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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Quite a bit more work has gone into the pines here, painting around the lighter bits and trying to keep an even balance overall. I have also washed in some darker yellow ochre in the foreground but I'm sure it will have to go a lot darker than it is. Getting the color balance correct in this painting is difficult (the photo more so and the sky is almost completely washed out as a result - should be more yellowish). Coming along though but I can see that the painting will have to be toned down quite significantly. Next I'll paint in the bird and this should help a lot.
First I laid down a few washes of cadmium yellow medium over the whole sheet then when this was dry, started work on the pines. Some greyish-green helped to take off the starkness of the paper and I then began the lengthy process of painting in the pines and keeping the subtle details as I went. The pines would be quite dark so I had to judge how deep the keep the lightest areas of the pine boughs. The bird was carefully painted around leaving bare paper on which to add the details later. Next I slightly darkened the foreground and considered it a fair start. At least the painting was headed in the direction I wanted it.
Northern Goshawks are rare around here as we are on the southern edge of their range. I usually see them on migration or occasionally during winter. My closest encounter came a few years ago when one killed and almost completely ate a grey squirrel in my back garden. I disturbed it as I stepped out of my studio and just caught a glimpse of it as it flew away.
My idea with this painting was to have an immature goshawk flying from it's roost site early in the morning. The stand of white pines in my painting is over in the reserve where I once saw a goshawk and I thought, a fitting place to base my work on. I drew out the upper edge of the pines first on a new sheet of watercolor paper then lightly indicated the rest of the details - the goshawk was also added at this time. Next, I'll add some color washes and try to get a handle on it.
When I came to take another look at the painting, the background seemed to lacking something. A few slightly warmer and darker washes fixed that, working carefully around the bird. Next I began subtly darkening the plumage slightly. I also tightened up the eyes a little and corrected the shape of the ear tufts. These were darkened quite a bit to make them a little more believable. And that was it for this one. I cropped the finished work a little as I feel that this is probably all I want to do to the painting for now. Since this will be one of many illustrations for another project I'm working on, I think that it works fine in this study-like form. I have a lot of new paintings to finish for some of my galleries so will put this one aside for now, perhaps I'll do more to it later if I feel that I want to go further with it. Size is 17" x 12" (43cm x 30cm), watercolor on Arches paper.
Most of the bird has been completed this far but I'm sure that I'll find something else to do to it. I'll work on the background next and possible a few more washes of color here and there. Once I'm happy with that, I'll go back to the bird and finish the finer details etc. I also need to finish that ear tuft!
After a full days work, I am almost finished with the head. I still need to work on one of the ear tufts but am leaving that to last (don't ask me why). I'll still need to darken some areas here and there but will get to that as the painting develops. For now though, I feel that I have captured most of the complex detail of the head although there is quite a bit to still define properly. I have been using mostly earth tones so far and marvel at the coloring and complexity. Next I will attempt the intricate plumage of the breast and wing.
After stretching the paper and stapling it to a board, I began the painting by laying in a few warm background washes then let it dry. I'm sure that I'll have to do more to this area later but for now I just wanted a general overall tone so as to better judge the colors of the owl. The eyes were tackled next as I have found that if I can get them right, the rest of the work generally follows along nicely. I used mostly lemon yellow modified with cad yellow and neutral tint for the darks. Neutral tint was also used on the bill along with some cobalt blue. Once I had that working to my satisfaction, I worked on other parts of the head generally feeling my way into the painting and keeping things light for now. I then put the work aside for awhile - I'll try to finish off the head in the next stage.
I started this portrait as part of my ongoing reserve project. I have about 30 paintings and illustrations completed so far so am about 1/3 of the way through. It is taking longer than I expected (don't most things?} so am trying to be patient and just do my best work.
