Bardsey Island Artist Residencies- Autumn 2018 & Spring 2017

Bardsey Island Art Residency September 2018

The view back to the house.
Another week on Bardsey island! This time in the Autumn.

The lighthouse in the evening light, too busy to paint it!
One week isn't long for capturing all, whilst exploring both subject and painting. With that in mind this second residency had a very clear focus. Seals, and of course their pups! I didn't know what to expect and was delighted at how many seal pups were on the island, and they continued to arrive over the week! It was a really special opportunity to witness their development from new born to taking their first bold little ventures out into the bay. These moments were particular favourites. With the tide high and the sun out, the water was clear and the seal pups and mums were visible swimming under water, with such a beautiful interplay of light and colour in the sea water.

The young pups appear to be very buoyant and it was comical to see their back flippers splashing to propel them forwards. They would go under to explore the rocks and seaweed but soon bobbed back up to the surface. One young seal pup had its own small bathing area where it played next to its mother for long periods. The pup would play, splash, explore and appear to rest whilst floating on its back. There were moments when the mother appeared to be holding it under water, perhaps to develop its under water breathing skills?

Plenty of sunny days over the week, only rained on the day we arrived!
I spent all week along the side of the bay with the seals, never venturing far beyond and ignoring the other side of the island completely! I began with lots of drawing, trying to be self disciplined and not dive in too quickly like last time in the Spring. I wanted to get a stronger understanding of their form, movement and behaviour before painting. I progressed to oil studies on paper, which is a great way to warm up and work without being too precious about materials. Before long I was anxious to start getting colour notes down and the light for referencing later. By mid week I was painting more and more on canvas, and by the last couple of days I was feeling like the paintings were really beginning, I was more able to seize some of those brief moments.

My partner and I stayed in the volunteers cottage, it was a great space with spare rooms for laying out work to dry.
Having captured all that I could, I ended up with plenty of studies. For the first time this year I am now trying to get to grips with studio developed paintings in order to fully explore the work I managed to produce over the week. Normally I would prefer to keep revisiting a subject as a way of developing work. I love responding to colour, light, moving form and the ever changing light and weather. You learn so much in the pursuit to capture these effects. I love developing painting techniques that respond to the moment to interpret that which first catches the eye. It is hugely challenging, with it comes many unfinished studies, but the rewards and the gradual growth inherent in the process make it all worth it!

Another lovely view of the lighthouse...
Young seal pup exploring and feeding.
Seals in the water, they are so curious. They also sleep upright with their heads poking out of the sea, noses pointing to the sky in order to breathe.
The young seal pups look so relaxed asleep on the shore. Often seals seem to move a lot, constantly repositioning them selves- rocks can't be all that comfortable after all! I was painting an adult seal on a rock just poking out of the sea, only to look up again and it had swivelled 180 degrees, head and tail were at opposite ends! The pups seemed to get into quite a deep sleep after a while and will not move for hours which could get dull for me!
Having a good scratch...

Never still...

Floating in the sea...
The pups really start to fill out, looking like little blimps!

Itchy nose...

Seal that looked like a mole- dark with pale 'paws'.

Watching me back...

Switched to painting at this point, loved this position, it lasted a while!

Trying to get comfy on the rocks...

Often I was impatient with my drawing, I prefer to paint more! Hate to miss out on capturing colour and light but drawing is important!

On the move...

New born seal, they seem to have flatter faces...


Beautiful reflections on the water.
Early in the week painting, passing oystercatchers over the seal.

Beginning with resting seals, chance to study they coats and colours, the rocks and reflections were beautiful colours too.

Progressing to a whole row of resting seals! Early in the week study...loved the colour in their fur coats.

Sleeping seal in the water, they continuously rotate!, patience needed...

 Loved the challenge of trying to capture the volume of the seals and pups, they became blimp shaped as they grew.

Sunset followed by stunning moon rise.

Rapid study, soon moved!
A sunset study from early in the week, the only exception made where I didn't paint seals!

A close up of some of the seal studies early- mid week in.

Mid week-ish. Tired out seal pup after its morning swim at high tide.

Later in the week, seal study in fading evening light. Enjoying the rich blend of warm hues.
Quick sketches made beforehand... 

Yellow stormy sunset sky from the first evening on the island, strong winds blowing up cumulous clouds over land.

Young seal pup just having a feel of the water before turning round and heading back up the rocky bay.

