Roe Deer October 2011

Field Paintings

The roe deer are still showing well most evenings in a field adjacent to a large area of woodland. They are a challenge to sketch as they are always on the move but just seeing them well is often the biggest obstacle. They usually emerge from the wood about 5pm so I aim to get on site before this so I can set up my scope and sketching gear in the edge of the field.

Often the deer have beaten me to it and are already out in the field. If it is windy and the deer are not too close I can carefully climb the fence and set up. But if it is flat calm they can hear me moving through the thin strip of woodland between the road and the field. I then use the noise from passing cars to mask my movements and settle in beside an ancient earth hedgebank, not as comfortable but at least I can watch them without them disappearing into the trees.

If the deer catch wind of me they are off and that is it for the evening and they will rarely come out again before it is almost dark. When all goes well I can watch them for nearly two hours. Yesterday evening was flat calm following a beautiful sunny day, after recent heavy rain the deer were making the most of the conditions and five emerged to feed out.

I sketch them until dusk as their forms melt into the half light leaving just their rumps gleaming white. I enjoy the routine of sketching the roe deer here as much as watching them. The steep half-hour bike ride up through Hembury Woods to reach the spot. Then the return trip plunging at speed down through the dark woodland after dark, it must be an illusion but I feel I am cycling much faster at night! D—ark bush-crickets chirp in the hedgerows along with a late great green bush-cricket earlier in the week, surely the last of the year.

John Walters

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