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Working on the marsh using a small field painting watercolour set and an A3 block of thick cartridge paperWorking on the marsh using a small field painting watercolour set and an A3 block of thick cartridge paper

 

 

I mostly sketch in the field using a range of pencils and graphite sticks (most often 3B or 4B), pans of watercolours and tubes of pigment, and coloured pencils with a bundle of brushes.  They range from  flat 2 or 3 inch to size 3 and 5, and I also carry a few large and medium Japanese brushes.  The paper is mostly a 220gsm A3 sketching and drawing paper, but sometimes I do carry various larger sheets with characteristically different surfaces - a particular favourite is Saunders Waterford.I mostly sketch in the field using a range of pencils and graphite sticks (most often 3B or 4B), pans of watercolours and tubes of pigment, and coloured pencils with a bundle of brushes. They range from flat 2 or 3 inch to size 3 and 5, and I also carry a few large and medium Japanese brushes. The paper is mostly a 220gsm A3 sketching and drawing paper, but sometimes I do carry various larger sheets with characteristically different surfaces - a particular favourite is Saunders Waterford.

 

 

In the Field - September 2019

With good weather in prospect I headed for North Norfolk for a couple of days painting on the marshes around Stiffkey and Warham.

On the second day with a low tide well timed for early evening I set off early to get way out to the seaward edge of the marsh.  It was on a rise in the ground with patches of marram grass, sea campion and open sandy ground that I noticed a lot of bee activity.  There was much movement low down as the bees landed and lifted to swirl about and settle again before suddenly starting to squeeze down into tiny tunnels under pebbles, between fallen grass fronds and dry debris.  So I crouched down to watch them - and became absolutely entranced by their activity, their beautiful colouring and fascinating behaviour.  It was not until I got home to my reference books that I was able to identify them as  Sea aster mining bees.

 

The Sea Aster mining bee (Colletes halophilus) is one of three closely related Colletes species.  It is a solitary bee belonging to a group known as ‘mining bees’, a term relating to their habit of excavating burrows in the earth in which to nest.  Very limited in its distribution it is found only in low-lying coastal areas of the eastern English Channel, the Atlantic coast of France and the southern North Sea.  Within the UK the species is restricted to the coast, occurring at near sea-level habitats - saltmarsh margins, sea walls, dune systems, low cliffs and behind beaches - around the east and south of England with particularly significant strongholds in East Anglia and the Thames Estuary.

The Sea Aster mining bee is strikingly coloured with reddish brown hair on its thorax and a black abdomen with clearly defined pale whitish to yellow bands; males are smaller and paler in colour.  Males emerge first and can be seen scouting for females to mate with in August. As females emerge, large numbers of males can sometimes gather to mob females clustering together in a ‘mating ball’.   Females then start excavating nest burrows with around 5 - 6 cells laying eggs in each and provisioning them with pollen and nectar.  Individuals of this species gather nectar from a wide range of plants but the females will only collect pollen from plants of the Sea Aster family with the bee’s emergence synchronised with the main flowering period. The bee not only needs to collect pollen for its young, it also needs this protein itself along with energy from sugary nectar in order to remain active for as long as possible.

Nests are often in large aggregations, typically at the transition zone between intertidal saltmarsh and dry land. Their nest burrows are often excavated in soils with a high sand content and little vegetation cover.  Their foraging and nesting activity will continue until around the middle of October or occasionally early November by which time all individuals will have died; the males first followed by the females. The young overwinter in their cells and emerge in the summer as their parents did the previous year and the whole cycle begins again.

Unfortunately, throughout its wider range intense development pressure, reduction and degradation of salt marshes, expanding urban sprawl, and inappropriate grazing regimes - as well as rising sea levels associated with climate change - all place increasing pressure and threaten this specialised and vulnerable bee species. But the east of England is a stronghold and the north Norfolk coast particularly so with its significant mix of saltmarsh and sand dune habitats providing a stable mix of food plant and nesting habitats.

