'Oh wise owl' indoor art exhibition

Portrait of owl painted onto a feather

Vying for your attention alongside the impressive collection of outdoor owls is an equally magnificent array of indoor works. Tucked away from the elements, in Beningbrough’s Hayloft, this enticing collection showcases a wide range of artists working in many different mediums from print through to felt.

Meet the artists:

Gareth Atkinson

Or Gaz, as he is known locally is based in North Yorkshire. Drawing inspiration from the towering beauty of the county, Gaz specializes in wildlife and bird photography. Over the last five years photography has formed a huge part of Gaz’s life allowing him to overcome the everyday stresses and strains of modern living. His photography has helped alleviate his ongoing personal battle with anxiety, and historically depression, it’s easy to see why as Gaz’s skilled captures transport us far away to the soaring beauty of this mysterious bird.

Ayse Rifat

Ever since childhood Ayse has nurtured a fascination for wildlife and nature and in particular loves to observe and paint birds of prey, especially owls. From her base in South Devon, Ayse’s passion and eye for detail is at the very heart of her work as a wildlife artist. This is expressed in her paintings and drawings, working from sketches in her home studio using acrylics and graphite to capture each subject in as much detail as possible producing final pieces with intense realism.

Laura Andrew

With a childhood spent accompanying her father on shooting trips, Laura’s days would be spent camouflaged in a hedgerow in a ‘hide’. Here submerged in nature she began to draw and a combined love of wildlife and art was born. She cemented this passion with a degree in graphic design with a specialism in Natural History. This appreciation for the English countryside continues to form the bedrock of her work as an artist and illustrator. 

Exploring the English countryside from the unique vantage point of her narrow boat, Laura gets up close and personal with her subjects in their natural environment. A versatile artist she employs a range of techniques. This might be capturing the minute detail of a single hair or feather through to her more painterly style where with a single brushstroke she conveys the movement and essence of her subject. Laura’s diverse style allows her to capture nature in all its glory. 

Artist Laura Andrew with her stunning portrait of a barn owl in flight
Artist Laura Andrew with her portrait of a barn owl in flight.
Artist Laura Andrew with her stunning portrait of a barn owl in flight

Mandi Baykaa-Murray

Mandi’s love of animals and wildlife is at the heart of everything she creates. Her journey as an artist has undergone many influences from painting and photography through to printmaking and beyond. Arguably however it was a chance meeting with a falconer and his birds of prey which has had the greatest influence on her.  Now all her artwork is inspired by birds and birds of prey of which the owl, with its quirky personality holds a particular fascination. In addition to this, the owl’s beautiful feathers are now an intrinsic part of Mandi’s work where from her base in Bristol she has developed a working process where she incorporates real feathers alongside traditional print making and painting techniques from which her pieces are created.

June Bell

Artist June Bell was born and brought up in the Scottish Borders and in contemplating her mystical paintings, it’s easy to see how this beautiful land of myth and legend has shaped her work. Alongside old trees and woodland she is attracted to places with a sense of the past and the feeling of mystery which they evoke. This is embodied perfectly in her portrayal of the mystic owl. 

Her work has many influences including her Christian faith and time spent overseas in Africa and Thailand. Her naturalistic style evokes a powerful sense of atmosphere from which ultimately she hopes her viewer will find a spiritual connection with.


" When you live in Yorkshire, it’s almost rude not to photograph the surrounding landscapes, wildlife and birds."
- Gareth Atkinson

Jeffrey Carter

Jeffrey enjoys the freedom painting allows, crafting a scene and making it come to life on canvas, choosing his subject and in turn creating their surrounding environment. The exquisite detail found in Jeffrey’s artwork is created using gouache, a water based paint. Whilst sometimes challenging to work with it allows Jeffrey to work in fine detail and its inherent opacity allows light colours to be painted directly over darker colours giving the painter greater flexibility over conventional water colour. The very fine level of detail found in Jeffrey’s work is not easy to achieve and the challenge he relishes the most in delivering his work. 

Howard Miller

With his delicate crafted miniature trophy heads, Howard’s unique creations are arguably the most intimately affiliated with its subject. Fashioned from dissected owl pellets, Howard skilfully mounts the tiny skulls and bones of the owl’s hunted prey onto small shields to create surreal trophy heads. A nod to the style of the landed gentry and keepers of the hall, this is an artist whose unique vision brings an intriguing perspective to the collection.

Artist Ayse Rifat stands with her 'Oh wise owl' entry, 'Moshie' European eagle owl on acrylic
Artist Ayse Rifat standing in front of her acrylic of a European eagle owl
Artist Ayse Rifat stands with her 'Oh wise owl' entry, 'Moshie' European eagle owl on acrylic

Sally Bruce-Richards

From the silhouette of a fox on the horizon through to the wide eyed owl watching from a far… the gilded works of Sally Bruce-Richards’ are cloaked in a sense of mystery and folklore. Sally’s original pieces are handmade in her studio on the remote Hebridean Isle of Mull using 22-carat gold, real silver leaf and rice paper, gilded treasures to enchant and delight. 

Sharon Ross

In 2006, after a lifelong career in nursing, Sharon re-discovered her childhood passion for art. Once she started painting again, she never looked back graduating with a BA in Fine Art in 2011. Sharon now works as a full-time artist. The figurative pieces of this self-proclaimed Geordie are both literal and abstract. Through her work Sharon hopes that her optimistic outlook on life is conveyed to the viewer and that it resonates on an emotional level which depending on what has been happening that day and the person’s state of mind, may vary with each viewing. Working largely in acrylic and pen and ink, Sharon’s abstract is inspired by Zentangle using the circle in a repetitive manner as a means of shading, providing form and tone to the piece.

Emma Abel

Emma’s mild obsession with owls began during the final year of her degree in drawing at Falmouth Art School and lives on with this charming owl sculpture, created in felt.
During her time at Art School she lived on a farm where the farm’s barn owl would frequently be seen quartering the fields at dusk. Stuck by this silent beauty, its ghostly magical presence has stayed with her ever since and is a major influencer on her body of work to date.

Irene Firth

It is difficult not to be charmed by Irene’s oil painting of ten baby owls all snuggled up in a row alongside each other. Painted in 2016, its artist Irene, is now 81 years old, has not exhibited since she studied art as part of her college education in the 1950s. Having painted all her life but only for her own pleasure, it was her daughter Jenny who persuaded her to enter the piece and submitted it on her mother’s behalf for all to enjoy. The curators at Beningbrough have been inspired by Irene’s story and are delighted to exhibit her stunning work.

See the exhibition as part of the 'Oh wise owl' art trail, in open days until 25 February 2018.