Monday, August 31, 2015


Not sure if I posted a pic of this painting, I completed it awhile ago and for once I was happy with the finished painting. It took many layers of watercolor to get to this point but I felt that all the work was worth it in the end. It was fantastic to work on a painting with the real bird right there in front of me. These large owls are one of my favorites and I do plan on completing more studies of them someday. In the meantime I have been very busy with other work which I'll get to in my next post.
Eagle Owl, watercolor on Arches paper, 7.5" x 11". SOLD.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Working slowly on the back and wing, I completed that section then moved around here and there darkening some areas and adding more details as needed. I tidied up the eye a little then added the finest shading to some of the markings and also along the breast as I wanted to define that line a bit more. At this time, I'm still not sure what pose the bird will be in when it comes time to do a watercolor study but have just finished another light drawing on watercolor paper of the bird in a slightly different pose than this one so that will most likely be it. I have certainly enjoyed making studies of this most impressive Buteo - I'm sure they won't be the last. Finished drawing is on Arches paper, size 15" x 11" (38cm x 28cm).


Here I am well into the details of the back and wing, trying all the while to capture the rather intricate plumage and feather structure. Since this study will only be in black and white, I am more concerned about the tonal values as they have to read correctly across the image. Another pass over the top of the head brought up some of the markings there. Next I'll add the final part of the wing and a few smaller details here and there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Here I'm working on finishing the head, neck and upper breast. I'm getting closer to completing those areas by adding some finer markings and also doing a little more shading around the eye and lores. The beak has been worked over again and I'm trying to create depth by shading under the throat and on the front of the breast. It's coming along but taking much longer that I had hoped - each stage has been one day of work! Next I'll work more on the back and hope to complete the head.


I had earlier enjoyed painting a study of an adult Ferruginous Hawk so much that I was inspired to do something more with this wonderfully-marked raptor. I completed the first study just over a year ago but this time wasn't sure which pose to use for the new painting. As is usually the case with my watercolors, I do a few studies beforehand trying to get more of a feel for the subject. So starting on Arches paper, I did a basic outline using a 2B pencil. There wasn't a lot of sizing on the paper (perhaps it was a very old sheet) so the graphite didn't go on as smoothly as I had hoped. This caused me to take a slightly more careful approach trying all the while to be as accurate as possible and to get as much of the character of the bird into the work. As always, I started detailing the head first and then concentrated on finishing the eye which is always the most important part for me. I then moved onto the beak and a few of the markings around the lores.


Finally turning my attention to the water, I worked slowly and carefully trying all the while to get movement into the falling water. I didn't want the effect you get when you photograph moving water using a high shutter speed as that effect essentially freezes the movement, so I blended many of the brushstrokes and kept edges soft. A final darkening of some of the rocks here and there completed the painting. I'm glad that I did this smaller study as it has pointed to a slightly different direction for the larger painting to come. I should mention that I saw this scene at Great Falls, Maryland where the Potomac river drops quite a lot in a short amount of time producing a wonderful spectacle - a favorite place of mine to go and paint.

Monday, August 10, 2015


Apart from a slight touch up here and there, the rocks are complete! As with the area on the right side, I worked from top to bottom using a slightly darker (and cooler) mix as I went down. Getting the right balance was tough though as there is still the tumbling water to do. This is sure to influence the painting in one way or another but I'm confident this will show me which direction to take the final painting so am holding off doing anything else until the water is finished. Initially this image attracted me with it's abstract feel - the lighter area of the falling water surrounded by the darks of the rocks, so I kept this concept in my mind as I worked - now after getting this far, I simply like the painting for what it is.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


Here more rocks have been added on the right side and I have started working on the water. That part is a bit rough at the moment as I just wanted to get it in! I used less Yellow Ochre in the rocks as I moved down to the bottom of the canvas so they appear ever so slightly cooler in color temperature and also a bit darker. So far I was happy that I was getting some depth in the work. I must say that I really enjoyed painting all the different shapes and tones etc - sometimes I think that I could be happy just painting rocks and skies!


The start of a new painting - first on a small canvas I drew in the details with a HB pencil. Usually I use a fine brush and thinned raw umber but used graphite this time for convenience. Once I was happy with the shape of the rocks etc, I started in the top left working right on top of the graphite without sealing it first. Not a problem in this case as the rocks were to be relatively dark so the graphite was absorbed into the paint. I used a few basic colours and tried to keep the painting relatively loose working quickly and laying in the paint wet into wet. Darker areas were Raw Umber straight out of the tube. Next more rocks!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


A little further along the Christina river just South of Wilmington, Delaware one comes to the Russel W. Peterson Wildlife Refuge where we spent quite a lot of time wandering around each day. A wonderful place to visit full of breeding birds, deer, Eastern Cottontails and groundhogs! The occasional Bald Eagle too and I had great views of an adult Peregrine Falcon soaring in the heat and humidity. Some watercolor studies followed and helped capture the mood of the place while also serving as the basis for future paintings (below).

This is a view looking East from the bridge over the train tracks. It was early morning and the sun had just come up - the colours reflecting beautifully in the river and a slight haze in the distance.

This view is looking South across the marsh with early clouds building.

These sketchbook studies are about 5" x 8" and 9" x 8" respectively. Although quick studies, they do help me tremendously as they often serve to tie down images and ideas that I carry around in my head - usually after seeing something new as was in this case. Another reason for keeping these sketchbook studies simplified is that I don't want to get down too much at the time as I prefer my finished paintings to develop from my own response to the scene instead of copying it exactly as it is.
From these watercolor studies and others I was able to complete the vertical marsh scene shown at the top. I'm still trying to get a better photo of this one as I have found dark paintings extremely difficult to capture digitally. Anyway I'm sure that more landscapes will come out of this trip, in the meantime I'm working on something different which I'll show next time. Marsh Evening is in oils, size 10" x 8" (26cm x 20cm).