Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

Mild & Wild

ashSunday, 10th December, 2006
ponyNIMBOSTRATUS CLOUDS are scudding along into the north driven by a wild but mild squally wind from the south. The light is fading fast by the time I settle down to paint the ivy-covered ash from my studio window. The ponies in their winter horse blankets amble down for a last feed from their owners but by then the colours are almost guesswork and it's as well that I know my way around the paintbox because I can hardly see the colours I'm mixing either.

My natural length of time for a drawing seems to be about 45 minutes so it's ponygood for a change to have a time limit on these sketches. In 10 minutes it will be dark, so I need to speed up. I had to resort to scribbling quick colour notes (right) for that second pony.

Can I use the same technique even when I don't have a time limit? This pheasant's tail feather which I picked up on the back lawn last summer is the first subject that comes to hand.

tail feather

I'd usually draw this bit by bit, building up the feather band by band from quill to to tip. This time I did no initial drawing but instead painted the whole shape of the feather in a wash of mainly raw sienna.

But how many additional details can I add without the drawing losing spontaneity? I think that's plenty.

As the light had gone by the time I painted the feather, this was painted under my daylight-bulb desk-lamp. My favourite bit is the shadow cast by the lamp, painted in more or less one go. In a pen or pencil drawing I'd be hatching in the shading which would result in a textured shadow but I like the sparkle you get from one simple brushstroke.