Friday, 28 December 2012

Fieldfare, Caersws

Flock of c.200 winter thrush and many more starling, make forays from hedge to ground, on a wet day. 

Friday, 30 November 2012

Car Park Punks

Another Waxwing explosion this year, after the berry crops of their usual wintering grounds on the continent have failed. I have anticipated their arrival since early November, tracking reports of their mass invasion moving steadily South from Orkney, Aberdeen and then closer to home the other week with 250+ in North Wales. Like two years ago when they last showed in Mid Wales, I first found our Waxwings in the local college car park gorging on fluorescent orange  berries of an ornamental Rowan tree at the end of the last row of parking bays. They are pretty birds, rare, tolerant of people with a pleasing almost purring call and congregate in big flocks. Not surprisingly the college waxwings draw a crowd of birders, photographers and the local ringing group. In turn we attract enough attention from the students, lined up peering down the railway track fence laden with Hawthorn, are we trainspotting? I could correct them but realise it's much of a muchness. 

So this particular car park is mildly hostile for an anorak  where the main occupation is driving around between speed bumps at the top of the rev limiter - colourful driving the grounds man who has taken a real shine to the waxwings calls it, when seriously concerned for our safety. But the real attitude in the car park is the pack of 100 so punk crested waxwings, necking berry after berry until the Sorbus are stripped and then moving onto the Hawthorn, this is what keeps me coming back and sucking up the mild abuse that comes from standing on my own in sight of an adolescent smoker's corner, at an easel with bins glued to my eyes, a brush in one hand and a palette in the other; "Oi mate... Oi LENSY!... what you looking at?!....(me) birds?....Ideal!...what sort... Brunettes! ....(me) nice one, do you want to have a look?" 

To be fair a nice lady offered me a cup of tea the other day, that was when it was really cold. During these cold snaps the birds become even bolder, dangling and gulping at the low hanging berries just a few feet from our faces. On wet weekends when there are no cars about they come onto the ground to drink and flutter in the puddles, it can become a real frenzy with a constant conveyor of trilling birds commuting between bush and water. After all this time the one thing that still spooks them are the trains, every two hours one passes and like a touch paper ignites every bush along the back of the car park in succession sending flocks of frantic, screeching waxwing reeling into the sky. My most productive time seems to be late afternoon, when the Waxwings gather behind a classroom, filling every available limb and tangle of hawthorn bush, feeding, preening and just hanging out before the trills suddenly begin to crescendo and with a sudden eruption of flight they head purposefully West towards Mochdre to roost. Each time I realise with accute anxiety, that they may not come back as the berries thin out each day and it could be another 2, 5 even 10 years before conditions conspire for their winter return here once more. But there are so many possibilities, compositions, behaviours to paint and each drawing leads to ways I could improve on the next, this is the addiction, the anxiety, the frustration I have right now of relying on the unpredictable. 

(Cb,Ru,QR, brush, dark tones, dry, background sky- define light tones, drop in background forms,  define detail) Also working crayon/wc on Bock for large group comps, sillouette single brush tone for pre roost flocks and ideas for ground feed/drink with car park furniture on the weekend or from car in wet. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Caersws Whooper Swan

Whoopers are back! 16 grazing a field I haven't seen them in before. Has great landscape possibilities especially in dusk light, as this sketch reminds me, from access track.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Pen y Gaer - Iron Age Fort

16 - 21 October

Exploring the Iron Age fort. Considering its position at the head of two valleys and the visual juxtaposition between the remains and surrounding landscape forms. Further interest in relationship of the prehistoric landscape and present landscape use - farmland, damning of Clywedog valley and remains of mining and macro landscape. Iron age and bronze age features (cairns, standing stones) are of interest for their position in the landscape, which was highly relevant and can perhaps be revealed or explored through visual art today.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Winter Goldies

