Inky Seabirds

flying gannet 2 sketchbook

A brief glimpse into my involvement with this year’s seabird drawing course. Unlike last year, I was only able to join the course for two days at the beginning and end of the week. However, through a stroke of luck, it was decided to visit the Bass Rock on the first day so I found myself once again on the Braveheart skippered by Dougie heading towards this amazing place. The Bass Rock is an overwhelming experience – it is the domain of the birds, not just the thousands of gannets that breed there, but herring gulls, lesser black backed gulls, peregrine falcons, eider ducks, shags, guillemots, razor bills etc. I started at the chapel which is as far up the rock as you can get before it becomes so heavily laden with nesting birds its impossible to move through them.

flying gannet smallMy aim was to try to capture gannets in flight – I managed a few drawings before deciding to move on, with a view to creating some finished pieces in the field.

So, I ventured down the path and discovered a soft herring gull sitting on a feathered nest in the shade of the pipe that takes compressed air over the top of the rock to the foghorn. I couldn’t resist the subject matter!

herring gull under pipe small

The gull was almost bursting out of my first drawing…so my second attempt went bigger with some all important context (by this time she was getting quite hot and panting with beak open)

scaled gull

After a happy time spent working with this gull I moved further down the slope and discovered a bank covered in dry mallow, nesting gulls and nesting shags…a quick sketch was followed by an ink wash drawing.


shag and herring gull small

I suddenly realised that the threatening look this gull was giving me was because I was sitting close to its nest so I hastily moved on a bit further down the path to another nesting gull. I love their strong expressions and colouring:

herring gull on nest small I don’t know why when faced with thousands of gannets on a rock which is so noisy, smelly and lively I chose to focus in on the gulls, but I did and I was delighted to spend some time with these characterful birds.

Friday brought a trip to St Abbs Head, high sea cliffs and sea stacks half way between North Berwick and Berwick-upon-Tweed. I struggle at St Abbs because  the large seabird colonies are far below or out at sea. I think the combination of trying to look at them through binoculars whilst on a slope, gives me a strange sense of vertigo and stops me focussing fully on the drawing. I had taken my trace monotype kit and managed a couple of quick prints taking in the scene which captured something of the spirit of the place.

monotype small

st abbs monotype small

And finally for now, I managed to to depict this scene between a razorbill and a guillemot.

razorbill and guillemot small

About flyingcreature

I'm a Cumbrian born painter and printmaker based in Scotland. My work is inspired by British nature. I studied on the Foundation Course at Leith School of Art in 2003 before going on to take the MA Fine Art degree at Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh University graduating in 2008. I now make my work from my studio in Coburg House and teach drawing, painting and printmaking at Leith School of Art and around Scotland.
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