Artists who offer paws for thought

An exhibition of animal pictures by local artists has opened at Lytham Heritage Centre.'Cheetah by Anne Corless.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'11-9-2012
An exhibition of animal pictures by local artists has opened at Lytham Heritage Centre.'Cheetah by Anne Corless. PIC BY ROB LOCK'11-9-2012
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And the animals went in two by two?

Pictures at the aptly named Ark exhibition at Lytham Heritage Centre have been stopping people in their tracks.

The paintings of animals are so lifelike they have been winning rave reviews from first time art show visitors.

However, the back story of the artists involved in this exotic art collective is equally fascinating.

Take Anne Corless, of St Annes, fine artist, designer and illustrator, medical artist, art demonstrator and writer.

She used to be a midwife – laboured for years helping deliver life in the UK and overseas.

The former registered nurse and midwife had a passion for art but only returned to studies after her youngest child started school.

She qualified first as a natural history and scientific illustrator and then a medical artist.

Now Anne’s also sharing her enduring love of animals through art at the Lytham show which runs until Sunday and has been hailed as 
“unmissable” by critics.

Away from the canvas Anne has been incredibly busy since she opted out of frontline health work in favour of an allegedly “quieter” life.

She now creates artwork for exhibitions and on commission and has appeared on TV with her pet passion – how to draw and paint horses.

Horses feature prominently in the exhibition – particularly since some of the artists were invited to watch the Lancashire Mounted Constabulary go through public order training.

Former sheet metal worker Jimmy Tulloch has produced some outstanding pictures of police horses in full riot gear as has Cleveleys based artist Julie Nash, who also teaches art, and has just written her first book, Ready to Paint Cats and 
Kittens which is on sale at the Ark exhibition.

Jimmy admits: “I found the police horses fascinating. You tend to concentrate on the eyes. Once you’ve got the eyes everything else falls into place – the eyes are the essence of the animal for me.

“I also do commissions of pets, usually from photographs because animals don’t tend to sit well for portraits!

“There’s a big demand for pictures of dead dogs ... 
owners call me because they want some tribute to a beloved pet. If you can get that right you know you’re on the right track because a grieving owner can be a tough critic.”

Jimmy’s son Stuart has inherited his love of art from his father and now runs the Grundy Art Gallery for Blackpool Council in the town centre.

The pair own up to “artistic differences”.

“I tend to prefer paintings,” Jimmy admits. “I’m more of a traditionalist than my son. He tends to go for the avant garde stuff!” Some of the proceeds from sale of police horse prints from the Ark show will go to the Retired Police Horse 
Benevolent fund.

Of course, they are not the only animals on display which includes magnificent wild 
animals, gloriously detailed.

Anne, who is a founder member, trustee and chairman of the Association of Animal Artists, admits: “Quite apart from the subjects we paint the nicest thing is meeting other people.

“In my association work I’ve met artists from all over – and most of them are fantastic.

“Jimmy is an absolutely superb artist, a wonderful artist, and also one of the most genuine characters you could ever meet.

“For my money he deserves to be widely known.”

Anne is helping host the Association of Animal Artist’s 2012 annual dinner in November at the Villa, Wrea Green.

The guest speaker is one of Britain’s best known animal artists Pollyanna Pickering, who travelled into the remotest areas of Tibet in her quest to paint one of the most elusive and beautiful of creatures, the giant panda.

Part of the proceeds will go to her charitable foundation.

She is also about to receive the Simon Combes’ Artists for Conservation award next month in Vancouver.

It’s a coup for Anne who admits: “Twelve years ago I basically took a leap of faith from being a midwife to going to college to improve my skills.

“I knew I had a bit of talent but wasn’t sure how far I could go with it.

“The natural history and scientific design illustration was superb and some really good artists came out of that course.

“But my work as a midwife made me look at medical art too. I was quite an elderly student with the Medical 
Artists Association and it took me a few years to get through that with three kids and a busy husband.

“One thing I’m very keen on is artists learning about business and how to make it work.

“You can spend a lot of time painting pictures but need to keep on top of the cash flow too. I’m also chairman of the Fine Art Guild and foster support through that too. We’re trying to do more in the North West.”

She makes her own living out of commissions and medical art. “I’m doing an obstetric commission – which returns to where it all began.”