• kate


peregrine falcon chichester cathedral maverick
Maverick, A5 pastel and watercolour pen on pastelmat.

The peregrines nest every year in peaks of Chichester Cathedral in West Sussex. There's a live webcam of the chicks at https://www.chichestercathedral.org.uk/events/chichester-cathedral-peregrines-watch-live-webcam

It's been amazing to watch the chicks hatch and grow each year, through the webcam and the amazing photographs I see from my friend and colleague David Shaw. This year he kindly allowed me to use one of his photos to create a painting of Maverick - the male of the breeding pair.

I wanted to use my new watercolour markers from Winsor Newton (I'd recently bought the blues) to bring out the lovely blue/grey of Maverick's feathers so I chose white pastelmat so that I could get a true colour from the pens.

winsor newton watercolour brush markers
Winsor Newton watercolour brush markers on white pastelmat

You can see that the slightly grainy texture of the pastelmat does allow a small amount of bleeding of the pens, but it is only a slight 'bobbling' of the edge rather than any colour actually escaping anywhere I don't want it to go!

I was really impressed with how the pastel pencils went over the top of the inks and blended those transitions so nicely; I didn't even have to cover all the ink so I could let the gorgeous colours shine through.

I was really intimidated by the white feathers, it took me a long time to get started on it. There is a lot of detail in the original photo that I had to edit down, I also chose not to reflect the warmer tones in areas of the white. I have found too often that adding these colours can make the fur or feathers in this case look dirty. I was really worried about the stripy markings, I had to make myself be really brave to put that dark grey pastel down on the white background! In the end I was really pleased with how it turned out, and should be a lesson to me that having to tackle something you haven't done before doesn't mean you need to be paralysed with fear; trust yourself and get on with it (she says with great gusto while avoiding looking at the part done polar bear that I'm currently paralysed about :D ).


                                           Then I realised it needed the background.


I hadn't planned on a background, I was happy to leave it white. Once it was done, however, I realised that in order for Maverick to be himself he needed the context of the Cathedral stonework behind him. So then I had to work out how I was going to add a panpastel background retrospectively :/

I only have a small set of pans, but they were perfect colours, grey, white and a warm Ochre here and there. I even managed to suggest the shape of the stones behind and some of their texture (I was conscious not to add too much detail as I wanted it firmly behind the bird). I use makeup sponges for the bulk of the coverage and smaller make up applicators or ear buds as I got closer to the subject. I put smaller detail on the stone in the foreground so that he could stand on it convincingly.

I decided to leave the green tag on his leg as it is one of the key factors that identifies him as Maverick. The chicks are looking like they'll fledge any day now. There are open mornings in Chichester Cathedral grounds run by David Shaw and a group of volunteers if you're interested in visiting the site and learning more about these amazing birds - they are amazing in the air.

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