Monday, July 31, 2017

COSTA RICA, Part 1



Visiting Costa Rica with friends was an unforgettable experience that has resulted in a whole series of paintings. Mostly these are smaller studies done in oil with the intention of doing some larger paintings when I get back to the studio. One day in particular when I had a few hours to myself, I walked for some time along the coast and found some lovely places to paint. That outing alone has resulted in 5 or 6 studies with more planned.




Weather was truly outstanding with cool breezes in the mornings and bright mostly sunny days - talk about tropical paradise! The whole trip was well organised and we managed to see most of the country.




A lot of time was spent either in the pool or walking the beach. I tried getting up each day at dawn and seeing what was about before anyone else was up. Plenty of birds and truly spectacular scenery.





What impressed me the most was the complete diversity of life and the place seemed to suit me perfectly. I was for once able to spend those days living my authentic self, travelling, seeing and painting. And for that I am truly grateful!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

AUSTRALIA, PART 3



Arriving in Hobart - the capital of Tasmania - was interesting as it is very picturesque with great museums etc. Surrounded on one side by mountains, the other faces a sheltered bay. We though, were staying about 45 min out of town in a very quiet village by the sea. Connecting with old friends was wonderful as it had been quite some time. John lives as a poet and editor so happily works from his garden office while M works in Hobart. Still, not much of a commute though - hardly any cars on the road and not a single traffic light until you get close to the city! Definitely my kind of place then. The general landscape was in a way similar to the mainland but still had plenty of its own beauty and charm.





Taking a two-day tour of North-Eastern Tasmania was a perfect introduction to the country! Our visit took us to most of the major tourist attractions and included a few strenuous hikes! Well worth it though and although I didn't manage any paintings over those few days, I did gather plenty of reference - both photos and sketches. Later in the week we took a trip over to Bruni Island  which was really unforgettable! Wonderful hikes through the forest and along the shore - great birds and perfect company -  couldn't have asked for more. We had lunch at a beach so beautiful that I could have lived there for the rest of my life!





Memorable birds included a fly-over of a large flock of Black Cockatoos - some of them landing in the trees right under where we sat - and both Scarlet and Flame Robins. We also picked up most of the endemic birds of Tasmania so were well happy with that side of things. Common birds were also welcome and John's garden attracted many including a breeding pair of Blackbirds. Wonderful waking in the mornings to Blackbird song as that really took me back to England where I was born.





So all in all, a great introduction to Australia and Tasmania - pity we had to leave so soon . We felt quite at home there and could have stayed for months. An added bonus thanks to John, was the sighting of 3 Wedge-tailed Eagles overhead as we drove to the airport on our last day! We will have to go back soon but for now the focus is on our next trip to Costa Rica.




Pics above:

Bay of Fires Study, 5" x 7", oil on canvas
Wineglass Bay
Bruni Island coastline
Silver Gulls
Native Hen

Sunday, July 9, 2017

AUSTRALIA, PART 2



Taking another day-trip from Melbourne, we traveled south down to the coastal road and onto the 12 Apostles. These offshore rocks tower over the sea below and are spectacular to say the least. There are a few viewing areas - the watercolor above shows probably the best of them - but the area is very busy with tourists, so setting up and doing any painting there would have been very difficult - the most I could do at the time was a quick sketch! We were also under a rather strict time constraints as there were other places to see and still the long drive back to the city. At least I would be able to work on the painting when I got back to the hotel room in the evening.




Birding was great! Some birds seen on the trip were more easily approached (and photographed) than others such as the Galah above. The coastal landscape was also very inspiring and I'm sure will be the subject of more than a few paintings. Fortunately the weather was equally as inspiring with only a brief rain shower and some overcast - it was hot but not humid.





Birds were quite tame back in the city too and taking a boat trip upriver was an unforgettable experience with quite a lot of new species seen. We also did a lot of walking around exploring the parks and enjoying what Melbourne had to offer. There is a lot of history there and some fabulous older buildings.




The next stage of our trip was a short hop across to Tasmania where we were meeting and staying with a friend from our Hong Kong days. I'll cover that part in the next post.

Above images:
The 12 Apostles, watercolor on paper, 7.5" x 11".
Galah parrot.
Magpie.
Black Duck.

Friday, June 16, 2017

AUSTRALIA, PART 1

 


A trip to Melbourne, Australia was to be my first - although for M, it was her 3rd visit! Staying for awhile in the city, we decided the best way to see what Southern Australia had to offer was to take a few different day tours.  One of them went to Phillip Island - home of the famous racing circuit and of course the Penguins! The drive out there was quite long but took us through some amazing countryside. On the island, one really got a feel for how exposed this part of the coast actually is - we had some rain squalls but also some sunshine - wind was very strong from the West.





I did the small 5" x 7" oil study (top) shortly after visiting as our time there was limited so no possibility of setting up for any plein air painting. I had to make do with small sketches done in my sketchbook. Still the experience was amazing with huge waves, sea spray, gulls, shearwaters and further offshore, albatrosses. Unfortunately those were too far away for identification but a welcome sight non-the-less.





