Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Stay Tuned!

I've finally got round to doing a long overdue update of my blog, it's just having the time to do it.  Rather than just talking about birds I think I'm going to extend it to creative / painting issues as well, especially as I often encounter difficulties when it comes to painting.  I'm sure it's not just me, a good many artists out there can probably relate to this also.

Last October 31st (2014), I set out to Blakeney Point armed with a sheet of 56x76, determined to paint something memorable that day whatever it might be.  I had envisaged a Goldcrest in a Hawthorn maybe, but as is so often the case when one has a goal in mind one is so often disappointed - I never saw a Goldcrest that day, and the Hawthorn I was thinking of was nothing like how I'd imagined it!  So I abandoned that, and decided not to stress about it.  Later I ended up by the Plantation, and after a while noticed life in there, a couple of Chiffchaffs to be precise.  Well beggars can't be choosers so I started sketching them in, directly in paint.  I always find that difficult to do, but it stems partly from the desperation of wanting to get an image onto the page as fast as possible.  Being faced with such a maaassive sheet of paper is utterly daunting too - to be honest I'm stepping out of my comfort zone here, which is generally not bigger than A3: suddenly there is so much more white space to be covered.
 Not really knowing how to handle all those little leaves below this Chiffchaff, nor knowing how to paint in the branches behind it; it's starting to look messy.  But you have to start somewhere and you need to block in some areas to bring out some kind of tonal contrast.
 This Chiffchaff looked ok, captured something of the light on it.  I planned for it to just be sketches of Chiffchaffs in the field. 
 But then as I so often do, I wanted it to be more than that, I wanted to link them all together in one picture, so started to link the vegetation together.
 The view I was seeing, taken with my mobile phone:
 And another nice image in the late afternoon light.  It was so warm I even took my boots off to give my weary feet some air.  Not often you can do that at the end of October!
 Then while I was working away, I suddenly noticed the presence of the moon - crikey, I have to have that in there, so I painted it in just where I'd seen it. There were also Redwings dropping out of the sky, just arriving on the left side of the picture - I never painted this in but was tempted to.  I was bothered about the image getting too cluttered.  So many decisions to make.  Of course I could still add some Redwings yet.  Perhaps I'll wait until I see some in the autumn and see how I feel then.  That said I'm sure I'd want to start on a fresh sheet of paper and begin a new image rather than flogging a dead horse.
 So this was where I was at by the end of the day.  By the time I'd made it back to my car near Coastguards it was already well and truly dark, but easy going along the beach in the moonlight.  I was left with this unfinished sketch painting, with major scale issues - they are ok on their own, but combined they are giant size, way too big for the trees they are perched in.  The arrangement of the birds on the page is ok, but the moon perhaps in the wrong place but I could not bring myself to move it to somewhere else.  Not happy either with the washes of colour in the bottom right and the right middle of the image either, it would have been better left as blank white paper perhaps, or just a few dabs of colour.
Fast forward to this July I wanted to try and finish this picture off, perhaps submit it to the SWLA exhibition this year, so I spent a whole lot more time at home, slaving away on it...
eventually this was my final point, the end of the road.  How do I feel now?  Well I was still not happy with certain elements in the picture - mainly things I've already mentioned.  There are parts of it I really like, like the colours and way I've used the paint in the bottom left corner - it has a completely different feel to say the area of branches in the upper/middle/right area.  The chiffchaff and moon in the top right look ok too - that would be a picture on it's own.  Maybe I should cut it up?!?!  No, I can't do that!
At the end of the day, I decided not to submit it, it's just too risky.  Best just draw a line under it and put it down to experience.  Here is the final version:
So, on to other things... I am going to add a psoting on photographing your own artwork - it can be very difficult to do, but I have sussed it, with the help of Photoshop, will share in a while.  I also will post up a few more pictures soon, including this beauty: a legendary one day Black-eared Wheatear in the New Forest.  Not a tick, but a terrific bird to see, just wish I had a bit more time with it to really do justice to it.  It was amazing how the single act of putting in the ultramarine shadow on the bird's breast suddenly give this picture life.

April sketches

The Egyptian Goose again, plus some Egyptian Goose chicks from the hide at Ixworth.

One of the highlights of this April was the amazing passage of Ring Ouzels. I managed to see eight at Roydon Common NWT reserve where I spent many hours watching them one day.  Up to 30 birds were seen here at this time, but I was more than happy with eight! The experience was very much marred by dog-walkers exercising dogs off the lead even though there are signs asking people to keep dogs on leads because of ground-nesting birds, and threats of £1,000 fines.  What is it with people?  Anyway, the sketches below are what I did in the time; not my best Ouzels, I have done better.  Drawing /painting is very much about 'being in the zone' and getting your eye in, and being somehow relaxed enough to absorb what you are seeing and convey it on the page.  To be honest there were hundreds of potential compositions and the light was stunning, I definitely failed to deliver when it came to a picture that captures the atmosphere of the occasion.

A few more from March

Finally got round to seeing the Waxwing in Mildenhall; no-one else around but eventually tracked it down perched in an Alder tree and then dropping down to feed in Guelder Roses of a children's play area:

Red-crested Pochard at Titchwell:
A surprising gathering of 13 Grey Herons during stormy gale conditions at Lackford:

Corn Bunting biro sketch from Essex:

Monday, 23 March 2015

Egyptian Goose sketch

Along the Little Ouse in Thetford on Sunday.  No otters, just usual Egyptian Goose, and a flock of Brambling, five of which were in song.

All day drawing from a hide

A cold day at Titchwell last Saturday.  A lot of birds and nice compositions not captured too... next time!
These pictures were done in this order (Shoveler first, Teal last):