Tag: sketching_outdoors

A damp afternoon

Misty distant woods and field margins. Hares, pheasants and deer tracks.
The sound of running water, the ‘good earth’ aroma of autumn leaves.
As I wait for my washes to dry enough to carry on, it starts to rain.
Fine, soft rain, but enough to force me to abandon this painting.
The four hares in the field remain undisturbed.

damp-afternoon-sm

 

On to Kebbi

A short flight with local airline Air Peace and we touch down (as the only arrival today)
at Sir Ahmadu Bello International Airport, Kebbi in the north-west corner of Nigeria.
Stepping out of the plane, a wall of heat hits me as I notice how smart the new glass and steel terminal building looks, set in a flat landscape of short green bushes and butterscotch and peach coloured sand. Our driver Sanusi is waiting for us with a dark blue pick up truck he is somehow dwarfed by. I realise this is similar to some government vehicles and so draws attention from pedestrians.

We are guests of Jumoke, Toyin’s sister. She is an imposing, handsome woman with
the kind of physical presence which leaves you in no doubt who the boss is. Fluent in all three major Nigerian languages and with fingers in many business pies, she is addressed as ‘Momi’  by all who work for her. It is convention here to use terms such as Auntie or Uncle, Sistah or Brudda etc, depending on the persons’ age in relation to yours, or if you come from the same village. It is unnerving however, to be called Daddy by someone you’ve only just met.

kebbi-yardAfter freshening up, chicken rice and spinach is served, followed by water melon
and pineapple. Later in the evening, a visitor arrives and there is a discussion about
leases, land and mining. Mining is one of many business pursuits for Jumoke, and the main reason she upped sticks and moved here from Abuja. The man brings out an uncut ruby which we place on a smartphone lamp to see the bright magenta colour shining through. It looks curiously like a fruit gum, or a chunk of turkish delight, but is indeed
the real thing. The sapphire he had looked more like a grey pebble you could pick up on
a beach, and a little imagination was needed to picture these stones in a cut and polished state. Most impressive though, was a polished gold nugget, the size of a Brasil nut,
and I’m certain it weighed the same as the coffee table.

auntie-princessThe same wall of heat hits me after dark as I step outside to make my way to our apartment. By lamplight, I see one or two moths, but dozens of large cockroaches
spread around on the concrete yard, on the walls and on tree trunks. I step back
indoors very carefully to avoid an unfortunate crunch.

In the morning, some distinctly unmusical parrot-like squawking in the Neem trees outside turns out to be a pair of Long-tailed Glossy Starlings. Back in the seventies,
starling-cardI was familiar with these birds from ‘The Handbook of Foreign Birds’, where they were described as not for the novice, and could be quite aggressive towards weaker inmates
in a mixed aviary, so best kept on their own or with other glossy starling species.
There is a certain air of confidence about them, something of the pirate, too.

More than forty years later, it really is satisfying to see these (and other) birds in the
wild, which were forgotten memories from the pages of a book. Happily these were to
be a common site on car journeys for the week, regularly seen flapping from bush to bush carrying their very long tails behind. I make a postcard of them, and of the cooking pots
in the yard.

 

cooking-pots-card

Wash that dust

It’s late July in Abuja. The tail end of the rainy season washes the red dust away from the balcony of N0.9d. The near rocky hills and new developments, almost all called something Plaza, are obscured by low cloud and heavy rain.

9d-balconyThe swallows and swifts are not deterred for long. When the sun comes out, it’s blinding and hot. The Variable Sunbirds flit quickly to and fro on the flowers in the garden, the fire finches find seeds on the ground in the yard. The African Thrush sings loudly very like the European song thrush, with simple but fluid repeated phrases.  I started the Moleskine sketchbook on the ‘plane, and already made some notes on the suburban birdlife for later.
The generator needs fuel. Again. Heading down the two flights of stone clad stairs after dark by phone torch, a gekko stays ahead of me the whole way and disappears under something somewhere on the ground floor.  “It’s cockroach season” someone says.
They’re probably the biggest insects I’ve ever seen. Maybe too big for a gekko to tackle.
sketchbook-spread-1

Note-taking for later id….

