I have to thank my childhood visits to Arundel Wetland Centre again for my love of this duck: I think they were the first bird where I thought the plumage must have been painted on as it’s so defined, and I adore that sage green colour on the bill and nape.
Eiders are a seaduck, but visit wetlands and other brackish waters to feed. They have a long, tapering wedge-shaped bill, unlike many other ducks which have a ‘stop’ and more defined forehead so they are very distinctive.
I wanted to mention another artist who has inspired me, and I first saw him on an early episode (possibly the first outing?) of the BBC’s Winterwatch, where they had an art section, and Darren Woodhead was painting with watercolour out in the open. His use of white on the paper is absolutely exquisite, and that’s what made me think about using the white of the paper with my gouache paintings.
A few years ago, my boyfriend at the time bought me one of his books, From Dawn till Dusk and asked Darren to do a sketch in the front of the book for me. It’s a fieldfare, one of my favourite birds, and I feel extremely privileged to have a real pencil sketch from a proper artist in my possession. I love drawing, but the confidence, knowledge, and skill of both Darren Woodhead and Lars Jonsson (see previous post) is something I can only dream about achieving.
There are some beautiful paintings of eider ducks in the book:
I am not generally a fan of watercolour as I find them rather insipid, but the energy and boldness in Darren Woodhead’s work makes them exciting, presumably because they are painted in situ.
The duck I have painted is a male in his winter finery on blue Bockingford watercolour paper. The females are standard stripy brown female duck coloured but they have the same shaped bill, making them easy to identify.