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 !


  1. Oh my... I was so attracted by your gorgeous Puffin photographs .. I think I have said many times how much I adore them .. and these photos are stunning.
    What a surprise to see you mentioned my blog - thank you! I always get a surprise to think anyone is reading it, it is such a personal journey isn't it?
    Love your seagull egg artwork ... eggs are such treasures to paint, I am sure the client was well pleased!
    Lovely blog entry and I may need your help - your layout is wonderful and easy to read ... may need some advice for mine!

  2. Thanks ever so much Vicki, glad you enjoyed the posting. Will be in touch about blog layout etc.

  3. loved the puffin photo's .. already looking forward to Mull May 2013 .. to bag some pictures of my own, via the Treshnish Isles .. and the Seagull eggs? You just keep getting it right don't you, lovely stuff.

  4. I loved reading about your adventures in Skomer, must get there one day! The painting of the eggs are fantastic too x


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