 

This is a very small drawing (about 10cm x 10cm).  The idea behind small thumbnail sketches like this is to try and strip out the essential elements in the experience  - the bees, the characteristics of the landscape, the light and passing curlews.  Then I try to simple assemble those bare fragments in a way that creates a more abstract interpretation of the habitat and its natural history.  

Compressed ideas like this are a great resource to start working from later in the studio to try and create new work that captures the spirit of the original experience.
This is a very small drawing (about 10cm x 10cm). The idea behind small thumbnail sketches like this is to try and strip out the essential elements in the experience - the bees, the characteristics of the landscape, the light and passing curlews. Then I try to simple assemble those bare fragments in a way that creates a more abstract interpretation of the habitat and its natural history. Compressed ideas like this are a great resource to start working from later in the studio to try and create new work that captures the spirit of the original experience.

 

 

 

In the Studio - summer 2019

For the past few months I've been mainly studio based preparing work for the Pinkfoot Gallery in Norfolk and the annual SWLA exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. 

But I've also been working on ideas using intaglio printmaking methods, one of which has been a drypoint and carborundum print of icebergs and fin whales in the Southern Ocean.

 

 

Firstly, I drafted the basic idea referring to a range of field drawings and colour sketches.  Then, taking the first of three identically sized 1mm polycarbonate plastic sheets, I started painting a water-soluble tusche to mask areas that I didn't want to form part of the image.

When the tusche was dry I prepared a runny paste of solvent cement (thinned with acetone)  whiting powder and fine carborundum powder  painting the mix  across the plate using a range of brush marks and varying the thickness, (the paste dries extremely quickly - almost on contact).

The tusche could then be washed off by placing the plate in a tray of very hot water leaving only the hardened carborundum marks on the surface.  Additional marks could then be made with a sharp needle and areas roughened with sandpaper or emery boards - anything to create a line or a surface texture that would hold ink.

The other two plates were then worked in a similar way using the first as a template visible beneath, but with each the paste coverage and placement reflected where the second, and final third colour, would lie.  The three plates were then inked with different colours and printed one on top of the other onto dampened paper (Fabriano 285gsm Rosapina printmaking paper). 

 

The finished print (edition of 12) The finished print (edition of 12)

 

Natural Eye Exhibition

Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1

 24 October 2019 to 3 November 2019

10am to 5pm (closes at 1pm on final day). Admission £4, £3 concessions, Free to Friends of Mall Galleries, SWLA Friends and those under 25 years of age

 

The Natural Eye, the annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists showcases the very best of fine art inspired by the natural world. The exhibition is renowned for displaying a wide-ranging collection of exciting and thought-provoking work including sculpture, printmaking, painting, and the  the Out of the Frame room celebrates the tradition of working from life and will show a selection of field sketches and project work from member artists.

 One of six works I will be showing at the exhibition - Polar bears on sea ice, oil on canvas, 60cm x 90cmOne of six works I will be showing at the exhibition - Polar bears on sea ice, oil on canvas, 60cm x 90cm

 

 

 

The Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctic Peninsula

Dec 31 - Jan 17th 2020

 

I'm on board again with One Ocean Expeditions this coming Antarctic season as Artist in Residence sailing on their new ship RCGS Resolute.  See more about the trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you someone with an interest in sketching and who takes a small sketch pad on holiday, or who goes to an evening art class, or perhaps somebody who has always wanted to have a go at painting or drawing?  Then why not join this adventure and let your own creative spirit really fly?   

Surrounded by inspirational seascapes, and landscapes ashore where wildlife subjects are everywhere and up close, there will be opportunities galore.  Rather than fussing around honing techniques more important will be each individual's personal artistic journey that allows for the possibility of capturing something very personal about your journey south, with somebody on hand to encourage and support you.

For more information, or if you have any queries, then get in touch through the Contact page.