I went out for a walk to visit a mermaid and came across a field full of mediterranean miniature donkeys. The mermaid was a carving on the door-surround of the tiny Norman church of St. Swithun’s in Nately Scures, near Hook in Hampshire.
She’d lost part of her face since the last time that I had seen her, but I discovered that the carving on the door post is a modern (ca. 1960) replacement for the weatherworn original, which is preserved inside the church building.
The donkeys are resident at Miller’s Ark, an interactive farm next door to the church, where the donkeys are bred. The group pictured includes several expectant mothers and a number of last year’s foals. It may be that my drawing includes one or more of the donkeys more than once: it was composed using several photographs.
The donkeys seemed very pleased to see my walking companion and I. They congregated around the gate, one or two bringing a nice stick with them (I learnt that donkeys like to eat sticks, which are good for them). I wanted to represent the donkeys as a group in my drawing, because that was very much how I encountered them. I didn’t want to make a portrait-style drawing. The title, “Donkey Throng” occurred to me as I was making the drawing. The word throng seemed to describe the animals and their behaviour better than herd or crowd. It also reminded me of the old Nintendo game, Donkey Kong.
Somehow, the grouping transcended their grass-and-fences location, so – perhaps influenced by the bright, flat colours of the 1980s computer game – I decided to use a flat colour background, painted in acrylic after the ink drawing was completed.
The colours themselves were partly inspired by my hardback copy of Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy.