Wednesday, 28 November 2012

First landfall, South Georgia

Early morning, we cruise into King Haakon Bay, a large inlet on the western side of South Georgia's South coast. Everything is looking very wintry, although this is officially South Georgian springtime. Initially we land at Peggotty bluff, where Shackleton and his companions began the trek over the spine of the island to eventually reach help at Stromness whaling station.
My first encounter with Antarctic wildlife- elephant seals on the beach, and a handful of King Penguins.
I set up the easel and try to paint the mountains that rim the fjord. Not particularly successful, as he temperature hovers around freezing, stopping paint from drying. Added to this, the wind keeps blowing the easel over.
Later in the afternoon, however, we manage to make a rare landing at cave cove, Shackleton's first landfall after the epic voyage from Elephant island in the James Caird.
Here, I have the privilege of being able to paint overlooking the cove. Due to limited space, the landings are split into two groups, but I am kindly allowed to stay on after the first group leave to complete my sketch:

I didn't attempt to complete the foreground tussock grass- there's enough information for a finished painting when I get back to the studio. Shortly after finishing the sketch, we were treated to a truly magnificent sunset, which I might try to capture in another painting.
Also that day we drop off a ski party recreating Shackleton's journey overland to Stromness. All being well, we should see them again in a few days.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The south Atlantic

Several days out from Montevideo, and the sea is still mountainous. Some wonderful lighting effects, and challenging painting conditions. I wedged myself down in a (relatively) sheltered part of the foredeck and sketched the bow in heavy seas.
I used rough brown watercolour paper, about 140lb weight, and plenty of body colour for the white highlights. I was tempted again to do more on the waves, as there were so many breakers and whitecaps, but am happy with how it looks at present. I may still do a bit of work on the viewing platform at the bow, but am inclined to leave it for a while.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Bird life at sea

One of the delights of the South Atlantic is the large number of seabirds that follow the ship. Since leaving Montevideo, one of the most abundant has been the Cape Petrel or Pintado. Very fast movers, I have struggled to get the proportions right. My first attempt didn't really succeed in this, and for the subsequent attempt I resorted to several photos to sketch in pencil and get a feel for the correct proportions before the watercolour sketch.
First attempt- the body is too swift-like I feel.

Attempt two- better proportions and showing the distinctive upper side markings.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Rough seas

From the outset, heavy seas have been rolling in from the west, creating an uncomfortable rolling motion and making painting challenging. Large washes in particular are very difficult to control when paint, water and materials go flying.
I've tried to cope with conditions by concentrating on sketches; plenty of pencil and pen work worth fairly dry washes.
A quick sketch from the stern, looking at mountainous seas and following birds. I used (unintentionally) a soluble ink pen, but quite like the effect this creates.