Saturday, 23 June 2012

More eggs - and egg cases !

The theme of eggs from my last posting seems to be continuing, at least for this one anyway !

My friend Jill, gave me some eggs from her family chickens and I just loved the subtle change of colours between the 'peachy' coloured eggs, and I thought the white one would be a challenge to paint.

I used Daniel Smith watercolours and several of the colours that I have granulate, which in some cases does help to portray the texture and tone.  There was quite a bit of  'wet-in-wet' in this painting and at times I wasn't quite sure whether it was going to work.

Eggs from Aurora, Twinkle and Star

Now for more eggs, or rather egg cases !  I hope to be working on some illustrations for the Hants and IOW Wildlife Trust Marine Team, for them to use for educational resources.  So I took the plunge this week and started the first painting.  I wanted to complete one for them to review, before I go full steam ahead with the others.

The egg cases are from species such as Skate, Ray and Dogfish, and I had previously found them along the strandline after high tide.  The have always fascinated me and I love their 'group' name of 'Mermaids Purses'.

Mermaid's Purses

I am reading a really good book at the moment, and it will appeal to those of you who are fans of the nature-writing genre.  Strands - A Year of Discoveries on the Beach is written by Jean Sprackland.  I first came across the book when excerpts from it were being read on BBC Radio 4. 

It says, This is the ultimate beachcomber's book.  A series of meditations prompted by walking on the wild esturial beaches of Ainsdale Sands between Blackpool and Liverpool, Strands is a book about what is lost and buried then discovered, about all the things you find on a beach, dead or alive, about flotsam and jetsam, about mutability and transformation - about sea-change.

In a chapter dedicated to Mermaid's Purses, the author tells us many things about these strange, almost mystical objects and goes on to say that her daughter, when young, used to collect them and use them as purses for small coins - the innocence of childhood ! 

Away from eggs and egg cases now.  I have always wanted to spend more time using colour pencils, so one morning everything else was cast aside and I sat down with my Ann Swan book (Botanical Painting with Coloured Pencils), and some luscious dark cherries that I had bought from the supermarket.

There was a good exercise in the book using cherries of a similar colour, so off I went.  I had most of the colours she had suggested, so that was a bonus.  What I did love was how the picture gradually emerged to look like glossy spheres of juicy cherries, in a different way to how a picture evolves with watercolour.  I was pleased with the result, but a further study of a single grape was not fit to be made public !

Off to one of my favourite counties this week - Dorset, for a few days of print-making at a friend's house :)

Happy Painting !

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The calm before the storm - Wales and beyond

It was almost hard to believe watching the news reports over the last week, that the west coast of Wales had taken such a battering in the recent storms compared to when we were there a few weeks ago, in such fine weather.  Our thoughts have been with those people who have suffered loss and damage to their homes.

Our time in Pembrokeshire seems as though it all happened ages ago.  The good sunny weather really came on the 21st May (our 1st wedding anniversary), when we spent the day on Marloes Sands.  I am no landscape artist, but I managed a sketch of the view from where we had based ourselves.

On the 22nd we ventured to Skomer, an island I had always dreamed of going to.  I really was quite emotional as we climbed the steep steps from the landing area.  We were just greeted my numerous Puffins - on the sea and some in burrows right next to where we were walking.

We spent two days on the island and stayed in the converted farm buildings in the centre.  The sun continued to shine with occasional sea mist.  Despite being only 1 mile off shore, the temperature was cooler than the mainland so fleeces were required.

The landscape on the island is gently undulating and most of it was covered in Bluebells, with large areas of Red Campion and also Sea Campion nearer the cliff edges.

During the two days we took different routes around the island to ensure that we covered as much of it as we could.  Even then, there were still areas that we did not spend enough time at.

The photo opportunities were fantastic and we took over 300 photos!  The final selection of the best shots was wittled down to 92, which included everything, not just the Puffins!

We were also lucky enough to see a Little Owl whilst we were out walking.  There are several pairs nesting on the island.

Late at night Manx Shearwaters come back to the island after being out at sea all day.  They come back when it is as dark as possible to avoid being predated by Gulls. 

They are strange birds, with their feet far back under their body, which makes it difficult for them to walk on land.  Therefore they try to land as near to their burrows as they can.

We ventured out near midnight and eventually we heard eery calls, that were between a wail and blood curdling cry.  Apparently many many years ago, people living near the coast used to hear their calls and think that it was the restless souls of dead sailors calling in the night!

We then heard gentle thuds on the ground near where we were walking and realised that it was the birds landing.  To avoid scaring the birds we only occasionally put on our head torches, but it was truly an amazing sight, with thousands of these birds flying onto the island.

The next day you would often see the remains of unlucky birds that had been caught by gulls.

After our wonderful trip to such a beautiful area of the country it was back home.  As I am taking the summer off to concentrate on my artwork, I was quite excited as I have so many painting ideas buzzing around in my head.

One of the first things that I concentrated on when we got back was to carry out a review of the watercolours I use.  I particularly wanted to concentrate on the transparency of the colours I use and their lightfastness.  This was spurred on by reading a blog article from Vicki Lee Johnston, a talented botanical artist based in Australia.

So I have now got 2 palettes/paint tins on the go, with transparent colours in one and then semi-transparent colours and opaque colours in another.  I will write more about these palettes in a later posting.

The garden that we have created is starting to look brilliant with an array of flowers coming into bloom.  Sadly, as I speak a lot of these have been battered by the recent strong winds and heavy rain.  Despite this I managed to get a picture of our Passion Flower.  When I bought it, it was a pewny little specimen and now it is flourishing.

As for artwork, I have just completed a commission for a painting of some seagulls eggs.  I really enjoyed painting this and used gouache.  The client was very pleased with the finished piece, so now on to the next one!

Happy painting !