Kathryn is drawing on birds for inspiration

Kathryn Speak with her artwork, which is on display at Martin Mere
Kathryn Speak with her artwork, which is on display at Martin Mere

When she was at school, Kathryn Speak was told she would never make a career out of drawing.

But the 31-year-old has proved the careers advisor wrong.

She now works as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, designing logos, branding, websites, brochures, business cards and other items.

And she now has a sideline creating beautiful images of birds.

Kathryn, of Devonshire Road, Chorley, said: “Sometimes, when people say you can’t do anything, it makes you more determined.

“It was probably a good thing.

“You might as well do what you enjoy doing and I do enjoy it.”

Kathryn, a self-confessed twitcher, started drawing birds in her spare time.

Her first piece of artwork was a robin, which she did last year as a present for her grandmother.

It was based on photographs she had taken of a bird, with computer software used to enhance the colours.

Kathryn said: “It was from pictures I took when I was in the Lakes at Christmas.

“It was quite a big, fat, fluffy robin.

When I originally sketched it, I had to tone it down a bit because it looked comical.”

The artwork proved to be a hit and Kathryn has gone on to create images of other birds.

“My nan really liked it. I’ve given her a wren now as well. They are really good as presents,” she said.

She uses photographs of birds she has taken on walks around the Ribble Valley and holidays in the Lake District with her husband, Nick Webster.

Kathryn said: “I’m a bit of a twitcher and quite like birds.

“Nick bought me a long-lens camera and it gave me the chance to take really close-up pictures.”

Using the photographs for inspiration, Kathryn creates sketches by hand.

She said: “They are generally a mixture of photographs I’ve taken.

“If I’ve not managed to capture the pattern on the stomach, for example, I will go to a book to find out about the colours.

“I imagine there are people who would know the markings around the neck weren’t right, so I have to get it right.”

Kathryn then scans the sketch into her computer to produce each individual feather digitally.

She chooses colours with the intention to exaggerate and highlight the feathers.

The first image of the robin proved to be so successful that she decided to branch out to other birds.

Kathryn said: “I did the robin and then I started doing more. I thought it looked quite nice.

“I did a blue tit and then I did the owl to try a bigger bird. It looked massive. I try to do them to scale and it filled my drawing board up. That was an interesting one to draw.

“The big ones are quite fun. There’s a lot more on them because they have more feathers and are bigger.”

Kathryn has now created images of four small birds and five larger birds, including magpies, an owl, kestrel and jay.

Among her most popular images are the magpies.

She said: “I drew one and I was a bit superstitious, because you are supposed to see two magpies. There are two magpies now – one flying and one perched.

“The magpies are really good. They are probably the most popular. The blues and purples and blacks look really cool.”

The birds are all produced as giclee prints, on thick paper, and each one is signed and numbered.

Kathryn sells them on her website and has pledged to produce just 30 copies of each bird.

She said: “Once I have sold 30 of each one, I will not do any more. They will be limited edition.”

Kathryn has seen more and more interest in the images, which she had started producing as a hobby.

She said: “I didn’t expect anything. I decided to do a whole set of them and put them on the wall. That was as far as it went.

“My partner’s sister wanted a set of them for her wall and it has spread by word of mouth.”

She now produces cards, as well as the prints.

And Kathryn’s work had an even wider audience when it was put on display at Salmesbury Hall in Preston for a month last year.

“It was quite nerve-racking. It was a challenge,” she said.

“It was less painful than I thought it was going to be though.

“A few sold and it was nice to get positive feedback for them.

“When it’s your own work you are nervous showing people and it was nice to get some good feedback.”

And her collection, named British Feathers – Series One – is now on display at WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre.

Kathryn went to the site on Monday last week to put her work on display and the exhibition opened last Tuesday.

It has meant it has been a busy week for Kathryn, as she got married on Saturday in the Lake District.

She said: “They schedule their exhibitions in advance. They had the week before the wedding and I didn’t know if I should risk it.

“I told them I was getting married on the Saturday and it would be a busy week, but I like a challenge.”

The exhibition runs until Sunday, March 30 and the prints are available to buy.

A percentage of the sale will go directly to the Wildfowl And Wetlands Trust (WWT).

She said: “Hopefully this project will give something back to the work that WWT does, because their help means I can continue drawing our spectacular British birds.”

Kathryn also donates 10 per cent from the sale of all her work to the RSPB, which has supported her to promote the images.

Kathryn has not yet scheduled more exhibitions, but hopes that more can be arranged.

And she is now thinking about her next collection of work.

She said: “I think I will have enough to do with birds at the moment. There are quite a lot of them.

“I have already started thinking of ideas.

“I did a couple for Christmas cards – a turtle dove and a grey partridge. Sadly their numbers are limited in this country.

“I wanted to raise awareness of that. They might go in my next set.”

She has also been inspired by the birds at Brockholes nature reserve in Preston.

“I’m tempted next time to do some wetland birds, like swans. That will be a challenge because they are massive,” Kathryn said.

And whether or not the images lead to more commercial success and exhibitions, Kathryn is committed to continuing with her designs.

She said: “Even if I don’t sell any more, I will probably do it as a hobby.”

n To find out more about Kathryn’s collection, go to www.inkandpixels.co.uk.

WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre is open every day from 9.30am to 4.30pm during winter months and parking is free.

The exhibition is included in the usual centre admission or free to WWT members.