 

view-from-9d-balcony-1b

 

View from the balcony, number 9d.

After the rain, a girl walks down the road selling plantain carried effortlessly atop her head. No takers yet. The security boys from neighbouring houses emerge onto the street.
There is laughter and chat, and as everywhere else, a lot of thumb action and staring at smartphone screens.

view-from-9d-balcony-rSo, here we are again. Another rip roaring, roller coaster high energy ride for a few weeks through this fantastic country…just hope I can keep up…

Slow line, quick wash

Here are some line drawings from my sketchbook where I’m using a sepia coloured felt-tip pen to draw the scene. Quite a slow, deliberate process compared to my usual freer pencil drawings, and with a couple of these I found it useful to add some watercolour to ‘key in’
some of the spaces.

This first spread shows two drawings of a country road not far from home. I was interested in a graphic, linear shorthand to describe forms and textures. No need for a colour wash here.
country-roads-sketchbook

Cat’s Hill Lane, Ludwell.
I spent the Easter break with family in Dorset. I’ve driven past this winding lane countless times over the years and only now decided to stop and draw it. The couple walking their dogs came from behind me and strolled down the lane. I waited until they reached the shed before sketching them in. I added some colour to the verges and meadows, including the far field where the cows are grazing.
cats-hill-lane-ludwell

This drawing is of a small stream winding its way through a copse in the spring sunshine. The bottom of the stream here is muddy but in other places it is stony and moderately fast flowing. In many places the water is only two inches deep, but there are some deeper pools where small fish find a decent living. I edited out quite a lot of ‘tree bits’ and settled for just enough to describe the overall look of the spot.
stream-thru-the-copse-sm

At the end of this small copse, the stream emerges and cuts across the green lane before
falling through the roots of a tree in a mini, noisy waterfall and creating a deepish pool, before continuing on through the hedgerow. I got the watercolours out for this one.
stream-over-path-watercolour-april-7-2015-sm

Osun sacred groves

Osun sacred groves are a UNESCO world heritage site, dedicated to the ancient gods
of the Yoruba religion set in a small patch (75 ha) of tranquil forest where the founders
of Oshogbo were said to have settled some 400 years ago.

We were accompanied by Kasali Akangbe Ogun, who together with the Austrian artist Suzanne Wenger and a team of local artists, restored the site from the 1960’s onwards, creating fabulous sculptures and shrines to various Yoruba gods and goddesses.

After the rain stopped, the birds started twittering, and we positioned a wooden bench under a gap in the tree canopy above, though occasional drips from the leaves landed loudly from upon high directly onto the drawing…watercolour in the rainforest, in the rain…doesn’t get better than that.

igbo-ifa-osun-main-entrance-smNature reclaims all that is hers and the sculptures benefit greatly from mosses and litchens, finding a home on the rendered clay works. Adds to the mystery and spiritual energy of the place.

kasali-sm1

osun-sculptures-smAs the patch of forest is a sacred site and therefore protected, there is much in the way
of wildlife, though difficult to see, and there are a group of quite tame Mona monkeys
that come to the entrance cabin to be fed bananas by visitors and staff.

osun-monkeys-sm1I tried to capture these monkeys very quickly before we left, constant movement and life energy…if only there was more time!monkeys

A house in the country

After two days in Abuja, we drive Southwest to Osun State and the town of Oshogbo, where my hosts for the trip have their family home. It’s a ten hour drive, made worse by some bad potholes and some crazy drivers. Some driver’s decisions seem so wreckless they become comical, but the many overturned heavy lorries and abandoned vehicles serve as a sobering reminder that safety is held with scant regard here.

For almost the entire journey the highway is flanked on both sides by forest and bush, beyond the small scale agriculture and the odd village and settlement, and (frequent) petrol stations.

petrol-stationA pair of hornbills is often seen flying across to the high trees, and the occasional hawk or small eagle is seen wheeling in the middle distance. The raw sienna coloured soil fits perfectly with the lushness of the greens, and the moody grey skies hide the sun but not the humidity.

