|Unique (and delicious!) culture|
Amongst the people present were artists Darren Woodhead and Ian Lewington. Ian is one of the world's foremost bird illustrators who has created plates for numerous bird guides, and Darren is a watercolour artist who produces all his work in the field. I was wowed by Darren's dedication, working in blizzards, sub-zero conditions and even on a boat to produce stunning paintings, and amazed to find that world-renowned bird illustrator Ian actually has no formal art training. This was one of the facts that Martin Garner of Birding Frontiers dropped into his inspiring presentation on the opening night of Gullfest at the North Pole pub in Vardø, the theme of which was following your passions. Martin described Vardø as a place that was also beginning to pursue its dreams, just as he and the organisers of Gullfest had. Art was also to be seen on many of the abandoned buildings around Vardø, the result of the street art festival Komafest that had taken place in 2012 to draw attention to the depopulation of remote areas in North Norway, and Vardø feels like a town that is starting to realise its potential with the help of some very dedicated and enthusiastic people working together.
|Darren Woodhead gave a presentation about his art and how you can learn a different way of seeing to depict the natural world.|
|Ian Lewington explained how careful observation and understanding of bird anatomy is vital in producing bird illustrations.|
|A typically enthusiastic scene - Martin, Louise and Tormod on the Hurtigruten.|
|Street art in Vardø.|
I felt humbled and to be honest, a bit intimidated by all the knowledge, passion and skill present, although Martin assured me that they mostly 'just blagged it'! Everyone was only too happy to share their knowledge with me and I learned a lot, but how could I maintain the inspiration and continue to expand my understanding once I'd returned to everyday life in suburban Birmingham? It would probably take a bit more than blagging! I would like to spend more time in the field but working full-time and studying for a degree in Environmental Science with the Open University means I have very little free time - I usually go birding about twice a month. I'd also sporadically done some bird drawings and paintings in the past, but again felt that I didn't currently have time to do this. So I have decided (perhaps rashly) to set myself a project in which I will work my way through the Collins Bird Guide, reading about and then drawing one bird a day. I will also do at least one drawing in the field every time I go out birding. I reckon I should be able to make at least 5-10 minutes every day for this, and have posted a fuller description of The Rules.
As a starter, here are some fairly dreadful field sketches that I did at the weekend at RSPB Sandwell Valley where I volunteer - you can see why I need to practice!
It's probably obvious that the oystercatcher kept still for longest. That pesky teal (barely more than a couple of lines) kept still the least longest! Even though they aren't very good I already have found it a very useful experience, for example I noticed how the white cheek patch on Canada Geese appears to change shape slightly depending on the posture of the bird. Also, the shelducks were somewhat unusual in the Valley - a pair had apparently been around for 2-3 weeks which hasn't happened before, and they seemed to be checking out the area for suitable nesting sites. Really hope they stay and breed so I can see the cutest ducklings EVER!