Sunday, January 19, 2020


I painted this chickadee illustration in my sketchbook from birds that visit my winter bird feeder. The feeder hangs just outside my studio window so I can sit quietly with a sketchbook on my lap and draw birds as they appear. If I don't move too quickly, they are not too bothered by my presence and seem to realize that there is a glass window between us so come and go as they please.

This was one of the sketchbook drawings I did and formed the basis for my painting above. Along with chickadees come Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Cardinals, House Finches, House Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Juncos, Starlings, Mourning Doves et al - quite a list of them! Occasionally there are also White-crowned Sparrows and other birds that are not so commonly seen around here. All this activity invariably brings predators - most often seen are Coopers Hawks but also Sharp-shinned and Red-shouldered Hawks - Jays are usually the first to give warning calls.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020


All through the fall and now well into winter I have been watching vultures overhead. I see them most times that I go to the reserve but frankly they can be see anywhere and at any time around here. Turkey Vultures are slightly more commonly seen than Black Vultures so I tend to do more drawings of them. Here, however is a pen and ink drawing of a Black Vulture gliding away.

After much looking at vultures in the field, I first draw them using a pencil in my sketchbook then do them again in ink. When the ink is dry, I erase the pencil lines. This Turkey Vulture was the first one I did in this series.

I did these two in slightly more detail (and larger) trying to be aware of the shades on the actual birds since using ink, you only have one color to work with. Various ways of cross-hatching create greys and one can modulate form this way. It is an interesting way to work and I used to do a lot of this kind of work.

These birds are the perfect subject for the medium of pen and ink as they are mostly shades of black and white (only Turkey Vultures have a bit of color with their red heads and legs) so it was a very enjoyable exercise.

I kept most of these ink drawings are quite small - about a quarter of a page each in my sketchbook.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019


Black-crowned Night Herons are sometimes seen in the reserve, usually at dusk when I hear their calls coming down from the evening sky. Here though, the bird is at its roost sight in broad daylight a few miles away on an island on Lake Whetstone. There is an active Great Blue heronery there and night herons can be sometimes seen along with Green-backed Herons. I did this watercolor study in my sketchbook, the size is about 9" x 5".

Monday, December 30, 2019


I found this burl growing on the thin branches of a tree in the reserve, interestingly there were a few other slightly smaller ones on the same tree. Usually I only see much larger ones around the bases of larger trees near the roots etc, or on the side of the trunk. Anyway, I liked the sculptured shapes of these and also the subtle textures.

This illustration was done on thin sketchbook paper which is not really suited to watercolor but I like to experiment from time to time. It was a bit more difficult to paint this one but came out okay. The start of the illustration is shown above. Thin accurate pencil lines followed by washes to capture the effect of light and shadow. More darker washes follow with the smaller details at the end. Size is about 7" x 9".

Sunday, December 29, 2019


On Chung Chau Island (about a 20 min ferry ride from Central, Hong Kong), I sat and watched the tide slowly spill over rocks near a deeper channel just off shore. The slowly rising water turned some places into rock pools, totally submerging others. There seemed to be a kind of timelessness to it - the way the scene changed so slowly, had been doing so for eons. In this painting, I tried to capture something of what I saw and felt that day - perhaps more studies will be necessary before I get close. Size is about 4.5" x 5", oil on canvas.

Friday, December 27, 2019


After returning from Japan, we had a few days left in Hong Kong so visited some of our favorite places. The closest temple to where we were staying in Tuen Mun was the Ching Chung Koon Taoist Temple. Set amongst high-rises to the South and off a busy street, it is like entering another world. There are so many different things to see there including mini Chinese-style gardens, ponds, bonsai, statues and of course, wonderfully decorated temple buildings. This study of a stone lion (one of a pair) was opposite the well-known Dragon Gate statue situated between the two larger temples. This study differs from the ones I did in Japan as I had started a new sketchbook when in Hong Kong so the surface and rate of absorption of the paper took a little getting used to. I finished the study back in the flat. Size is about 5" x 7".

Driving to Shek O on Hong Kong Island, we spent some time on the beach and in the village where I found many subjects to paint. It was incredibly hot though - 38 C (100 F) so kept out of the sun as much as we could. A recent typhoon had washed out the bridge linking to the headland so weren't able to walk up to the pagoda. The sunbather study above is about 5" x 12".

The last one was completed as a quick exercise in trying to do smaller studies within a set time limit. The size is about 5" x 5" but I think I may do a larger version or something similar.

Thursday, December 19, 2019


Back in Tokyo the next day, I finally got the chance to meet up with the intrepid Dave Bull at his woodblock print shop Mokuhankan in the Asakusa district. What a wonderful guy! I have been watching his webisodes for many years so feel that I know him quite well by now. And after e-mailing back and forth it was great to see him in person. Wonderful collection of woodblock prints in his shop too of which most were created by him and his staff. We talked a bit about his latest print and I thanked him for single-handedly revitalizing the woodblock industry in Japan which had been in decline before he moved to Tokyo from Canada quite a number of years ago. An amazing feat really - such a down to earth kind of a person and very humble too - really impressed with this guy! We were planning a return visit to his shop the next day but the approach of Typhoon Hagibis had us scrambling for an early exit. We luckily managed to get an earlier flight back to Hong Kong as our original flight was on the very day the typhoon was to hit Japan. So, although slightly shorter than expected, our Japan visit was truly amazing and really we couldn't have asked for more! The small shrine shown above was found near Dave's shop in Asakusa and couldn't resist a final sketchbook study of it.