What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
William Henry Davies
My kind of holiday is having the opportunity to absorb a landscape, without being rushed from one country to another, or even whirled around museums and art galleries in just one city. Adjusting my pace to the daily routine of two small grandchildren focuses my concentration on the environment even more: our 8 month old follows the flight of a raven with the same fascination that she directs towards people’s conversations; our two and a half year old samples the snow with his mouth and nose, rolls in it and buries himself in it. The snow has transformed landforms that I thought I knew fairly well after my last visit in the summer of 2016 into monochrome stage flats; the dark forests on the lower slopes are now either swathed in white or greyed out by a peppering of half melted snow.
The kitchen window continues to be a never ending source of inspiration: the mountain appears and disappears throughout the day, and I can at least make quick sketches here without freezing my hands off.
I’m learning to spot birds silhouetted in the leafless deciduous trees and against the grey, often sunless sky. I’ve seen the prints of a weasel and caught the flash of a squirrel running along the top of our snowy fence. And today I had the treat of a lifetime: we spotted two bald eagles roosting above our heads as we walked back from a shopping expedition. This was just after I had resolved to paint a watercolour from memory of another bird I had seen and managed to identify by the white spot on its back: a Northern Harrier.
There are no Google photos that I could find of a harrier flying away from the viewer, but that was the view I had when I spotted it, and I decided that I needed to created the whole scene from my head rather than concoct it from my own photographs of the landscape. It may not be an authentic representation of a harrier, but it captures what I felt when I saw it.
The other three pictures all use photographic reference to accurately depict a chickadee (spotted in a maple tree), a raven (they are constantly flying over our heads) and a short tailed weasel in its winter coat (I still haven’t seen one, but I know how to identify their tracks). The settings are derived from photos I took, and in each case I tried to keep the landscape detail to the minimum, focusing on the subject. I am continuing to use mainly washes of Winsor and Newton sepia and indigo, which produce a wonderful range of blues, browns, blacks and greys.