First noticed Golden plover (x7) back on the hill 28 September. Small flock of five calling in flight late around 4.30, already getting dark, this one appeared in the col I had scoured meticulously, just as i was going to head back. Had it been there all along or just landed? Bird alert the whole time as others calling in air, I painted for about 1 hr (bs+cb, intro rs, qr -alternating foliage/plumage for drying time) before it joined others. Left around 5.45 as the 5 circling birds landed on West slope of col and seemed to be feeding. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Kite Feeding

Example from series of studies made between 18 August and 4 September

Arrived at my latest (favourite) spot in time to put in sky for a kite feeding picture. Flat, blue-grey sky, hint of heavier clouds building on horizon. Sun a weak disk, a neat puncture in the cloud cover leaking light outwards, seeping yellow ochre flooding the wet sky. c.100 kites today and as many spectators. Kites are in molt, frayed tails barbed like streamers behind a rocketship. Primaries droop at awkward right angles which I am almost squeamish to see, realising I unintentionally interpret the whole wing as equivalent to human limbs in my nearest translation or empathy of flight. Kites gather in the trees, some spruces bending under the weight of several birds, the sound of their whistles ricochet  off the still lake and around the arena of trees.
An anticipatory hush infects the waiting crowd once the food is thrown across the feeding area, before the kites gather. They are wary despite their apparent familiarity and punctuation with feeding time day after day, circling tighter and lower until one bird will fold its wings tight back and drop to the floor; more follow twisting in tight corkscrews to the ground. The frenzy is tight and I hear the thwack as birds collide, though with little consequence. Some I notice are bolder stooping straight through the pussy footing flock with the confidence of a peregrine. Others, prefer the benefits of piracy, maybe they lack the confidence to go to ground although I think some occupy their time waiting for the flock to mass for the next feed by stealing on the wing. Every 20 minutes or so the flock regroups above the feeding station with the last bout being between 5.00 and 6.00 (depending on the day) before the kites drift away and the crows move in. On the way home, at Llanbrynmiar I  pass the usual group of kites, probably going to roost, I am sure they have come from the feeding.

Two Colour (um+bs) wash to draw the kites (in later versions intro ru). Concentrate on angle of attack, wing and tail positions, depth of undercarriage, flow and clarity of wash, using the shadow and patterning to define posture and form (although silhouetted from this aspect). Later work uses bins, looking at individuals movements and movement of flock to work up an accurate convincing fluid composition with feel of the frenzy.


Sunday, 19 August 2012

Green Sandpiper

Brief view of Green Sandpiper, a first. Used pencil for first time  in a while, allowing me to finish painting accurately after bird was flushed out of sight by Lapwing. Differences from common are lack of white shoulder, striking white eye ring and  white chequers along edge of covert/wing feathers (not shown here). At least 2 green and 2 common. Flat light turned water surface into white mirror. Generally noticed, light is turning towards more dramatic direction of winter time.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Monday, 6 August 2012

Spider Crab, First Print

1st attempt at print based on Spider Crab drawings from Martin's Haven (28.06 post). Much in the dark working on this one, but now can see pockets of techniques and colours that could be good and those that I can rethink. 1st plate - cb+ru+(qr). 2nd plate - qr+ny+cb, ru+". Use colour to enhance depth, transparency/mirk. More definate with 1st plate so as to minimise crayon; better colour reactions on 2nd.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Castlemartin - Elegug Stacks

