going back in time to mid july i was busy painting away in my studio. all members of 'the royal cornwall polytechnic society' (locally referred to as 'the poly') were invited to exhibit up to four pieces in the annual members show. i'd painted my first twenty or so pictures which i really wasn't happy with. i had started '100 birds' intending to work my way through 100 different species of sea and coastal birds spotted and recorded in cornwall since the 1950s. i painted 19 different species of gull! here they are for the record......
1- sabine's gull, 2- kittiwake, 3- bonaparte's gull, 4- black-headed gull, 5- little gull, 6- laughing gull, 7- franklin's gull, 8- mediterranean gull, 9- audouin's gull, 10- common gull, 11- ring-billed gull, 12- lesser black backed gull, 13- herring gull, 14- yellow-legged gull, 15- caspian gull, 16- american herring gull, 17- iceland gull, 18- glaucous gull, 19- great black-backed gull.
that's a lot of gulls! although i thought my paintings were terrible i definitely learnt a lot about gulls. i also looked up their eggs and included those in the pieces. i moved on to an oyster catcher and a chough. i'm not really sure if you can count the chough as a seabird but it seemed crazy not to include the national symbol of cornwall in the 100.
it's strange how things turn out. i would never really have considered painting a chough as pictures of them are found frequently down here and i think i felt that it would be a bit obvious, something for tourists, not quite as bad as pasties and piskies but edging towards that terrain. they are however stunning birds and in painting the chough i made a bit of a break through.
i really didn't consciously think of the title '100 birds' or know how the exhibition would evolve. every time i thought about what to do i came up with many ideas which all seemed ok. every time i went out walking, not thinking about the exhibition at all, the phrase '100 birds' kept repeatedly coming into my mind. i have no idea where it came from but each time it grew louder and louder until finally i listened, and adopted it as my title. my instinct was just to start painting birds and see where it went. but i guess i thought about it a little too much and came up with the idea of the 100 different cornish seabirds. that seemed like a good idea and so i set about my research. however, things weren't going well and i couldn't tell if it was because i hadn't painted properly for about 15 years or something else. i persevered and moved on to the chough. finally things started falling into place. the poly show came round and the only piece i felt happy with showing was the chough . i hastily dropped it off and walking past the building the following evening i was both surprised and happy to see it in the window. almost immediately i was getting inquiries from people wanting to buy it. this was encouraging. after much thought i realised what had happened differently with this painting. i had a strong image of a chough in my mind so didn't have to refer to photographs as with the previous gulls. this gave the painting a spontaneity, an immediacy and it was all coming through me, from me. i felt a huge sense of relief as i scrapped all the lists, all the photos and all the research and returned to my original instinct to paint birds- any birds, just birds.