Yorkshire Dales

Today I was seized with nostalgia, a longing to walk again in the Yorkshire Dales.

These sketches are from 3 years ago.  This first I think is looking west from the Ribble Way footpath across to Simon Fell.

The majesty of this limestone landscape arises I think from hidden sculpting by subterranean water.

I made these small sketches standing up balancing above a fifty foot drop looking down into a unroofed cavern

and later from the back of the car sheltering from the rain.

Lapwings in flight

Huge formations of birds in flight are clearly fascinating to others.  A comment led me to http://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/grackles-revisited/ and a further comment on that site took me to another blog and an image of flocking geese http://theirisandthelily.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/a-field-of-white/.

I regularly watch lapwings in flight.  They suddenly startle and take off in unison.  They wheel and soar on frying-pan wings almost in formation, often in chaos, sometimes forming patterns, often breaking up into ones or twos, until they all sweep in to land noisily in the shallows again.  Capturing this in paint is difficult.  I know the image below is flat and has lost the sense of movement I set out to capture.  Still – this is an online sketchbook not an art gallery!  I will attempt this again.

Its worth mentioning that the grackles photograph mentioned above is a post on the blog http://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/.  I spend an enjoyable half hour with my six year old son going through this fabulous site focussing mainly on botanical photography.  Joseph said “wow” at nearly every shot.

While I’m at it, here are a few other field sketches of lapwings in conte crayon or in ink

They cannot conquer for ever

Look! The king has got a crown again!

This was drawn in compressed charcoal on buff paper.  I have returned to a limestone block eroding from an arid karst platform, supporting trailing caper plants in flower.  My attention was drawn to a large hole, somehow reminiscent of an eye socket.  I have drawn this before, like a side view of an ungulate’s skull (https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/limestone-skull/).  This time I saw a more anthropoid facies in the same image.  The overlying white flowers brought back to me a scene from Lord of the Rings describing an unexpected vision of hope for the beleaguered characters.  Unintentionally perhaps, my own image subverts this and is rather bleaker in mood.


I’ve experimented with drawing buzzards, scratching ink into wet paper, blotting and painting back into the scarred surface.

Giant Pterodactyl

This is as much an aide memoire to myself as a post to others.

Recently, I’ve thrown in a couple of cartoons using Giant Pterodactyl as a means to mayhem- initially inspired by the need for a fitting response to Jeremy Clarkson.

I was drawing reconstructions of pterodactyls as a kid and now coming back to observing and painting animals, I had thought to do so again.  So let me pay tribute to some people doing this seriously whom I’ve noticed on the way.

Davide Bonadonna is a professional PaleoArtist.  I love his illustrations of dinosaurs and contemporary wildlife http://davidebonadonna.it/.  I came across him simply by googling images and following his illustrations to their source.  Mark Witton co-wrote a paper on Azhdarchid pterosaur functional anatomy referenced previously and got his painting of marauding giraffe sized monsters into a scientific journal.  He has other great illustrations here http://www.flickr.com/photos/markwitton.  I’ve modified this post to link now to http://www.markwitton.com/.  I’ll be buying his book.

They have both developed the career that I might have fantasied about as a kid, consultant palaeontologist and artist.  I really like their combination of accuracy with artistry.