more fast sketches

There is a change of mood and the first sense of sex in the air.  Within the groups of cormorants, gifts are made of large twigs and, daringly, there is contact made between arched necks.

This gift giver has a central quiff with grey sides to the head reminiscent of a 70s punk.

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20140221 (1)

I notice that all my lapwings face left.  That has been the direction of the wind each time I have been drawing.  It was strong last Sunday.  The lapwings spent less time on the wing than previously, but did take off for a prolonged display of aerobatics.  I watched closely.  They were sometimes in formation – as they swooped low to the water, the flash of white underside was almost simultaneous.  Flying high in the wind, they were more chaotic, asynchronous wing beats, changing positions in the flock yet with patterns emerging as the flock shaped anvils in the sky.

I have not yet thought how to draw these patterns – perhaps a return to charcoal next week.

More lapwings

A couple of weeks ago, I was on call and had time only to call into the nature reserve on the way to work, to draw a page of lapwings.  Last weekend, in the first sunshine for a long time, I walked a circuit of the reserve, finishing back at the hides.  Week by week, the lapwings’ behaviour is shifting.  They are becoming a bit more jealous of their space.  They sit or fly off as a group and are collectively vocal too.  I am waiting for the transition to their forming pairs, climbing and swooping low over the water, making their characteristic peewit calls as they fly.  It is for this that I am practicing my lapwing sketches.


Starting to cut

marsh Lane lino test

I have joined the Birmingham Printmakers studio. The first Sunday evening I called in, the shutters had been pulled down over the entrance. On my second attempt last weekend, I actually made it through the door. I was alone. I had had an induction on how to use the presses but could not find the light switch to the main studio. Still, I could work standing up at a bench next to the hot plate in the room with the press.

marsh Lane lino test 02

I had called in to test my first cuts on this reduction lino print. I probably need to lift more white out of the stratified clouds – I might print a version then cut the clouds away and print again.

Next time, I need to have worked out a jig for perfect registration before I start printing the first light grey/blue layer. Any advice welcome.


Juvenile heron

I often see single herons standing just to one side of a group of cormorants as they preen and dry their wings, like the guy feeling awkward at a party.  There seems to be a sort of avoidance behaviour, a distance being observed, between these similar sized predators with their differently shaped weaponry.  This juvenile heron seemed to have not learned his manners.  He wandered and probed and preened round and within the cormorant group. They made low grumblings of distress and twisted their necks to follow him with their beaks.

Raven preening

On a distant branch, a huge crow – a raven I think – was preening itself, rapidly changing position, its black glossy plumage glinting in the sunlight.

Raven preening

These sketches show my experiments as I tried to catch its shape, first in fine pen lines and wash, then deepening the tone with a brushpen.

Raven preening

Cutting the snow

20140210 linocut Yorkshire hills in snow 1

I am continuing to explore the translation of field sketches into prints from cut lino.  The idea – not yet realised – is not to copy the picture into a print form, but to abstract from the sketch into a set of patterns.

Malham Cove (15)

Posted before, this sketch was made in water-soluble pencil while standing in sleet near Malham Cove in Yorkshire.

I miss that place.  In this weather, the sink-holes must be the sites of  torrential falls.  I need to arrange a few days walking.

20140210 linocut Yorkshire hills in snow

20140210 linocut Yorkshire hills in snow 2

201402 Yorkshire hills snow 02

This last image was from a previous linocut of Malham Cove.  I had used the inky roller to burnish the back of the paper and then, on a whim, printed over the top.

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lapwing flight studies

20140202 01 lapwing studies

This was quick hour focussed on watching lapwings.  There was a large noisy flock on the flooded gravel pit.  Some level of competition was going on, with individuals taking off and landing in different spots, causing some friction with the sessile birds resulting sometimes in ground being yielded, sometimes in a return to flight.

There were no pairs flying together yet.

Occasionally the flock would become airborne in unison.  They weave long formations, perhaps 4 or 5 birds deep.  Suspended over the water or trees, it is difficult to see a pattern in the collective movements.  However, when they flew more purposively away from the pond, I had a sense of some synchrony in their wing beats, caught as a simultaneous flash of white against the grey clouds.   Its hard to tell by eye though.

20140202 02 lapwing studies

20140202 03 lapwing studies

Spot the interloper, the non-lapwing