I have to admit, when I started this set of seabirds in late February I didn’t expect to still be painting them in mid May. But they’ve seen through the end of winter to the start of the warm weather.
I usually feel a mix of elation, excitement and sadness when I come to the end of a painting project – in the same way you do approaching the end of a book that you’ve loved.
This time is with relief, and a little satisfaction, that I get to set down my pastels and step back. I am tired. And the egret in particular has been a challenge to capture.
However I am pleased. There’s something in each one that I’m proud of. I love the sunlight catching the long shafts of the egret’s feathers; I love how light and delicate the avocet looks against the blurred background; i love the power of the heron; and the luminescence of the cormorant’s plumage.
Those of you who have been following will know that I’ve been working (slowly and with multiple interruptions and distractions) on a commissioned series of four seabirds, based on the local seabirds of Dundrum Bay, County Down in Northern Ireland (which you’ll also have picked up is my favourite place – and for good reason).
Dundrum is a small coastal town with its roots steeped in history as evidenced by its ruined castle, set high on a hill, overlooking the Bay (I THINK this is Norman, possibly built by John de Courcy, but it’s Sunday morning and I’m too lazy to fact-check – sorry).
Dundrum is special, the Bay empties out completely and refills with each tide and sunlight and shadow on the sea and the Mourne Mountains is an assault (in the nicest sense) on your visual senses, with never the same view twice. The beautiful Murlough Nature Reserve edges the Back Beach, with miles of sand dunes, roaming grazing ponies, a resident seal colonies, underground cities of rabbits and ancient towering Scots Pines.
I honestly love this place. But best of all are the birds – in winter we welcome colonies of geese from Canada wintering out the harsh weather. But we are also home to such an array of local seabirds, nesting in those tall Scots Pines – herons, egrets, avocets and cormorants. There are so many other species, but these are the fou who make up my seabird series.
I’m in the home strait- last night I finished my third bird, the cormorant and I’m now turning to my final (and favourite) bird, the beautiful and elegant egret. Here’s the story so far….
I feel like a naughty school child waiting outside the principal’s office to give an account of myself. It’s been at least 6 weeks where painting sadly has been abandoned whilst I have focused on transforming the bottom of my garden from jungle to fairy-lit patio.
I’m so pleased with the results, but now it’s time to re-embrace art.
Thankfully rainy Bank Holiday Mondays were invented for singing along to 80s pop hits in my attic studio whilst tackling number 2 in my 4-seabird series – ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Avocet.
So I’ve completed the large heron and a smaller avocet. Next up is my current work in progress, the cormorant, wings outstretched, drying in the sunshine, before we finish off with the heron’s companion painting, the beautiful white egret, still to come.
After a LOT of procrastination I’ve finally finished the first in my seabird series, the beautiful grey heron taking off.
Honestly, these are my favourite birds. I’ve painted them a lot but this is the first time I’ve captured one in flight. I love their patient poise – with a hint of mystique; and then the epic flap of those massive wings as they take off. They are fabulous creatures.
I’ve said before that i associate these birds with Dundrum Bay in Northern Ireland. This is my happy place – the light, the air, the shore, the mountains – it’s magical. So here’s another gratuitous video clip of Dundrum Bay at evening.
And finally, because this IS an art blog after all, here’s some up- close video footage of my painting
So that’s one down, four to go. Next up will be a stunning egret, who I always think of as the companion bird to the heron. These two will be the two outside paintings of the set, bracketing a cormorant and an avocet in between. Stay tuned….
As I mentioned before I’m working on a series of sea birds that will all share space together – two large paintings of a heron and an egret that will bracket two smaller (but still pretty substantial) paintings of a cormorant and an avocet.
These are all birds that you can see in Dundrum Bay, Northern Ireland which, if you follow me, you’ll know is favourite place of all time ❤.
It’s taking longer than i had imagined to make progress with the set – mainly because of other life distractions. But I’m enjoying seeing the heron come to life. I’ve almost finished the wing in the foreground now and hope to get much of the rest of the detail finished this weekend.
I’m chomping at the bit to tackle the iridescent plumage of the cormorant but for now need to focus on helping this boy to soar.
I’m very excited to be about to start a new themed series of paintings of local #seabirds for a client.
I’ve just finished an architectural commission of an old family home which i know has meant so much and brings so many memories back for that client. Seeing how my paintings impact on clients really means a lot to me and I feel a huge responsibility when i am trying to capture other people’s memories.
However i am excited for this new series.
Birds are some of my favourite subjects to paint – I love the challenge of trying to capture their lightness and “flightness” and the luminescence of light on feathers.
Better still, this series will feature all the birds i can see in my beloved Dundrum (County Down, Northern Ireland), where i spend my #summerholidays every year with family.
Dundrum is definitely my happy place – a peaceful, beautiful and back-to-basics-sand-in- your-toes-in-tune-with-nature haven. I LOVE IT
Anyway, I’m just on the brink of starting the series, so watch this space and in the meantime here are some of my favourites from the birds I’ve already painted – you can see more on my portfolio page, with limited edition prints available to buy in my online shop. I hope you enjoy.
2021 has started more with a whimper than a bang. I’ve been laid low and in some considerable pain. I am thankful for antibiotics which are taking the edge off the pain and (I hope) turning the curve on the infection. But it’s thrown a spanner into the works in terms of making progress with painting. Finally this week I’ve had enough energy to go up to the studio to put the finishing touches on my newest painting “The Kelpies”.
If you’ve seen any of my recent polar bear paintings you’ll know that I’ve been loving painting light filtering through underwater. I wanted to try to capture it through a seakelp forest.
I remember standing mesmerised and swaying whilst watching seakelp drift back and forth in @2oceansaquarium in Capetown years ago – I’ve been a fan ever since and love how it catches days of light with such a range of colour tones from dark brown to ochre to acid greens.
Separately I’ve been reading about #celtic #kelpies – proper horror stories – beautiful but deadly #shapeshifters that usually take the form of horses – sometimes beautiful women – to lure you into the deep. This is absolutely the dark side of celtic mythology and truly haunting. You can read more about the tales here
I always love new year’s day (much more than new year’s eve) – so full of promise and potential, though for the most part, we need to create these for ourselves.
It’s a beautiful day here in NI. We’re still under a pretty restrictive lockdown, but i think most of us feel hopeful about what 2021 can bring.
So far today I’ve taken down my Christmas tree and put it in the garden where it will hopefully grow.
I’m planning to reclaim my attic (where i have my studio) from the cardboard box graveyard that it has become. And then I’m going to get stuck into my new painting.
I started it yesterday though I’ve been thinking about it for months.
I love painting water and recently been focusing on how light filters through underwater. I’ve been thinking about forests of sea kelp. And that started me thinking about kelpies- the Scottish water horses that lure their victims down to the deep. So my latest painting, The Kelpies, is a departure for me from purely literal realism to toy with other themes and genres.
I’m finding it challenging, with lots more detail and development to come. And I’m not sure that it will go where i want it to. But let’s step bravely into new styles, approaches, perspectives and experiences as we step into 2021.