Spring in the reed beds …

Reedbeds, Burnham Overy Staithe. © Mari French 2018

Reedbeds, Burnham Overy Staithe. © Mari French 2018

I stepped down the steep bank of the sea defences and out of the cold wind. Now on level with the huge swathe of reeds, the warm sun on my face, I could hear so many different birds belling, fluting and chiming, out of sight among the swaying blonde wands. Overhead, flocks of Brent and Pinkfoot geese clamoured and a pair of red kites circled in the sun.

This was last week on the first day of spring and I was walking along the marshes and creeks at Burnham Overy Staithe on the North Norfolk coast. Blue skies and bright sunshine drew me out sketching for the first time in ages and it was bliss to be out under that huge blue open dome of sky (apart from that cold wind of course).

Sketching reedbeds in spring sunshine. © Mari French 2018

Sketching reedbeds in spring sunshine. © Mari French 2018

There were so many bird species about, including a group of six avocets, the poster birds of the RSPB, with their upturned slender beaks, they danced their delicate crane-like courtship dance on the shining mudflats.

 

It may come as a surprise to some who see my work, but the calls, flight and tracks of coastal birds are often referenced in the guise of abstract meandering marks in my paintings. Along with the movement of the wind in reeds or over water, jet trails in the sky and my own wanderings, this is one of the techniques I employ to evoke a sense of my experience of a place.

Below is one of the resulting small mixed media works I produced in my studio this week, all fired up and inspired by that glorious day sketching the reed beds. I’ll post more soon.

'Reedbeds 1' © Mari French 2018

‘Reedbeds 1’ © Mari French 2018

ochre clay, pale stones, rusting metal…

Coastal erosion abstract, acrylics on paper, 18x18cm. © Mari French 2018

Almost chickened out of going to the studio today seeing 2 inches of snow outside and plummeting temperatures. But I’d been looking forward to painting having been busy doing other stuff for much of the past week.

So, quilted overalls on (of which my hubby is very jealous) and calor gas heater going full blast I actually had an enjoyable few hours working on 3 small pieces on paper I’d started last week. When fingers got a bit frosty I blasted them with the hairdryer I use for drying off acrylics.

Coastal erosion abstract, acrylics on paper, 18x18cm. © Mari French 2018

These three works continue the series I’m currently developing in response to coastal erosion on the North Norfolk coast (mainly around Happisburgh), which I wrote about in my previous post. I’m attracted to the colours of the crumbling cliffs and broken structures littering the shore – ochre clay, pale stones, rusting metal, concrete etc, set against the shadowy land slips below the fields above. For these small paintings I used acrylics, gouache and inktense pencil on watercolour paper – I sometimes use a smoother paper or board support, but here I like the grain exposed by the dryish edge of the dragged paint.

Coastal erosion abstract, acrylics on paper, 18x18cm. © Mari French 2018

My solo exhibition, from 24th March for one month at the Grapevine Gallery, Burnham Market, North Norfolk, will feature these three works alongside other larger pieces in the series and several new reedbeds paintings. Below are a few of the earlier stages of these small paintings.

Early stages of painting, coastal erosion works. © Mari French 2018Early stages of painting, coastal erosion works. © Mari French 2018Early stages of painting, coastal erosion works. © Mari French 2018