In the reserve nearby are a pair of resident Great-horned Owls and they can be heard hooting most evenings in late winter/early spring. They sometimes perch briefly on some of the houses around the woodland edge perhaps hunting for rabbits which come out about that time. Sometimes they are discovered by crows who then start up such a huge ruckus with more crows joining in and generally showing their displeasure with angry and strident calls. Occasionally I come across them roosting quietly in a tall pine - the bird is usually awake enough to stare down at me until I move on. For this work, I wanted a simple portrait focusing on the head mostly but also trying to capture some of its complex plumage. The drawing took a few hours but in the end, I thought that I had captured the essence of what I was after.
This is one of my older paintings that sold some time ago. I'm planning on re-visiting the subject so am looking at past works and other references for inspiration. The scene of these old barns is the King Farm about 20 mins drive from our home so I am able to visit there as often as I like. One morning after a memorable snow storm, I stood by the roadside doing small studies and taking reference photos before the clouds cleared and the sun began melting the snow. This painting is one of a few that came from that morning. I am thinking the next in this series will be similar in size and composition but with a slightly different view point. The barns still stand (something of a rarity around here) so I am planning a few visits in the future to gather more reference and do some plein-air paintings. Size is about 20" x 40" (51cm x 102cm), oil on canvas.
Finally finished this one. Took a little longer than expected but I'm happy with the result. For the most part, I kept the painting where I could easily see it between stages so as to give me a better idea what to do next. Some areas needed darkening while I some others a slight lightening. The background was finished off with the addition of pale yellow grasses - this helped define the upper edges of the snow and also added a bit of perspective. I had to re-visit the grass in the foreground and played around with that area for awhile until I was satisfied. This painting is part of a long-term project so will be put away until I get closer to the end of it. When I have enough work completed, I'll explain in more detail, for now it's on to the next one! Size is 22" x 15" (56cm x 38cm). Watercolor on Bockingford paper.
Working on the details of the grasses took some time as I had to paint around most of the stalks and also suggest details behind the grass. Some parts are in shade so I used darker and richer washes for those areas. The lowest log was completed adding a few cracks and checks along with some annual rings etc. I may have to go a little darker on it but I want to finish the painting first then see. The snow had a few thin washes of purple added to take off some of the whiteness and some of the edges were further darkened suggesting a little snow melt - I also slightly darkened the snow shadows here and there. Getting close now so hopefully I'll be able to finish this one during the next painting session.
Here I have built up some of the darkest tones and indicated some of the shadows within the painting. Most of the log ends are close to being complete but I'll probably have another go at them a bit later on when the painting is almost finished. I tend to let the work develop on its own rather than rushing ahead to get it done. In between, I can always work on something else and I check out the work from time to time to see what needs to be done next. I don't mind the painting taking longer than it should just as long as it goes just where I want it to. Next is probably the most difficult part - working on the foreground grasses. This and the shadows in the snow will hopefully bring it closer to being complete.
With a start made on some of the smaller log ends, I began working on the two larger ones. Blending sepia with a little burnt sienna allowed for a few different color temperatures and to add variation to the ends. When doing the more recent studies on site, I noticed that the wood had bleached out quite a bit since from when it was first cut (these logs have been lying there for a few years now). As I continue defining the logs, I carefully paint around the snow areas as they will be mostly white paper with perhaps a faint purplish wash to tone down the starkness a little. The log on the lower left is where the root system was cut low to the ground and has many wonderful nooks and crannies. I'm sure this area will be quite difficult to paint so will get to that bit next.
In my last post, I mentioned working on another painting featuring those snow-covered logs. Here is the beginning where I am establishing the darks and some of the mid-tones. Obviously with this view, I have drawn in for a much closer look at the end of these logs and found something I think is worth exploring in a painting. I began with a basic drawing working on the major forms first then indicating some of the smaller details. I am still feeling my way here so am a bit tentative with the washes of watercolor but off to a good start I think.
