Thursday, October 18, 2018


For the most part, we had good weather but with the occasional rainy period. Consequently there were many mist-enshrouded mountain scenes like the one in the small oil painting shown above. I was also able to capture more in my sketchbook and for the ones that changed rapidly, I took a number of photographs - not so much as something to work from, but more of a visual reminder that I could get to later.

This small oil above was completed later mostly from a sketchbook study but also as an experiment to see how this glacier scene would look in a different medium. I'll either do a larger oil or a woodblock print of this. Frankly, there was so much to see, it was difficult deciding what to concentrate on. I found myself doing quick half-finished watercolor studies then rushing onto the next one while being distracted by something else!

On this sketchbook page, there are two quick landscape studies and one of a Canada goose resting in the sunlight. As I had more time I was able to devote more effort to the goose study and later work on it some more in my cabin. I particularly enjoyed its half-closed eye and the drooping wing - all signs of a relaxed and contented bird. This was one individual of a small flock of 7 or 8 birds loafing on a grassy hillside.

Here is the initial sketchbook study of the glacier scene shown in the small oil above. I find it worth while to do a few different studies like this and some even smaller ones playing around with variations in color etc. For me, it certainly helps cement the image in my mind and allows for a more natural progression from sketchbook to final painting.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


This small study was one of the few oils I did from the trip but is a good start for some larger paintings. It was done on a gessoed board that I prepared myself. I find these are easiest to travel with being thin and easy to pack. Usually the thin paint dries quite quickly (at least in time before any flights I may have to take) and I can stack quite a few of them safely together for my homeward trip. Watercolors and drawings usually form the bulk of my work on these adventures though.

The oil shown here with progression from a quick sketch on canvas through to the finished painting is my usual method for smaller works such as this. The scene is of the flats just outside Juneau. We saw this layered landscape with drifting cloud soon after visiting the Mendenhall Glacier. Back in Juneau, we took the cable car up the mountainside for an aerial view. The weather was cloudy with periods of rain but we took a hike further up the mountainside looking for birds and other views of the amazing landscape that surrounded us.

There were plenty of Bald Eagles around and I managed this quick drawing in my sketchbook. Watching them in flight around the mist and light rain was incredibly moving, I'm sure I'll start work on some eagle paintings soon. Next on to Ketchikan and Skagway

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


We had planned a trip to Alaska for some time and were really looking forward to taking a cruise. We landed in Seattle where we had a few days enjoying the city before heading out to the ship. The boarding was completed by early evening and we left Seattle under light rain which eventually taped off and led to a wonderful sunset over the sea - an auspicious first day. The next day saw us under somewhat rough seas that had a lot of passengers heading to their cabins to lie down! Taking a slightly different route than usual, the captain headed to the Inside Passage earlier than expected where the waters were a little calmer - much better for everyone!

I spent most of the time on different decks taking photos but also did quite a bit of painting. Here you can see my travelling set up when using oils. Some time ago, I made a small lightweight foldable easel that I can use on any flat surface and just prop up the canvas panel as I work on it. I also brought along a sketchbook and watercolors for quicker studies. Along the way, we visited Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and Glacier Bay National Park as well a slowing from time to time to see other sites of interest. I was able to paint onboard at times with the landscape in front of me and also worked on paintings later on in the evenings.

In Glacier Bay, we were greeted by the wonderful sight of the Margerie Glacier. I did two studies of this glacier and enjoyed the spectacle of milling birds against the ice and deep blue water, the brisk invigorating air and occasionally sights and sounds of the glacier calving. I was constantly awed by the vastness of the landscape and it was really difficult to put any kind of scale to what we were seeing. I found it useful to find trees within the landscape and use that as a kind of measuring stick. Truly incredible!

Most of these sketchbook studies are intended for larger paintings, some of which I have completed thus far. It was heartening to still see plenty of snow on the mountains just as I had hoped. Paintings of this kind have been a wish of mine for years now and finally I was getting a chance to do some!
And if what we were seeing from the ship wasn't enough, we then took daily excursions to other areas when docked at the various ports along the way. This further enriched our visual experiences but more on those trips in the next post.

Monday, August 27, 2018


We visited Spain a few years ago and like Hawaii, there have not been that many paintings from the trip. Still not sure why but I did do this smaller watercolor study shown here. Initially it was supposed to be a quick sketch for a larger painting but for some reason I kept working on it, adding more and more detail. I really liked this scene when I first saw it, especially being able to look through the arch to the greenery and buildings on the other side. That and the keyhole-like shadows really caught my interest. I still do plan on painting a larger study later on so may get back to this one soon. Size is 11" x 7.5", watercolor on Arches paper.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


We visited Hawaii a few years ago but so far, I have not done that many paintings of what we saw there. Mostly there have been a number of drawings and watercolor illustrations in my sketchbooks but very few actual paintings. I hope to change that as some of the landscape on Maui was truly inspiring. We did a drive around the island and also plenty of walks from where we were staying in Waikiki. Birdlife was exemplary and I managed to add a few endemic species to my list.
The small study above is just a start of what I hope to be a series of landscapes and seascapes to come. Size is 5" x 7" (13cm x 18cm), oil on canvas.

Sunday, August 19, 2018


I think I have gone about as far as I can with this painting for now. It will be put aside for a few weeks then taken out for another look. Perhaps there will be a little more work to do, perhaps not. I have found though that I am having a hard job getting a decent photo of this painting. The main problem is getting an image that has both the correct values and the right amount of contrast. If I do get a better image, I'll upload it here. Size is 22" x 15" (56cm x 38cm). Watercolor on TH Saunders paper.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


The goshawk has finally been painted! This is just a first pass on the bird, some of the details and tones will be refined a little later on. The sky looks better in this image, especially after I added a slightly deeper orange tone lower down. I have also done yet more work to the pines but I'm still not entirely happy with that area either. Some of the dried creeper overhanging the branches on the lower right have got their underlying tones but still some way to go with that! I'll hopefully finish both the foreground and the goshawk next.