For this project I’ve chosen to represent each month with a single day, drawn from a wealth of observation. Each story will, I hope, help make more sense of the rough first oil sketches below.
December – late afternoon
The day draws to an end beneath a low dull blanket of drizzly cloud. Ewes hunker down in the lee of a blackthorn hedge. On the distant hilltop stubble many hundreds of seagulls gather after a day spent foraging in the fields. In the failing light, the huge white flock lifts repeatedly into the air to wheel and settle. And finally break apart into long undulating skeins as birds glide away toward the coast to roost. Beneath them by the barn two farmers check their sheep.
January – sunrise
A clear calm night brings the first heavy frost of the year. Dawn sunlight turns the horizon a clear apricot and thaws the highest fields. Their yellowed winter grass glows with rare warmth. But the lower fields remain in frozen shadow and the deep valley bottom is shrouded in fog. A lone lapwing calls in the quiet air. Heavily pregnant ewes get up slowly leaving patches of dark thawed grass where they’ve lain overnight.
February – late morning
A day of heavy squally showers and hefty cumulus clouds driven along on a strong NW wind. The sky is a deep rain washed blue above their vast muscular bulk. Below, their dark flat bases glower over the hilltops and spew rain. Occasionally the translucent tail end of a rainbow brushes across the fields. Gorse bushes bloom and grass begins slowly to grow again. Flocks of rooks forage or tumble through the air in courtship flight. A tractor shifts baled feed to the sheep on the hillside. But the near field is empty now, the ewes gone indoors to lamb. A flail cutter trims back the dormant hedges.