Castlemartin's sea bird colonies are at most times a forbidden zone situated within an MOD on/offshore firing range. Visits have to be timed with pauses in firing; our first opportunity being between 16.30 - 21.30 last Tuesday. Travelling along the South coast we soon begin passing heavy military convoys before hitting the barracks where we turn onto a reinforced concrete lane, pausing to check - no red flags flying. The track 
is direct to the sea, the land is sparse, save for the odd relic to its previous use; a chapel on the skyline and down a lane the shell of an old farm house. Giant scrapes laid by tanks and the sillouttes of Apache helicopters lined up on tarmac, faces like velociraptor, remind us of the short window of dormancy in this normally volatile patch, in which we safely pass to make our findings.  
A dense sea fog had surged well inland that day bringing the kind of drizzle that hangs static in the space, charging the air with an atmosphere of suspense out of which are conjured gloomy shape shifting landscapes. This is how the colony revealed to us as we walked over the brow of the cliff seen in right of this picture, crammed at eye level on the central stack, a moated outpost fortified by shear numbers. Immediately jeapordy soars by in the wraith shape of a peregrine, greater black backed gulls patrol inches above the colony jabbing up and down at auks half their size like dancing puppets until large sections of the colony give way, in a cascade of black and white flight, leaving eggs and young vulnerable.
At eye level the birds whir by on a myriad of flight paths, drawing the various cliff tops, stacks and waves into a complex matrix of activity. On the main stack intimate behaviour can be watched closely at eye level, guillemots bow and nod to one another in constant communication that ripples through the colony in a constant swaying waving motion, accompanied with pulses of verbal gutteral gurgling rolling growls of consternation - oooOOOooAAAaooOOWWW!. From below Kitti-wake!! Kitti-Wake!! calls roll around the walls of sea caves before punching up over the clifftop din in an almighty eruption of volume. Razorbills sky point silently in pairs on the steepest ledges. Squinting through the turbulence of sea and mist, rafts of auks are pushed into view on the rising swell , more and more constellations of black bodies revealed in the time spent staring out over the ocean.
On the last day of our trip the access road reopens for a whole day. We return and paint through a day of sun, strong S Westerly and squally showers. A new aspect from the East is revealed and I enjoy taking in the whole scene from further back this time, taking in the merging movements of sea, birds, light and geology with this painting.

BS+UM. PB+UM - PB+ RU. QR+RU (UM), QR+UM, CY+UM(QR) see notes: Dec2011 - 2012

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Spider Crabs, Martin's Haven

Snorkelling; evening onshore breeze, bay sheltered from heavy SW swell with moderate visibility. Low tide. Boulder strewn sea bed and kelp forest. Spider crabs numerous, clinging on to kelp. Kelp sways in current to reveal more crabs; fleshy pink coloured shells, darkening red on edges and around protrusions, roughness contrasting with inky dark black brown, green and purple, rubber smooth weed. 

Fun to draw in negative; charcoal turning velvety slick and deep black underwater. Soon get into rhythm drawing one sketch after another and ferrying each one back to shore in turn. Floating in current, strange to have a still subject and be the one whose moving for a change.

(darkness enveloping crab, roughness of shell - smoothness of weed, receding depth, floating perspectives, barnacles and algae on shell, bulky shell, spikes and pins of measly face, substantial legs and claws everywhere, weed obscuring parts as well. PRINT, composite of drawings bound by weeds, overdraw - in bath?)

