Friday, 31 March 2017

Paintings in Progress: Greenfinches

by Amanda

The beginning of my Greenfinch painting!
Although a widely recognised bird, the Greenfinch is unfortunately in decline and is not as commonly seen as it once was. For this reason it was chosen as the subject for this painting.

Starting with a purplish wash of acrylic paint, I then moved on to oils to put in the background and the first layer of the birds. This is how most of my paintings begin - the colour wash tones the canvas (or board in this case) and sets up a harmonious or complimentary ground for the rest of the painting. The birds themselves have only had one base coat or "block-in" so far. Once this first layer has dried the darks and lights will be added, and colours adjusted and enhanced to get more of that lovely greenish yellow coming through. Once that is done the stump they are sitting on will be added in stages, after which I can make final adjustments to the birds to ensure they "pop" from the surface (and to make sure the male Greenfinch doesn't become lost against the bark of the stump!)

This one along with a couple of others will be finished for the Deep Roots Tall Trees exhibition, to be held at the Rooftop Arts Centre in Corby during June.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Heralds of spring

Spring arrives at different times for different birds. Ravens and Grey Herons start to breed as early as mid-February, while Swifts and Spotted Flycatchers don't arrive in the UK until early May. And that traditional herald of spring – the Cuckoo – doesn't generally make its appearance and start singing until the middle of April.

But a handful of birds, and one insect, are reliable indicators that the winter is behind us. Brimstone butterflies start to appear as soon as we have a couple of bright, war, days in March, and by that time the first Little Ringed Plovers have arrived on gravel pits, the first Wheatears are strutting around sheep pastures, and the first Sand Martins have appeared at your local reservoir. The latter are small, brown, seemingly frail birds that look like they would struggle to fly in the merest breeze, and yet they will have flown here from sub-Saharan Africa.

And then there's the Chiffchaff. Take a walk through Corby's woods today, and you'll hear, if not see, this unobtrusive warbler, endlessly repeating the song that gives it its name. "Chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff", with a lilting, sing-song intonation. Some of these, too, may just have arrived from southern Europe or Africa, but more and more are starting to eke out a winter existence in the UK, often by hanging around insect-rich sites such as sewage farms and chicken sheds. If you're not looking for them, they can go unnoticed, until they emerge to serenade the new season.

They're a reminder not only that spring is here, but that migration is a very complicated business indeed. Go out and hear one, and you'll know that nature's calendar has turned another page.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Meet the Team 3: Matt Merritt

I have been a birdwatcher since the age of seven, and I'm fortunate enough to be able to combine it with the world of work – my day job is as editor of Bird Watching Magazine. Born and brought up in Leicestershire, I know the Corby area well, having spent many hours birding around Rockingham Forest and sites such as Blatherwycke Lake and Wakerley Woods.

Birds, and the natural world more generally, also feed into my spare-time writing. My birdwatching memoir, A Sky Full Of Birds, was published last year by Rider Books, and I have also had four collections of poetry published, the most recent being The Elephant Tests (Nine Arches Press, 2013), with birds playing a central role in all of these.

I'm particularly interested in the way nature adapts to urban habitats. and our relationship to it where the natural and manmade worlds collide, but I find migration probably the single most fascinating aspect of ornithology, and I hope that this project will help demonstrate that it is a much larger phenomenon than most of us realise. I'll be posting on the bird life of Corby and Northamptonshire, ad also the occasional poem.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Meet the team 2: Rosalind Stoddart

After graduating from Camberwell School of Arts and crafts with a BA (Hons) in Painting, I gained a PGCE:AD. Then I spent a few years teaching.

Next I worked full-time as an artist gaining certain recognition including been selected for one of the 1000 residencies across the country awarded by The Arts Council England in 2000.

Also since late 1998 I began to exhibit other artists work in my home. The organisation Fermynwoods Contemporary Art became a formal not-for-profit limited company in 2004, and a Charity in 2008 with myself as Artistic Director.

I have a broad interest in the arts focused on the visual arts. At Fermynwoods we were particularly interested in engaging with the environment (both rural and urban) especially with our Forestry Commission partnership, as well as current agendas in our locality. This was achieved through exhibitions, education programmes, residencies and outreach community projects.

I resigned from my position at Fermynwoods at the end of 2009 and I am now working independently. The main project I am presently involved with is Deep Roots Tall Trees, which I initiated in 2011. DRTT current project is OUR WOODS, a festival of over 40 events celebrating Corby’s wonderful urban woodlands through music, dance, light, the arts, history, woodland management and much more. I am also an observer of the Groundworks Northants board.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Meet the team 1: Amanda Drage

Based in Corby, Amanda Drage has been drawing and painting for most of her life, and is now a full time artist. Although she loves to paint all wildlife, birds are one of her favourite subjects, the huge variety in their colours and appearance providing a constant source of inspiration. For the last few years Amanda has mostly been working to commission creating portraits of pets. This year will see a return to wildlife and bird art, as she works towards her first solo exhibition in September.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Welcome to Corby and Migration

Continuing on from Deep Roots Tall Trees OUR WOODS festival, the Woodland Trust is supporting another of our project in Corby’s woods until November 2017. Through the Woodland Trust’s Charter Project, we have commissioned and brought together visual artist, Amanda Drage, and wildlife journalist and poet, Matt Merritt, to collaborate, research and create paintings of the birds in Corby’s woodlands, an important ornithological habitat, to further engage the public in an approachable and wonderful aspect of the urban woodlands in the heart of our town.

Corby and Migration will look at the birds species that migrate to Corby’s woodlands (and native birds) and how they are affected by the increased size of the town as it continues to change. Matt will research the bird migration to Corby’s woodlands and gather information about them and Amanda will create paintings of the most significant birds. The first painting will be in an exhibition in the Rooftop Gallery in Corby for the month of June and further paintings will be in her exhibition September 2017 at The Alfred East Gallery, Kettering.

At all events we will collect as many as possible signatures to support and spread the word about the Charter – to connect people and trees.

Rosalind Stoddart
Creative Producer of Deep Roots Tall Trees

Discovering birdsong

by Warren For the last few weeks I have been finding recordings of the songs of the ten birds online, and doing a lot of listening a...