Pups in the water, floating again..

Ditched this page for canvas!

Seal pup under water studies and colour notes.
More water studies... would have loved more time on this- morning high tide moments where I could see through the water before the sun got high and the tide went out.
Mother seal staying close by to pup.
Seal pup in the water study.

Adult seal colours study, oil on paper.

Seal colours studies, oil on paper.

Seal pup sleeping... (most of the day!).

Mother and seal pup, oil on canvas study.

Mother and seal pup, flat out asleep, slight position change, second oil on canvas study.
Painted later in the week. Young seal pup, having not chosen the easiest route through the rocks, it hung here to rest for a while! Beautiful warm colours glowed in the evening light. This was quite a rapid study, with an emphasis and focus on getting colour down. I repainted it smaller in the studio at home afterwards. I found it was easier to preserve those original marks and colours observed and start afresh. Otherwise the field sketch loses its freshness and spontaneity and marks get lumpy. Depending on how much I managed to get down, I either add touches here and there only if necessary or re paint them altogether.  

The boat take visitors off the island, with only a couple of days to go at that point...:( !

The above painting was the last seal painting I did, Friday evening before getting on the boat Saturday morning. The sun put on a spectacular show, though I was pretty tired by this point, it was one of those days where I forget to eat and drink enough because I'm too absorbed in what I'm doing! Two heron's flew by one landing right by the seals scaring them all into the water bar this very relaxed seal. An oystercatcher was feeding there too so he went into the painting. The only birds I painted all week!

The light continued reaching only into the distance, the wind picked up here and I was having trouble holding things still here, this painting was abandoned!

Painted this same view from earlier in the week at same time. Slightly bigger canvas and crisper view, last painting late Friday, pretty tired by that point, couldn't get my brain to work fast enough!Note for future- don't forget to eat and drink...
Heron and Cormorant on the rocks. There was a very tame Heron stood on land where we first arrived to wait for the boat to take us to Bardsey. Friend of the fisherman maybe.

Bardsey Island Art Residency April 2017

Hendy House, my new base for the week!

First painting, trying to capture the brilliant turquoise blue shimmer on the sea.

Seal life study in pencil. I did a great number of sketches of the seals and would have loved more time studying them.

10'', 12'' plein air oil painting, Bardsey Island and distant mainland.

8,10'' oil on canvas, late afternoon light.

Little owl studies, sat in Gorse hunting at sundown.

Seal sketches, loved the sweep of seaweed underneath them.




Seals and seaweed studies.

Seal head studies in water.

Oil sketch study.

Oystercatcher, rocks and seaweed colour study.

Snoozing seal sketch, floating alone quiet water between rocky edges.

Young seal sketches.

Sleeping seal, young and parent.

Seal on the rocks. Loved the shapes of the rocks.

Panoramic view looking back to land on top of the hill.

View overlooking the steep east side of the island.

Walking back to the cottage for fuel!

Painting set up.

Views of the east side from the boat.



Developing seaweed and Oystercatcher study from brief light and before tide quickly rose.

The only time it rained! And it didn't last long fortunately.

Bardsey Newsletter Article:

What an incredible week, I am so grateful to the Bardsey Island Trust for giving me the opportunity to gain inspiration from such a beautiful place. This was my first experience staying on any island. I’d long loved the idea of being able to follow the light around the edge throughout the day. Time seemed to stand still on Bardsey, less than a day in, I felt I’d always been there! The landscape was absolutely stunning. I loved the dramatic huge rocky edges, giant rock pools filled with other worlds and the breathtaking views from the high hilltop. Inspiration here was inexhaustible and so I was out all day long trying to capture as much as I could.

I stayed in Hendy, the furthest cottage and also a wonderful spot for listening to the Manx shearwater each night. I loved the clear deep turquoise blue of the surrounding sea and would run out in the morning to paint it at its brightest. A big highlight of the week had been drawing the Little Owl hunting in the Gorse in the late evening sunset, the yellow flowers out in full creating a brilliant glow. I was thrilled to be able to work so closely on the seals too. Observing them hauled out in a group was another new experience. I enjoyed watching their interactions and habits. They were so curious, large groups of thirty or so would follow us around the island in the evening and young ones would come within arm’s reach whilst we perched on the rocky edge! I was still sketching them up to the last minute before having to leave for the boat at the end of the residency. I would have loved more time working on them so I will have to visit again!



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