Not Vegan, Love Animals

There’s so much hype around veganism at the moment. Every restaurant menu totes about offering ‘vegan this’ ‘vegan that’ ‘vegan wine’ etc. Cosmetic shops are telling us to ‘shop vegan’ by buying brushes made of synthetics instead of animal hair. Never mind that synthetic generally = plastic = more bad news for our oceans.

I’m not here to shame anyone or criticise, as there are some good points about eating a vegan diet: we can all admit we need to eat less red meat and processed food, and yes, the meat industry is undoubtedly cruel. But shoving our bodies full of synthetics and not eating meat and animal-based products is basically doing this:


By not eating meat and animal products, you’re not stopping your neighbour from eating them. You’re not stopping that same number of cows being sent to the production line: why? Because the meat industry isn’t about you.

The problem with the industry is precisely because it isn’t about you, or me. It’s about everyone. Global consumption. A few hundreds of individuals choosing not to consume these products will not make a dent in the multi-billion dollar industry (which is expected to exceed $800 billion within the next year or so).

Instead of the false presumption that you not eating the egg stops the hen from suffering (and producing a dozen other eggs for the supermarket, no doubt to go out of date, and then to be discarded/wasted), presume that you not eating the egg makes no difference.


If you want to make a difference, read books like Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. Get in touch with the big meat heads, and tell them to change their methods. Be a vegan if you want: but don’t make it your beck and call unless you’re actually willing to do more than just make yourself feel better. It should be about changing the world empire that is the meat industry, in three ways:

– reducing our addiction to red meat. Beef needs ten times more grazing and production land than poultry, so by simply shifting our meat-eating needs away from beef, we’ll be saving vast areas of land from destruction. Instead, this newly freed land could be used to grow crops to feed the third world, instead of growing enough crops to feed enough animals to feed us.

– changing our attitude towards animals. Animals are sentient beings: they deserve respect and dignity in life, and even in death. If they must be killed, let’s make it quick and painless, and let’s not let them live in filth, pain and poverty in the months/years leading up to it. We do not live in a perfect world. Dogs are fought in pits on the street, cats are still drowned, horses are still abused and left out to dry after their racing careers are over, bulls are massacred in bullfights. Human beings are meat eaters – so are our closest living relatives. We shouldn’t not eat meat, but we should do it responsibly.

– learning to grow meat artificially, and safely. It’s already begun and I’m hoping it will be widely available to the masses within my lifetime. With current technological advances, I’m certain it will be. If we can continue to enjoy the taste of meat, the protein and vitamin benefits (Vitamin B12, anyone?), without having to kill any animals, that may be a more perfect world than we live in today. No more livestock would mean almost 40% of the world’s land available to re-populate (but, let’s not, I think there’s enough of us already), re-cultivate, or simply open back up to wildlife.

But what about all the cows? Would we introduce domestic cattle, sheep, pigs etc back into the wild? Start breeding them with wild species, start introducing them slowly? Leave them to fend for themselves? I ask you, is that ethical? Is that fair?


Livestock photos © Grey Feather Photography


Painting the Night Sky

It might be mid winter, but in Malta, we’re pretty lucky with our long hours or sunlight, mild winters and relatively steady climate. What this island is unfortunately not very good for is stargazing, as there’s far too much light pollution – apart from in a few hard-to-get-to places – to see anything more than Polaris and the moon.

So perhaps it’s strange that I decided to paint the night sky. I’ll admit, sadly none of my paintings are painted from subjects I’ve been able to see or paint myself, but there’s a wealth of source material to use.

The challenge with painting the night sky, particularly in watercolours, is getting the right amount of depth and contrast, not easy! But after 2 years of painting the subject, I’ve come up with a few tips for painting a successful night sky scene.

Observe the sky as much as you can during the day particularly if, like me, you have nothing to look at during the night. Watch shifting clouds, changing light, how the sky transforms from powder blue to that deep, deep enveloping blue.


Take plenty of photos (again, in my case, I’m restricted to daylight/sunset/sunrise) as you’ll be surprised just how many colours there are that you don’t immediately see. Again, these observations will be useful for later night scenes.


Don’t use black paint. The only time I use black paint for a cosmic painting or a night sky is when I prepare a black acrylic base, upon which I’ll then paint my oils. Black looks to flat, and too dull. By all means, mix a touch of black into your deepest blues and create a ‘vignette’ edge to the piece, which will help create a greater sense of depth as well as draw the eye in.


Use many cool and deep tones, and warm colours. There are so many different moods you can create!


Use salt, for some really interesting ‘cloudy’ textures!

Unfortunately, the next time I’m feeling inspired, I won’t be able to look at more than a few little twinkling white dots from my roof, however, if I stop to think about it, those tiny twinkling balls are endlessly complex, fascinating, and inspiring all by themselves.