Friday, 22 June 2012

Peregrine Eyrie, Welsh Boarder

Arrival 11am: Warm, Sun/cloud, light breeze.
1st thing, larger young visible above grassy ledge. Almost all down is gone, evidence of persistant preening snagged in surrounding undergrowth like a dusting of snow. A little fluffy patch however still gives it punk appearance reminiscent of its earlier development. Bill and face skin, grey blue (no yellow like adult) Generally browner in mantle, moustache and other dark upper parts, rufous buff on front. Soon out of sight behind grass again. I adult (each parent seems to have favourite perch, this one tercial's, with females near nest, also often on same perch at similar time of day, afternoon being best here) on far right in shade of overhanging bush - quick brush study of cast shadows over form.
No action until 2pm: Adults flying over, calling, young calling. Chicks become very vocal and active, wing stretching, running etc. It was as if they knew adult was preparing to hunt or perhaps they saw one make a kill beyond the trees behind me and below them. Because, shortly after female (lighter than unusually dark tercial) returns with kill. Frenzy ensues, with lots of noise as female tears off flesh for young (later the young do this for themselves). Unpleasant noise of usual repetitive falcon screech but also kind of yapping, possibly younger chick? This lasts 10 -15 minutes. Female airborne to perch on left cliff in full view as I start drawing, then moves to favourite perch, luckily adopting similar position . 
It is a good posture, balanced, stretched with tail up slightly showing dramatic black on white bars of lower underside. I get the form in pencil then adapt with the first washes as she drops her wings, relaxes tail and twists a little. I note shadows and take care to get tricky eye - bill position well. 1st wash: wb+cr, good to capture light bluey upper parts of mantle as well as darkness of primaries in heavier washes. However quite green and not grey enough so decide to introduce um and cb (breaking usual habit of limiting palette to one blue). Cb=bs for lightest blue of bill and shadows on front. Um + bs in mantle to tone down original wb washes. 
Return to wb+cy for grass, fairly neutral to start then building up intensity, working best where yellows and blues show through from underwash. Cb + bs useful for keeping grey of rock pale, receding and distinguishable from greys of bird (problem in earlier studies) creating depth. Pallette cb, wb, um, cy, cr, qr (flowers), bs. Grass built up with varying intensity of green and carefully darkening and colouring background rock showing in spaces between. With care this could be affective although time consuming. 

(+starting with pencil helpful today +Risky with pallete by adding extra blues, threw up more possibilities for colours like yellow to show more of their characteristics + standing always best).

Also about: Common spotted orchid, Bee Orchid, Butterfly Orchid.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Siskin at Penygraig

Siskin numbers on the feeder have been building since the beginning of April. Days of heavy rain have had the highest numbers, 30 + on and around feeder. Seemingly different groups arrive in intervals, perhaps now migrating locally up river towards breeding habitiat in Hafren forest, not sure - time will tell. I have studied the birds at close quarters from the window  on and off since Winter, but the cherry tree across the river coming into blossom holds the most interest now. The birds wait here before crossing to the feeder, which now patrolled by a male Sparrow Hawk does not come without risk. Male siskin sing from the branches, crest raised as shown here and others eat the buds, but this attraction is no match for the draw of the nyger feeder so I have to work fast to catch an impression of the birds amongst the blossom. On this occassion I made tens of brush drawings and  repainted them in a better composition (colour is subtle, drawing in cb+ru/bs, cb,qr,rs for main body  and yellow pure and light, enhanced by upping the purple complimentary). Redpolls are also drawn to the feeder and in the tree the males in particular, with their pink blushing breasts smartly coordinate with the blossom colours, the vivid yellow siskin are altogether more raucous in appearance and character, often clashing with other birds over the feeder or a favourite perch. On the busy feeder a siskin will point at a challenger with wings held out and fanning, dancing around the honeycomb cylinder like a bee in a hive before taking off in a vertically climbing joust with its adversary.    

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Low Light & Flying Golden Plover

A scene I have been returning to for four or five years, since I first found golden plover up here, in fact these were the first new and most 'wild' species I found; better still on my local patch. It was an experience to cement my interest in studying birds. The Golden plover are part of a sense of place that has a strong hold on me, drawing me to this the last spit of land at the end of the upland plateau stretching uninterrupted, North to Snowdonia. The greatest excitement comes in unknowing before I ascend, whether the place will have any affect on me that day since it depends on specific conditions of light and weather to transform it from an average patch of rough grazing to the wild, elevated Welsh upland that can send senses and imagination hurtling far away from valley drudgery towards wilderness spaces.
The grass here comes in short swathes of gold and blond, mottled with darker mosses, a palette mimicked exactly in the plovers plumage. I can only find the plovers on the ground because I once saw them land where it has transpired they often roost, so I look for movement by scanning this small area with binoculars, even then I can miss them, only to carelessly flush them a few steps later. Amazingly I have regularly counted between 45 and 48 birds here throughout the last few years. Sometimes I find them sometimes I don't on days over winter but Autumn and Spring are best and I haven't yet established how present they are over Summer.
A still, sunny evening is best to find the plovers up here, when it is possible to hear their piping and watch the memorising movements of their flight; a synchronised twinkling of White bellies to dark backs as they pitch and yawl over the ridge. At this time, low light ignites the ridge casting dramatic shadows and turning the muted soft tones into a blaze of gold, often contrasted against a darker sky of blue and brown clouds from the North West.
These conditions are rare though, as the ridge is exposed and magnifies the lightest of prevailing weather, making such days precious especially when the Winter light is at its best and the plovers most noticeable. But I always have one eye on conditions looking to predict the next golden plover day.

