A selection of recent work including field painting, woodcuts & monoprints on show from Sat.31st Oct – Sat.28th Nov 2015. I’ll be at the gallery from 11-4 on the opening Saturday. All are welcome.
To view all SENEGAL FIELDWORK consecutively please click on this link. I’ll start another ‘category’ for studio work… choose from ‘categories in sidebar.
A week (19th-26th sept) on Bardsey with Kim Atkinson & Darren Woodhead as part of the BTO/SWLA flight lines project, sketching activities around the bird observatory.
Very low key bird wise which may have been for the best… forcing us to look more at the surroundings and the people at work.
Pretty low numbers of birds being caught, mainly young goldcrests and chiffchaffs.
Tail end of the surveying of the manx shearwater burrows, most of them had gone to see but we stalked Mark, one of the assistant wardens as he went about his work. Shoving his arm down lots of burrows and coming out with 2 well feathered young, nearly ready to go, but also two very fluffy youngsters who had a way to go.
The seals have become much more approachable since I spent time on the island in the 80’s and it was great to watch them with their pups. There were also Risso’s dolphins around the island, first time I’ve had prolonged looks at those.
Towards the end of our time on Shetland we got 2 days of sun. Great to have pitched up at a bay where there was an arctic tern colony. They were sitting on young chicks and eggs both down on the beach and in the boulder field above.
One of the great things from the trip was having the air full of seabird sound… here the electric sore throat fizzings of the terns (Shetland name apparently ‘Tirrick’, which does a much better job of conjuring the bird than its English name). The thoughtful ‘poo-weet’ of ringed plover (don’t know what the Shetlanders do for that one). I think the plover were all with well grown young.
Manic ‘kleeping’ of oystercatchers chasing each other around in parties and nearly tripping over their bills in head down piping contests. We saw a bonxie strike one down from one of the groups as they flew round the bay. Clobbering it to the ground, didn’t see how and then bludgeoning it with its bill with the other oystercatchers mobbing it for another 20 minutes or so whilst it plucked and ate a good portion of the bird.
We had 2 days with good viewings of otters. The first looking for them on the falling tide on Fetlar. My sketching falling apart with the excitement of seeing them. There is a shape shifting aspect to the otter, changing personality rapidly. So the initial struggle to hang a four legged creature on the page using an ink line is challenge enough in itself…let alone trying to capture this change in character.
With time for the images to settle I seem to then do a little better…
5670 – otter – shetland – ink pen – A4 sketchbook
I think I draw this journal type page in the campervan in the evening… and the following morning there was a new otter to practise on & by this time we were on Yell….. swimming across the bay where we’d spent the night.
My last view was of on on the west mainland, again from the campervan as it was starting to get dark. Susan wondered what the Arctic terns were all making such a fuss about, hovering over the mouth of the burn. I looked down and there was the broad backside of an otter shambling down into the sea. Disappearing and then a bobbing slicked head appearing a few yards out… free of the, clicking call, bickering bills.
Back from 3 weeks in Scotland. First the ‘John Busby seabird drawing course’, the 25th year it has run and the first one without John. I think he would have been happy to look down on us. It felt like the group of ‘students’ gelled quickly and we four ‘tutors’ were more actively leading activities… warm up exercises, Betty Edwards type things like continuous line, blind drawing, left hand etc. All seemed really healthy.
Then on to the Shetland isles for 2 weeks.
I’ll try and get to a series of posts about the trip….
Starting with gannets on the Bass.
hanging. braced fore-wing. unders shaded. diving mask tapered-goggles. arched rump. saw tailed fan flails down. flanked by paddling black marigolds. shorter inners.
deep bruised sea as wind gets up. volcano law another world.
black thumb, bulbous yellow, flailing hand, wiped moustache.
cloud masses rise out from land to cielo blue. above rock ledges teeming, feathers ruffling, mad making guttural growling honk.
More owl printing, jumping up in size for this one.
Unusual day where I managed to persist with the same ingredients for 3 monoprints… usually ink misbehaves, or the press does something untoward…. but today free to just try different things. Using small rollers, brushing and playing with the balance of the three colours.
Somehow replicating the freedom that I might have when scribbling in the sketchbook, except that in the studio there is a sense of time standing still and the moment morphs.
Not long back from Wallasea Island RSPB/SWLA project. Earth dug out from under London has been shipped to the Essex coast not far from Southend. It is being used to raise the level of the ‘island’ A huge area raised by between 3 and 5 metres. Sculpted to create lagoons, pans, ditches etc this should provide a home for lots of natural history as well as alleviating flood risk.