We arrive after dark, the streets in Oshogbo are still busy with trade, and even with their kerosene burning wicker lamps, I wonder how anyone can see quite what they are doing.

lines-at-dusk1The call to prayer from the nearby mosque wakes me at five, the cockerels are crowing at six, and the gospel singing is rousing at seven…but there is no intention to stay in bed, there are new things to be discovered out there.

Stepping outside, the first thing you notice are the agamas. They are literally everywhere, so much so that I don’t remember even taking a photo of one. I did do some sketches though, and I was intrigued by their slight air of superiority, always one eye on you, knowing as they do that they are always going to be one step ahead of any predatory move by a slowcoach human!

 

agamas-2agamas1

dogs

A house in the capital

Just arrived in Abuja, Nigeria. It’s evening, the air is heavy and warm. The clouds are rolling in steadily, shading the low sun. Opposite Jumoke’s house, Gospel singing is heard from a neighbour across the street. A dark sunbird perches briefly on the topmost twig of a vine on the wall before dashing off, and a group of Little Swifts wheel around the sky above the yard, their white rumps bright against the moody blue clouds.

For this rapid sketch I chose a side view of the porch, the architecture softened and complimented perfectly by the potted palms. Around the grounds, tidy clipped shrubs are set off nicely by the cobbles and weathered paving. A large clay pot sits in the gloom under the largest tree in the garden, waiting to be re-discoverd, its lovely hand crafted rings highlighted by the weathering algae.

abuja-house-smgarden-textures

The wet tropical climate weathers the concrete, plaster and paintwork. All in a day for those living here, but for me, having a thing for texture, colour and rustication as I do, I find myself pointing a camera at virtually everything…!weathering

Blake’s Wood

This is Blake’s Wood, local nature reserve of predominantly Sweet Chestnut, Hornbeam and Oak. I’m in the small parking lot, using the bonnet of my car to double up both as an easel and a table to set out my gear. All quiet, sun low but still bright, the different spring greens now merging into similar mid tones as they mature. The faint aroma of the honeysuckle climbing up the tree next to the sign board is attractive enough, but not the subject of this picture. Instead it’s the evening dappled sunlight, the loud, warbling burble from the Blackcap who seems to circle me, first behind, then here, then over there.
It’s the light falling through the leaves and onto the ground. The sign board invites you to engage, you are here on the map…have you seen all the woodland creatures they mention in the text? Yes of course.

A stranger arrives and parks up. He comes over “can I see?” Yes of course. “Nice”. We chat about wildlife in general, and conclude we have both heard a cuckoo nearby, an ever rarer treat that was once much more common. With camera equipment and a natty camo t-shirt, Adam explains he’s off around the corner where there is some remnant heather heath, hoping to capture a shot of some adders that he’s seen there, bathing in the evening sun. Just great.

blakes-wood-watercolour-may-2014

 

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

Shadow play

Here are some re-workings of some recent sketchbook pencil drawings reproduced in ink – with a little scratching out– using as big a brush as possible, aiming for that “just casually arrived on the page” look.
mowden-hall

shadowplay-in-the-yard

 

Down by the river, lined with willows and reeds, umbellifers and nettles. Cars and vans park up wherever there is space. Not a picturesque horse and cart, sure, but I find including the modern and mechanical describes today’s heavily industrialised agricultural landscape. On the field side, the tree has not been allowed to encroach on farm machinery and has been trimmed back, giving an open right angle underneath it. Conveniently, this acts as a frame for the white van, and the high tonal contrast helps provide a
focus here.

van-in-the-layby

The white van under the dark tree attracted me here

In this picture I was attracted by the shadows of the trees across the road. The barn was black,
the door was red. There was no sound. I went a little ‘nuclear summer’ with the colours, but hey…

country-lane-with-red-door

A quiet, still summer afternoon shattered by my choice of colours!