Saturday, November 06, 2010


This is a working study of nesting Kittiwakes. I photographed them through a telephoto lense from the boat going across to the Farne Islands. There seemed to be dozens of birds on the cliffs and I've composed the sketch by using four from two different photographs.

I've used a 160gsm Ingres grey pastel paper and I began the sketch using Carb Othello pastel pencils. I decided that using watercolour for the birds would speed things up. Using watercolour on toned paper is an occasion when body colour comes into its own. If you decide to try this you will be in good company Turner used the technique on a blue sugar papar.

The white plumage of the birds is basically pure Titanium White and the grey feathers are painted with a Cobalt/Titanium mix. Ivory Black was used for the tail feathers and eyes. I would never use a pure Kolinsky Sable for this technique. I always use Rosemary & Co brushes these days and I've used a Series 401 Sable Blend for the birds and the transparent washes on the cliff face. It's sometimes useful to have a more springy brush and I found Rosemary's Shiraz Round was ideal for the nesting material.

For this way of sketching I owe something to Keith Brockie the Scottish wildlife artist. I managed to pick up 'One Man's Island' a book he wrote as a young man when he had an artists residency on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth. It's a book of pencil studies of wildlife he observed in the field and worked up later in the studio. Charles Tunnicliffe worked in a similar way.

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