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Saturday, 16 May 2015

Paintings and panoramas

A lone puffin we saw at Bempton Cliffs at the end of March - in a variety of poses!

We finally found a place fairly local to us where we have been guaranteed good sightings of a number of brown hares and have revisited this place a few times now.  It takes patience sitting under a hedge in the corner of a large field very still so you don't disturb them and usually for at least an hour before a hare will come close enough to observe properly but well worth it!

Still finding it hard to find time to blog but determined to keep it going if only intermittently as my own little diary of what I do for me to look back on.  The wildlife journalling is still ongoing although it's slowed down a lot - not that I'm not getting out and about in the countryside with the camera - I've been doing lots of that and enjoying every minute of it - but having time to paint what I've seen has been another matter! Any painting time I've had has been taken up with commissions as I've had a run of them lately but I've also been busy enjoying the lighter Spring evenings taking Holly out for longer walks - feel so sorry for her being cooped up in the house while I'm at work! My daughters are in and out of the house during the day in between university and college lessons so she does get some company but they're hopeless at taking her for walks and leave that up to mum - not that I mind though - after a day's work and making dinner, there is nothing better than going out for a wander down the local river or up one of the local hills, taking in the scenery and wildlife - I love this time of year after what seems such a long winter full of short days, when you get home from work and it's dark - I think lots of people can relate to feeling a bit down over the winter months for the very reason that many people (depending on the job they do) don't really see much daylight. I'm lucky that my work does get me out and about during the working day and I'm also very lucky that I have my painting that keeps me occupied on those long winter nights - when I paint I am transported back to the time I was inspired to paint the subject in front of me - I can almost feel the breeze, smell the air and hear the sounds -  which is why I tend to get more painting done in the winter!  I do have a day off during the week which coincides with Gary's day off so we will either have what we call a 'photography day' or a 'walking day'  - I love both but a day out walking in the mountains just about wins for me I think and I hope I'll still have the health and fitness to do it into my golden years!  The photograph below is Holly and me on High Hartsop Dodd in the Lake District yesterday, a beautiful area and the one after that is taken on Sergeants Crag a couple of weeks earlier.   Anyone who has heard of the Wainwright's will know what I mean when I say yesterday was my 204th Wainwright - only 10 more to go before I complete them all - and I'm loving every minute of it!

I first started walking just over 6 years ago so pretty late in life and I really haven't looked back - it has opened my eyes to a whole new world that I hadn't even realised existed, it brought me closer to wildlife and inspired me to start drawing and painting again, something I hadn't done since my late teens.  I love art but if I were asked what is more important to me at this time I would say it is the experience for me which has become more so  - I know this isn't the same for all artists who will say the love of art comes first.  Art for me has become a way of celebrating those experiences in a painting or journal page which will provide a lasting memory of a special moment - and that's exactly what I'm concentrating on this year with the wildlife journals.  When my legs won't take me to these wonderful places anymore I'll hopefully still be able to paint them when I'm old and grey!  

That's not to say I won't occasionally paint something from someone else's photo which inspires me and I'm happy to take on commissions from time to time - memorialising someone else's experience - it's an honour to be asked.   I recently painted this butterfly on a thistle from a photo by Dave Smith from Paint My Photo - and there are a few more photos from PMP I'll probably have a go at at some point - just for fun - and why not!!

Thank you to anyone who pops in and reads my waffle - it's a bit of a mixed bag on this post but my life is a bit of a mixed bag too - all good though!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Wheatears and Stonechats

Studies of two of my favourite birds which we've recently had good sightings of.  Firstly it is always a thrill to see the first wheatears of the year arriving here from their wintering grounds.  Amazing little birds to fly the thousands of miles it does every year.  I'm looking forward to seeing plenty of them throughout the summer months keeping us company on our walks in the hills.

