Friday, May 31, 2019


My watercolor painting of an old window found while I lived in Hong Kong has been accepted into the Baltimore Watercolor Society's 2019 Mid-Atlantic Exhibition. The annual show runs through June into July at The Blackrock Center For The Arts, 12901 Town Commons Drive, Germantown, Maryland 20874. Reception and awards presentation is on Sunday June 23rd, from 2:00 to 4:00. Hope to see you there!
Mid-day Sun II, watercolor on Arches paper, 30" x 22" (76cm x 56cm).

Thursday, May 2, 2019


One of the earliest flowers to open in the nearby woods is the skunk cabbage. Appearing even when there is still snow or ice on the ground, the spathe pushes through the frozen soil by generating some of its own heat. The appearance is somewhat alien-like and always fascinated me when I first saw them. Inside is the round spadix holding tiny flowers - these are pollinated by early flying insects. Soon afterwards, the yellowish-green shoot appears to the side which contains the leafy part of the plant.

Here in the second illustration, we can clearly see inside the spathe and also the flower clumps sitting on the spadix. Here the plant is a little further along with the shoot growing slowly until the leaves start to open the the flower fades away. Deep-rooted, the plant reproduces by producing small pea-sized seeds. While not really edible, the plant does have medicinal purposes and the Native Americans utilized the dried leaves for various purposes.

Monday, April 15, 2019


Working mostly on the back feather of the bird, I shape and sculpt the form using washes of Sepia. The sides get a bit more work too and I extend the subtle darker feather fringing on the breast upwards slightly. The water gets a bit darker and also a few places here and there amongst the rocks. I plan to keep the foreground detail subdued so that most of the focus is on the middle distance. I'll take some time away from this painting and come back to it later to see if there is anything else I want to do but for now, I'm calling it finished. Watercolor on Bockingford paper, size is 22" x 15" (56cm x 38cm).

Friday, April 12, 2019


With most of the rocks complete, I turn my attention to the bird. Starting with the head, I darken the neck and work on the eye and bill - I find that if these areas are working out as expected, the rest of the bird seems to follow. There are some delicate feathers on the breast and flank that need careful painting, taking the time to keep the feather fringes lighter. Looking at Canada's in the field recently, I noticed that they are quite grey on the belly and the lightest area on the breast is just as it meets the darker part of the neck. I'm not sure that I will paint this bird as dark as the ones I saw though - as I mentioned earlier, I want to keep the feeling of bright sunlight dancing around the scene. To finish up the session, I add the brown base colors for the wing and darken the primary feathers.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


I have been ignoring the bird for the moment and concentrating on the rocks and water. These areas have been slowly built up trying all the while to keep everything light and textured. The rocks have mostly been painted with a base color first then using a dry-brush technique, the form of each rock is shaped and darkened as necessary. I'll still need to do more before being totally happy with them but things are moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


Using a combination of warm and cool colors, I slowly begin building up shapes and textures of the rocks keeping everything light and airy. Some of the ripples on the water are added along with the first washes on the head and neck of the bird. The darkest parts are the legs which are mostly in shade under the bird (the goose is standing on a submerged rock so the feet aren't visible) so I add them at this time - good to have the darkest darks in at this point so as to have something to compare tones against. Thus far, the painting is working how I wanted it to maintaining a good sense of light and shadow without getting too detailed.


Canada Geese often gather by lakes edges to rest and to preen. I noticed this bird at the nearby lake and wanted to do a portrait of it. The idea was to contrast the softness of the bird against the hard and textured rocks, all set against a watery background. The bird was in full sun so there was a lot of light bouncing around, I also wanted to capture this light effect in my painting. I decided I would have to approach this work slightly differently than how I usually do insofar as how I worked on each element of the painting. Working all over the paper without focusing on any one part would be the best way forward, then hopefully bring it all together at the end. As with all my larger watercolor paintings, I started with a detailed drawing of the complete scene. Next I'll be adding some basic washes of color.