Early one Sunday morning, I came across these logs over in the reserve near the white farmhouse. They had been cut from a large tree that had some decay in it and was in danger of falling. Stacked next to the road, I marveled at the contrasting textures and unusual composition they made lying there. Since it wasn't all that cold, I was able to do a few studies there and then from different viewpoints and angles. Later I rushed back to the studio to start work on a larger version and grabbed the first sheet of watercolor paper I could find (the back of a painting that I had done years ago). Unfortunately the painting soon bogged down so was relegated to the pending file folder. Time passed until recently when I began another painting of these logs drawn from some of my original references. That painting was going so well that I pulled this one out of retirement and after giving it look over, decided to finish it. Most of the logs were already completed so I mostly worked on the snow and grasses trying to create a rhythm amongst the various shapes and it was finally done last night. Size is 14" x 21" (36cm x 54cm) - watercolor on paper.
I recently completed this small 5" x 7" oil of the sea at Shek O in Hong Kong. We had earlier walked the Dragons Back trail that takes you up over the mountain nearby then around the side and down to Big Wave Bay. From there, it is a short walk over to Shek O. The main beach there is not so interesting to me as it lacks character so we prefer the walk through the village to the headland where there are many amazing rock formations. This area is a favored site for wedding photos and we usually see small wedding parties there with various photographers in tow.
The waves can be quite spectacular in the bay (by Hong Kong standards) so apart from the small village charm, it can be a great place to visit and get some inspiration. We prefer middle-of-the-week visits as otherwise the place can be packed (especially in summer). So a great place to go for lunch, to swim or in my case, to draw and paint!
I saw this abandoned house as I walked through the fishing village of Tai O on Lantau Island, Hong Kong. A popular tourist destination, we usually visit Lantau whenever we go back to Hong Kong. We go to see the giant Buddah and also to Tai O, mainly for the atmosphere and lovely sea views as this is one of the few villages that still retains some of its character and charm. Most places like this have been razed in the name of progress or left to rot and ruin - shame really. So glad I documented many of these old villages over the years both in my sketchbooks and on film.
Initially this painting was supposed to be a small study for a larger work but I ended up doing far more work to it than I intended - no matter.
For me, the interest initially was in the way the afternoon sun cast a strong shadow across the building. I loved the way the shadowy interior contrasted with the sunlit portion of the wall and floor. The bright fabric hanging on the right had been recently washed and was hanging out in the sun to dry. It created a nice colorful area in an somewhat monochromatic study - the small red incense holder just to the right of the door frame helped too.
Size of the painting is 11" x 7.5" (28cm x 19cm). Watercolor on hot-pressed Arches paper.
This is a recent painting done from our trip to Portugal. We spent about two weeks there travelling around and trying to see as much of the country as possible. Truly an amazing trip and are looking forward to going back. I enjoyed the South of Portugal the most especially along the Algarve which was stunning! I'll do a longer post on our trip once I have had time to finish off a few more paintings. This evening scene is set in a nature reserve close to where we were staying and completed what was for us a magical day. Size is 12" x 9" (30cm x 23cm), oil on canvas.
In my last post about Iceland I wrote that the paintings were to be the final ones from that trip but I have since been inspired to do a few more! The smaller study above was painted as I saw the clouds slowly coming over the top of a mountain that still had some areas of snow on it. I loved the contrast of the bright sun-lit mountain top against the blue sky and the shadowed lower slopes in the foreground. All the vistas from this area were quite magnificent as from where we sat, we had the mountainside behind us and incredible views across the fjord where more snow-capped ranges of mountains were laid out. Their tops drifted in and out of focus as clouds came and went. I'll add more of those paintings later.
This smaller study was done in my sketchbook from our hotel room which fortunately looked out over the coastline. As mentioned in an earlier post, the seas were incredible with light but driving rain and our walk on the beach consisted of hanging on to each other so we wouldn't be blown over while scrunching up our eyes to help keep out flying sand and small pebbles which stung when they hit. Later I did a small watercolor of this scene (Rough Seas - Vick) and drew heavily from this drawing while working on it (painting shown in an earlier post).
Here are the final paintings done from the Iceland trip. Some are unfinished unfortunately but I didn't get the time to work on these as I had wished. I'm sure that they will be worked up eventually and I'm also sure that I'll be doing more paintings from the trip later on.