The major earth moving has already been done. It would have been interesting to watch the earth being taken off the barges via massive cranes and a sophisticated conveyer belt system but that stage was over. We did watch massive earth moving vehicles roving around, mainly digging ditches where I watched and then taking that earth up to the raised area and levelled by bulldozers. Took quite a bit of time to get the head around the nature of the various machines and what their tasks were.
Plenty of natural history interest despite the noisy industrial processes… lots of singing corn & reed buntings.
Gulls milling around the machines, avocets occasionally going over already occupying existing scrapes. Yellow wagtails not long in. Down on the saltings alongside, the pew’ing of redshanks, migrant whimbrel 7 note call, a summer plumage bar-tailed godwit. Hen & Marsh harrier, a very distant rough legged buzzard hovering.
The real nature highlight though was a succession of great viewings of short-eared owls. At least 2 birds still around. We also watched a very tawny barn owl one evening.
Artistically I knew I wanted to spend time trying to understand how to distill the machinery so that I might be able to draw it alongside the nature with some kind of fluency… that accounted for the first day (2 & 1/2 days was our allotted time).
Then deciding to try out a stencil and foam roller approach to making imagery… not easy with a brisk easterly snatching at the stencils…. not sure about the results but the process of cutting blocks outside was interesting and quickly broke up the picture space in ways I wouldn’t have achieved with regular painting.
I’ve already covered the bumblebees in separate post
common blue butterfly – first seen on 27th may feeding on the cut-leaved cranesbill. (see the yellow rattle post for more about common blues)
meadow brown on rattle pods – ink pen – A6 sketchbook
Meadow brown & Ringlet – didn’t keep much record of numbers but I think there were a lot more around than the previous year. First meadow brown on 12th june. first ringlet on 16th june
Gatekeeper – plenty around, I think of them as mainly on brambles and marjoram June/July but no good records of numbers or dates.
Small tortoiseshell – steadily more of them around it seems, no caterpillars seen despite our neighbouring nettle beds. Maybe I need to do some cutting back of nettles to encourage fresh growth which is what I think they like.
Red Admiral – plenty seen but no particular records kept
Comma – seen regularly but no records, usually basking on bare soil.
Large skipper – on 22/24 june
Small skipper – First seen 12 june. I don’t think there were as many as previous year… I’d guess at maximum count of 10 or so (but this is just on the 4 x 4 metre mini meadow).. often nectaring or sunning (or establishing territory?) on ragwort.
Brimstone – only really noticed in the early days of spring.
Whites – no serious notes made… there is that time in august/september when they seem to floating around like blown paper scraps…
Speckled wood – first of year on 15th april…
No moth trapping this year and only really paying any attention to the more showy species.
Seemed like a lot more cinnabar moths including some egg laying on the ragwort. I’ve a note on them for the first time on 14th June… and garden tigers the same day (lots around the 22nd june). We seem to have lots of the tigers … whizzing frenetically around quite high on summer evenings… last year I managed to see one gradually narrow its orbit until it found a female resting on an elder leaf, presumably transmitting pheromones that he was locking on to.
Only one or two burnet moths and no sign of egg laying.
2 female broad-bodied chasers on 12 june.
Lots of southern hawkers emerged from the pond along with azure and large red damsels as well as common darters. These don’t really feature on the ‘meadow’. Migrant hawkers are over the allotments from august (?) on.
Highlight of the year birdwise was this cuckoo on 1st may. Seemed extraordinary… in continuous rain I kept thinking I could hear cuckoo from the studio, but couldn’t believe it… thought it might be someone playing around with speakers. Took a very long time to track it down to the top of beech tree, well hidden in the canopy. It was there all day, presumably grounded by the rain. With so much focus on African migrants earlier in the year it seemed all the more amazing that this bird would probably have been in the Congo a few weeks earlier.
swifts arrived over house on 3rd may
I trot out to look each time the herring gulls make a particular alarm call that says there is a raptor overhead. Usually it is a buzzard coasting over… peregrines have usually shot straight through with a flock of pigeons floundering in their wake…but occasionally watched spiralling high. Just once (or twice?) a kite drifting eastwards towards Bath in a purposeful kind of way.
Surprisingly little that I can think of to note down about the smaller birds. Finches have deserted our bird table… I did have one lovely eyeful of greenfinch male feeding on borage… zinging green, yellow & blue but never making it to the paintbrush.
Goldfinches are ever present at least in the ears… often up in the tops of beech, birch or larch… also making use of the great variety of seeding plants up on the allotments.
Willow warblers make their fleeting appearance in early april (6th i noted), coinciding with the air drizzling green.
Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps are around… Blackcaps all year now.
Green woodpecker is often on the allotment and I’m nurturing ant hills for their benefit. Great spots are in the garden.
We still have masses of sparrows, though there is a season (late summer?) where they disappear and I think we may have lost them… but then they come back in mid winter (?).