Sunday, March 31, 2019


A small watercolor of an evening scene in the nearby reserve. We often walk along this way and in late summer, the grasses take on a wonderful tawny shade that seems to match the coloring of white-tailed deer perfectly. My highest count of a few years ago was 31 - mostly adult females but also a few young bucks. The population has declined lately - probably due to population control. But still, they are a welcome sight when encountered especially on snowy days when they are more easily seen and have no place to hide. I can sometimes approach them carefully then so long as I move slowly and keep my eyes lowered. If I stand still long enough, they will approach me instead, trying to make sense of my shape I suppose. I haven't really been able to draw them when they are so close as they see me reaching for my sketchbook and are gone - much of my work has to be done looking through my telescope from a fair distance.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


I managed a few sketches and paintings of the Buffleheads that were also present on the lake along with the Ring-necked ducks shown earlier. Most of the birds shown here are in full sun showing off the iridescence on the heads of the males. The females in comparison, are quite drab but retain their own 'cute' character. Quite difficult to capture in between dives and being quite small, the birds were active and full of motion most of the time.

A few more sketches of males with their striking head pattern. This is easily seen from afar and the white triangular head-patch seems to glow with intensity. This was the first time I have drawn and painted these ducks and am looking forward to doing more. All studies shown here done in my sketchbook.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


These ducks were painted in overcast conditions - it is amazing how much the bright iridescence of their plumage faded when out of the direct sun. Most of the males were diving to feed and just before they dived, they compressed their plumage, then relaxed it when coming back to the surface. Waterdrops just rolled off as their feathers are highly waterproof. After a period of feeding, they rested tucking their bills under the back feathers.

Keeping alert at all times was also a priority and there was always one duck keeping a watchful eye. They quickly became used to my presence as I was keeping a low profile, sitting still most of the time but they quickly became alert when a larger bird flew overhead - even if it was just a crow.

After preening vigorously, a further period of resting followed then more diving for food. Their schedule didn't change much at all during the day and since it was still cold, there was not a lot of courtship going on. All in all, a quiet but productive day down at the lake.

A few more sketches to finish off. Also present were a handfull of Buffleheads - I'll publish those studies in my next post.

Sunday, March 17, 2019


At the upper lake in the nearby reserve, Ring-necked ducks can be seen almost all winter. When the lakes freeze over (which usually only lasts a few days or so) they go elsewhere - probably to a much larger lake a few miles away where there is always open water. I think the draw of this lake is that there always seems to be waterweed on the bottom so attracts diving ducks such as these. We also get mergansers and these 'sawbills' feed on the fish although I have no idea how well these lakes are stocked. But I decided to concentrate on the ring-necks this time.

Through my scope, the iridescence on the head is more obvious and can be seen at its fullest when the sun shines directly on the bird. In shade or cloudy conditions, this feature is not so apparent but can still be seen. I sat with the sun almost directly behind me so as to make the most of the iridescence - it seemed that the head showed mostly bluish purple with perhaps a little green on the crown. The 'ring' around its neck is barely seen even in good light and is a slightly more reddish brown. There were males and females present but I only concentrated on the males trying to get a good 'jizz' in between dives (where the tail is usually on the surface of the water). When resting, the tail sticks slightly upwards.

The sketches shown here are how my color studies usually start off and if I think I have a good enough likeness, I can start adding some watercolor washes etc. It usually takes a few goes to get more familiar with the shapes and character of each bird before I start to feel comfortable drawing them. As always, more practice is the key. All the above work done in my sketchbook - watercolor and graphite.

Friday, March 1, 2019


Finally got this one finished! A fair bit of care was taken when working on the foreground trying to keep a balance between it and the distant mountain. The darkest tones are apparent here but I kept the contrast between these and the lighter green trees close so as not to draw the eye away from the mountain peaks. Other details were added here and there plus a small amount of tonal adjustment in a few areas. I'll probably have another go at this as I think I prefer a more widened landscape format giving more prominence to the mountains - should work well with this subject. Size of this one is 12" x 16" (30cm x 40cm). Oil on canvas.

Monday, January 7, 2019


Not too far to go now! Just the lower hill in shadow on the left then the foreground. I'm trying to keep most of this area a little subdued as I don't want it to immediately attract the eye. Hopefully the view up the center of the painting to the snowy heights above are what most people will see first. Then their eye to gently roam around taking in other smaller details here and there. I'm still in awe of this mountain myself and am sure I'll have to do a much larger painting of it someday.