Cathy’s Story…..

We asked if Cathy would write about her Polar Bear painting for our college news blog and we were thrilled to receive Cathys text below. I hope that you find it inspiring and also enjoy the Polar Bear painting too, see if you can see the fish!


By Cathy Heritage (Pet Portraits Diploma D5)

I was delighted to be asked to write this blog for one of my pictures on the Pet Portrait course. The brief was for a “modern and contemporary” picture with a dynamic and interesting composition. It could be looking up or down at the animal or at an unusual angle. The brief also said to experiment with background colours.

I have always wanted to paint a picture of a polar bear, particularly when I see them on TV nature programmes. They are such fascinating animals living in such cold, icy conditions. I also thought it would be challenging to paint a cream coloured animal on a snowy background. I found the photo which I used for the picture in a book on the Arctic. The photo has a copyright and so is only to be used as a practice piece for my course at London Art College.

I initially drew out the polar bear in the same position as it was in the photo but quickly realized that the composition was very vertical down the centre of the page, with very little on either side. So I decided to turn the whole bear slightly to one side with the water hole in the corner of the picture rather than the centre, which gave it a more dynamic feel.

For this particular set of 3 pictures on the course, each one had to be in a different medium. I chose oil paints, which I have never used before, as I felt this would give strong, opaque colour which I would need to bring out the polar bear on the snow. I used Artisan water-mixable oils which I found very easy to use as they are so blendable. The whole picture took several days to complete but I found that each time I came back to it, the paint was still soft and usable in the palette, and also that I could still blend areas on the canvas that needed more work or detail. I have never tried oils in the past as I have been put off by the smell of oils and turps, but the water-mixable oils have no smell at all and my brushes were easily washed with water. It is a medium I will definitely be trying again.

The bear was relatively easy to paint but I found the snow much more difficult. In the photo the snow background was very white with little tonal contrast or shadows. I had to decide where my light source would be and try to place the shadows accordingly. I gave the snow a much more blue/purple colour to provide interest and tone. I also painted the water a richer blue/green colour than in the photo which was very dark. Finally, I decided to paint a fish deep in the water so that it didn’t take one’s eye away from the bear but so that it gave the bear a focus for why he was looking down – waiting for his lunch!

I enjoyed painting this picture and trying out a new medium, and was even more pleased when I received Melanie’s critique and the fact that she felt it told a real story.

Cathy Heritage – Pet Portraits Diploma (D5)

London Art College Winners story….

Sara Wendy Olivia, who is currently studying the portraiture course, came second in our Annual London Art Competition.  Sara Wendy has very kindly sent us some wonderful photos, text and a link to a You Tube video of her exhibition to explain a little about her painting, the background behind it and how it all came about. Sara Wendy also has some amazing work in progress videos which are well worth viewing too, showing Sara Wendy painting her set of clown portraits – Sara Wendy Work In Progress >> We hope you enjoy her story, we would like to congratulate Sara Wendy again on her wonderful work and wish her every success for the future.

You are able to view the winners of our 2011 competition on our website – London Art College 2011 Competition Winners >> 


I’ m so happy for this winning! I can tell you something about my “Clowns”: Was a very boring sunday and I didn’t have inspiration for painting, so, I’ve start to paint my face (I attach one of my photo:)) using some carnival make up. I have made many many photos with 2 different make up style and face expressions.

So, after this funny moment (was very very funny), I’ve found the right inspiration for may paint and from this moment I worked on 5 painting that ws the “Clown series”.

I attach on photo of me and the foto of London exhibition that was a very exiting experience for me, I wish to make it again next summer. This was a year of great success for my art career, I’ve made the exhibition in London, one of my painting was published and selected in the finalist of the Tokyo Prize and was exhibited in Bruxelles, I’ve also sold 10 paintings, and I have to thank you all.

I’m working hard for my portrait course, unfortunately I don’t have so many time for drawining and painting, I have a full time job, I wish to be a full time artist in the future, this would be my dream!

Sara Wendy’s website –

Sara Wendy’s artwork with photo of her made up as a clown.

Sara Wendy’s Exhibition at Brick Lane, London

Sara Wendy’s Exhibition at Brick Lane, London