Isle of May

Once again I have just spent a fabulous week drawing and painting on the Isle of May with great company and fine weather. After the long and late winter this year the seabirds were several weeks behind what I've seen in previous years when many were already on nests and eggs. And sadly there were several casualties washed up on some of the beaches. But, as is so often the way the island changed dramatically through the course of just seven days as puffins, razorbills and guillemots arrived in their thousands to clear out burrows or claim a cliff ledge. Eider ducks began prospecting further inland for nesting sites and the rasping call of a tern heralded their imminent return.


An early start to the drawing day on my way from the Low Light to the South Horn.


Working with a variety of media seems to work the best for me when I'm out and about. I really enjoy watercolours and although there can be issues with the length of time they take to dry, I have encountered "happy accidents" such as a rain shower leaving its mark on half-dry paint or being forced to work wet-in-wet. Here I am using a combination of watercolour with some conte and pastel to quickly block in areas then add a little finer detail

Sometimes its good to just really concentrate on the form of the birds and attempt to understand the shapes a little better. Making studies such as these puffins I spend a lot of time observing the movements, shapes and attitudes of the birds, aiming for a simplicity and fluidity of line without complicating my thoughts with colour or background.


Many thanks as always to Leo du Feu for organising and Nye Hughes, Emily Ingrey-Counter, Kittie Jones, Chris Leakey, Jane Smith plus all those working or carrying out research on the island for excellent company!


To watch a short film reflecting on our experiences of working on the Isle of May please visit the Scottish Natural Heritage YouTube channel HERE