Easter IslandWednesday 3rd May 2000
SKOKHOLM is an island where, while you're watching the wildlife, the wildlife is watching you. There's a wonderful feeling of being on something of an equal footing with nature.
Grey Seals watch me as I sit and sketch on the cliff top. A Herring Gull at the kitchen window eyes me, (the 'whites' of its eyes are pale yellow) from behind the glass as I do the washing up. A Manx Shearwater gives me a glancing blow to the head as it comes in to land in the darkness (it didn't appear to be injured as it shuffled into a the nearest burrow, emerged again, then returned to the same burrow).
I first visited Skokholm Island thirty years ago, over Easter. Then, twenty years ago, when on the road working on my Richard Bell's Britain sketchbook (published by Collins in 1981), I had the excuse to visit again. In 1990 Barbara and I visited together and, here I am back again, after another decade. I wonder if I'll be back in another decade?
It's reassuring that, in essence, the island hasn't changed, although the feral goats and the lighthouse keepers have long since gone. Visitor numbers are up, but, surprisingly, the island isn't now open to visitors until after the Easter holidays, so this was the nearest date I could book to Easter.
On my first visit in 1970, as an art student, I brought both still and ciné camera with me, as well as my sketchbook. This year I've brought;
I'm watching what I take to be a Cormorant. Looking at my drawings later, I realise that it is a Shag, which is very similar to the cormorant but has no white on its head. It comes up with a fish. Immediately a Herring Gull swoops on it. The cormorant dives but the herring gull makes off with the fish, a pale grey flatfish no bigger than a credit card.
When working in crayon, I prefer my water soluble crayons. I never actually add water to them to get the watercolour effect but I find them slightly softer than the normal artists crayons so it seems easier to get the pigment on the paper. But they come in a large box of 42 colours, so they're not suitable for clifftop sketching.