black-headed gull

Box of Delights

Christmas Day, 25th December 2000, West Yorkshire
sycamore DO YOU LIKE GADGETS? My mother-in-law, Betty, gives me the ingenious new watercolour box from Daler-Rowney as a Christmas gift. It's the size of a small torch but folds out to reveal 12 half pans of artists' watercolour, mixing palettes and even four small wells for water. As usual with these sets the brush supplied is too fine to be useful, so I'll cut an inch off the handle of a number 6 brush to slot inside.

palette, Daler-Rowney watercolour box My first opportunity to use them though is an almost monochromatic subject, the bare branches of a Sycamore seen from my brother-in-law's lounge window. A new watercolour box takes some getting used to. The selection of colours isn't what I'd have chosen (it may have been selected partly to offer a full range of flesh tones) but that's no bad thing; I get into a habit of using certain colour combinations - I like to keep life simple - but this will make me experiment.

crown of a sycamore I switch to sketching with my Rotring art pen. I should explain that the family is used to me bringing a little sketchbook to social gatherings; I wouldn't describe myself as a party animal. As I draw the sycamores I don't see a single bird in their branches; the house overlooks the valley and on such a cold day I suspect the birds have found more sheltered situations.

Winter is a good time to start drawing deciduous trees as you get the opportunity to study the structure, the bare bones of the tree. In contrast to the sycamores, which have their upper sycamore trunkbranches angled like someone shouting 'Hallelujah!', the Limes growing nearby, which I don't get around sketching, have more sedate, drooping character.

Sycamore was introduced to this country during the middle ages and is often planted as a shelter belt on the exposed western side of hill farms. Common Lime, a tree which is thought to be a natural hybrid, is planted in streets, parks and gardens.

White Christmas

black-headed gull After Christmas dinner it soon starts dropping dark. At around 3 p.m. gulls, mostly black-headed, make their way eastwards down the valley heading for their roosts, most likely on the Pugneys Country Park watersports lake.

It snowed briefly at 8 a.m. and this evening at nine as we're driving home we comment that there might be more to come. Two minutes later there it is; turning roads and pavements white as we drive page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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