Lucky Mouse

When we last saw our mouse he was being chased by an owl, ( https://wp.me/p7Ohdq-ni ) this is how he escaped.

Again these were painted right at the start and unfortunately I didn’t take any photographs of the process so I thought this time I would talk a little about the setting of the story and give you a glimpse of the finished page.   

I have said before about how the idea for the story came about, after we caught mice in humane traps in our home and  released them into the fields surrounding us.  We live on the North Cornwall coast in an old farm house, we are surrounded by fields and are close to the sea so I am surrounded by everything I need to paint for the story. The fields are filled with  sheep and cows, or planted with wheat or maize, or sometimes left empty to give them chance to recover. We can watch the plough in the Spring, the maize harvest in the Summer and the combine cutting the wheat  in the early Autumn.

The hedgerows fill with wildflowers, celandine and primroses, bluebells and foxgloves, red-campion, stitch-wort, speedwell, hearts-ease and many many more. We are visited by over forty different species of birds, including a red legged partridge and the pheasant that knocks on the door to be fed. The year is marked by the first song of the skylark, the arrival of the swifts and swallows and when they depart, the return of the starlings. There are deer, foxes, badgers, weasels, bats, voles, shrews and of course various mice. The list of insects is endless. For the sake of the story some things overlap that usually would not and indeed some of the creatures have greater abilities than usual, for example mice are not known for their good eyesight.

Then there is the sea and our rocky coastline with it’s own collection of wildlife and scenery. Being close to the sea effects the weather, we don’t get as cold as other parts of the country but the wind from the Atlantic can cause terrible damage.

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There are drawbacks to living here, the extreme weather is one of them.  Isolation is another, getting anywhere takes a long time and of course not all the usual modern day services reach this far but we think it is a price worth paying.

So now you know where our story is set lets continue. We left our mouse running for his life trying to escape from the owl, luckily for him he falls down a hole. I decided that rather than painting a hole in the ground  I would paint the inside of the hole in cross-section so we get to see what the mouse would see. There are animal burrows in the ground and over time things fall down them. As these fields have been farmed for hundreds of years I imagined that all sorts of things would have fallen in and I tried to add a few of them along with the stones and roots and insects.  Having fallen in the hole our mouse needed to climb out, so I painted that as well. Also included is a little hint of what might happen next.

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This is how the whole page should look when the book is finished, as I played with how the hole is seen I thought the writing should be different too.

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Archie

For the last two years we have had a regular visitor to our garden we call him Archie. Archie is a beautiful male pheasant, he started appearing in Spring last year, usually under the bird feeders picking up whatever the other birds dropped, so we started feeding him then too.  After a month or so he brought a female along with him and then two females, they too are very beautiful close up with delicate lace like patterns on their feathers and a pinkish ring around their eyes. He would strut around the garden showing off to them and we hoped that we might get to see some of the chicks later but we never did. The females gradually stopped coming so we assumed that they were sitting on eggs but Archie kept turning up to be fed until mid Summer and then he to came less and less  and then not at all.  Then just into the new year Archie reappeared followed a few weeks later by a female.  They are now so used to us that they stand out side of the patio door waiting, sometimes I am sure that they knock on the window sill to attract our attention. Archie fluffs up his feathers and does the occasional call but his Mrs ignores him and keeps eating.   We are hoping that we may get to see some chicks this year but even if we don’t it has been wonderful having these beautiful birds become part of our lives and of course  subjects for me to paint, and we really must come up with a name for the female.

 

 

 

Snowdrops

Every year the flowers appear in the garden in a certain order and I have been here long enough to know what to expect next. The Autumn makes me feel so sad as all the leaves and flowers rapidly disappear, we don’t get much in the way of Autumn colour as the wind from the sea tends to shrivel the leaves before they have chance to change and then they are gone. However, we do usually have a few yellow primroses just before Christmas and even a few brave daffodils by the end of the year and then I know that within weeks the snowdrops will be up. There are many bunches of snowdrops around the garden but my favourite bunch are in the hedge by the gate and every year I want to paint them, this year I did.

As usual I drew everything out in watercolour pencil on 300g Bockingford paper and then picked out the colours of the snowdrop leaves which helped define the different parts of the scene.  The white of the snowdrop flowers I left unpainted along with a few areas of light behind the hedge.

Next I painted the fresh green of the stinging nettle shoots, this helped to differentiate between the front of the picture and the snowdrops in the middle. Once these were dry I started working on the back of the picture, picking out the major leaves with a light green colour which not only helps me to see everything easier but also gives a base for me to paint on the details of the leaves. Then, starting with the left, I blocked in spaces with a weak mix of yellow ochre and alizarin crimson, being careful not to paint on the flower heads and to leave a few areas of light from behind. I worked from left to right so that I didn’t smudge any wet paint and I also put a clean sheet of paper across the rest of the painting  to help keep it clean and white. The next stage was to paint the details on the larger leaves  and to work the background in behind them.

Once the lefthand side of the back was finished I did the same for the right.

Then I added the details to the flower heads and worked on the foreground in the same way  but adjusting the colours and the amount of detail so that the foreground looked closer. When the whole thing was done I added a few highlights and strengthened some of the dark shadows.

Since I painted this the snowdrops have gone along with the crocus which flowered soon after. More of the Daffodils are out now but are later than last year, the primroses are increasing daily and I am waiting for the muscari to brave the weather to add blue to the palette.

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