"Duck Down", Oil on Linen, 2011

Ducks of Destiny

Photograph by John Donoghue


Photograph by Stephen Collins

For the past six years, my studio has been the largest room in a small Northumbrian stone cottage. The space is very tidy, ordered and clean, unlike that of my award-winning-writer partner, whose workspace is adjacent to my studio and which resembles a junkyard. I love my studio. I have to: I spend twelve hours a day inside it trying to make visual sense of the things that happen outside it.

April 1973. 43, Primrose Crescent, Sunderland

 I’m sitting in my gran’s house at dinnertime. It’s chips, again. The three ducks on the wall hover above us as they look to head out of the living room window, into the yard, over the back lane and on to Luxdon laundries work shed. Mam and Dad are both at work and my older sister has gone to the monkey house, that is, Monkwearmouth secondary school. We sit and chat about all kinds of stuff: Gran is a good talker, a brilliant storyteller and never afraid to shock with salacious tales of an extraordinary life. Interesting though this is, I have to admit the only thing on my mind is the upcoming cup final on May 5th.

October 2010, Soaring Gardens artist’s residency, Pennsylvania

 We are on a short walk up the dirt track passing the converted church, which has become our home and workspace for the month. We are slowly becoming familiar with our new surroundings. The only sound is the constant quacking of three ducks circling a pond nearly half a mile away.

Their clarion call punctuates the day as we pick up yet another neighbour’s dog, keen to keep us company. We are starting to get a bit nervous about all these over-enthusiastic dogs following us: after all, they might attack our new best friend, ‘Squirt’, the orphaned baby deer who hangs around this time of the day, or they might chase the mottled old fox nesting under our shed, or harass the numerous goats that roam freely out of the neighbours’ farm and into our garden.

March 2011, Northumberland

 It’s turned into a lovely spring day and I’m on my Trek 5000 for the first time this year. I love my carbon-fibre summer bike, it’s heaven – no more back ache until winter takes hold and I am forced to get on that rusty old heap of shit I call my winter bike. I’m struggling to get a foothold with a new set of paintings and sitting at home brooding about it only upsets my partner. This bike ride will sort me out, kill or cure, and it’s my favourite ride – sixty miles of breathtaking scenery and ball-breaking hills. Two hours in and I’m heading out of Slaley Forest into the North Pennine hills on the road to Blanchland. I look down over Derwent Reservoir. This view makes me glad to be alive. I hear the familiar quack of a couple of ducks soaring above my head. What’s going on? There must be a duck down…

“Duck Down” Oil on Linen / 34″ x 30″ 2011

For more information about Gavin’s work, please visit www.gavinwatson.net