First Light - Francolin (920mm x 760mm Acrylic on Canvas)
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There is something magical about first light, when dawn rises into the day and the colours shift from the cold blues of the passing night into the first yellows and oranges that signal the coming of the sun. To witness this time is to see the world reflected in a tiny dewdrop hanging from a spider’s web, a gift from the coolness of the night and the gentle mists which rise up from the damp earth, soon to be dissipated by the warming rays of the sun, rays which catch the soft feathers of a lone francolin as it emerges from the undergrowth. Soon it will call to the dawn, its piercing song carrying across the veld and mingling with the first breath of the wind, heralding another day on the wide plains of Africa.
To see a francolin in the dawn is to glimpse a single moment in its hidden life, contrasting with my lengthy process of slowly building up a painting from the darkened layers of the background till the final highlights in its translucent eye are added, a process of dark to light not unlike the unfolding of a new day. This painting was a real challenge, needing extra patience and a gentleness of touch, an artistic journey that demanded total focus, and that critical balance between the boldness of the line with the softness of the subject, a process that draws you in and takes you with it, until you step back and the painting is finished. Now when I look at it I can sense the freshness of a sunrise, and so my brushes are cleaned and packed away, for I know that one more stroke of the brush would be one too many. It is done!
Noel Ashton’s Wildlife Studio – www.noelashton.com
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