Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

The Shapes And Flight Patterns Of Birds

When I look out of my studio window the view is across a gentle valley.  Perched, as we are, on the edge of a plateau in the terrain, I see the farmland falling down and away before rising up again to meet the wood and the hedge about a mile away.  If I stand at the garden’s perimeter and look to the left and to the right, the only buildings that I see are the top of the medieval church and one minute pink triangle - the eaves of a farmhouse - embedded in the tree line on the distant horizon.  I walk in this landscape every day and observe its constant and rhythmic changes.  The familiar patterns weave their way continually into my paintings, as do its inhabitants.  We are fortunate to have a very rich and varied wildlife here, which I learn more about as the months and years pass.

I have been especially fascinated to watch the birds this year, particularly to observe their flight patterns.  The gulls and crows in Spring and Autumn hang like kites as they face into the strong wind that whips across the hillside.  Periodically they allow themselves to be swept and carried away before flying back into it and holding fast.  They look as if they are riding the wind, almost surfing the waves of air.  They repeat this hold / surrender / hold / surrender pattern over and over again.  It looks like pure freedom.

Perhaps the supreme rider of the air currents is the buzzard.  One morning, in early Summer, I came across one standing on the ground just outside the wood.  He, or she, let me get quite close before taking off with slow but powerful movements. I was amazed to see how large a bird the buzzard actually is and how big its wingspan (1.1 - 1.4m).  Up and up it went, in a lazy corkscrew motion, until it was a small, floating speck.  I could hear its mewing call - a strangely high voice for such a large bird!

Now, in late Autumn, I look out into our garden and to our meadow beyond, where the small birds are constantly foraging and where the pheasant and green woodpecker have become regular visitors.  Flocks of partridges can also be seen taking off and gliding in formation at low level to further feeding grounds.  I have featured these take-offs in several recent paintings, whether it is crows travelling to roost on Autumn evenings or pigeons and gulls suddenly rising up en masse.  I have also portrayed the barn owl hunting at night.  I occasionally see these as I drive to Lavenham and back on the high lanes.  They appear and disappear, phantom-like, in the beams of the car headlights.

In all of this work I am not claiming to produce anatomically correct illustrations, but to capture the moment when I see the shape of a bird out of the corner of my eye as I pass a tree or hedge or see their movements as they fly and interact with the more static shapes of their surroundings.  These paintings, part of my work for various gallery Christmas shows, was begun in August.  I have produced around 25 paintings which are divided between four exhibitions.  In fact, it is very rare for me to produce a painting without at least one bird in it somewhere!

I am currently working on a couple of last-minute orders and after that will begin work for a larger scale exhibition in the Spring.





All text & images ©2015 Carol Saunderson