Thursday, March 31, 2011


This, the largest of the falcons has long been my favorite raptor. I am fortunate to have seen this bird in the wild but most of my paintings have been done from birds either as used in falconry or in captivity. One of these days I'll go North to see them proper but until then I will enjoy drawing and painting this amazing bird as the need arises. Here in this painting I concentrated on just the head but in actuality, the rest of the bird is equally impressive with wonderful pale feather fringes and an intricate wing and back pattern. The feet (and other bare parts) were a pale bluish-white and the iris, a dark brown. I still have to paint the white Gyrfalcon - probably the most impressive of the different races but that will have to wait until I come across one! As is with most of my paintings, I started with the eye and the faint reflection before working out from there. I feel that if I can get the eye right, then the rest of the painting usually follows along nicely. This watercolor is 11" X 7.5". SOLD

Friday, March 25, 2011


These royal terns were part of a larger group and were resting on a beach in Florida last February. Being Florida, it was supposed to be warm but was actually unusually cold and windy! Still a wonderful time was had as we strolled along the beach taking in the fresh air and the movement of so many birds. My sketchbook from that time has other tern studies seen that day along with some resting ring-billed and laughing gulls. A brown pelican stood in the shallows along with feeding great-black backed and ring-billed gulls while Northern gannets soared in the stiff breeze offshore. Sanderling were active along the shoreline along with a few willet and I spotted a possible brown booby way out but it was too far away to be sure.
The painting of these terns took a few months to complete as I couldn't quite resolve the foreground so hesitated for some time. Finally I completed it this week. These royals shown here are still in their winter plumage and will in a month or so obtain a fully black cap looking then quite spectacular! Terns of all species have a special significance to me and I love the old English name for them - sea swallows. Within the genus, the Caspian tern is probably my favorite. It wins on sheer size alone but I also love the large bright-red bill. As with other large birds, I often see something of myself in them when viewing them through my spotting scope.
Update! When I posted this painting a few weeks ago, I realized that I hadn't taken such a good photo of it and the image had too much contrast. In the interim, I have also done a bit more work to it and have since re-photographed the finished version. Now I'm a little happier with it. Resting Royals is 9" X 14.5".

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I started this watercolor painting near the end of last year but only finished it this week! As is usual for me, I began with sketches and a small pre-study in my sketchbook. Everything went well in the planning stage, I was happy with the colors and composition and couldn't wait to start the actual painting. After stretching a smooth piece of (hot-pressed) Arches watercolor paper onto a board, I laid in the first of many background washes. Then after adding the grasses and trees, things began to go astray and the work got further and further away from my initial idea. I'm not sure why this happened but simply following along with the process usually brings about resolution with the work. In this case, it was simply spending enough time with the painting propped up in my lounge so that I could see where to go with it next. There was more to the work at the bottom that I simply cropped away and this did help somewhat. After I had completed the landscape, I made a small cut-out of a barn owl in flight then moved it around the painting until I found what was for me the most pleasing position then it was painting in. Hunting barn owl is 7" X 7".

Thursday, March 10, 2011


This is the second in the eagles in flight series - this time featuring an adult Bonelli's Eagle. When I first moved to Hong Kong, I lived in Kowloon for awhile and when I got tired of the noise and hustle-bustle of so many people, decided to look for a quieter place to live. Someone I met in a Chinese restaurant suggested visiting one of the outlying islands - as it turned out this was very fortuitous meeting. I happened to end up at the Lamma Island ferry pier in Central Hong Kong and when the ferry arrived boarded for the 40min or so trip out to the island. Lamma is the 3rd largest island in Hong Kong and the closer I got to it, the more sure I was that this is where I wanted to live. And as I first set foot on the island, a stillness and peace came over me unlike any I had felt before. Lamma back in the 80's was quite rural by Hong Kong standards with vegetable and pig farming being the usual, although the making of shrimp paste close to the pier was an unforgettable and incredibly smelly experience - but the less said about that the better! I eventually found a flat next to a quiet beach and was further delighted by discovering a resident pair of Bonelli's Eagles that nested on Mt Stenhouse (situated on the southern end of the island). I quickly found my way up there looking for the nest (unsuccessfully) but often saw the eagles as they soared past my balcony to and from the island. So in many ways, this painting is a tribute to that time and is just as I remember them. Usually they were seen in a pair but for this smaller work I just wanted the single bird. I'll probably do the pair later on and I also want to do a painting of the immature which has a lovely warm buff underparts. This watercolor is 10" X 7.5".