A stop at the koala reserve turned up a few different individuals (mostly asleep) but we did find an active adult feeding low down in a tree that I managed some excellent reference photos of. Birds were quite good with a selection of parrots and other more common species seen.




Viewing the penguins was scheduled for the evening so we settled in at a viewing site and waited patiently until they came ashore. I could see a raft or two of them just offshore through my binoculars but it was almost dark when they first arrived. We were watching the shoreline and when a wave receded on the beach, suddenly a small group of them were standing there! In ones and twos they waddled ashore right past us but we weren't allowed to take any photos so any future paintings of them will have to rely on my sketches and drawings. So all in all, a wonderful start to our visit down under.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

WATERCOLOR EXHIBITION



A new exhibition of my work is happening now at McBride Gallery, 215 Main Street, Annapolis, Maryland, USA. I am one of a few other artists showing watercolors and the exhibition runs from June 1st to July 16th, 2017




I do hope that anyone in the area will come along to the gallery and see the exhibition as I have some of my best work hanging there.




I have tried to select a wide cross- section of paintings - from still life to figurative to landscape.





The landscapes come from as far away as Hong Kong, Australia and California. I also have some work completed on the East Coast of the USA.





I have been mostly working in oil these days but was glad to have to opportunity to finish off a few watercolors for this exhibition. I do have more planned but have to finish my current project first - paintings from Iceland!





Watercolors shown above:
In the Adirondacks, 17.5" x 16.5"
Fallen Pomegranate, 15" x 22"
Asian Pear, 7" x 11"
The 12 Apostles, 7" x 11"
Along the Shore, 5.5" x 7"
Lisa, 10" x 13.5".

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

SKETCHES OF SOUTH AFRICA, PART 4



Not far from Johannesburg is a nature reserve called Marievale. We visited one overcast and misty morning. The heavy rains of a few days previous had flooded most of the roads in the reserve, fortunately Steve's 4WD managed the water with ease. The pic above shows what awaited us upon our arrival - low clouds and plenty of standing water! Still, there were birds about including Little Egret, Black Heron, Squacco Heron and Hottentot Teal (all in the above pic - in the distance, a small party of Yellow-billed Duck).





Our drive to the reserve was a bit slow through all the mist but made for some very interesting and atmospheric images. The occasional figure appearing along the roadside was visually exciting as they seemed to just appear out of the mist. Birds were scarce but a Glossy Ibis flyover was a bonus.





Later (once we had found a hide that wasn't flooded), we settled down to see what was about. A Black Heron (above) didn't take long to arrive, along with a very exciting African Rail. Earlier we had seen a Black Heron fishing and characteristically shading the water with its wings - my first views of this behavior! There were quite a few common species about but not many waders - probably due to the deep water.





 A Malachite Kingfisher came and stayed for awhile (earlier we had seen a Half-collared Kingfisher) and our arrival had frightened off a Giant Kingfisher that was perched on the roof of the hide. Finally a Pied Kingfisher over the water brought our tally to 4 (later 5 for the day as we also saw 2 Woodland Kingfishers near Steve's farm North of Pretoria). I managed a few drawings of Blacksmith Lapwings in my sketchbook.





On our way out, we had much better views of a Squacco Heron plus plenty of other waterbirds, also displaying Red-bishop Birds and various whydah and widow birds. All in all, a great visit!




Photos above by Steve Pearse and myself.







Tuesday, May 9, 2017

SKETCHES OF SOUTH AFRICA, PART 3



Moving away from Kruger, we rented chalets for a few days at Giant's Castle. Amazing landscape and a truly wonderful setting nestled amongst the hills. Great walks too with plenty of wildlife. We were mostly birding and I added a few new birds to my life list. We saw Bearded Vulture on most days and Cape Vulture every day - they roosted amongst the rocks nearby. I surprised a caracal lynx early one morning but mammals were a bit scarce. The Mountain Chat that I did a study of (above) was present and singing most mornings - this one is of the dark form.




A pair of White-necked Raven kept us entertained as they mostly hung about the place and afforded great views for studying their habits. Gurney's Sugarbird was another 'must' for us and on the last day we found a single bird near the access road.




Other birds were found mostly in and around the chalets as they were well planted with bushes and small trees so attracted plenty of different species. A pair of breeding Cape Robin Chats had young so were always around - even foraging around one's feet at times! A great opportunity for more studies and photos.




We walked to the 'caves' where there were a number of well-preserved Bushman paintings. Wonderful really to see them up close - especially for an artist! Swifts of different species were all around including Alpine Swifts - another must-see for me. Starred Robin was a possibility and Steve thought he heard one singing but we couldn't find it later when we went back the next day - it was unfortunately raining so that was probably the reason.





I also did studies of the landscape. The ones shown above (also in my sketchbook) are just ideas and some may be the basis for larger oils later on. I think I gathered enough reference on this trip for a few years worth of work! I'm not sure when I'll be able to get to some of these SA studies though as I have a watercolor exhibition coming up soon so will be finishing work for that plus other stuff I'm working on at the moment - busy days!