Jonathan Sainsbury paints wrens


'Inspector of the Woodland Vaults' - European Wren 19 x 28 inches

Inspector of the Woodland Vaults
Bramble and Wren
Watercolour and charcoal, 19 x 28 inches

Jonathan Sainsbury loves to paint wrens.  His picture of a European Wren, ‘Inspector of the Woodland Vaults’ was shown in 2015 in the 55th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists, held at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History, New York.

Jonathan says, ‘Wrens fill the woods near my home with their song.  It amazes me how such a tiny bird can have such a big voice.  That makes them attractive to me.’

He explains his inspiration for this picture.  ‘There is a Ted Hughes poem, likening the wren to a little mouse, scuttling through undergrowth.  When I read the poem, there was a phrase that caught my eye, where he likens the wren to an ‘inspector of the woodland vaults’.   This gave me an image of a wren in ‘vaults’ of brambles.

‘I had just been painting and sketching brambles.  The weather conditions had made the leaves and stalks particularly colourful that summer, showing deep purples and crimsons.  I began to sketch different ideas in pencil, for a combination of wren and brambles, leading to this composition, which I then painted in watercolour.’

Jonathan Sainsbury in American art exhibition

Jonathan Sainsbury watercolour plums and peacock butterflies

‘Plums and peacocks’ – watercolour – 21 x 29 inches

Art judges chose Jonathan Sainsbury’s watercolour ‘Peacocks and Plums’ out of more than five hundred entries for inclusion in the 56th Annual Art and the Animal Exhibition, showcase of the international Society of Animal Artists.

Now in its 56th year, this exhibition seeks to present the very best in contemporary artistic interpretation of animals and birds, in two and three dimensions.  The exhibition is hosted each year by a different Museum venue around the United States.  This year the show will open at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, before touring round various museums in New Jersey, Kansas and Ohio.

Jonathan’s painting, a fine watercolour illustration of peacock butterflies and plums, was inspired by observation of a tree in his own garden.  The painting is part of a series showing branches of British trees, with birds and insects, that belongs to a tradition of watercolour illustration, led by the painter James John Audubon in the eighteenth century.  








Jonathan Sainsbury picture in ‘Birds in Art’ 2016


'Birds in Art', Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Jonathan Sainsbury 'Wren's Larder' - Oak branch, wren, mosses

‘Wren’s Larder’ Oak Branch with wren
Watercolour and charcoal – 30 x 46 inches.

Jonathan’s painting ‘Wren’s Larder’ was chosen for the 41st ‘Birds in Art’ exhibition at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin.  This is the most prestigious show world-wide dedicated to bird art.  The exhibition opens Saturday 10th September 2016.


Cowslips and primroses to inspire paintings


River Lednock

Banks of the River Lednock



Cowslips by river Lednock


Another day of Spring sunshine.  Walked across the Glebe field to to the river Lednock, where primroses and cowslips grow.  Bumble bees out in the Glebe.

Cowslips grew profusely in the fields in my childhood.    We children were paid to gather them in buckets for a lady who made wine.  We took them for granted, that they were always there, though they seem rarer today.  A reassurance, every Spring, to find them.

A starling poem for Jonathan Sainsbury

A bonus of a tame starling is the poems people bring to your attention.  Here’s one by Pam Ayres, called ‘I’m a Starling … me Darling’ courtesy of John Ransom.

We’re starlings, the missis, meself and the boys.
We don’t go round hopping’, we walks,
We don’t go in for this singing all day
And twittering about, we just squawks.

We don’t go in for these fashionable clothes
Like old Missel Thrush, and his spots,
Me breast isn’t red, there’s no crest on me head,
We’ve got sort of, hardwearing … dots.

We starlings, the missis, meself and the boys,
We’ll eat anything that’s about,
Well, anything but that old half coconut,
I can’t hold it still.  I falls out.

What we’d rather do is wait here for you
To put out some bread for the tits,
And then when we’re certain you’re there by the curtain,
We flocks down and tears it to bits.