The painting above was completed over three days:
5th: Conditions near perfect, with the wind in the North and light. I paint in the shadows, basic rock forms and sky. Pleased that I can see Cadair Idris on the horizon, dusted with snow and catching the light around its base, a useful focal point in the far distance. First I place a red kite that passes over the left hand ridge, but quickly scrub that as I hear the piping of Golden Plover, I sketch the shape of the flock in my pad when they come into the frame and drop down to cover. I place them to the right of the picture, balancing Cadair and the light in the clouds on the left, which is not far off where they roost anyway. A final blaze of light catches the ridge casting long shadows and I map it out with a wash of NY, dropping in UM, BS, RU etc
7th: A hard climb today with Northely wind pushing against my A1 portfolio, containing the unfinished paintings. I make a start but soon its gusting over 40 and their is no respite, every angle is exposed as if the wind is coming straight down. Storm clouds on the horizon, I beat a retreat and make it down just as the hail begins to pour, good fun. Getting home, can see some progress made in defining the tones in the foreground so pleasently surprised. No Goldies today.

8th: Calm today, but low cloud flattens light. One late gap in the cloud cover around 1700 is my last chance and gives me enough light to define some areas and bring the picture to a close. No Goldies but I find a mossy rise strewn with feathers, clearly the molt is on and perhaps next time I see them the males will be even more striking with the black face and chest colour of their breeding plumage.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Displaying Goldeneye

1100, Sun and cloud, North Westerly rippling lake surface in gusts. Two drake and two female visible, already displaying on arrival. Female at North of lake postures low to surface with neck stretched, nostrils just above water, spinning gently. Male neck extends and head throws, simultaneous growling call reverberates across the lake to reach me seconds later, but male at South end has already reacted, flying in to confront the rival threat. Females are seemingly forgotten, drifting away, still posturing as males circle and size each other up through mimicry; synchronised head throws, tail kicks and neck extensions. Then they dive, surfacing in a grappling clinch, they squabble on the surface until one is seen off. However both seem to be paired up, the victor with his duck staying North, the vanquished heading to Southern end to join another female. Why then the display and aggression? territory, insecurity...?
Afternoon. Three female (possibly one is a juvenile) and two drake present. goldeneyes have remained separate, drakes feeding at opposite ends of the lake, two females South and one North. Constantly diving to feed, with only seconds at surface, I can only grab brief sketches and observations, learning when a subject is about to depart by the way it flattens its feathers and sinks down, deflating before kinking neck laterally before flipping its back end and slipping under, leaving a gentle footprint frothing on the surface.

1700-1800.After being given the run around by flighty goldeneye, manage to hide myself at the South end of lake where shore is closer, without causing disturbance. Air is almost still and in the shelter the lake is a sheer smooth mirror reflecting the warm golden palette of reeds and upland mosses lining the far bank. The goldeneyes slice and puncture this illusion with gliding dives and cork like rises, vapour trails and residue momentarily etching the surface, a memo of the birds movements and behaviour. Deep blue lines reflecting the sky on a golden ground. All five birds together now, drakes displaying a full repertoire of head and tail throws, the females snaking low to the water, then swimming in tandem at speed with their mates/potential mates. I muster one last attempt at capturing the scene in these rare perfect conditions, leaving only once the light has completely gone. Reluctantly I make my way home because the clicks, growls and snorts of displaying drakes are still vividly heard behind the dark silhouettes obscuring the lake,

