In the spring and summer of 2020, between the chimney pots of the house opposite Thelma's studio in East Margate, some seagulls were nesting and she watched them through binoculars. When the chicks hatched she started sketching them and so began her fascination and enjoyment of observing and drawing birds.
She also drew and painted crows mooching around in Hartsdown Park, the cormorants sitting on groyne markers, the seagulls on lampposts, and made animations of the fledgling seagulls as they staggered about the roof and attempted to fly.
She then discovered, through an article in The New York Review of Books, that birds can see in the ultra-violet range, and that “some birds that look plain to us probably shine and sparkle to other birds”. Amazing! Fantasising further, she painted birds assumed to be plain, such as gulls and crows, and adorned them with patterns of spots and stripes, as they might appear to each other, uplifting the status of creatures that are considered ‘common’ or even a nuisance to many humans.
The watercolours started in May 2020 when Julian moved to Margate a year earlier but was often dashing back to London for work. Then in March 2020 with the arrival of the pandemic he settled into his new home, with this came worry and anxiety about work, money, health but also an inner calm and a survivalist instinct. ‘How will I go forward?’
Julian is a designer, craftsperson and maker preferring to crack on with something, but when there’s not a great deal to do he was looking for something to turn to, or rediscover.
So, in going for solitary strolls on the coast he began to sit and paint, which he found pleasurable and cathartic. Landscapes initially, some flowers too but then he noticed the bins around Cliftonville (and the seagulls picking at them). Among the detritus were these pops of shiny colour, tied up bin bags and he found beauty in their vibrancy, feeling they felt like flowers among the concrete, some kind of hope in the rubbish, destined for incineration or landfill. An odd mix of bleakness and joyfulness.