Avril Parkes in her studio

Avril Parkes has an amazing natural ability to capture the deep inner beauty, the true essence of the animal in her portraits. In her artworks Avril is bold, courageous and she bravely steps out into the unknown.

Her colour choices are spectacular! She dares to go where many others don’t. Take a look at her stunning illustrations, they are just glowing! Avril first came to study my beginner course as a mentored student under the guidance of the wonderful Tannis Trydal (one of my students whom I trained to mentor others.) Under Tannis’ gentle care Avril flourished. She fully embraced the concepts taught in my course and took them to the next level.

Now Avril is a professional artist, selling her work in market stalls, commissioned art, printing it onto all kinds of wonderful products and having an absolutely wonderful time! It gives me great pleasure to share with you, this very personal interview that I had with Avril. I hope you’re inspired to reach for your really big dreams too, just like Avril is doing.


Title: 10-AvrilParkes-Mr-McMoo Size: 30x40cm Medium: Carbothello and Faber Castell Pitt pastel pencils on Pastelmat paper Description: A rather punk Highland cow.


Interview with Avril Parkes by Cindy Wider


Q: Hi  Avril, where were you born and where do you live now?

A: I am Avril Parkes, from Wantage in Oxfordshire, UK.  I live with my husband and garden full of small birds and squirrels.


An artwork created after her DrawPj course. Title: Excuse Me Size: Approx 6×4” Medium: Faber Castell Polychromos and Derwent Lightfast coloured pencils, Neocolor II crayons Description: A slightly judgmental Little Owl.



Q: How did you get started with art and drawing as an adult?

A: In 2017, I was made redundant from my job and had the opportunity to take a few months off before starting my next job (same job, same company, but as a contractor).  I wanted to use the time to go back to drawing, which I always loved as an only child, but had neglected since school.  I found Cindy’s Complete Drawing and Shading course on Udemy and thought it was a good foundation.

Avril’s very early works from the course. Starting with her first sketching lines, then into construction drawing forming the foundation of her training in the early stages.


Q: What were your greatest fears before you started the course?

A: I was worried that I wouldn’t be as good as I wanted to be, or remembered being.  I’m super-competitive with myself.  I was worried I’d disappoint myself.

As Avril progressed under the guidance of her mentor along with the course she embraces all of the lessons and put in her best efforts. She is right on track for success as you can see here!



Q: What were your expectations, dreams or goals when you first began your course?

A: My goal was to be more confident in drawing, and to be able to accurately represent things I looked at, or things from my imagination.

Already, after the second (of six) major section in the course Avril can now draw realistically as you can see in these images below.


Continuing with the studies of light and shade, the 3 ways to shade and 5 areas of light and shadow were beginning to come together for Avril here.


Avril’s ‘Shoe Well-travelled’ project from the course in graphite. In this exercise she learned more about fabrics, folds, leather textures, form and more.



Q:What do you think of your progress now compared to when you first began?

A: My drawings from before look amateurish and two-dimensional.  The difference between then and now is that before, I hadn’t really given much thought to the actual marks I was making with my pencils, or how shading and colour theory could bring things to life.

These portraits were all created after the third section of the course ‘Portraiture Foundations.’


Q: What was it like studying with mentored support?

A: I would absolutely recommend the mentored support.  It made my push my drawings in areas that needed fine-tuning.  I think it’s this level of attention that sets my drawings and the drawings of other mentored students to the next level.

Avril’s Juicy Strawberry from the course. Here she has learned so much about colour temperature, textures and tone.



Q: What kind of drawings are you doing right now?

A: Right now I’m mostly drawing animals in a realistic style, including a lot of pet portraits for customers.  I work with pastel pencils mostly, but I still love my coloured pencils.

Title: 9-AvrilParkes-Mini-Mew Size: 10×14” Medium: Faber-Castell and Koh-I-Noor pastel sticks and Carbothello pastel pencils on Hahnemuhle velour paper Description: A small snow leopard wondering what’s up that tree.



Q: Do you have any favourite drawings that you’ve created since studying at DrawPj?

A: My favourite pieces are “Yawn”, a 50x70cm pastel and pastel pencil piece of a yawning tiger, and “Sheep of Whimsy”, which is a pastel drawing on velour paper.  I wanted to replicate the realism and texture, but wanted to use some crazy psychedelic colours.

Title: 1-AvrilParkes-Sheep-of-Whimsy Size: 7×10” Medium: Pastels sticks on velour paper Description: Dorset Poll sheep in bright rainbow psychedelic colours.


Q: Have you won any awards, or held exhibitions, sold your art since you studied at DrawPj? 

A: Siince 2018 I have sold originals, and prints, and have had my artwork printed onto mugs, tins, greetings cards, bags, coaster, button badges, and even had my Sheep of Whimsy picture turned into a jigsaw, which was a great seller leading up to Christmas!

In 2023 I had stalls at 39 artisan and craft events and sold a variety of items with my artwork on them.  I also have a website which has a shop where I sell giclée prints and aluminium prints.  I’ve completed several pet portraits and I have a list several more coming up in 2024.

Some of Avril’s many market stalls she has held.


Q: What are your favourite art materials and why?

A: My go-to’s are pastel pencils and coloured pencils.  I love the detail that you can capture with a sharp point on a pencil.  With pastels, I love being able to lay lights on top of darks.  And I also love the rich and vibrant colours and transitions you can achieve with many layers of coloured pencils.

Title: Focus Size: Approx 11×5” Medium: Carbothello pastel pencils on Pastelmat paper Description: Jaguar eyes.


Q: Do you have any words of helpful advice for beginner artists?

A: Don’t draw things, draw shapes.  It’s all about making lines and angles (this is what was taught in our course.)  If you think something is too intimidating or complicated to draw, just break it down into its smaller parts and look at the angles and lines within them.  I still have Cindy’s voice in my head: “Use your artists voice.”  If a small part of something looks like a “w” or a kidney bean, draw the “w” or the kidney bean.

And never feel that drawing is a waste of time.  Even if a piece hasn’t turned out the way you’d thought it would, that’s still an amount of time you’ve spent learning something – even if it’s how your pencils lay down on that particular type of paper.  The next time you sit down to draw, you’ll have that experience behind you.

Title: Eleflump Size: Approx 34x40cm Medium: Panpastels, Jacksons soft pastels, Carbothello pastel pencils on Pastelmat paper Description: An elephant, deep in thought.


Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I work 4 days a week at my day job, and hope to eventually draw full-time.  This year I want to exhibit and sell at more art-related events instead of general crafts.  Next year we hope to buy a house in Scotland with enough garden space for donkeys, and I want to be able to earn a living from selling my original art and continue with commissions and pet portraits.  I have a built-in wardrobe full of pastels, coloured pencils and all sorts of other art materials.  I can’t wait to experiment with all of them and combine them in new and different ways.

Title: Plurp Size: Approx 24x14cm Medium: Faber Castell Polychromos on Hahnemühle Nostalgie paper Description: Cheeky goat with his tongue sticking out.


For more information on purchasing Avril Parkes Artworks and products you can contact her here:

Website: www.avrilparkes.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/avrilparkes

Facebook: www.facebook.com/avrilparkesart