Of ducks and wine and waste

I’ve been rather lazy of late and not done a lot of work on Project Duck. Part of this was simply being very busy, but that’s really a bit of a shit excuse when painting a duck only takes 40 minutes or so. The real reason, I suppose, is that it’s equally very difficult to work yourself up to paint (setting up the wet palette, etc.) when all you’re going to do is 40 minutes of painting. That, really, is the challenge when you’re doing very, very small things. For this reason, I am thoroughly looking forward to my next project.

Anyway, I’ve finally done a bit of work on the running ducks:

What you see here are two Indian runner ducks and the beginning of a vineyard. Runner ducks were bred for pest control, unlike most other domestic breeds, which were either bred for meat or for eggs. Traditionally, runner ducks lived around rice paddies and ate whatever bugs would prey on the rice. Rice paddies are actually pretty interesting because they don’t actually need all the water – it’s simply that the rice can survive being waterlogged, and doing so minimises the parasites and bugs, and once you introduce runner ducks, you get rid of the few pests that remain. It’s all very environmentally pleasant compared to a lot of other crops.

Anyway, runner ducks, it turns out, are so good at that job – and so fixated on eating bugs – that some vineyards actually use them for the same purpose. I recommend looking up videos of ducks in vineyards, because it’s quite entertaining watching them run about through the grapevines. So, to this end, I’ve opted for that setting and created what I hope looks enough like a vineyard. It’s not finished yet, obviously – I’ve simply made something and airbrushed the basic colours in. I’m not a particularly proficient airbrush painter, but I like that I can use it to quickly coat a complex shape like this and then get the colours and light in place. It shouldn’t take long to sort it all out.

In other painting news, it occurred to me that I haven’t posted any decent pics of the latest batch of ducks: the northern pintail, shelduck and paradise duck:

The paradise duck’s and shelduck’s scenes were chosen as a sort of ‘ducks having to deal with human waste’ sort of theme. When I first came to Britain, I was genuinely astonished with the amount of rubbish I saw. The first pile of cans I saw on the verge when I was on a bus stuck in traffic on the M25, I assumed must have been somewhere that teenagers went to get trashed. I wish I was right – instead, the rubbish just continued for mile after mile. It was enormously depressing.

This isn’t to say that New Zealand is actually much better – we just don’t have as many people. The last time I was there, I walked along a beautiful beach in Russell picking up rubbish as I went. There was nowhere on this beach further than 20 metres from a bin.

Anyway, for the Shelduck, I opted for a McDonald’s bag because that’s a particular plague where I live. The local McDonald’s opened a few years ago and, even though it’s on the edge of town, the increase in rubbish on the streets has been remarkable. The Irn Bru can is much more benign: I have a Geordie friend and I thought it would amuse him.

The paradise duck, meanwhile, is mounted on a beer crate. Beer crates are pretty common thing in Australia and New Zealand, and it took all my willpower (and sensibility) not to put “Speight’s” (Some People Enjoy It, God Hates The Stuff) on the side. Aside from that, paradise ducks are native to New Zealand, and the butterfly she’s attempting to eat is based on the forest ringlet, which is an endangered New Zealand butterfly. Mike the Kiwi, a painter friend from – of all places – New Zealand, has suggested adding a male paradise duck because, as he reminds me, they do mate for life. I’ll probably try to make a sleeping drake and put him inside the crate.

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