Happy New Year!

birling-gap_owlstation_2017_1

Happy New Year! I’ve just been for my first outdoor sketch trip of 2017 to Birling Gap. A beautiful sunny day, though super chilly. So nice to get outdoors and tramp around for a bit. We stopped high up on a bench to draw a view of the cliffs and stripy red lighthouse, then headed back down to the beach to watch the sunset over the sea with our cheese and pickle sandwiches. I managed to drop my entire chalk pastel collection, twice :/ need to get a tin for them I think!

birling-gap_owlstation_2017_2

Wilmington Expedition

owlstation_instagram_wilmington_4

Back in January my Mum and I spent three days in a cabin in Sussex exploring and drawing on the downs! We stocked up on hearty winter foods; soups, crusty bread and cheese. We packed our warmest clothes our sketchbooks, paper and drawing materials and set off for the hills.

Hailing from Newhaven, my Mum has always felt a strong connection to this part of the world and has been drawn to the mysterious Long Man of Wilmington, something that she has passed on to me. There is definitely something about the place. An ancient chalk figure etched into the hillside, being able to see way out across the land, rolling greenery and patchwork fields. The feeling of being high up and catching glimpses of the silvery sea.

It was late afternoon when we set out on our first sketch-pedition. We walked up the chalky track that runs alongside the Long Man. Though icy cold, the sun was shining brightly, setting everything ablaze. It was hard going clambering up the steep track in our skiwear whilst juggling our drawing equipment and we quickly overheated. Underfoot, beautiful frosty patterns had formed in the chalk, the ice wrenching the track apart and churning up the ground.

owlstation_wilmington sketch_2016_ sun photo

At the top, spectacular views across the valleys. The sun seemed to hook into you and draw you out of your winter shell. I always get a primitive feeling when I’m there. My inner cave girl rises up! I felt like I could have been a horse in a previous life as I had the urge to gallop and jump around. I wanted to look at all the plants and flints. Examine every bit of sheep’s wool caught on thorny bushes. Mum stood next to a large metal gate and discovered it was singing a strange melody as the wind blew through the tiny holes in its metal surface.

We made quick sketches. I thought about all the artists who have been inspired by the landscape over the years and the beautiful works they have created. Scruffy pencil marks, etchings, layers and textures. I found it quite difficult to draw the sparse landscape, but the feeling of calm that came from getting totally lost in the moment and absorbed by the surroundings was amazing.

owlstation_wilmington sketch_2016_ravilious inspired

The cabin itself was our refuge from the cold. Lighting fires in the wood-burning stove became my job. A good little fire would quickly warm the small room and give off a lovely smoky smell. In the evenings we cooked our meals, settled into the comfy chairs with hot chocolate and dissected our drawings. Our soundtrack was Arch Garrison’s album ‘I Will Be a Pilgrim’ a beautiful piece of music with lyrics mirroring our experience of enjoying the wild, chalky land.

 

We spent two days like this, waking early, making crumpets then setting out to the hills. Drawing, getting cold, coming back to warm up and refuel, then setting out again. Collapsing into our beds at the end of the day, feeling that we’d earned our rest.

On the last day, it snowed. It had fallen quite thickly in the night and we woke to a silent, white world. The Long Man was lost in the freezing clouds of fog. We sat on the cabin porch and drew the view in front of us, our breath freezing in the air. We set out on a different route that day, the snow had completely changed the views and we had to stop every few minutes to photograph and gawp at how different it looked. The white contrasted against the dark sky and enhanced the many lines and furrows that cut across the landscape. They seemed to carve it up, scars on the surface of the world.

owlstation_wilmington sketch_2016_ snowy photo

We arrived at a little church and entered the graveyard. A giant, ancient tree was at its centre, reinforced by heavy planks of wood and bound by thick iron chains in an attempt to keep it together. Most of the snow had burned off by midday as we made it to the top. It was difficult to work on a drawing too long because of the cold but we put the effort in and both make sketches we were pleased with.

I enjoyed treading on the frozen puddles. Carefully displacing my weight a little at a time and watching the splinters and shards form in the ice until, with a squeaking sound, they give way and the brown muddy water gushes up to greet your wellies!

It was such a special weekend. Making drawing the focus of the trip meant that we really made time for it. If we saw something we wanted to sketch, we could change our plans to fit around it, something that isn’t always practical on a more usual sort of holiday. Being outside in January despite the cold made me very happy too. Shutting ourselves away from the modern world and keeping things simple. We definitely want to go back again next year!

On this trip we stayed at Jackson’s Cabin in Polegate, hosted by the lovely Alison.

 

Edinburgh

edinburgh castle_owlstation sketchbook

I had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful city of Edinburgh. This was my first trip to Scotland as an adult and I took my sketchbook along to record the adventure. Good thing too as there was plenty of inspiring stuff to draw; from stunning gothic buildings to the cheeky airbnb cat ‘Minou’. Here are some of the other things that made my trip special:

Visiting Edinburgh Castle, climbing Arthur’s Seat, cobbled streets and ‘wynds’, The Elephant House, a battered Mars bar, bagpipe wars, crumbling graveyards, Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth, the National Museum, trendy cocktails, getting spooked in the catacombs, veggie haggis, quality whisky and vintage trousers.

 

stag 2_owlstation sketchbook

 

birds at museum_owlstation sketchbook

minou_owlstation sketchbook

arthurs seat_owlstation sketchbook

 

 

Birthday Owls

Magic_3

Instructed to keep my eyes closed, I was led (quite literally) up the garden path of my parent’s homestead. Having been told nothing more than ‘pack some drawing stuff’ I naturally had a few suspicions about the nature of this belated birthday surprise. I’d thought perhaps a trip to a stately home, or some spot of natural beauty for a sketch and a picnic. It had crossed my mind as a fancy that my favorite winged creatures might be in some way involved, but I didn’t dare hope too hard in case of disappointment…

I opened my eyes and a parliament of three owls looked up at me.

My family had arranged for an owl specialist to bring three of her finest specimens to me, for an afternoon of drawing and cooing! I was a kid in my own miniature, personal, owlery store.  If you love owls (and I’m almost certain you do) then you’ll appreciate that being so close to something so beautiful, intelligent and wild feels pretty special. So time being of the essence (we didn’t want to keep them too long) I started sketching. Each beast had a very distinct personality. Willow the calm, elegant barn owl. Magic, the little owl, an erratic, energetic fluff ball and Bracken the brown wood owl intimidating but very sophisticated and aware of her beauty. Each feathered head whipping round impatiently as I tried to capture their likenesses.

I’d hate to pick a favorite owl but I did feel that my drawings of Magic turned out the best. Here’s a selection of my sketches and photos from the day.

Magic_4

Magic_2

photo 3

African Owl

photo 2

photo 1

These owls are extremely well cared for and loved by the ‘Owls Out and About’ team who put on displays and raise money for charity by sharing owl love. If you are interested in having an owl experience of your own, drop an email to owlsoutandabout@hotmail.co.uk