Winter moorhen


Acrylic on board; 56cm x 86cm

The dead stems and leaves of bulrushes that line the edge of a local loch created an intriguing pattern of abstract shapes. I liked the interplay of light over dark and dark over light. I wanted to portray this as an almost flat, wallpaper-like pattern while at the same time creating a sense of depth so you feel you could reach through the maze of stems towards the back. The subtle greys and ochres give a sense of winter dormancy and, on this overcast and freezing morning, a heavy frost rimed the leaves and stems, brightening the scene.

A moorhen picked its way between the stems, its long toes providing much needed stability on the ice. As attractive as it may appear to us, these are harsh conditions for wildlife, particularly for water birds as a lot of their food will be locked away under the ice.

I chose to paint this in acrylics because this medium can impart a cool flatness of colour and a hard edge that is less easy to achieve in oils.


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