Category Archives: Thought

Tragic Ballerinas

I have been reading John lewis-Semple’s book, “The Wood”. This writer paints beautiful pictures of nature using wonderful word choices instead of paint.  At one point he describes the death of Mayflies in his local ponds. Mayflies are a spectacular feature of English Chalk Streams . They are an exquisite aquatic insect that leaves the river during May to mate in the air and then to fall to the water, lay their eggs and die.  A visit to a chalk stream on a mild, late May, evening will reveal what is truly a wonder of nature. Many thousands of these insects fill the air. and the trout feed on them wildly as they collapse on the water. John describes the “fall of spinners”, as it is locally known, as a fall of tragic ballerinas. So appropriate!. In spite of the fact that the expression also has associations with cartoon strips, this seems to me to be such a beautiful expression to describe this magical event. I have painted them many times, and have just produced a limited Edition print which is being sold on Leckford estate where I work as an artist.

The biomass of mayflies during late May has been estimated as many thousands of tons of food which nourishes the river system and enables fish to recover from winter spawning and grow large and fat.

It is vital that this precious ecosystem is protected from pollution and water abstraction. A battle that many of us think we are still loosing.

Painting swimming trout

I have painted trout in local rivers for many years now and the fascination never goes away. As a naturalist, there is the wonderful experience of patient observation and understanding a wild creature. But there is more.

Chalk streams are very rare eco-systems. There are less than twenty in the world and the majority are in the UK.  they are fabulous places. In the summer, the clarity of the water and the richness of the greens is truly dramatic.

I will never forget the first time I looked down off a bridge into this amazing aquatic world, and learned to see things that most people pass by. This is a confection of rich greens, violets, and oranges tossed about by the dancing surface and the emergence of form out of the chaos of flickering lights; sometimes disguised by reflected UV, sometimes not. It appeals to the artist whose best work often brings form out of chaos and serendipity.

Understanding the way light is reflected off the surface of water is a challenge.

Combine all that with the capacity of water colour to describe the richness of the colour and the fluidity of the subject and you have the reason why I endlessly paint trout in the water, often standing up in very awkward postures.

These places are under huge pressure from water abstraction and pollution; it would be an unmitigated tragedy if they were to suffer continued degradation and efforts must be, and are being, made to restore them.

swimming trout 1 thnlswimming trout 2 thnlSwimming trout 3 thnl

Subtle Christian insights in Art

Although Rembrandt was a child of reformation Holland in the 17th Century, and despite the fact that he painted literally hundreds of pictures with biblical themes, there is much dispute about whether he was a Christian or not.

In the attached essay, I have explored the question of whether he really understood the deep psychological insights that Christianity offer to the world, through one of his paintings, made near the end of his life. The Return of the Prodigal Son