There was still a lot of snow on the higher elevations as shown in this series of paintings and I have to say that I was quite captivated by the distant mountains swathed in snow and the lower regions more open showing how the moss had covered most of the lava. Next would come smaller bushes then dwarf trees etc slowly covering the landscape as we saw in other areas of Iceland.
I remember how some of the peaks would drift in and out of focus as clouds drifted across them and it is this effect that I would like to put into a large painting. This will take some thinking about first though and certainly more than a few pre-studies. Actually I consider many of the paintings shown here as pre-studies as I am better able to work out what it is I want to say in this smaller scale.
This work was completed after a portion of our trip was delayed due to bad weather and we arrived at a visitors center with only about half an hour to spend as we saw fit. I immediately headed outside and began jogging towards the glacier at the foot of the mountain shown above (although we were told not to go there as there wasn't enough time - still I thought I could make it). Well after about 30 seconds, the wind came up in such a way blowing directly at me that I was forced to a walking pace - and a slow one at that! Realizing that the Gods had spoken, I gave up my attempt to reach the glacier and continued at a slower pace looking around me at the various rocks and plants eventually making it back just in time to catch the coach onto our next stop.
While looking at and photographing the plants mentioned above, a Redwing slowly approached calling all the while. I kept still and was afforded amazing views as it passed just a few feet from where I sat. I did a few quick sketches and took more photos as I followed it about for awhile. The bird seemingly not at all worried by my presence.
So then, from incredible and towering mountains to black-sand beaches that spread as far as the eye could see, from grass sod houses to picture-perfect blue fjords, from desolate rocky coastline to foggy moors, from massive waterfalls to serene slow-moving streams, Iceland had all this and much more. Birding was incredible (although due to the weather we didn't see any Puffins) and there were many species either resident or on migration during the time we were there so I consider myself lucky to have visited at that time to see it all. I'm quite sure that there is still plenty left to see so I will go back some day, probably during the summer months next time.
A few more paintings from our Iceland trip. Most of these were done in my sketchbook during the day, a few of the oils were completed when back home in the studio. I have kept the oils smallish for two reasons: 1, working at this size allows me to complete a painting in a relatively short period of time (I have so many ideas for future paintings) and 2, if successful, they serve as studies for larger paintings. The clouds in this painting were just clearing the closest mountain but washing away the top of the more distant one. I loved the way the snow brought out all the ridges, valleys and the very structure of the land.
Eider Ducks were common along the coast and quite approachable. I was able to sketch and paint them from close-up noting many plumage details etc. Occasionally they would display with the male giving lovely cooing calls. Apart from some 2nd year birds, they were all paired up at this time of the year with the males in close attendance to the females at all times.
Almost as common but certainly not as tame were Great Black-backed Gulls. They looked magnificent while surfing the brisk winds we found in Iceland and were at times a welcome sight to a somewhat forlorn and severe landscape.
We stopped off in such a landscape as described above for a quick photo stop. It was still very cold in the wind and with intermittent rain. Higher up this precip fell as snow so most of the visible mountains were capped like the study done in my sketchbook shown here. Stunning was one way of describing the surrounding landscape. The glacier which appears in the lower right was some distance away but had drifts of snow and rain falling across it giving incredibly atmospheric views - something I hope to try and capture in a larger painting.
This larger oil was completed in the studio after we got back using the study I did of this scene shown in the last post. I tried hard with this one to more accurately capture the tones and colors of the mountains. Oh, to live and work in such a place!
I saw this scene from the bus as we drove by so was only able to do a quick watercolor study in my sketchbook. Sometimes these studies are the impetus for larger paintings - usually though they remain as studies only. I still value them though - sometimes more than my finished work! I have other works of Iceland in various stages of completion so must give up a few days soon to finish them all off.
I am an artist living and working near Washington DC in the USA. I was born in the UK but have lived abroad most of my life. I paint mostly landscapes and birds but have many interests so you never know what will turn up. Most of the paintings shown here are for sale so please contact me at jeremypearse (at) gmail.com if interested. Thanks for visiting!