My favourite book as I was growing up was Usborne’s The Naturetrail Omnibus, and I pored over the different chapters getting equally excited by them all. I could never work out which section I liked best: was it the first chapter on Birds? – or the final part about Insects? Maybe it was Ponds & Streams. Or the bit about the Seashore. No: definitely Trees. Actually Wildflowers…
I am the same nowadays, and my work as a conservation beekeeper allows me to indulge all aspects of wildlife.
I remember seeing the black-headed gull with its spot of black during the winter compared to its full head in the summer. This makes them a really easy to identify, and they have a dainty build so seem more good-natured than many gulls, although I am sure their predilection for chips is the same as any other species. The black head is actually a 90%-cocoa-chocolate brown, so I added a smidgen of burnt umber to the lamp black when I paint them. They have a reddish bill and legs so I am able to use alizarin crimson, which along with indigo is a favourite colour of mine – I love the richness and high pigmentation of both.
As well as the larger (30cm square) gouache on blue watercolour paper, I have also painted a little version (15cm square) on some dark blue-grey Khadi paper; I did a set of seabirds of which this is one. Handmade paper adores gouache and the coarsely woven texture absorbs the paint beautifully, flattening the paper and allowing the shape of the bird to pop out. The simplicity of the pared-down plumage when I paint gulls is wonderfully liberating, and using great swathes of white is wonderful, reminding myself as always to use a clean brush and clean water as I always do it last, and a tiny smear in that big sweep is always disappointing!
The gouache painting is for sale in my Etsy shop and the little one is £10+p&p.