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The Mere Hide

Saturday, 27th December 2003, South Yorkshire
Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

The Mere, Old Moor

The visitor centre, in an old barn, at the RSPB Old Moor Wetlands reserve, in the Dearne Valley, Barnsley, is closed for refurbishment (it's scheduled to reopen in February) which is a shame because a cup of hot chocolate in the café would have been so welcome this morning: it's sunny but cold, even in the Mere Hide, where I sit and paint this watercolour sketch.

Take a Good Look

There are plenty of cormorants, coots, wigeon, and gulls around but I decide to concentrate on the lapwings on the island in front of me.

I watched Matthew Colling's film on Hogarth last week. He explained that Hogarth's system of drawing was that he didn't actually draw at all: he'd walk around London, around the Covent Garden near his studio, and capture images of street life in his mind.

Here's a Hogarthian approach to drawing a lapwing: I take one good look at a resting lapwing through my binoculars then draw the bird without looking back again. I tried this ten times, trying to built up a picture of the shapes - body, wing, bib, head - in my mind. The difficulty is keeping all those details in your mind as one coherent image.

lapwing 1
lapwing 2
lapwing 3
lapwing 4
lapwing 5
lapwing 6
lapwing 7
lapwing 8
lapwing 9
lapwing 10

While there is enough information in number 1 to serve as a birdwatcher's field sketch I hadn't got the proportions and shapes exactly right. They're nearer in sketch 10, which also, to me, captures more of the character of the bird, huddled up against the cold wind. But, if I had the time, I'd do an hundred sketches like this, and I'd still be learning more about the appearance and character of the bird. next page

Richard Bell

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