Yesterday I was at the studio boiling up some oak bark that I want to bark tan some cloth with later in the week and didn’t have much else to do. So I made a little sketchbook, positioned myself in the window and waited to see what occurred.
Frankly, not much happened! It was a particularly still, grey winter day. The tide was out, there was nothing on the water and even the birds seemed to have hunkered down and didn’t seem to want to move. But with a little patience I began to notice things. A play of light, the slight movement of the water, and the birds were actually doing more than I first thought.
Mud banks are rimmed with green algae that seems startlingly bright in the flat light
I was drawing with a biro and a very soft pencil but was jumping up occasionally to go and put a wash of colour across the page. I was aiming for the washed out, watery colours that go with the soft wintery light at this time of year.
Water and sky are the same colour with an intricate pattern of land in-between
This is what I wrote at the front of the sketch book.
Flat winter light.
Today the marsh looks dark. Shapes silhouetted against a pale sky. Brown, dark green, sandy ochre.
The tide is out and the water ripples gently. Flickers that reflect shadows rather than light.
Birds are feeding on the mud banks. At the moment I can see a small flock of Brent geese (white bottoms and a white necklace round their necks). An oyster catcher, a curlew that has just swept with its hollow call , a couple of low flying seagulls and a wagtail who bobs on the grass in front of me.
The East Hills are misted – there is no detail to their outline.
Everything is still with little wind.
I can hear geese burbling in the distance. Brent geese have a contented chatter. Two pink footed geese fly over. Their call is more of a spasmodic burble. Seagulls cry. They are a constant presence. There is the rumble of a plane above the low clouds.
Two redshanks skim the water. Their outstretched wings form a black and white arrow.
Small activities and movements in a seemingly motionless world.
It’s good to take time to sit and watch what’s going on. Even on an unpromising day there is something to see and hear. However, after an hour my nose was dripping and my fingers were getting too cold to hold the pen. I’d filled the sketchbook so I packed up and went home for a cup of tea.