Friday, March 4, 2011


In an earlier post I mentioned that I was working on a series of birds in flight and my sketchbooks are slowly filling up with studies and sketches of birds as I work towards this goal. All this of course is leading me somewhere and that is to... Eagles! A most magnificent family of birds and until one has seen an eagle in flight, it is difficult to really comprehend the incredible presence they have. I have been fortunate to see many different species all over the world and hope to show some of the studies and paintings of them here. The first in this series is shown above.
The Greater Spotted Eagle winters as far south as South China and I saw this adult in Hong Kong. Usually one doesn't associate these large raptors with all the food, shopping and skyscrapers that has made Hong Kong such a popular destination but in the north near the Chinese border is Mai Po - an internationally recognised and critically important nature reserve. With the congregation of so many waders, ducks and other waterbirds, it is not unusual to see raptors of all kinds hunting there. Spotted eagles are a regular winter visitor to the region and the adults are relatively unmarked looking simply dark from underneath especially in strong sunlight. Which begs the question - why then are they called spotted eagles? Well the name quite accurately describes the juveniles which have bold whitish markings mostly on their wings and back.
I did this study first in a way of easing into painting larger birds in flight and unfortunately choose an impossibly smooth piece of illustration board to work on. This didn't take repeated washes well - I could have airbrushed the sky I suppose but since I never do this I decided to stick with what I had started with. The bird was painted in once the sky had dried being careful to keep the lighter areas to the primaries and under-tail coverts. Spotted eagles can look a little rough - that is to say that their flight feathers are seldom regular and I have heard them described as a 'ragged mat in the sky' which quite adequately sums them up! For my painting though, I cleaned this one up a bit and finished it off by layering on many thin washes of mostly sepia and burnt umber until I had reached the darkened tones I wanted. This watercolor is 9" X 7".


Keeping with the snow and winter theme of the past few posts, I wanted to show this painting that I completed some time ago. Although pheasants are not that often seen around here, I know them well from the UK and more recently saw them out on the Eastern Shore. For this painting, I wanted a typically heavy snowfall scene where pine branches had been pulled down by the weight of the snow forming a sort of cover for birds and animals. The perfect place to find pheasants in fact! I started the painting working from the background forward then put in the pheasants before finishing the snow-laden branches and foreground. I kept the snow colors quite neutral so that the pheasants would be the only spots of warmth in the painting. I enjoyed working on this one and have something like it planned for a new work in the future. Size is 24" X 36" - oil on canvas. SOLD.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Another small winter painting. I was supposed to get all these studies posted here last month when I had painted them but didn't get the chance until now. Again, another scene from the reserve near our home looking across the lower lake to where the feeder stream runs in. It's getting later in the day here with the evenings coming on early in winter. A thin layer of snow has fallen on top of the ice but there has been some melting along the edges creating a break between the lake and the land. Just to the left and out of the picture is an active beaver lodge and the water there is shallower and never freezes. Mallards congregate there even on the coldest of days and are a welcome sight in what is usually a somewhat bleak and lifeless landscape. In the painting, I kept the distant trees softer in the hopes of getting some depth into the scene and the sky is just now beginning to take on those lovely evening colors that often fade so quickly. Quite a few paintings have been done around this lake and is one of my favorite sites to go out and paint - I'll post some of the others later on. Frozen Lake is an oil on canvas, 5" X 7" - $150 which includes shipping within the US.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Towards the end of last year, I travelled down to the Eastern Shore staying with friends just outside Easton. The mornings especially were glorious - some bright, others foggy like in this painting. Here I'm looking across a small inlet over to the Miles river beyond. Sun is just above the horizon (not that you could tell!) and the sounds of geese and ducks are filtering softly through the mist - a wonderful and ethereal morning. I did this study (and a few others) with the hope of someday doing a larger version - probably with an eagle appearing out of the mist and making its way downstream. Size is 5" X 7" - oil on board. $150 inc shipping within the US.