During the first lockdown, I decided to keep a visual diary of one observation from nature each day in an A4 sketch book. This is not the first time I have set myself a challenge, as I have just published a book, called Growth and Change, of one painting from nature per week with an accompanying poem, which I completed a couple of years ago. This was an extra challenge, which, in the beginning, I did not think would last as long.
I wanted to paint whatever caught my attention each day, so the drawings include birds, animals, plants, trees and insects, also often landscapes or paintings of special places I visited. As we live close to Cothill Fen and Dry Sandford Pit, many of the paintings are inspired by my visits there, but I also walked in Lashford Lane Fen, Chimney Meadows, Bagley Wood, Farmoor Reservoir and many places along the Thames. On the fourth day, I drew Dexter cattle at Chimney Meadows lining up to watch me walk by!
The first lockdown began on 16th March in early spring, so there was the excitement of the first spring flowers – celandine, stitchwort and daisies. Then the first butterflies – brimstone and peacock are the first I see. I just choose to draw one a day. For example, on 7th May at Chimney, I drew the sheep with their new lambs jumping around, but I also wrote on that day that we saw a hare and a flock of house martins and heard two cuckoos. In the fields there were dandelions, buttercups, cowslips, cow parsley and bird’s-foot-trefoil. I also saw brimstone and orange tip butterflies and a blue dragonfly - all on the same day.
However, I am an artist not a botanist, so many days I painted the places I was visiting because they are so beautiful in different ways. For example, reeds and ivy covered trees at Cothill, the pond at Dry Sandford Pit, reflections in the River Thames at Abingdon, light and shade in Bagley Wood.