And secondly, probably high on most birdwatchers list of favourite birds, the stonechat - a bird that toughs it out here in the UK over the winter, which makes them even more endearing.  Gary and I saw them in good numbers near Conwy mountain last week which is wonderful to see.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Latest encounters in watercolour

I am still enjoying doing these wildlife studies and am starting to put together quite a collection.  Gary bought me a wonderful display book to put them in but I think I'll soon be needing another as it's almost half full. Here are the latest studies - hope you like them

Kinmel Bay - I went for a walk along the beach at Kinmel Bay with Holly who I keep under control in these places, making sure she doesn't stress out the birds.  It annoys me to see the way some irresponsible dog owners allow their dogs to go charging through huge flocks of birds, sending them all in the air in distress - no need for it.  There were lots of gulls on the beach and one of my all time favourite little waders, sanderlings who are so comical to watch like little clockwork toys scurrying along the tideline.  There were starfish on the menu with a great black back and juvenile gull both finding a tasty starfish for lunch.  It was a really cold day made colder by the fact that it poured down with rain, but the rain did make the colours of the pebbles shine which was lovely!

Avocets are one of my favourite birds to paint - such elegant waders with their upturned beaks, beautiful black markings with a touch of dark brown when you look carefully and those long blue legs - like works of art in themselves!  I counted 17 of them at Burton Mere while I was there.

Also at RSPB Burton Mere there have been good sightings of this long eared owl although  I've only seen it twice out of the 4 times I have been since it has been seen  and both times quite well hidden (the sketch on the right has been done from a previous photo that Gary took of a long eared owl.)  Wonderful to see this beautiful bird and my first sighting of one in the wild.

This next set of studies was inspired by a trip to Formby National Trust reserve where we saw a good number of red squirrels - I was surprised how varied their colours were with a few of them looking more of a dark grey than red and one was almost black.  They are obviously used to lots of people around as they came up very near to us - it was fascinating to watch them feeding and caching their food, scurrying up and down the trees and chasing each other around - they never stopped!

The latest studies I've done is of some red billed choughs which were seen at South Stack last Friday - one of the males there has started feeding from the sunflower hearts outside the cafe - apparently learned behaviour from the jackdaws.  The day after we were there we heard that guillemots and razorbills had arrived in large numbers - we were a day too early to see this spectacle so must go back soon!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

More Studies

An update on a few more wildlife studies, a personal journal of encounters

The first one is a study of the dippers and grey wagtails we often see on local walks along the River Alyn in Denbighshire

There is a lovely pond at Buckley Common where I live where you can pretty much guarantee to see the birds I've painted here

Gary and I held a day's exhibition at RSPB Conwy a couple of weekends ago and I painted a few of the birds we saw there throughout the day

There are usually good sightings of the wild ponies that roam the uplands around Conwy, here are some of the ponies we saw that day

Thank you for looking

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Four species of swan on Shotwick Lake

My latest wildlife journal page is of 4 different species of swan we see here in the UK - a bit like an identification page in a book!  Not far from where I live and right on the border between England and Wales there is a field which I like to call the swan field as there is a large flock of wintering swans there containing 4 different species, our native Mute swan plus many Whoopers and Bewicks which have migrated here for the winter plus one lone Black Swan.

Mute swans aren't migratory birds like the Whooper and Bewick swan and many will spend their entire winter on their usual pond or lake but some will move short distances to form winter flocks like the ones we saw at Shotwick Lake.  Mute swans as their name suggests are much quieter than their noisy relations and will make hissing and grunting sounds rather than the bugle like calling of the Whooper and Bewicks.

The graceful curve of a Mute swan's neck has inspired many artists and photographers and their wings make a loud, rhythmic and rather musical throbbing sound said to inspire the composer Wagner to write the Ride to Valkyrie.  Whooper and Bewick swans in contrast fly in almost total silence, their long straight necks stretched out before them. They travel huge distances from their breeding grounds high in the arctic zone to spend their winters here in the UK.

With their elegance and unblemished white plumage so rare amongst wild birds, swans are the epitome of purity and beauty   There is the exception of course of the black swan, sightings of which are being seen more and more in the wild obviously having escaped from captivity - they were introduced here as ornamental birds and certainly stand out amongst a large flock of white swans!