Friday, 10 February 2012

Glossy Ibis 8J9, Borth

Returned to Glossy Ibis. Cold Easterly still , occasional sleet shower. Bird worming near to pools catching its reflection. Conditions conspire for a good days painting of studies and this final piece in the gathering gloom of late afternoon and icy sea mist.
20.04.2012 : note Ibis 8J9 ringed in southern Spain has been recorded in Bedfordshire, Essex and other parts of Wales since leaving Borth late February. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Glossy Ibis, Borth

A keen Easterly wind brings cold air on a clear day, the temperature stays sub-zero. A Glossy Ibis found in a waterlogged paddock, picking through dark clods of earth churned up, almost ploughed up by the horses hooves. It has stayed loyal to this spot all week, sharing it with jackdaws and gulls, though it gets the juiciest worms by wrestling its bill deep below the permafrost. It uses its bill with great agility, not least when overcoming the problem of getting a worm grasped with the tip all the way down into its mouth, by throwing and snapping at the prey mid air, or when it senses something in the ground, twisting and pushing to drive the bill onto the prey.

The colours on this bird are a challenge to paint, far from being black its wings are an iridescent oily rainbow of teal, crimson purples and blues, whilst the body is a dark rich burgundy brown that lightens towards the head which becomes streaked with pin lined feathers. Bill and legs are almost peach in some light and the skin around the eyes a contrasting cool blue. I try many colour combinations over the two days, always limited and settle on an unusual palette of UM (gs), IR, BU, (RU). The subtle changes of iridescence helped by the constantly moving, freezing and reticulating pigments of watercolour on the page. An addictive way of painting brought on by an unusual bird in unusual conditions over the last two days.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Bonxie Series

The Biscay Bonxie continues its wandering, top, past Cabo Mayo where I was sea watching in 2010 and below, sunset from the Pont Aven during 2010 Orca survey ...not sure where this will take me next, maybe a bigger scene, maybe Borth.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Red Kite, Cors Caron

Red kite settles in an oak tree above Maesllyn and surveys the teal on the frozen lake below. I scoured the four or so mile length of this raised peat bog and found very little besides the kites and buzzards. Later this evening at least five hen harries quartering the north end including a male. A full moon, blue sky, snow capped hills beyond the flat expanse of russet marsh - reminds me of Asgrimur Jonsson's Iceland. Temperature plummets, paints frozen by the time more harriers pass.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Snipe, Pwll Penarth

11 Snipe on Pwll Penarth today, pushed into the usual corner when the water is high, just in view with a scope. With great synchrosy they rest together for large periods of the day, but occassionaly stir. Preening on mass is a precurser to mobilisination and a frenzied group foray onto the muddy margines to feed. Probing in and out of the mud, bobbing with mechanical motion they whir around until suddenly they will freeze crouch , tuck their bills in and return to resting possition for perhaps hours. Luckily this group stayed just about in view for me to attempt the larger compositon I have been working up to for the last couple of weeks. I won't return now until the water level drops as this brings the Snipe closer into view and hopefully fresh drawing possibilities.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Brent Geese

Finally find the nine Brent geese that have been sighted sporadically all winter around Ynys Las. I find them much further up river from the Leri than expected, on a high spring tide that brings a lot of wildfowl to this particular roost, including around 100 pintail today. Smaller than the barnacle geese, similar in basic monochrome pattern but with totally different blacks and greys that appear more sooty in colour. The head and neck is entirely black except for a necklace of white edged feathers on the adult and first winter birds.

There is a good bush to stand half in with my easel and telescope, further covered by the embankment I can draw the birds undisturbed as the tide brings them right up to me. I am not alone I discover, noticing nearby straight edged cuboid clumps of foliage that rotate and twitch are wildfowlers draped in camouflage netting.

