Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sunsets, Starlings & Smiles of Satisfaction...

The last couple of days have seen the weather turn cold and my paintbrushes zing into action! Although still a bit chilly sat at my kitchen table, rugged up in thick jumpers and ugg boots, it's been a lot warmer than outside with hail storms and almost freezing temperatures!!
With my ipod set to shuffle, I set about a new painting of a Starling, this one perched on my garden bird feeder. With the first layer complete, I felt a smile of satisfaction creep across my face as Iooked at all the vibrant colours I'd just used to create  this cheeky little character on my canvas. Who'd have thought our common garden Starlings could possibly be so colourful?? Viridian Green, Ultramarine Blue and Violet...Wow!
Starling Perched On Garden Feeder

My next task...to work into the Sunset I'd painted a week or so ago, and add the finishing touch of the Starling Murmuration. ...Where to begin??? I looked back at all the photographs I'd taken that evening of the starlings at sunset, chose a couple of shots to work from that I thought I could combine to make an interesting composition within the painting. I wanted to combine the feeling of being underneath the mass of birds with the beauty of the mesmerising shapes the birds form as they prepare to roost. Deep breath... and GO! Teeny tiny dots to begin with in the far distance, building up in size as I worked towards the birds in the foreground. (or should I say impression of birds)
A 2nd little smile.... (I don't think this photo does the painting justice - I'll try to get a better one!)

Starlings Over Shapwick Heath @ Sunset

Just time to work a second layer on to the 'Punk Starling' I started last week - again, using the bold colours...fun, fun, fun!!!

Punk Starling

Having completed my sunset murmuration painting yesterday, I am already planning a new and larger version. I am pleased with my first attempt, but can see many ways to improve it...so, this morning I grabbed a much larger canvas and set to work. So far, I've laid out the basic composition of the foreground silhouette. Colours are yet to be refined and of course, a new murmuration pattern will be added...I'm looking forward to working on this one over the next few weeks!

1st Layer of my new sunset painting.

Speaking of sunsets...I couldn't resist popping back to the sea wall at Kingston Seymour this evening...a low tide and half-decent sunset beckoned...my camera was calling!!! It was a bit too cloudy, but hey, we had fun!

Shipwreck Sunset

If its fine tomorrow, the Starlings just might get another visit...!
Mandi ; )

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Meltdown diffused...!

Hmmmmm...it's been a good few days since my last post, and what a week its been. I've finally got my wheels back after more than a month without my car!!!! Welcome home Ruby! This probably explains the lack of painting - having my car back has allowed me to get out and about to experience the wildlife and landscape that inspires my paintings! A fellow enthusiast kindly took the time to show me some excellent local spots for viewing such wildlife, (many thanks Higgy!) and since then, I've been out exploring some of these areas further. Its been well worth it...I already have new ideas for several paintings!! I was hoping to go out on another field trip this morning, but for one reason or another, I hit meltdown....and thankfully, managed to diffuse the feeling by jumping straight into a new painting!!! Still 'gripped' by the starlings, and keen to continue using my new paint brushes... it is another 'bluey, greeny, purple feathered character' that appeared on my canvas. Just the first layer to establish areas of colour, similar to the one from last week. I also had a little play with the Merlin painting, but this still needs a lot of work before it is complete.

So, today's blog pictures are more photographs than paintings...but you will be able to see where my next potential paintings will be coming from...

Merlin...the next step!

Today's starling - 1st layer

I'm not normally a mad fan of sea birds, but this bunch certainly attracted my attention:
I think they're called Turnstones...on the ground they're dumpy little things, but when they gang up and take off into flight, they're something else!! They gave me my own personal flying display...just like the starlings but a lot less in number. They swarmed around, up and down the shore line, changing direction in perfect group formation - awesome! Even more spectacular was with every direction change, the flock changed colour from black to white and back again. I hope these photos give you some idea of what I saw...

Turnstones in Flight

In one direction, they're black....

In the other direction, they're white!!

