Lackford Lakes

The warm balmy weather continues and we are taking every opportunity to paint and draw in situ; usually in Suffolk, by a wood or lake, with a cafe nearby! Of course, it’s not off limits to sketch in light drizzle, heavy mist or a stiff north westerly, but the countryside is so inspiring at this time of year; spotlit by the low angle of the bright Autumn sun, deepening the forms and textures through intriguing shade and dazzlingly bright highlights. Just an hour or two sat in our folding chairs with very basic equipment; a tiny watercolour field kit, a brush and water in a recycled bottle is just what’s needed to record the scene and refresh the eye.

The location this time was Lackford Lakes near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. It is managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust and is popular with birdwatchers and walkers, (as well as artists). Kingfishers join a wide variety of birds nesting there, in the chain of beautiful lakes, reed beds, meadows and dense woodland.

It was tricky to pick a subject to focus on; the expanse of glittering water was very tempting, (but we had sketched a similar view just down the road at West Stow, just a week or so before). Or the bright, vivid greens and yellows of the areas of woodland, turning here and there to amber and framed by a thick network of twigs and branches maybe… though we thought it seemed a shame not to enjoy the full warmth of the sun. Perhaps the far reaching views that skirt the nature reserve with fields of bleating sheep and tall, confident thistles poking their heads above the thicket? No, we fancied a little water, clear reflections, trees and branches; offering the opportunity to explore shapes and patterns in negative space and with good contrasts of colour and tone.

We found a not unsubstantial lake to one side, but much smaller than the main bodies of water that Lackford is so well known for. We decided to set up there. It was a quiet spot, a very short walk from the path, solitary and still. The sky was almost cerulean and completely cloudless and the trees were very patient models, holding their motionless pose for us, just the occasional mallard quack broke the silence. A nodding branch framed the composition and for me, this became the main subject.

Unusually, the light remained pretty constant throughout the duration of our session and little or no adjustments were made. The clouds chasing across the sky normally throw down their dull blankets here and there, but there were none here. (I love the challenge of changing light by the way, its essential then to work quickly to record a view that works as a whole.)

This day was different somehow; for us a much needed immersion into a secret world. We were onlookers to a rich environment teeming with life, quietly undercover watching Nature do business with the elements. A perfect hour of calm.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Lackford Lakes

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