Monday, 27 July 2015

'Deeply Dippy' & Meeting the Devon Sketchbook

After spending a lovely week in Devon, I thought I would share with you some of our revisits and discoveries and how I documented them in a small concertina sketchbook that I made especially for the trip.

You may wonder why this blogpost is called 'Deeply Dippy' (copying the name of the song by Right Said Fred !)  Well, it kept coming into my mind when we had several opportunities to see one of my favourite birds - the Dipper.

I had previously seen Dippers in Snowdonia, but it had always been my wish to see them in Devon, slightly closer to home and their characteristic dipping movement.  I knew that they were often seen on the River Dart, which flows from Dartmoor down to Dartmouth and Kingswear, on the south coast of Devon.

We were lucky that the Dart flowed through the land belonging to the cottage of where we were staying, Apple Loft Cottage adjacent to Kilbury Manor near Buckfastleigh.  On our first evening my wish was granted and we saw 2 Dippers as well as several Kingfishers that flew at speed past us.

The 'golden' waters of the River Dart
Looking southwards along the river.  In the evening the Kingfishers would come from this direction and I presume return to their roost sites further up stream.
 The South Devon Steam Railway was nearby and one evening we watched several Dippers use a log below the bridge to perch on and occasionally go into the water looking for food.  We also noticed a couple of them fly in and perch on the brick work at strange angles, very much like a Nuthatch.  Perhaps they were on the look out as they came into roost before they went to the overhanging roots on the opposite bank of the river.

My only image of a Dipper.  Unfortunately the light was going.
This particular evening we saw 6 birds.  2 of them seemed to be flying to another territory whilst the other 4 were a family group that looked to be 2 adults and 2 juveniles.  We sat there for near on and hour as they fed at the waters edge and went in and out of their tree roots roost.


When we got back to the cottage I did a 'memory' sketch, as I had stupidly forgot to take my sketching kit down to the river.
 
The 'Dipper' page from the sketchbook (I used a reference photo) to complete the sketch.  The small sketch above the bird is of the perch that they used under the railway bridge.
 
Another favourite place that we visited was Wistmans Wood.  A small upland Oak woodland where the trees are hundreds of years old and grow stunted and twisting between the granite rocks on the valley side.

Left: Wistmans Wood can be seen on the right of the valley in the distance of this image.



Once inside the woodland there is something very special about it.  Some people call it 'spooky' but I definitely don't consider it this.  There is something about it though, and when there are no other visitors around you certainly feel at one with nature and landscape history.






Sunlight through the trees.  The branches are 'dripping' with lichens, ferns and mosses. 

The rocks are also covered with numerous mosses and on this visit some of them were home to English stonecrop, a delicate whitish pink flower with succulent type leaves.




 
Sketching in Wistmans Wood
 
Left: The Dartmoor bog page and right: The Wistmans Wood page in the sketchbook.
 


One trip we were really looking forward to was going out on a rigid inflatable (RIB) from Dartmouth and out to sea to the Mew Stone, a rocky outcrop where a variety of seabirds roost and Grey seals can often be seen hauling themselves up on to it as the tide changes.

It was very tricky to take any photos as we were perched on the inflated side of the boat hanging onto a rope to ensure that we didn't fall in !  We motored gently out of the harbour and noticed several Barrel jellyfish, but once in the open sea we moved at speed, which I must admit was very exhilarating !
 
 
As we reached the Mew Stone you could see the zones on the rocks of where different lichens grew and therefore produced these bands of colours in some areas.  The rocks almost glowed in the sun as the golden lichens shone out.  Seabirds were perched in several places and the rocks were bleached by bird guano.
 
 
A Cormorant perched on an area of the Mew Stone.
 
Just before we started to head back to Dartmouth husband spotted a Grey seal.  It was near the base rocks and then we noticed it playing with a bouy which it actually seemed to detatch from its rope.  It was great fun to watch as the boat bobbed up and down and I think it is good not to have photos of everything you see, memories are so important.
 

