Sunday 30 May 2010

Some Effects of Light

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been fascinated by trying to portray strong light and, as ever when the sun shines (and I’m allowed to sneak off on my own) I head off to the low cliffs around Skiba Geo; terns, fulmar and eider are plentiful. Visits to this part of West Mainland are usually timed to coincide with survey work I am doing this season, during which today I had 15 eider nests in a 50x50 metre quad, two of which were actually touching tails as they incubated!

I’m interested in how light affects the subjects, not only by the direction from which it illuminates them, but also by the local atmosphere through which it travels. For instance, the first painting shows a group of three eiders seen from fairly close quarters (less than 30 metres) which are almost flood-lit, from directly above and from the left; the atmosphere is clear. The second piece shows a similar arrangement of birds but, besides being lit from above/behind, there is the sense that the atmosphere has a certain gravitas, formed by the relatively dense moisture content in the air and the distance from which the birds are seen. The quality of light in this second piece is very different from that in the first; having a solidity and weight (and maybe hue?) to it lacking in the first.

In the two arctic tern paintings, I am trying to deal with the light, but also with the incredible subtlety of these birds’ plumage. The greys are extremely changeable due to the angle of light and shade and almost shimmer as the birds move; very beautiful and challenging to paint.

The last painting relies very much on the lessons from the previous pieces. I used field drawings and photographs in the making of this painting (as in all the above, too) and paid particular attention to the way the different textures and colours of the birds’ feathers reflected and/or absorbed light; how they integrated hues from their surrounds and expressed a variety of these and how the slabs of rock reacted to the strength of light.


john said...

Inspirational mastery of illumination. I especially like your Eiders. Here in Alaska, I have been studying and photographing Arctic Terns in the past week. They are the epitome of grace.

Szabi said...

No word for these Tim...

Unknown said...

Fabulous work. Images of the first order.

sev said...

Fascinating , i read with interest and learned as i went . Yes , i can see what you mean , On my local reserve im looking mostly into the sun and it affects what i see very strongly . I paint mountains and atmosphere for me is very changeable because of the distances involved and its a tangible presence everytime i paint .

timwootton said...

Thanks very much John, I'm glad these pieces are making a connection with the birds you see and how you see them. I'd love to see Arctic terns in Alaska - one day, maybe.

Hi Szabi - that is very high praise indeed coming from one of the modern masters of painting birds in light -many thanks.

Cheers Mick - I recognise some of what I'm trying to do in your own work, too. Keep it up, mate!

Hiya Sev - thanks again for the considered comments. I notice from an earlier post that you draw and paint near Elmley; a great pal of mine, Mike Woodcock, spends many hours there. May I recommend an interactive website which I think you might find inspiring and full of encouragement? Please see; and go to the Wildlife Art Forum there - I'm sure you'd enjoy the experience.


Jeremy Pearse said...

Wonderful studies Tim. I'm also beginning to understand how important light is to a given composition and am trying to use it more carefully. All of these recent paintings (especially the Eiders) show this perfectly - and all beautifully captured in watercolour.

Linda Navroth said...

Wonderful paintings and I love the concept of illumination you delved into here. It's an aspect to painting I not fully considered. More's the pity I cannot see the originals--they must be stunning! Thanks very much for sharing your work in your blog.