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

four seasons in one day…

Thornham saltmarsh, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Thornham saltmarsh, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Rain, sun, stormy, bright… apart from snow, I experienced the full gamut of weather conditions yesterday at Thornham on the North Norfolk coast. It makes for interesting photography but renders sketching out in the open a bit tricky. Plus, it was really cold and windy.

Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Rain over Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

As I arrived at Thornham bonfire smoke was drifting in over the marsh with the sun illuminating marsh pools and reedbeds. I started walking along the sea defences from Thornham towards the dunes at Holme, having been stuck at a desk with various urgent tasks all week I was desparate to get out.

At one point I was sat on a bench in beautiful warm sunshine with a great elevated view overlooking the bird reserve lake and reedbeds. Then the rainclouds came over and drops started falling on my sketchbook. It looked fantastically dramatic though!

Viewpoint with handy bench! Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018Viewpoint with handy bench! Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Viewpoint with handy bench! Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Holme bird reserve, Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Skeins of geese were noisily flying over as the weather front was quickly blown eastwards and the sun came out again. I took the opportunity to walk over the dunes to the shore for a quick glimpse of the sea (always a tonic in the winter), then headed back the way I came, anticipating the next squadron of rainclouds that I could see on the horizon.

Holme dunes , Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Holme dunes , Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Thornham creek, North Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Thornham creek, North Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

The old coal barn at Thornham was lit up in the sun against the brooding sky, with boats and wooden staithes poking up along the creek next to it. It’s a captivating subject although my sketch of it was pretty rushed and a bit blobby!

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Old coal barn, Thornham, North Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Old coal barn, Thornham, North Norfolk. © Mari French 2018

Old coal barn, Thornham, North Norfolk. © Mari French 2018