On the turn...both sides at once!

Flight Over Misty Clevedon

Flocking Over Shipwreck.

Friday, January 20, 2012

We struck Starling Gold!!

What a day...!!! My daughter, my friend and I returned to Ham Wall nature reserve today to continue our quest to experience the natural spectacle that is the 'Starling Roost'
  Ideally, I'd like to see the starlings dancing in flight against the backdrop of a stunning sunset in the sky...I've seen photos, so I know it happens...but so far our sightings (although totally awe inspiring) have been on dull, grey or cloudy skies. Would this be the evening??? We would have to wait and see....
  On our way to Ham Wall, we popped in to WestHay to have a little explore. As we pulled into the car park, a beautiful buzzard soared across a field and sat in a tree - as we fumbled to grab our cameras, it flew away over the tree tops. We found a hyde where we sat and ate our picnic, looking out across the wetlands..and it POURED with rain! We made a dash back to the car and drove on to Ham Wall (via a quick visit to the craft centre)
  At Ham Wall, we organised our cameras and set off along the footpath towards the viewing platform. The warm evening light on the water glowed golden...it was really beautiful! Suddenly, my daughter spotted a bird over the reed beds to our right...it was a Marsh Harrier!!!! For all 3 of us, this was the first time we'd ever seen one - and here it was flying up and down, right in front of us! We all snapped our cameras madly, following its movements as it searched for a meal. After around 5 minutes, it plummeted into the reeds, where it stayed for a couple of minutes (probably eating its prey) until it eventually flew up and away, off into the distance! WOW, wow and triple WOW!!!!
    Grinning like Cheshire cats, we continued our walk to the viewing platform to await the arrival of the starlings... and we were not disappointed! They came, they flew, they danced and they roosted...and we had a 'half-decent', slightly cloudy sunset. This evenings photos of the murmurations are probably my most successful yet...I still need lots more practice! (Any excuse to go back again!!) And more to the point, I have plenty more images to develop new paintings from! Here are a few of today's photos - I hope you like them.

Marsh Harrier

Zillions of Starlings!

Starling Gold

How on earth do they count all these birds...?

Reed Bed Action

I've also added this drawing which my daughter made after she saw the starling roost for the first time - I may be biased, but I think its brilliant!!
'Starlings by Xixi'  Graphite Drawing, A4

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Starlings galore!!

My expedition to the Somerset Levels last week seems to have turned into an overnight addiction!! Not only did I take my husband and daughter back to see them roost on Saturday (that night they decided to change their roost site and fly to a completely different area :( ) but the following morning, we got up at 5am and went back AGAIN to see the 'Dawn Explosion' This is the opposite of the evening roost...when millions of starlings wake up and all fly up in the air and off to their daily feeding grounds. It was a fair way in the distance, but an impressive sight all the same, and most of the flocks flew right above us. (Interesting advice from the RSPB warden...if you look up, keep your mouths closed!!!!!) YUK, what a thought!! Apparently, starling poo is mostly composed of some kind of nasty acid - not  only is it unwise to swallow this, but I learned it also has a detrimental effect on the wetlands where the starlings roost.

 A couple of photos of the 'Dawn Explosion'

On our walk back through Ham Wall, we saw a small group of Roe Deer - again, quite a distance away, but an added bonus to our early morning adventure!

Of course, this was another inspiring experience which had to be translated into painting... so this morning, back at home, I got out my paints and brushes and yes, you guessed it...started a couple of starling paintings. The first is of one of the starlings I photographed in my back garden last summer. This is a scruffy little male who has a cheeky character. Its only the first layer, but its coming along nicely. I was attracted to this bird in particular not only for the colour of the plumage, but the quirky, pointy, scruffy looking feathers. Most of the other starlings in the group were smooth and sleek - this little character looks like a bit of a 'punk rocker'!

The next painting is of a Sunset (from Shapwick Heath last Wednesday)...again, its only the first layer and is a bit rough, but it looks good from a distance! I'm planning to paint a starling murmuration over the sunset - which is what we saw!