 
The Mew Stone sketchbook page.  As we docked at the quayside there was a small jellyfish in the waters known as a Compass jellyfish, so that made its way into the sketchbook too.
 
A bit more about the sketchbook
 
It was created using scraps of mountboard covered in coloured paper.
 
The internal pages were made from a sheet of Fabriano Artistico HP 140lb watercolour paper, folded into the chosen size.  This was great to use as it took a good amount of paint without buckling.
 
The end pages were then glued onto the covered board using an acid free glue.
 
A ribbon was attached to the back cover so that it could be held together when not in use.
 

 
There's not too much time to sit back and reminisce as next week I am teaching a Natural History Illustration Course at the Kingcombe Centre in Dorset. I'll be blogging daily from the course and you can catch the blog posts on my other blog Art & the Hedgerow.
 
 
Just a polite reminder that all images on this blog are protected by Copyright and are the property of myself Sarah Morrish at Natures Details. No images may be reproduced or copied in any form, unless permission is sought from myself.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Visiting the New Forest through Art

This time last year I was disappointed that I hadn't previously been aware of an art exhibition based on the places, scenes, people and wildlife of the New Forest - New Forest Open Art.

Well this year I was more on the ball and I even had a painting ready and waiting - Fungi of Mark Ash Wood.

The paintings were handed in a couple of weeks ago and I was glad to hear that mine was accepted.

This evening we attended the preview evening and what a lovely time we had !

It is a truly beautiful exhibition with artwork in a variety of media.  Acrylics seemed very popular, painted smoothly but also used impasto.  There were quite a few paintings of New Forest scenes such as ponds, woodlands and trees, as well as animals and people who work in the forest.  There were also some photographic prints too.


The exhibition was hung really well and I also liked the way that some of the paintings were hung on hand made hurdles, which gave a rustic feel.  The exhibition space as a whole was really well presented with plenty of space to stand back and view the paintings and photographs.



I had known that around 170-180 pieces of art were submitted for the exhibition, but what I hadn't realised was how many were finally accepted to be displayed.  There were approximately 60 that made it through and the standard was very high, as I discovered tonight, so I was absolutely thrilled that mine had made it and it was the only botanical style painting there !  


The Chair of the New Forest National Park making his speech at the start of the prize presentation.

Here are some more views of the exhibition, but if you are over this way, why don't you go and have a look ?  You will not be disappointed.




The exhibition starts on Saturday 11th July and can be found at the New Forest Visitor Centre in Lyndhurst.  For full details have a look at the New Forest Open Art 2015 web page

Monday, 6 July 2015

Drawing & Painting Lovely Lepidoptera !

The second of the new Natures Details Summer School Courses took place last Friday and Saturday.

What a beautiful day it was !  The sun was shining and there was a cooling breeze across the Downs and into the space where we work.

The room was filled with the colour of butterflies and moths, set specimens, photos, ID books/charts, posters and handouts to guide us on our illustration journey.

 
We set to after a demo to really study our subjects and understand more about them.


If somebody worked from a photo there was plenty of other information available to ensure the correct details were portrayed along with accurate colour mixes.

Magnification was a great help, either through using a traditional magnifier or enlarging an image on the a tablet computer.
 

We can learn so much from each other too.
 
Enjoying the sunshine during the lunch time break and giving our eyes a rest too, from the detailed work.
 
Here are the results of a couple of days of hard work and dedication.
 
Garden tiger moth studies

Jersey tiger moth study - following the stages.

Top: Chalk hill blue and right: Buff ermine moth.
It's amazing how hairy some moths can be !

 Painted lady and Peacock butterflies.
 
 
 
Bedstraw hawk moth in colour pencil.
 
 
I hope you've enjoyed seeing what goes on at the Summer School courses.  If you are interested in attending any future courses, keep an eye on the Natures Details website.
It is due to be updated in the next month or so with the 2016 course schedule.
 
Next year in 2016, the courses will not only take place in the Summer but all year round in a beautiful location in the South Downs National Park near to Winchester in Hampshire!