Penguin Awareness Day

We call ourselves animal lovers, but, we have to admit, there are far fewer of us that love cockroaches than furry, four legged bundles and beats. And seeing as today is #PenguinAwarenessDay, I thought I’d talk a bit about one of my personal favourite species, and why they do (and do not) appear in my art often.

January is an important time for penguins, as it’s mid summer in Antarctica the cute little Emperor penguin chicks are now fat, gangly, moulting teenagers. While they enjoy some much needed sun, their trip to the sea to fatten up is now much shorter. Summer won’t last long, and soon it’s time to start all over again!

I had the pleasure of encountering penguins a number of times, however, never in the wild: the closest I got were puffin sightings in Anglesey, Wales. But the few times I saw them in bird parks and zoos, I was amazed by their comical waddle, their curiousity, and how odd they feel – a mixture between a hard rubber tyre and soft leather, would be the best way to describe it.

The African or ‘Jackass’ penguin, in Madrid’s Zoo Aquarium

My love of penguins extends to some watercolours and a few accessories, too!

‘Cosmic Penguins’ from my Cosmic Nature series, and my favourite avian scarf!

Few animals are as resilient as penguins. From chinstrap penguins being mercilessly hurled onto the rocks, being pummeled by the full force of the Southern Ocean as they fight to get to their chicks, to the desperate struggle of female emperors to adopt chicks if their own have perished. Perhaps no other animal sees less sunlight per year, too. And living under temperatures below -50 degrees Celsius, I believe that penguins deserve their credit. They are just one of the many species that are going to be effected by ice sheet melt, plastic-riddled oceans and global warming.

For the love of penguins, send them a thank you card!

Penguin-themed greeting cards and products available at Redbubble

(Re-blog) Politics Aside: We Must All Be Mothers of Nature — Kim Steutermann Rogers

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead Late last year, at the same time the Presidential election results shook the nation, the majestic Laysan albatross started returning to Kaua‘i. They dropped their spatula-like feet and touched […]

via Politics Aside: We Must All Be Mothers of Nature — Kim Steutermann Rogers

Five Inspiring Documentaries for Artists

Inspiration. Sometimes, it comes to us in bucket loads, while other times it can seem as elusive as rainfall in Malta’s winter. But there are plenty of ways to kick start your brainstorming, by getting out in nature, reading a good book, or perhaps learning a new skill. When I’m not feeling particularly energetic, but I’m looking for a fix of inspiration, I’ll often turn to my favourite documentaries. Below, I’ve mentioned five of my favourites that I feel every artist should watch.

First Life, by David Attenborough

I could have listed all of Attenborough’s documentaries here, but there’s something extra special about this one. Nothing is more inspiring to me than trying to understand just how vast time is, and how the processes of evolution work together with the changing environment. From fractal proto-animals like Charnia (below) to the stunning Trilobites, you’ll surely get inspired by unique, abstract forms and the stunning scenery.


Other Attenborough top picks: Life in the Freezer, Frozen Planet, Planet Earth II, Life Story, The Hunt, The Life of Plants.

Wonders of the Solar System by Brian Cox

This series, along with the Wonders of the Universe and Stephen Hawking’s Genius kicked off my love affair with the Cosmos and started my Cosmic Nature paintings. Never has complicated physics, destruction, beauty and chaos been described so eloquently and with such beauty. What’s great about these episodes is that they explain theories and ideas so clearly that you feel a little smug just for watching  and understanding them. The visuals are simply stunning, too.


Last Chance to See with Stephen Fry & Mark Cawardine

This charming collection chronicles English writer/comedian/actor/activist Stephen Fry’s journey across the world with wildlife photographer and friend Mark Cawardine to visit some of the rarest creatures on the planet, following in the footsteps of Douglas Adams’ book and series made 20 years previously. From the sad failure to find the Baji river dolphin (a subject I also painted) to the touching tale of the Kakapo (oh, another one I painted) this documentary is full of joy, hope and adventure.

Image result for mark carwardine and kakapo
I highly recommend reading Douglas Adams’ book, too.

Modern Masters with Alistair Sooke

Well, there should be an art documentary on my list, and this is one of those that gave me a new appreciation of Picasso. This particular four-part series chronicles the life and works of Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse (the end of this is extremely moving), Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso and features a good balance of storytelling, embellishing and historical accuracy. Though I wouldn’t call Andy Warhol a master, but perhaps that’s for another blog…

Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, France

The Story of God with Morgan Freeman

Whilst I’m not a religious person, this documentary is beautifully narrated and discusses many issues that are important to humanity as a whole, and to us as individuals, whether we’re spiritual or not. From understanding creation to the meaning of life, death, the Apocalypse and more, this is a fascinating insight into world religions, beliefs and culture.


What do you watch when you’re looking for inspiration? Are you more of a film buff? Let me know in the comments!