Sunday, October 31, 2010

GREY WAGTAILS  Watercolour and bodycolour 31 x 41cm on 300gsm Arches.Not.

This is a sheet of Grey Wagtail studies made from two skins. The annotated sketch is the foreground bird in the watercolour and the far one is based on the top right sketch. I'd never actually seen a wagtail turn its head like the centre right bird which was drawn from a second skin - so I've not made use of it yet.

Bird painters seem to fall into two categories - first there are those who make detailed anatomical studies for identification and recording. Angela Gladwell - who runs courses at Ludlow Museum - was trained at the RCA as a technical illustrator used to be very keen on this kind of painting. I did two courses with her from which I learned a lot and I acknowledge the help I received from her tuition. The second class of bird painters try to capture their subjects in their natural surroundings. So Peter Scott, Charles Tunnicliffe from a previous generation, and contemporaries like Lars Jonsson, Keith Brockie and Darren Woodhead point me in the direction I want to go.

Even if you sketch outdoors the real challenge comes when the painting has to be composed in the studio. In the past I'd observed Grey Wagtails in the rocky steam beds which fall down through the oakwoods on the steep sides of the Afon Mawddach. Some years ago I'd used the sketches - not very successfully - in that location. On a summer holiday in Yorkshire I did this sketch from the side of the River Nidd near Knaresborough that seemed a suitable setting - though I didn't see any wagtails.

Having done the research and assembled all of the elements the most satisfying stage, for me, is bringing them all together in the studio.


nadsart said...

I have always found it very difficult to draw or paint birds even more stationary types like ducks or seagulls. this sounds a very interesting course.

Robert said...

The best way to start is by drawing birds in a collection. The WWT reserves are ideal. Provided you can catch an impression of the bird you can add more information from photographs. Museum 'Skins' have their use for anatomical reference but generally they are no substitute for observing living birds - even if they're asleep!