The small river Blythe has burst its banks and flooded its flanking meadows, rushing under and around the old packhorse bridge. The water was high in the Marsh Lane reserve, swamping the small islands which usually host roosting waterfowl.
I painted this last of all, as the light faded, by the end in near darkness in the hide. On someone’s blog recently (forgive me for not remembering whose) I liked the texture of conte crayon under watercolour and tried this here.
Before that I had sketched birds for about an hour. Most prominent were cormorants perched on what was left of an island, surrounded by wigeon making an eery piping sound in the gathering dusk.
I tried to focus on simple gestural brush strokes, capturing the bulk of the neck and shoulders as they stretched and preened. I mixed a neutral of ultramarine and variously burnt umber or burnt sienna (note that the scanner has rather accentuated the component pigments). I could not resist going back and drawing into the paint but should have known better. In the damp air, dry time was prolonged. My careful strokes oozed into the mass of underling paint and both the detail and the spontaneity of the initial strokes were dispersed.
I feel this year has been a journey in terms of my drawing from life. In particular, when I was on the Seabird Painting Course in June, I felt clumsy. I carried too much kit but had no consistency or comfort in its use. Now I have pared down my field equipment, using a limited palette of tube watercolours and relying mainly on squirrel mops that deliver large strokes that respond to the touch and come to a fine line. I keep to rough paper, often using better quality surfaces like Arches as here. I carry a small tin with a few sticks of charcoal, pencils and a black conte crayon and use these especially for fast notes and for my first sketches to loosen up.