Thursday, 14 December 2017

Wagtails roosting

This evening, just as dusk was drawing in, I walked up the high street in Malmesbury, our local town. My eyes and ears were drawn to a group of small birds chattering and flitting about, over roof tops and in and out of a series of Christmas trees mounted on the outside of a car showroom wall.

Looking more closely and taking this photo I identified them as pied wagtails (motacilla alba) - around 30 or 40 of them flocking to roost for the night in the shelter of the trees. This communal roosting in towns and cities is quite common behaviour for these little birds, though I've never seen it in Malmesbury before. 

Photo from here

We see these slender, active little birds quite often in our garden, pecking about on the lawn looking for insects. They have been especially common just recently in the cold weather and are to be found throughout the British Isles, though those in much of Scotland and the northern isles come south in winter. 

Sunday, 10 December 2017


We always get excited when it snows significantly here in southern England. It happens rarely and settles and lies even less frequently.

The forecast last night had suggested we would be south of the snow zone as we so often are but this morning, much to our surprise, we woke up to this ...

... and it's been snowing gently almost all day. A few centimeters are now lying and it will freeze hard tonight. Photos tomorrow when sun is predicted should be even more rewarding.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Shapes hiding in buildings

It's most surprising what shapes and effects hide in buildings to be revealed in a photograph.

I've spent a cold, rather grey afternoon searching through photos taken in Vancouver in August, converting those that looked promising into black and white, then cropping, rotating and adding marks and removing selectively. Most of these were photos of some of the many high rise buildings in the city, so many of which are fitted with reflective glass and therefore have fascinating reflections to add to their striking shapes ... very clever!

The next few I'm not so sure about as a whole, but each one has effects and details that have caught my eye.

Next, sometime, to look at those others that seemed less promising on first glance. You never know what might after all be lurking within ...

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Lobster pots at Porthlethen

On our recent trip north to Aberdeenshire, we had three beautiful, mostly sunny late autumn days one of which drew us east to the coast. We visited the tiny port of  Old Porthlethen, south of Aberdeen. The tide was out and the village bathed in sunlight.

We walked along the quayside and I took photos of lobster pots and boats.

Earlier, on the same day, we walked on St Cyrus beach, a place we try and visit each time we come to Aberdeenshire. On that quiet, increasingly sunny midweek afternoon, it was beautiful. We shared the three miles of sand with a few dog walkers and many sea birds.

We later learnt that the temperature had been 13C, and I have to report (though not reveal in a photograph!) my husband went in the water, up to his waist - but (surprise, surprise) he didn't stay long. I sat on a rock and watched.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Drawing with the work of de Stael in mind

The other day, I met up with an artist friend. It's always a pleasure to see her. This time, we found ourselves discussing, among many other things, the work (and especially the drawings) of Nicolas de Stael, an artist I hadn't considered for sometime. Looking afresh, from my current perspectives, I was intrigued by many things. First of all, it was the economy of line in many of his drawings.

Nicolas de Stael, Dessins 1953/54 

Nicolas de Stael, Bateau à Martigues, 1953/4

In others, it was the simplicity of the mark making where he seemed to be focusing especially on intensity and scale of mark to make pattern. The calm and stillness of this image was very different from many others we looked at.

In yet others, I was interested to see the way he used pen and ink to give great depth and movement. Again, the mark varied in scale and intensity, to produce a purely abstract image.

*I'm afraid I'm unable to attribute these last two images fully. as they were obtained by googling or on Pinterest and no details were given

Needing a break from trees, I sat down this afternoon to do some mark making with his work in mind. I wanted to focus on simplicity and economy of mark and to work in monochrome. I did several small, quick, five minute pieces on cartridge paper, making myself stop at the end of the allotted time.

In the first two I used a black roller ball pen and played around with intensifying and spacing the marks.

Then I played with a wide, chubby graphite stick, using it on its point, on its end and on its side. Finally, I put the two together.

This mark making seems to have great relevance to my stitching, especially in the case of the small individual marks I made with the roller ball. The seeding and French knots that I frequently use mimic the pen marks very well. I'm not quite sure why I didn't realise this before, but I'm sure it will be useful for me when I'm drawing specifically with stitching in mind. 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Silver Birches 3

Today's versions of Sunday's cropped black and white Silver Birch image, involving selective cropping, selection of negative spaces and filling with black to varied tolerance to increase contrast.

I think No 2 has the most appeal for me because it retains some of the texture but still has good contrast, but there may be more to come ...