confused by so many like a stalking predator

It is a challenge to pick out shapes, tones and movements from a shifting flock of birds.  One image is so rapidly replaced by another.  I wonder whether this is similar to the confusion of a waiting predator, struggling to identify and focus on an individual in a herd amid a myriad of fast changing patterns.

This is a sketchbook, so here are last week’s sketches, for what they are worth …

Preening and bathing

Lapwings bathing

Standing in strong light from the left.

20130120 10

Every ten minutes or so, the whole flock would take off and weave in something close to formation, now above the tree tops, now careening down across the water surface.  I could follow individuals through binoculars, but holding images as a series of frames and putting this on paper was beyond me.  Here birds are mostly coming back in to land.

lapwings flight and landing

I need to take a different approach to sketching, not trying to capture a still frame as a final sketch but instead collecting information piecemeal: the shapes made by the flock in flight, the synchrony or otherwise of wing beats (see this front cover to the scientific journal Nature last week), the positioning of the heads, tails and feet, the shapes of wings, how the shadows fall …  I can try to use printmaking as a secondary medium to pull these data together into an image.

Here by contrast are quick sketches of the shapes made by a sleeping heron.

preening heron

sleeping heron



17 responses to “confused by so many like a stalking predator

    • Thanks Jason. It always catches me by surprise when people compliment these field sketches – so much frustration experienced during their execution. It means a lot to receive such comments because it is encouragement to get out and do more. I hope your art is also going well – I will call by to look.

  1. For what it’s worth, I just showed my dad some of your bird pics, Kes. He is a bit of an ornithologist – and was very impressed. Rightly so, they are great.

  2. I’ve been exploring your blog- these drawings are just great and I think you make work that’s really serious in its intention to explore and reveal the amazing countryside of this amazing country. Genuinely involving work. I love it when some surrealism come in too.

  3. I love the way you captured the movement of the bird having a bath shaking its wings partly submerged in water. Skill, empathy and tenderness are not easy to express.

  4. Love these, especially the combination of hard and soft marks which capture movement and texture. Having tried sketching birds at my bird table ,I know how flipping hard it is.

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