I have work in three of the categories this year; British birds, World Birds, and Animals in their environment.
In the British birds category I have 'Highspot'.
I very often encounter Stonechats on the RSPB reserve at Elmley. They are charming birds that can be very visible. The reason they are so easily seen is their habit of using the highest spot they can find to use as a vantage point for spotting their insect prey. Often the 'highspot' will be a bush or a fencepost but on one occasion I watched a male hunting from a solitary stick which, for some reason, rose high above the surrounding reed bed, sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb. He would perch and, when he spotted something, he would fly down into the reeds only to retake his place on his 'highspot' quickly after. This is great from a sketching point of view as I can focus my scope on the perch and know that my subject will pretty soon be back in the frame.
In the World birds category I have 'Striated Heron, Sungei Buloh'.
I have been very lucky and have been able to visit Singapore for great holidays over the past two years. Sungei Buloh is a wetland reserve in the North of the Singapore and is a haven for wildlife on what is a pretty densely populated island. Striated Herons are common there and it would be very difficult to visit the reserve and not see at least one of them. They stalk the shallows using the stealthy technique typical of the heron family. I watched this one as he hunted and caught several small fish whilst he was being observed by a number of large mudskippers. I think they knew they were too large for the heron to tackle but it didn't stop them keeping a wary eye open! I used a letterbox format for this painting to accentuate the Heron's carefully crouched stance and leave room in front of him for him to move into giving the bird a sense of movement. If you follow the Heron's concentrated gaze you should see the small ripples which give the faintest indication of a tasty morsel just below the surface.
'Striated Heron, Sungei Buloh'
Striated Heron sketches
Finally, in the Animals in their environment category, I have 'Mellow fruitfulness'.
Lapwings feature quite a lot in my sketchbooks, mainly because when there is little else to be seen on the reserve at Elmley, there will almost always be a lapwing to rely on and they have such 'sketchable' faces that it would be a shame not to keep sketching them. One of the best things about sketching from life is that I get to observe situations that are just a little unusual from the way we think they should be. When I saw the Lapwing in the same field as the large fruiting bodies of the field mushrooms I knew it was a situation which would be ideal for a painting. The creamy, rounded forms of the mushrooms seemed to match the soft forms of the chest and belly of the Lapwing so I combined the two into the painting of the Lapwing showing how perfectly, if somewhat accidentally, it was camouflaged in its environment.
Lapwings field sketch