Though none of these paintings depicts a curlew, all were painted en plein air, listening to their songs and calls. Their frequent cries, by day and night, from the hillside breeding fields surrounding my home are always magical–be they announcing, enticing, warning as they fly rapidly or glide past with firm confidence. Turner painted nearby, at Greta Bridge, and I wonder if the curlews he heard were ancestors of those we hear now.
All but one of these paintings are of timeless North Yorkshire landscapes and atmo spheres, were painted during lockdown; all but one from my hillside garden. The small studies and large sunset were inspired by the wondrous sunsets over Gayles, a tiny North Yorkshire hamlet nestled lower down the hillside from my home.
In these surreal, pandemic days the beauty and constancy of the landscape continues. On my daily dog-walks across the fields alongside the curlews, the hedgerows burgeon into colour; wood pigeons soar and clap their wings; later lapwings fly high and silent, golden in sunset’s light, then just as silently the resident bat flits under the maple trees, soon to be followed by the owl’s calls. All enchanting and seemingly forever, but this and other rural idylls cannot defend themselves. To protect ourselves from a virus we have managed to lock down; perhaps we will now see that we must act collectively to protect our planet. Worldwide the lists of endangered species have been lengthening for decades; the Birds of Conservation Concern red list in Britain includes the curlew, it would be heartbreaking were we to lose them forever.
The final painting included is of Skye and Raasay seen from the remoteness of Applecross in Wester Ross, where alas, year by year fewer curlews are being heard.
I do hope you find enjoyment in these paintings, as I did in painting in these special places.