What Happens at a Wildlife Safari Sensory Workshop

Last Saturday we held our first Wildlife Safari Sensory Workshop with ‘Wildman’ Stuart Mabbutt leading it.  This was an opportunity for everyone, myself included, to explore the wildlife secrets of Clue Hill Farm.

Warming by the Fire at the Wildlife Safari

Warming by the Fire at the Wildlife Safari

The weather was quite chilly and very windy to start with, which meant that for the first use of our one of our senses: hearing, the dominant sound was that of the leaves rustling in the trees, interspersed with the sound of some very loud chiff chaffs and robins.  Almost to order, a Great Spotted Woodpecker ‘clucked’  as Stuart was explaining how we should slightly disengage our hearing in order to be able to listen to everything around us.

Our woods abut the Woodland Trust woods of Piddington and by a strange coincidence they were holding a bat survey on Friday night.  (We do not fence our boundary between their woods and ours, as this permits the free movement of wildlife).  Despite the poor flying conditions on Friday night, the volunteers, led by Stuart Jenking, the Warden managed to find 38 bats in 4 boxes.  These were: Common Pipistrelle, Natterer’s Brown Eared Noctule bats.  It’s wonderful to know that the Clue Hill pond is the water and insect supply for these nocturnal creatures.

You can install your own bat box in your garden, but remember, once it has been installed, you need to get permission from the Bat Society to remove/relocate it, so that its residents are not disturbed.

Stuart explained how important dead wood is as an insect habitat.  At Clue Hill we like to leave small piles along the woodland edge, some of the larger logs to just decompose and some actually in the pond (half in and half out of the water as it attracts dragonflies and we have these in great abundance in the summer) – just as Stuart suggests we can replicate in our own gardens.

One of the Clue Hill Farm Hay Meadows

One of the Clue Hill Farm Hay Meadows

Our sheep had done a good job grazing throughout the winter and the hay meadow leading up to the woods is now starting to come alive with wild flowers, which all attract butterflies, bees, spiders, millipedes, birds.  Stuart explained that leaving small parts of your garden to go ‘wild’, along with differing lengths of grass will attract butterflies, eg Gatekeepers and Meadowbrowns

The sun then started to shine, looking especially impressive as it came in through the woods creating the beautiful dappled lighting effect.  Stuart commanded silence, so that we could all hear the wonderful birdsong and learn how to relax and engage with all that was around us, explaining how different bird species require different sections of the trees to inhabit.  Leaving the woods undisturbed is an important part of protecting their habitat.

‘That’s Oxford’ TV cameraman Alex visited us and filmed the morning’s activities:


Discovering all of our senses by sitting in the hayfield


Looking and touching the different types of trees in the Clue Hill Wood

Is it Difficult to Draw a Naked Body?

Life drawing, or figure drawing is considered an essential component of an artist’s education. It is the act of drawing the human figure from a living model and the model is always in the nude. A living person has a very different energy to it than an inanimate object.

It is when we engage our right-brain.  It is the side of our brain that enables us to draw, a non-verbal action and takes place mostly outside our conscious awareness.

Life Drawing by Jan Harvey – Creative Green Tutor


It is considered to be essential practice for the aspiring, or professional artist.  It trains your ‘eye’ and your hand.  Often the poses from the model are dynamic ones (short), this means that you have to draw very quickly.  This enables the artist to ‘loosen up’.  It enables your analytical brain to disengage itself and your creative brain starts to become liberated from any restrictions.

What are the benefits of life drawing?

  • Life Drawing teaches you how to see
  • Life drawing teaches you how to draw what you can see
  • Life drawing enables you to develop your own style of drawing

The type of representation is wholly subjective.  It may be highly detailed, anatomically correct interpretations to loose and expressive sketches.  For those new to figure drawing, or those who have not used their skills for some time, it is beneficial to have some guidance.  Jan Harvey shares her experience and knowledge at our al fresco Life Drawing events

What also makes a life drawing class easy to follow and participate in depends very much on the life model being used.  Life models come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Arthur Lowe, the Creative Green life model has been posing for several decades now. The number one criterion though, is the light.  Using the correct type of lighting make a huge difference to the model.  In a studio this will be artificial and can sometimes be quite harsh.  Using an al fresco setting, such as the woods at Clue Hill Farm, ensures a distinct subtlety in the lighting and there will be clear light and shadow patterns and much more of a distinction between light and shadow.  One of the most important skills to learn in figure drawing is the ability to accurately observe light and shadow patterns. This should result in some impressive drawings.

Jan Harvey - Creative Green Tutor - Life Model II

Jan Harvey – Creative Green Tutor – Life Model II

It has been said the ‘drawing the human figure for an artist is like a musician practicing scales’.  All pianists, whatever their ability, practice their scales and this is the same for any artist.  What better opportunity for scale practice than an idyllic woodland setting.  There are not very many locations in the UK where this is available.



How Art helps us to Relax

Everyone has been moved by art at some time in their life, whether they consider themselves to be ‘arty’ or not.  Art is a form of expression and just as it has been created in a specific frame of mind, so can it influence mood when viewed.

Art can also be used as a tool to help people to relax, unwind and take time out from our very busy lives.  When it is translated into our natural surroundings it can have an even deeper influence.  Richard Long, the Land Artist states: ‘I have the most profound feelings when I am walking, or touching natural materials in natural places’.

wood lounge

Clue Hill Farm Woods have been used for all sorts of Installations

What better way to relax than making an effort to let simple creative expression ease out that inner tension and work you into a state of inspired self-possession?

To take time out of a hectic schedule to create a work of art, when you have absolutely no idea where to start, or idea of whether you might even be able to paint, could be quite a challenge for some people.  However, if you were to attend a specially designed course: introduction to watercolours  you will start to feel more comfortable with your own individual artistic style (there is never a right or wrong way with art – just your conviction that this is how you want it to look).  Even better, if you can be inspired by natural surroundings.  Often we look at the nature around us, but rarely do we ‘see’ it.

Pablo Picasso said: ‘All children are artists.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up’

There is an unpredictability and uncontrollable nature of watercolour painting that makes it probably the most exciting and expressive medium in art.  There is the opportunity to wander somewhere between mastery and complete lack of control during the course of a painting and this is what makes it one of the most engaging mediums.   For the first timers, it is useful and insightful to have the benefit of some instruction from a professional tutor, for example: Keith Dunford  who is the tutor used by us at Clue Hill Farm.  The woods, pond and surrounding hayfields provide the most inspirational back drop for any aspiring artist.

‘Life is the art of drawing without and eraser’ John W Gardner