But we starlings, the missis, meself and the boys,
We reckon that we’re being got at.
You think for two minutes, them finches and linnets,
You never see them being shot at.

So the next time you comes out to sprinkle the crumbs out,
And there’s starlings there, making a noise,
Don’t you be so quick to heave half a brick,
It’s the missis, meself and the boys!

Chatter - starlings and brambles - oil - 25 X 36 ins - Jonathan Sainsbury

Chatter – starlings and brambles – oil – 25 X 36 ins

The painting ‘Chatter – starlings and brambles’ is included in Jonathan’s exhibition at the Strathearn Gallery, Crieff from 23rd April 2016


Jonathan Sainsbury – starling man

Jonathan Sainsbury and

“‘Ello gorgeous” – Jonathan and starling

Almost a year old, this is Tweet the starling, who has made his home with Jonathan Sainsbury.  Totally tame, Tweet baths in the sink, hops around the floor, scrambles all over Jonathan.  He copies Jonathan, “You’re gorgeous”, “hello”, “I love you”, wolf-whistles and blows kisses, picks up tunes and sings along to the radio and TV.

Jonathan Sainsbury has been painting starlings for a long time.  Now Tweet is a live model and a companion.

There are pictures of starlings and many other subjects in Jonathan’s exhibition at Strathearn Gallery, Crieff, opening 23rd April.

Jonathan Sainsbury’s ‘Gossip’ in Sotheby’s Sale of the Duchess of Devonshire’s pictures

'Gossip' - Black Hens

‘Gossip’ – Black Hens.

Jonathan Sainsbury’s charcoal drawing of hens, ‘Gossip, size 20 inches x 28 inches, sold at Sotheby’s, London, on 2nd March 2016 for £2,750 including commission.

The model for the drawing, a black hen called Edwina, belonging to a friend, was a great family favourite with the Sainsbury children.


Jonathan Sainsbury at Countryfile live 2016

Jonathan Sainsbury at Countryfile live '16: sketch for Ark display stand

Jonathan Sainsbury sketch for Ark display space

Jonathan Sainsbury at Countryfile live '16: sketch for Ark display space

Jonathan Sainsbury sketch for Ark display space

Jonathan Sainsbury will exhibit at Countryfile live 2016.  This four day show is a partnership between the BBC and the National Trust.  It will be held in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, from 4-7th August.  The event will celebrate the countryside in its many forms. The editorial team of Countryfile will cover the show for six million viewers.  There will be a strong emphasis for visitors to the show on demonstration and learning.

Jonathan Sainsbury’s stand will be far more than a display of paintings.  He will showcase British wildlife art.  His subjects will range from small butterflies to songbirds to game and larger mammals.  His stand will be built like an Ark, referring to the vessel that saved creatures from the Flood.  This novel presentation suggests a theme of Conservation and celebrates the natural world.

The Ark will display originals, prints and cards of Jonathan Sainsbury’s work.  It  also presents a wildlife artist’s studio, to give visitors an idea of how pictures are made .  Jonathan will be drawing and talking about his work, live, on his stand, during Countryfile Live 2016.

Jonathan Sainsbury at Countryfile live '16: Ark of British Wildlife original watercolour

Jonathan Sainsbury: Ark of British Wildlife painting


‘Starlings and Brambles’


November 11th 2015 Edition displayed a double-page spread illustration of Jonathan’s painting ‘Starlings and Brambles’ on pages 56-7, illustrating an article on Starlings, titled ‘Thickening, deepening and blackening’.

Jonathan Sainsbury, Starlings and Brambles

Starlings and Brambles, oil, 28 x 42 ins, private collection, ©Jonathan Sainsbury

The picture, ‘Starlings and Brambles’, by Jonathan, was sold to Mr John Romans, then of Morar, Inverness-shire, later of Exbourne, mid-Devon.  John Romans, and his wife, Joanna, both died and the current whereabouts of the picture is not known to Jonathan.  He would be grateful for information either about the picture or about John Romans’ family, to enable him to get in touch.