Ant’s eye view

The flash of yellowish green, black, and a bit of red as you disturb a Green Woodpecker up ahead, flying directly away from you in that classic, undulating flapping flight. Probing for ants, a favourite food, this one was on my front lawn, seen from indoors. The bill is remarkably large and dagger-like, and if I was an ant, I might feel quite intimidated.
I was aiming to capture, from an ant’s eye view, that intense look in the woodpecker’s eye as it concentrates on what can be had below.

The finished image continues the paper collage series.

ant'seyeview_collage

 

 

Two in the bush

Here are two common summer visitors to the UK. Common Whitethroats and Blackcaps are closely related, Blackcaps prefer woods and thicker cover, while Whitethroats prefer more open habitat such as hedgerows and scrub. There is a good deal of overlap, and I see both on my walks around and about here.

Both birds are not shy, Whitethroats seem to scold a passer by with their ‘char’ call, and often momentarily pop up from their cover to check you out. Blackcaps like to sing loud and proud from higher up in the trees, and again, will sometimes stop and give you the eye before continuing.

It was this inquisitive and no nonsense attitude I was aiming to capture. The simplicity of using torn and cut paper helps in illustrating their character and expressions, and as the view through binoculars is seldom perfect, with seemingly random free floating foliage covering most of the bird, (sometimes all of it!) I was keen to show that also.

whitethroat-in-the-nettles2-sm-collage-may-2015

 

blackcap-collage-sm-june-2015

The marble, the scorpion and the kingfisher

It’s a sunny and hot morning, and we are off to Oke Okanla First Baptist Church
in Osogbo, which stands proudly at the crown of the hill in a south central suburb.
Our task is to supervise the tidying up of Toyin’s mother’s grave, Patience Aduke Lawoyin. It is a large white marble affair with an impressive headstone, situated at the perimeter wall at the far end of the plot down a gentle slope, slightly overgrown with traditional gravestones dotted here and there, many broken and with much litter.

1st-baptist-churchWhile we wait for our helper to arrive on the back of a ‘machine’, we start collecting old drinks cans, pieces of broken tile and general litter from around the site into an empty bucket sized paint can, itself a piece of litter! I’m grateful for my hat, and already thinking we haven’t brought enough water. A Woodland Kingfisher perches patiently on a wire across the road, and later presents a trophy to its mate,trilling loudly withy much excitement, on a horizontal branch of a tree in the grounds. I couldn’t make out the prey item, but guessed at a small lizard.

service-doorOur helper arrived and proceeded to start cleaning the marble with detergent. Standing close to two slabs of concrete lying near the wall and in bare feet, he suddenly jumped back and stabbed the ground with the scrubbing brush, impaling the small scorpion that had just stung him on the inside of his foot! This was a problem. Fortunately, there were some church members on site supervising the building of the new church nearby, and one of them was an expert in herbal remedies. In no time at all he had come down to the graveside holding a leafy branch, and after spitting on the affected area and scraping it off with a knife, he rubbed the leaves together with the venom from the scorpion’s sting forming a paste, which he then rubbed vigorously onto the affected area. The active ingredient was on the back of the leaves he explained, and that all will be well in a short time, and indeed it was. How fortunate that this healing plant was growing in the grounds!church-grounds

We quickly realised, as we lifted all our gear up off the ground and checked it over, that we had just been picking up random bits of rubbish pretty carelessly and not thinking at all about the potential danger…and so thank you, Patience Aduke. I may have freaked out if it was me that was stung! Many locals know the various medicinal properties of local plants, stings and bites are not uncommon, but it did provide a bit of drama. It seemed a long walk back up to the church pavement, looking carefully where each step was placed, together with a birder’s eye on the kingfishers. Somewhere amongst all this the sun had gone, behind clouds rolling in for another heavy thundery shower.kingfisher-and-roller

 

After rain

In this watercolour the sun shines low in the sky. All is in shadow and at the top of the hill you can only really see bright light reflecting off the wet road, a small area of grass and shrubbery bathing in the sun’s intense warm glow and small specks of white light bouncing off of ivy leaves. There is no sound except for water flowing into the nearby ditch from a raised pipe.
gt-leighs-against-the-light-jan-19-2014-watercolour

More sparrowhawk action, this time at the bottom of the garden in the crook of cherry branches. This male was busy with his (obscured and unidentified) kill for twenty minutes or so, giving me the chance to attempt live sketches using binoculars. This was a bit awkward as I had to memorize what I was looking at and then draw it, then look through the glasses again. From the top of the page down you can see how I eventually got something lifelike and reasonably accurate… drawing around an abandoned sketch
of a sunning woodpigeon. Needs must.

pluckingprey
Pheasants have a reputation for being a little dim, or slow, but maybe they’re just
cautious. This male dawdled across the road a few evenings back in between the four wheel drives and the farmer’s pick-ups. Slowly enough for me to have two attempts at capturing that swagger that says “I’m handsome and in control…oh wait, I could be roadkill here…best move it along…”terling-jan-17-2014-sketchbook-pencil

The hidden beauty in grey

July 2nd 2010: A warm, sticky night. The heavy scent of honeysuckle in the air attracts a pine hawk moth, which can’t resist the light inside and flies indoors through the open patio doors. Conveniently resting on a flat surface, I take the opportunity to do a quick sketch with a biro and make some notes. Letting the moth outside, cupped in my hands, the strength of its flapping wings against my palms was so strong, it felt more like a small bird than an insect!

sketch book moth
Pine hawk moth at rest on my drawing board, quick sketch

 

Next evening, the moth was back, at dusk, just when it is hard to see straight ahead, but the skyline is sharp and the contrast is clear. Flapping then gliding, then flapping again, the moth danced over the honeysuckle in silhouette. A beautiful sight. I decided to make an illustration showing the moth at an exagerated scale in a suburban setting. Using charcoal would emphasise the soft atmosphere of dusk, when all edges seem to merge. The overall effect I was after was that of a period book illustration. After working out the layout of the drawing on a small scale in my sketchbook, I settled on a composition and drew quick studies of each of the main elements, honeysuckle, chimney, tiles.

The picture is all about atmosphere though, so I was careful not to include too much observable detail.

sketchbook_scamp
scamps planning the composition
sketchbook2
gliding effortlessy across the honeysuckle, in silhouette
pine hawk moth, charcoal
Pine hawkmoth, charcoal, 40 x 59 cm

 

Close up, the beautiful irridescent greys and subtle browns of this animal were stunning,
effortlessly gliding acrooss the dusk skyline.  This is the picture of that moment.