James McCallum’s atmospheric watercolours of Norfolk birds go on show in Wells

Artist James McCallum setting up his latest exhibition at the Sackhouse Gallery in Wells. Picture: I

Artist James McCallum setting up his latest exhibition at the Sackhouse Gallery in Wells. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Norfolk's birds are celebrated in a new exhibition which opens in Wells today.

Pink foots whiffle onto the beet fields at Holkham, while cranes and marsh harriers fly in to their roosts at Hickling.

Waders pack a mud bank at Snettisham, while a ghostly barn owl floats across a reed bed.

James McCallum's watercolours capture the familiar and the more rarely seen, from all four corners of the county.

Geese which migrate to our shores in sqealing skeins each winter are a favourite.

'I grew up here in the town and they were a big feature,' he said. 'I really like social birds and animals, trying to understand a bit about their behaviour. Not only do you have a great big flock, there's a lot going on within it.'

From watching birds, he began to draw and paint them. He went on to study at Great Yarmouth, Falmouth and the Royal College of Art, before becoming a wildlife artist.

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While he loves the wildlife of his home county, his work has taken him to the Middle East, Japan and Lapland, and been published in seven books.

Some shoot their subjects through long lenses in the field for reference, before retiring to their studios to paint them.

Mr McCallum paints al-fresco in all weathers, capturing the scene in quick-fire brush strokes reminiscent of Edward Seago.

'I like watercolour,' he said. 'It's got that immediacy, it's got a bit of flow with it if you're trying to capture movement and behaviour.'

Paintings of lapwings huddling in a sleet shower or Bewick's swans in drizzle showing where rain has added some extra authenticity to the wash.

Work on show will be included in Baconsthorpe-based Mr McCallum's eighth book, Birds in Norfolk - A National and International, produced in collaboration with scientist Andy Brown, which is being published in the spring.

The exhibition is being held at the Sackhouse Gallery (behind the Maltings) off Staithe Street, Wells, from today until Sunday, December 6. It's open from 11am - 4pm.