Kittiwakes nesting on Dunbar castle

I post these sketches of nesting kittiwakes for completeness and my own reflection.

This was Sunday, the first day of the seabird painting course. It was drizzling intermittently. I realise this was the first full day I had ever spent just drawing birds.

I struggled, balancing an umbrella against a stack of lobster creels, holding it against the wind. My bulk teetered on a ridiculously small folding stool. I was swearing under my breath as I dropped one thing then another.

I found it hard to really look, fiddling with binoculars and putting them down to draw. Then I used a scope with my left eye, trying to draw using my right. Neither was satisfactory. I just could not retain the image long enough in my mind to draw from it.

I used my familiar pair of acrylic inks, paynes grey and sepia, topped off with a simple layer of sap green. I tried drawing directly with the brush. OK, these are sketches of moving birds, but as the week went on, I saw what others can achieve in watercolour in outdoor conditions. There is a mile to go here …

Later in the week, comparing my crude pencil sketches with those by other participants, I realised I shade with diagonal lines only. There is no subtlety, no building of shapes of through blocks of tone. Well … this is called learning.

By the time I attempted this last sketch, rain closed play. You might just make out the birds nesting amid the rain spattered inked wall.

The next day was rather better.

air currents

when I claimed at dinner that I had been drawing air currents, I was met with some scepticism, possibly some humour …

I had sought to draw kittiwakes wheeling over Dunbar harbour, then scooping themselves up the sheer face of the ruined castle wall to alight on its projecting blocks.

I had in mind the drawings of artist and course tutor, Greg Poole. I had seen them the previous evening and am delighted to find them now posted here

I also thought on his words from another context. Seeking to capture the fullness of a shore bird, he had imagined rain falling on its back, the running drips describing its shape. So my air currents are just that, a trick of the imagination. I used a chalk pastel to block in the flight path before trying to draw in the bird. The whole point is to draw fast and responsively.

Still, genuinely, I tried to feel that cushion of air as it buoyed up the wings, while every sense, every feather was responsive to small changes in pressure. Thought through like this, we began to imagine a drawing made up entirely of the air currents as they swept round and over the castle at Dunbar, described by the flight paths of the kittiwakes.