Monday, 15 June 2015

The travelling naturalist from across the ocean


 
On Saturday (13th June), I had the most inspirational day with a fellow naturalist and artist, sharing our love of the natural world.
 
Being active on social media can be seen as a negative in life at times, but it has put me into contact with many people who share the same interest and have become very good friends, the latter of which we often to get to meet up with at times.
 
Susan is one of those people.  We 'met' via Facebook and have often shared images of the natural world and exchanged comments.  Working as a Naturalist and Environmental Educator as well as an Art Tutor, Susan and I have lots in common.  She hails from Vermont in the USA, so it is also great to share the love of her home state, even though I have only visited there once.
 
She contacted me a few weeks ago and asked if we could spend the day together looking at some native flora and fauna whilst she was visiting the UK.  Being based in London meant that she was only a couple of hours from where I live and we arranged to meet in Winchester ready to explore.
I had to get my thinking cap on and I decided that Old Winchester Hill would be a great place to visit, seeing as we only had a day and didn't want to spend too much time on the road.
 
The day started off a little over cast, but it was ideal as we ambled along to the Iron Age Hillfort.
 
I say 'ambled' because there was so much to see and chat about.  We were soon comparing plant species between the two countries and also chatting about local names for plants too.

The slightly cooler weather meant that insects were stationary for a bit longer, and we got the chance to see a Wasp beetle (above).
 
Susan taking in the view from the hillfort.  Straight away we were admiring the orchids that were growing on the more gentle slopes when you first start to walk around the fort.
 
Our first sighting of orchids and other flowers
 
Common spotted orchid
 
 
Whilst we sat and had our lunch we had the delight of listening to a Yellow hammer in a Hawthorn bush nearby.  Its song sounding like 'A little bit of bread and no cheese' was evident once your hearing was tuned in.
 
We were thoroughly spoilt with other birds too.  At one point a Skylark sang above us, its beautiful and melodic song being heard across the hill.  We also saw Swifts catching insects in the warming air, and several times a Kestrel hovering above the slopes of the hill looking for prey.
 
After lunch we started off to find a place to settle for the afternoon and sketch.  On the top of the hill fort there was plenty of botanical subject matter, but a wider variety of plant species was more evident on the slopes.
 
Our first discovery was the Fragrant orchid.  It was a very subtle pink and had long spurs to the flower with the lobes of the labellum being of equal length.  The scent from the flower was very subtle, but apparently is more evident in the evening.
 
 We carefully navigated our way down the slope and sett up our sketching kits.
 
As our sketch pages developed our love of colours was evident.
 
The beginnings of my sketch page. 
 For both of us we felt that we wanted to speed up our sketching technique a little.  Being absorbed by the detail means that sometimes you do not achieve as much as you would like.  It was still essential though to get the main characteristics of the plant.
 
We continued to sketch and the weather became warmer and warmer with a steady breeze.  As the clouds moved overhead the colours changed on our paper and at times a little modification was needed.
 
Hoary plantain appeared on my sketchbook page.
 
Whilst we sketched and our pages developed we shared different techniques and ideas.  Every now and again we got up for a stretch and we soon realised that the time had gone so fast.
 
It was time to move on.
 

As we re-traced our steps back the sun was shining and there were flashes of blue fluttering through the grasses and flowers.  The blue butterflies are small and never seem to be at rest for long. 
These images show a Common blue, the lower picture showing one sunning itself on Crosswort.
 
A couple of Painted lady butterflies were seen too.
 
The chalk path you can see to the left and in the distance was the one that we decided to take.  The side of the hill was very steep, but going this way meant that we got to see a few additional plant species:
 
The Common twayblade

One of the Milkworts
 
Once we got to the top we re-discovered some Yew trees that we passed earlier. One particular tree was dappled with the early evening sun and as we stood under its twisting limbs we gave thanks for such a wonderful day.
 
A day that neither of us will never forget.
 
Thank you Susan.
 
As it approached 7.00pm we took one last look across the landscape and made our way back.