Sunday, July 9, 2017


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.
Black Duck.

Friday, June 16, 2017



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


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


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


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!

Monday, May 8, 2017


In Kruger Park, this hippo was hanging around the shallows while we sat in the hide nearby. At times it moved from a resting place half-submerged under an overhanging tree to deeper water further down the channel. One time it surfaced just in front of the hide pushing up and aside waterlilies, scattering the ever present Jacanas and flicking its ears to clear water from them. Astounding - and all just a few meters away!

Pied Kingfishers were also present, at times resting on nearby branches, occasionally fishing. They were great subjects while they sat nearby affording wonderful views for sketching and photographing. When I have time I'll get to some larger watercolor paintings of them.

It was extremely hot in the park, 40 degrees Celsius! We drove around with the windows down allowing a slight breeze that made it bearable. Bird life was great with many species seen and photographed. The Steppe Eagle drawn above was resting in the top of a small tree. It drew a crowd as did a recent lion kill. Due to all the rains though, the bush was quite thick so most animals were difficult to see. Still we had great views of a small herd of elephants that crossed the road just in front of us - we missed leopard and rhino though. Still there is always next year!

Monday, April 17, 2017


During a recent trip to South Africa I managed to find some time to do quite a number of sketches and watercolors. Most of these were in my sketchbook but I have to say that after such an amazing trip, (during which I lost count of the number of photos I took), I think that I have enough reference now for a few years worth of work! So I'm sure a lot of these sketchbook studies will translate into larger oil or watercolor paintings at a later date. I also painted a few landscapes and will re-visit these when I have finished my current project.

Birds featured prominently although I did sketch and paint a few larger animals including elephant and hippo. We traveled around quite a bit visiting Kruger Park for a few days and also spent some time at Giants Castle (more about these trips later). Also a few shorter day-trips were undertaken and the bird count continued to rise - with a few welcome 'lifers' too.

Studies shown above - African Jacana and Lily Pads, watercolor; Southern (or Common) Fiscal (unfinished), watercolor; African Jacana study, graphite.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


As far as snow goes, this has been a milder winter than usual with no major snow storms. It has been cold though and spring has taken a while to arrive. Warm fronts from the South usually brings a more moist atmosphere and sometimes this combination results in mist. I am always over in the reserve when this happens looking, sketching and when the temps are mild, painting. This smaller study didn't take long so was able to mostly complete it in one go. I did a few small touch-ups later when the paint had dried a little but basically left it as it was. Size is 7" x 5". Oil on canvas.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Quite a few glazes of color were required to bring the painting to its finished state. I mostly used Raw Sienna and Yellow Ochre for these with a little Burnt Sienna for the decaying branch. I slightly deepened the small areas of green and worked a little on the pomegranate. It also got a cast shadow across the middle which helped define the form. Some of the darker shadow areas were also worked on, trying all the while to get an overall feeling of uniformity. Within the leaves is a feeling of depth, light and shade, and I tried hard to keep the painting bright without resorting to any gouache.

Monday, March 27, 2017


After a few sessions, I managed to complete most of the shadow areas. I'll still have to go back and darken a few parts and also add a little more of the finer details. Since most of the painting will be shades of ochre and brown, I add in a complimentary green to a few places - namely the two leaves at the top and a few blades of grass on the right. Keeping these colors to the periphery helps against too much visual distraction - I don't want too many things competing with each other. These greens are also somewhat subdued. The fallen branch with the shadow on the top right makes an appearance but I'll still have to darken it a bit. Next I'll glaze warmer tones all over the painting - what you see here is basically the underpainting so expect to see a dramatic change from this to the next!

Saturday, March 25, 2017


At this point, I have enough information on the leaves to be able to leave them for awhile. I decide to work on the pomegranate itself so it was just a case of laying on washes of color, then glazing over those when they were dry. After a few rounds of this, I felt I was getting close so left that for awhile and started deepening some of the shadow areas. I often work like this - that is trying to get an all-over feel as I find it better to bring things together as a whole rather than completing one section then going on to the next one. Doing it this way seems to be easier for me, especially as to how the painting is developing.
Most of the left side of the work has been completed in the pic above (at least as far as the values are concerned). Next I'll bring the right side up to the same level as the left then add more color.

Friday, March 24, 2017


Working all over, I lay in most of the shadows - this does take quite some time though as I have to work out which parts are lit by the sun and which parts fall into shadow. Now though, at least I can get a better idea of the painting and how it is progressing. I'll still have to deepen the tone further on most of the darker areas but for now I have a definite way forward. It still looks quite abstract at this stage but soon leaves, stems and the pomegranate will start to appear.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Here I have tentatively started laying on some sepia watercolor paint indicating the shadow areas and trying to get form into some of the leaves. I'm a bit hesitant at this point and progressing really slowly as I'm not sure how the best way to do this! Should I do all the monochromatic shadows first or go with shapes and color? I add a warmer wash of color to some areas trying to see how this would affect the overall feel but I'm leaning towards doing all the shadow areas first. Because there is so much detail, hopefully doing it this way will help simplify things and allow me to work out what goes where.


Finally a post on this sadly neglected blog! I have been travelling almost continually since Jan so have actually had little time at home or in the studio. Anyway, I'm back for now so onto the first recently completed painting.
While visiting a good friend who has a fair collection of my work, I was taken by a study I did some years ago of a pomegranate resting amongst fallen leaves. The pomegranate tree was next to my home on Lamma Island, Hong Kong and I had painted its fruit a few times. One day while passing I saw where a pomegranate had fallen off the tree and rolled onto some leaves. I did the study there and then but always wanting to do a larger version. In the studio I selected a half sheet of Arches watercolor paper then set to work with a soft pencil. The end result of a day's work is shown above. Next I'll stretch the sheet and start laying on some washes of paint.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Finally the completed painting! Sorry it took so long, I have been travelling for months and also dealing with family business overseas which took a lot of time. Work in the studio had seriously slowed due to all this and other interruptions so that it was only yesterday that I managed to complete the final touches to the Cassowary, There are though a few things that I might go back and work on though. I'm not completely satisfied with the background color for example - I was hoping for something a little less brown so may have to repaint this area. Some other details may have to be brought out a little too, otherwise I'm quite happy with it - such a strange-looking bird though.
I'll get to some other paintings that I have completed and also mention of my travels in following posts.