The Dyfi drains dead on midday, the ducks have drifted with receding water, but the Brents just put their feet down and revert to terrestrial grazing habits. Swimming from island to island at first until they are entirely surrounded by the high and relatively dry saltflats of the estuary at low tide. Out of the water I can see their pale bellies that are actually a quite dark umber and barred, receding to pale almost white along the flanks. This patterning and degree of darkness varies greatly, with some almost completely dark brown underneath (possibly juveniles or first winter); it is tempting to declare some as dark bellied Brents, a race that breeds in Northern Siberia as apposed to these pales that have migrated from Arctic Canada, Greenland, Svalbard or Franz Josef Land; but they would be darker more uniformally.But which ever race, this is a species of goose that breeds farther North than any other and the hardy nature of it shows in the small but compact and bullish morphology of those Brents on the Dyfi. I watch them as they are lured by newly revealed grazing in the wake of the dropping tide, further and further into the basin of the Dyfi's lowest channels. 9 Grey specks in a sea of brackish grassland stretching far towards a horizon of cropped mountain peaks and the cold white sky above; a touch of arctic tundra at home...

A reason I was keen to track this new species is that I thought they would afford closer views than the barnacle geese and other geese here, due to their location. I was not disappointed and I think even at low tide these birds will allow me good views. In this sketch, I have fallen into the trap of using too many neutrals as I often do working on geese and trying at speed to create many blacks and greys, overall though, they have a subtly different form from the barnacles that is fantastic to draw. I also forgot to keep up with the tide as well as the moving birds, so lost any reference to the interesting lagoons and submerged grass surrounding the birds when I first started.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Goosander Pair

Early morning stillness on Llyn Coed Y Dinas. Different species different sizes seem evenly spaced in a pattern covering the far island. suddenly a disturbance sends lapwings reeling upwards, wigeon and teal tumble into the water. As the rafts of birds radiate outwards a male goosander glides towards the deepest centre of the lake, flanked by the red headed female, her neck pointed out straight and her head lowering until the sharp bill skims the surface at full kilter. The pair twist serenely on the mirror calm water as they preen for a while until they are about to drift behind the far side of the island, the female drops her head and resumes her less subtle courtship once more. The male this time taking notice treads her underwater, pinning her with such a tight grip to a tuft of the head feathers, that when her buoyancy overcomes his efforts she is violently flung outwards once he relinquishes his hold.

Large format allowing space to emerge, fast, bold but vague and loose line first, blank spaces strong washes of thought out colour allowing paint and water to freely work across the paper.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Garreg Hir

A respite in the gales this morning meant I could go back on the uplands and my favourite patch around Bwlch Y Garreg - Three lakes and bog in the basin of an arching ridge. After days of rain Llyn mawr had overspilled into the bog, four lapwing took advantage of the extended wetland (have never sen them on this site before). Two female goldeneye on the water and a third lone juvenile on llyn Du (like last year). I left the goldeneye as light was too flat to make them out in detail and headed up garreg hir. The Westerlies soon picked up again and by the afternoon gusting around 30mph. Oblique sunlight illuminated the acid grasslands, soft yellows that are so hard to capture in paint though it helps when they contrast with the dark blue grey low hanging clouds on a day like today. The golden plover are not to be found on their usual roost between the burial cairns, although a squadron of 6 buzz low through this gully early on.

Painting in lea of a rocky out crop, fairly good perspective to the North West, over the Glonc bogs and towards cloud storms over the Arans. Drew composition and tones in bs+um, drop ru into highlights in sky (surprisingly similar to ny in right quantities). Wash of ny for grass, then dropped in various mixes e.g bs+qr and ru+um for subtle soft colours in grass. Although a little rushed as green has overrun the ny too much. Approach for larger scale.

Descending from ridge, big mixed flock of starling and fieldfare take advantage of the muddy gate ways and the lake for a brief moment is a deep Prussian blue, striking especially where the water spills around the equally vivid russet red margins. Try to paint the goldeneye in good light but typically flighty, choosing to fly down the lake as soon as I've set up everything right down to mixing my first colour.