lost – they are having to build new lives in places which are unfamiliar, with no idea when they’ll be able to go home.

I intend to sell this image on open edition prints and fairly soon greetings cards too, with 50% of profits from all sales going to the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Donations to this appeal are matched by the UK government. Donations will continue to be made to the fund until it isn’t needed any more – that could be years away. Hopefully, though together our contribution is small, we can make a difference to people in need.

Here are some images of the work in progress.