Mitigation revisited #3

Beginning again with an A2 sheet of cartridge, primed with transparent acrylic gesso and with a further layer of gloss varnish, I am making a second painting of osprey on the Loch Arkaig nest. This will be the fourth in the Mitigation series in which the notion of positive anthroposcenery is presented as contexts in which human intervention was designed to be beneficial to wildlife. In the case of the osprey, it’s been organisations such as the Woodland Trust which have constructed sturdy platforms for the birds to nest and return to year after year to breed. Prior to this movement, there had been no breeding pairs in the UK for many years. Even so, a platform at one such site was toppled in the night by intruders with a chain saw in May this year.

The two other paintings are of a seal found to be feeding miles up river from the harbour; testament to the improved water quality of the river that has allowed the establishment of a substantial food chain culminating in fish.

Bright sunlight and wrinkled paper don’t make for the best image but I think this shows the early stage of composition and palette selection. I’ve changed the position of the birds in this image; bringing them closer together in the centre and with some overlap which is not how they were in the screen clip I took from the live stream. I also managed to choose a scene with some tricky perspectives; one bird has its neck angled left to see something in the distance, and the other is positioned with its body at a receding angle and its head beginning to turn to where the other is looking.

I’m using largely gestural mark making to free up fluidity of medium on the glossy surface. I am aiming at the more traditional style of the first painting for consistency within this pair; the seals being consistent in their more contemporary style. Primarily though, I’m aiming at not over-working it and, if I get anything right about the physical appearance of osprey, it must be the eye.

This is building nicely. I think, apart from finishing the plumage and eye of the bird in the foreground, I would like to just darken the background with a Payne’s Grey/Burnt Sienna wash. I’ve managed so far not to mess up the transparency and to provide texture in the hills by using a dry flannel so the wash layer will have somewhere to go. I’m quite pleased with the nest too – broad brush strokes with transparent and semi transparent paint layered over each other. The gloss surface really helps slide the medium over the paper.

I’m minded to do a bit of dry flannel work then detail that eye – there’s a tiny line of white just under the black at the bottom and another to the right, making that wider black mark look like a closing bracket. Maybe lighten the nest material a little too – that’s so white it’s almost blue in reality, but with bits of lichen attached here and there.

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