Monday, 28 January 2013

Passionate about precision ...

West Sussex, 28 January 2013

Interview with the artist ...


Tony Ladd is an accomplished artist in every sense of the word. From winning his first art competition at the age of nine, Tony has excelled in all areas of artistic expression. Originally trained as an illustrator, and gaining a degree in graphic design at Worthing College of Art and Design, he has expanded his portfolio with photo realistic illustration, woodcarving, sculpture, jewellery and even interior design. His design agency commissions have ranged from high street branding of many famous names, restaurant design, packaging and one-off corporate sculptures.

Wherever and whatever project Tony is working on he has never forgotten the days of growing up on his Grandfather's farm in Ditchling, West Sussex; It was this childhood experience that changed his life forever. With an abundance of wildlife all around him and with his Grandfather's expert knowledge handed down - which included ornithology, flora, fauna, fishing and farming - our native wildlife has proven to be a lifelong passion. Nothing pleased him more than fishing for roach while observing the insects and birds that rewarded him with memorable close encounters any naturalist would be envious of. Tony soon began to identify his surroundings in detail and learn from nature. The ultimate culmination of years of observation, study, design and illustration has led Tony to produce some of the most amazing works of art - all with a firm wildlife theme.

As a trained graphic illustrator and wildlife artist, he finds the painting of unbelievably accurate replica eggs an exciting challenge. Tony says "with nature creating such a wonderful diverse collection of colours and patterning, it is certainly a labour of love recreating these accurately". Finding techniques to mimic the shapes and infinite variety of patterns, culminates in the most astonishing egg replicas that look so lifelike, you would swear they were the real thing.

I must stress, that every egg depicted in the images below is a precision replica ...


The first step in a lengthy pursuit of excellence was to visit the oological collections housed at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH). Once this data collection process had been completed, his 2D sketches were transformed into aluminium master egg shapes on a pattern makers lathe. From these master eggs, silicone moulds were then poured to form a female mould master for the pouring process. The eggs are made from a special moulding plaster re-enforced with fibre-glass particles for increased strength. Once the eggs have been poured and removed from the silicone moulds the real work begins. Each egg is first drilled with a tiny hole which enables Tony to hold and secure the egg whilst painting; this is usually done with a cocktail stick. Having studied the eggs of most of Britain's birds, Tony is aware of not only the correct colours for each egg but also on the finish i.e. shiny, matt, or to coin a phrase 'eggshell finish'. This is important in obtaining a true replica as Tony says “I have seen a whole host of replicas which not only look like they were painted with an emulsion brush but have had a high gloss finish coat which just makes them look so unlifelike”. Tony uses a number of different ways to achieve the perfect replica including airbrushing, sponging and, although painting with the tiniest of brushes, he has even been known to use a whisker from his Bengal cat to achieve the minutest of squiggles.

The completed collections are mounted into bespoke cases in either dark mahogany or light beech finish. The eggs are all listed by their field and scientific names and finished with a gold plaque with the family name on the front edge of the case. As a thank you to OUMNH, Tony donated a set of Birds of Prey eggs to the Collections Manager (Zoology) who said, "behind glass it was almost impossible to tell the replicas from the real thing - the best I've ever seen", a great endorsement if ever it was needed.

Tony has also produced a fabulous range of limited edition, lithographically printed, photo realistic prints, where he has been fundamental in the production of every stage of the print process.



















The distressed background colour of each print has been selected to mimic the natural hues and tones of nature, and to maximise the wonderful diversity of the eggs colourings. Each print is signed and numbered and has been stamped with an embossed seal of authenticity. The plates are destroyed at the completion of the print run. Tony was adamant that the quality of these prints exceeded anything in the marketplace today; an achievement that I genuinely believe he has surpassed.

He is currently working on a new and very exciting project which, for now, must remain under wraps.

Watch this space …

Tony can be contacted at www.tonyladdart.com

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Festival of exotica ...

RHS Wisley, 21 January 2013

Butterflies in the Glasshouse (12 January – 24 February 2013)

“Escape winter's chill and set hearts a-flutter with a visit to Butterflies in the Glasshouse. Enjoy the sight of exotic butterflies and the beauty of a world class tropical plant collection in this special experience, guaranteed to banish the winter blues. Wander underneath palms and watch the butterflies take part in courtship flights and feed from plant nectar and fruit. Butterflies in the Glasshouse is perfect for children of all ages. 'Awe-inspiring' and 'spectacular' are just some words used to describe the event by the hundreds of families who visit every year. For children, it's a chance to see these beautiful creatures in their 'natural' surroundings and understand where they come from.”

I thought I’d take a closer look …

The early to mid eighties found me working abroad in West Africa. Time spent in The Gambia and both northern and southern Nigeria, provided me with opportunities to observe and capture the beauty of many tropical species. Sadly, I have few photographic memories of the insects I discovered. Time then was spent in the bush armed with just a net to capture my prize followed by release after observation. I remember those years quite clearly and visits to butterfly houses always reignite my passion for tropical species, first sparked after visiting Worldwide Butterflies in Brighton in the late sixties (my parent’s still have that small case of three tropical specimens (Troides aeacusPapilio horishanus and the beautiful Urania ripheus), though now looking rather sad and somewhat faded. Although many tropical species are undoubtedly quite stunning, in my opinion, you can’t beat the magnificence of our own entomological fauna. As my good friend Neil Hulme once said, “Lovely as they are you can't beat an English Purple Emperor, spread-eagled on a woodland ride on a warm July evening”.

I’ll certainly second that …

For those that haven't visited I highly recommend a trip, though do allow time for your camera equipment to acclimatize. As you would expect, it is very hot and humid in the glasshouse so do take a cold drink with you and dress sensibly if you are planning to stay for any length of time.

I hope to go again so maybe see you there …