Monday, September 12, 2011


I’ve always been astonished by Charles Tunnicliffe’s sketches made in the field. The two books that have been published of his drawings. ‘A Sketchbook of Birds’ and a later one ‘Sketches of Birdlife’ give a wonderful insight into his methods.

My favourite though is ‘The Peregrine Sketchbook’ which is made up of sketches based on observations of a nest on South Stack, Anglesey. Most of the text and illustrations are taken from Tunnicliffe’s ‘Shorelands Summer Diary’. There are annotated sketches made in the field which have been taken to a more finished state in the studio.

But the real attractions for me are the watercolours which have a directness resulting from close observation. The large watercolours which he painted to show at the Royal Academy are the painstaking result of carefully worked out compositional studies and his handling of the watercolour medium takes your breath away.

Nevertheless his watercolour sketches and the scraperboard vignettes used in his published titles are where I find most interest. They are worthy of close study both by using Tunnicliffe's techniques and by transposing them in a different medium.

I've just noticed that I posted a blog on this theme back in January 2005 which is my tribute to his method - I've never found a better one. Though I do use a camera to supplement the drawings. I kid myself that if Tunnicliffe had had a digital camera with a 400mm lense he would have made his busy life easier by using one.

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