I'm back off to the nature reserve again tomorrow...I wonder what treasures I'll see this time???

Friday, January 13, 2012

Baby Boobok Owlet, in Water Colour

Irwin, Baby Boobok Owlet. Watercolour.
This morning's escapism adventure into my paint box took me to Australia! Not literally, but artistically, as Oz is the native country of the Boobok Owl - the subject of today's painting.
Irwin (pictured) actually lives a few miles down the road and has never been to Australia in his life, but that is beside the point.
He is just the cutest little chap, especially when he bobs his head to focus on something! This was a relatively quick painting - not too much detail - I was more concerned with capturing his fluff and cheeky personality.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

More painting and a couple more photos!

Had a great time working on my bird paintings this morning...some experimental backgrounds have evolved. So far, my backgrounds have been either plain paper, a plain colour or a scene to suggest the environment of the bird. Today, I played with jazzing up a plain background... see what you think.



Still in awe of the Starling Murmurations I saw yesterday, I've decided to put up another couple of photos...Hoping the weather will be good this weekend so I can go back with my husband and daughter, and maybe catch some more action with my camera!!!!

Sunset over the Somerset Levels

 Starling Murmurations

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Starling Murmurations....

 Today my friend Lon ( fellow artist and bird lover) and I went to the Somerset Levels to witness Starling Murmurations - this is when hundreds and thousands of Starlings flock together from all over the place to roost for the night. This natural spectacle has been televised on a number of tv shows such as Springwatch...and not only has it ticked a box on my 'Things to do in 2012' list, but its ticked a box on my 'Things to do before I die' list. It was AWESOME....a totally breathtaking experience which I can thoroughly recommend! The scenery alone was stunning, as was the sunset.  Here are a few of my favourite photos from today. Look closely - there are thousands of teeny tiny birds in every pic...I feel another painting coming on!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Paintbrushes in action, at last!!!

 For the first time in 2012, I managed to find some time to sit and paint! After my visit to the birds of prey on the weekend, my first 'model' of the year has turned out to be 'Bumble', who's  a Siberian Eagle Owl. I was drawn to use water colours for this painting - to ease my eye back in after the Christmas break. I'm really pleased with the eye...but feel the need for lots more pracice.


 So.... I grabbed my acrylics and my brand new set of paintbrushes I was given for Christmas and worked another under-layer of 3 more paintings which I'd started last year. A Lion with her cub, a Sparrow Hawk and a Merlin. These 3 still need a lot of work, but I've put them up here so you can see how they develop.



   Lion & Cub

I'm really looking forward to seeing some 'Starling Murmurations this week...fingers crossed if I'm lucky, I might get some interesting photos to share....

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A visit to my feathered friends...

Today I managed to pop down to wish my feathered friends 'A Happy New Year!'  Having not seen them since before Christmas, I was really excited to see the Owls in action in the Twilight Zone...and even put on a glove and 'flew' Woolley the Indian Eagle Owl. He was followed by George and Eve, the Barn Owls, Elvis the Great Grey Owl, Ulu the White Faced South African Scops Owl and then, a lovely treat - Ruby, the Milky Eagle Owl came out to say hello! As usual, I took plenty of photos, and came away inspired to paint some new paintings... I have already made paintings of Woolley, George, Ulu and Elvis, so I wonder who will be next??? It just might have to be ruby, with her beautiful pink eyelids!

Here's one of the photos I took of Ruby, with her falconer, Gary. (You may recognise him from the painting in my previous post!)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Year!!

Here we are in 2012...it feels unreal!
I begin the year on a 'high' as I completed my latest commission in December, and its new owner is as pleased with the painting as I am! I'm now ready to plough on with some new paintings...all aiming to be Exhibited in July 2012...details to follow (watch this space) Here it is...

'Man & Bird (Gary and Raphael) Painted in Acrylic on Canvas, approx 40 x 60cm.