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

reed-fringed pools… spangled light…

Recent walk and sketching in early spring sunshine (and Baltic easterly!) at Burnham Overy Staithe, on the north Norfolk coast.

Reed-fringed pool, sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2017

Reed-fringed pool, sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2017


It was spring half-term so there were quite a few groups of people about and the usual dog walkers. Always happy when a dog bounces up to inspect what I’m doing 🙂 The sunlight through the reeds and spangled reflections in the pools was a joy to observe. Handily placed benches help too!

Reedbeds, Burnham Overy Staithe. © Mari French 2017

Reedbeds, Burnham Overy Staithe. © Mari French 2017

Burnham Overy Creek & breakwaters © Mari French 2017

Burnham Overy Creek & breakwaters © Mari French 2017

Abstracting the creek © Mari French 2017

Abstracting the creek © Mari French 2017

 
Tide retreating, Burnham Overy Staithe © Mari French 2017

Tide retreating, Burnham Overy Staithe © Mari French 2017

Returning to the car my attention was caught by large flocks of smaller birds lifting up into the air en-masse from the grazings, although the larger geese didn’t seem bothered. I stopped to use my monocular and spotted a Marsh Harrier swooping along the edge of the field and hedgerow, flushing the birds out. It swept swiftly up and along a few times then landed out of sight, possibly with a catch. I was hoping I might have caught it on my photos but it was too fast.

Birds flushed by harrier, Burnham Overy grazings © Mari French 2017

Birds flushed by harrier, Burnham Overy grazings © Mari French 2017

it’s a cold wind …

Brilliant sunlight but Baltic winds almost turned me back from sketching at Thornham today. But, wrapped in about four layers of warm clothing, including Russian-type hat, I persevered and managed a couple of sketchbook spreads. 

 

Old landings stage and channel markers. Sketchbook, Mari French 2016

Old landing stage and channel markers. Sketchbook, Mari French 2016

 
Plenty of skeins of geese overhead and landing in nearby fields, especially the small dark Brent geese which have such an odd but appealing call, a kind of ‘ruff ruff ruff’, like dogs. One of them left its sky borne flock and circling round, landed close by, pottering in the marsh grass for a while, completely heedless of me sat there sketching.  

 

Brent geese, Norfolk coast

Brent geese, Norfolk coast. Mari French 2016

 
 
Cold wind and sunlight, Ragged Marsh, Thornham. Mari French 2016

Cold wind and sunlight, Ragged Marsh, Thornham. Mari French 2016

 

Just love the way the small creeks and pools reflect the clear blue sky amidst the golden tobacco colours of the winter marsh grass, with the upright but skewed channel marker posts scattered in the distance. Will I ever tire of this?

  

Brent goose, Thornham Marsh. Mari French 2016

Brent goose, Thornham Marsh. Mari French 2016