Norfolk’s humpback whale captured in watercolours by local artist

PUBLISHED: 07:27 05 November 2013 | UPDATED: 11:26 06 November 2013

Norfolk wildlife artist James McCallum painted a humpback whale surfacing at Waxham, followed by gannets

Norfolk wildlife artist James McCallum painted a humpback whale surfacing at Waxham, followed by gannets


The humpback whale whose unexpected arrival in Norfolk waters last week drew hundreds of wildlife-watchers to the coast has been captured in a watercolour sketch by a local wildlife artist.

Norfolk wildlife artist James McCallum at work on the coastNorfolk wildlife artist James McCallum at work on the coast

Wells-born painter James McCallum observed the whale from the shore for four hours and recreated the scene as it surfaced off Waxham, with a spray of vented seawater hanging on the wind as gannets circled above.

The giant marine mammal, estimated to be about 10 to 12 metres in length, was first spotted off Hemsby, near Great Yarmouth, on Tuesday before it moved on to Winterton where it swam and fed in front of onlookers for at least two hours.

The following day, Mr McCallum joined the crowds who followed it further along the coast as it swam as far north as Sea Palling.

Experts say this is the first ever recorded sighting of a humpback from Norfolk.

Mr McCallum, 43, who lives at Baconsthorpe, near Holt, said: “I am fortunate enough to have seen humpbacks in Alaska, but I’m more excited about seeing this one here. They are mesmerising. I spent four hours solid just watching it.

“By the time I first saw the spout there were quite a few people there to look. It was quite easy to spot once you got your eye in. I reckon it was about a mile off, but you could see it blowing against the steel-coloured sea.”

Mr McCallum, a former reserve warden at Blakeney Point, has been a professional artist since 1998 and has built a large portfolio of artworks painted along the wild Norfolk shoreline – but he described this sketch as more like a “visual diary”.

“It is not the greatest piece of work, but it has captured the scene, like some people would take a snapshot,” he said. “I do all my paintings while I am watching things. This one was kind of distant, but it is a highly personal image, and I am surprised that it has got such a great response from people.”

The artist said his brother, Wells fisherman Andy McCallum, had spotted another whale off the north Norfolk coast on Thursday, but had been unable to identify it.

James McCallum will be displaying about 90 original paintings in his Autumn Exhibition at Blickling Hall later this month.

He said his collection aimed to capture the unique behaviours of Norfolk wildlife including pink-footed geese, lapwings and grey seals.

“I am interested in behaviour and interactions,” he said. “When you are outside in the field it is quite challenging to draw things, but while you are doing it you are seeing all these things happening and I find it fascinating to unravel what is going on in front of me.”

The exhibition at the Hobart Gallery in Blickling Hall will be held from November 23 to December 1, daily from 10.30am-4pm, but closed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. For more information see

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