Tuesday, 10 February 2015


Gary manages a lady's football team and a couple of Sundays ago they were playing in Bethel in Snowdonia so I decided to tag along and go for a walk in Llanberis while the game was on. Llanberis is a lovely place overlooked by the Snowdonia mountains; it was a lovely sunny afternoon and I was delighted to spot a few goosanders on the lake swimming around with the rest of the ducks and eating bread from the people feeding the ducks there.  I sat watching them for some time and luckily had the camera with me so took a few photos with the aim of doing some studies of them back at home.  So here are a couple of the photos I took and the resulting study - once Gary found out they were there he wanted to go and take some pics himself - you can see his photos here

and here is the resulting artwork with Dolbadarn castle flung in there too as it is quite striking overlooking the lake of Llyn Padarn

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Latest wildlife studies

I am so glad I started doing these studies as I'm enjoying the fact that they are sketchy studies rather than 'proper' paintings if that makes sense - simple recordings of wildlife experiences, no pressure.  I am sometimes asked if I sketch in the field and it's something I've tried to do on occasions and will continue to practice field sketching as it's a great way of developing drawing and observation skills;   I do actually prefer to take photos on the day as I really enjoy the photography side so much as well - I'm lucky enough to have Gary's old camera and zoom lens to work with -  fleeting moments can be captured so well - and you can get a really good look at birds and wildlife through a zoom lens - it feels like it's just you and them - I'm still a novice as far as photography goes  and Gary's photos are always much better than mine of course but I've been really quite proud of some of the images I've taken - so I enjoy the combination of having a variety of photos to work from together with the memories in my head - then sit in my little art room at home with a cup of coffee and relive those moments by transferring them onto the paper in front of me.

Parkgate Marsh at high tide

Marbury Country Park - woodland birds seen from the woodland hide

Snow buntings at New Brighton

Waders at New Brighton

Some of the garden birds that visit my garden

Thank you for looking :-)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Wildlife Studies for 2015

One of the things I love to do as an artist is to paint the wildlife that Gary and I see on our travels - it started a couple of years ago when I started to paint the birds that visited the garden - as a record of what I saw and since then my art has been mainly focussed on painting birds and other wildlife that I see throughout the year using photos taken as a reference. I've said  this before that there is something extra special about painting something that you've had a memorable experience of because you relive the moment as you're painting it.  This year I thought it would be really nice to record these sightings in more of a journal style, writing notes about the experience and giving information about the subject - like a diary to look back on - so that's my main aim for this year - to produce an artist's diary recording the wildlife sightings and experiences of the year.  I'm sure I'll be doing the odd 'proper' painting as well - but I hope you'll enjoy sharing our wildlife sightings with us through my paintings this year - it will also give me an incentive to keep this blog up to date which I've neglected terribly again lately!  I've already done 3 of the types of studies I'm talking about - this first one records the many turnstones we saw earlier this month on Criccieth beach on the West coast of Wales - we made 2 visits to this beach and both times these turnstones were busily feeding amongst the seaweed covered rocks and sandy beach - beautiful little waders and a real pleasure to paint - here is the resulting diary page

We also saw lots of oystercatchers on the same beach, also busily feeding and more timid than the turnstones, flying away long before we got near them - I managed to get some lovely views while sitting quietly on a rock, watching them through the binoculars and getting some decent photographs with a long lens.  Here are the studies I did of these lovely waders, so easy to recognise with their bold black and white markings and bright red/orange beaks.

The next set of studies is from a visit to the high tide on the Wirral last Friday - the high tide pushes a variety of waders close to the shore, namely knot, sanderling and the odd dunlin - they are not spectacular looking birds with their dullish brown and grey plumage but when there are thousands of them in coordinated flight together, landing to form a carpet of grey and with the sound that goes with them it's a wonderful spectacle to behold.  Here are some little studies of some of the birds that were close enough to get photos of

Thank you for looking in - and I'd love to hear what you think of this way of recording our wildlife experiences