Wednesday, April 1, 2020


After a few more layers of burnt sienna on the back and shoulder, I finished up that area by darkening some of the feathers that had dark centers then moved down to the lower wing. I later noticed the curve of the bird's right eye wasn't quite correct so I fixed that next. With a few more touch-ups here and there, I considered the painting complete. I'll leave it still stretched on the board for a few more days to see if there is anything more I want to do but I don't want to overwork it. I want this one to look like a painting, not a photograph so have left some areas unfinished. I struggled with the paper a bit as apart from the sheet being a few years old, the surface was rougher than I usually use for my bird studies. Size is 15" x 11" (38cm x 28cm), watercolor on Whatman paper.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Here I am adding the back and upper wing color which gives this large Buteo its name. I mostly use burnt sienna but slightly modulate the color with sepia where necessary. Some of the black neck and wing markings are darkened and I'm still working on the head a little at this time making some areas a bit darker. I'm about finished with the eyes at this point - I try to get them completed early in the painting process. I find that if the eyes work out, the rest of the bird is likely to follow.


I continue working on the eyes laying in more color and continue until they are finished. I then move on to the bill then the markings around the head building up layers of paint with thin washes of color. I slowly mould the head and neck with paint creating form, texture and tone. Darkening the area under the bill gives that area a little more depth. I also start working on the darker markings of the back and shoulder. The belly gets a subtle outline to lift it off the background.

Monday, March 30, 2020


I went quite dark on the background. All in all, there were three washes of a warmish-brown color laid down over a few hours. Then while the last one was still wet, I gently lifted out some pigment around the head and upper breast. It's quite subtle and the tone doesn't change that much but I didn't want what is essentially a bird with white underparts looking too dark. I think the effect will look okay as the plumage has quite a lot of dark markings so that will make the breast and throat appear much lighter than it looks here. I add yellow around the bill then some grey to the pointy bit leaving a highlight. The eyes get some work too as this is the area that I usually complete first.


Although I have been working on landscapes this month, I came across this drawing of a Ferruginous Hawk that I did some time ago. It had been in one of my many folders of unfinished work just waiting for me to get to it. I had completed a similar watercolor study some time ago and also a drawing which still hangs in our hallway. Anyway, the drawing for this study was already complete and didn't need anymore work so I felt it was a good time to begin work on this one. I started by stretching the paper on a piece of plywood then let it dry overnight.


Another Alaskan landscape seen during our trip we took awhile ago. As in my previous painting, I liked the interplay of light and shadow in this scene. Also the low cloud hanging over the mountain peaks (some of them still with snow) created a somewhat evocative mood. This one is a 9" x 12", oil on canvas.

Monday, March 23, 2020


While in Italy, we visited Pompeii and strolled around the ruins. Weather was warm, bright and sunny. Truly a spectacular and unusual place that has been carefully maintained. There were many interesting vistas and views - all under the looming presence of Vesuvius (which was smoking gently). I found this sunlit view and loved the light and shadow effects so tried to capture this in my painting. This small study is 7" x 5", oil on canvas.
Our thoughts are with Italy  at the moment especially considering what they (and also the rest of the world) are going through. Please take care out there and stay safe.

Friday, March 13, 2020


I have had this painting in my studio for some time now as I'm planning on doing a larger version of it. I often do small studies like this as a kind of sketch and to see how the elements of the scene work together. There is often a bit of adjusting to the values etc before I am happy with the finished study. Some of them simply don't work and I end up painting over them. On reflection, I think I'll change the composition slightly, the position of the foreground bushes and perhaps the sky as well - so a bit of work to be done when I paint the larger one. This study is 5" x 7", oil on canvas.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


I have been sadly neglecting my blog of late but here finally is an update! I slightly re-worked this painting that I did in Portugal from the time I spent walking in the nearby reserve. To start off the process, I darkened the foreground grasses and added a little more detail there. Then the area closer to the trees was worked on a little adding a few subtle variations of color and tone. I also slightly deepened the tones of the foreground reflections and in some other areas such as the bases of the trees etc. I think after this, it look a little better than the original and is now for sale at McBride Gallery in Annapolis, MD.

Thursday, February 13, 2020


I have of late been concentrating on illustrations and neglecting landscape painting. To redress this, I'm starting on a series of landscapes that I hope will continue for a few months. I saw this scene in Maine more than a few years ago and wanted to do slightly different version of the painting I did back then. The sun was lowering in the Western sky and creating amazing highlights across the water both near and far. I used a bit of over-painting in this one - usually I try and get it down all in one go! But that's all right, I'm learning that over painting is fine when working in oils. Size is 9" x 12", oil on canvas.

Thursday, January 30, 2020


Mockingbirds around here stake out a winter territory usually around a supply of berries which helps them through the cold months. There are usually one or two seen in the reserve and also in our residential community. As their name suggests, they are accomplished mimics and I have often been tricked into believing I am hearing the songs or calls of other birds. They also sing at night which is a wonderful accompaniment to the chatter of local tree frogs and toads. This bird is on a prominent perch in the reserve keeping a wary eye out for any competition - sometimes a flock of starlings can overwhelm the bird as they all descend on the berries at once! This watercolor study done in my sketchbook - about 5" x 7".

Saturday, January 25, 2020


On one of my walks through the woods near our home, I found this branch lying on the woodland floor and became fascinated by the way lichen had started to grow on the bark. There is a subtle pale greenish-blue color to lichen and I tried to capture this unique shade in my illustration. I'm fascinated by rotting tree stumps and fallen trees, I like to see how the once-solid wood has decayed and crumbled, becoming part of the earth from whence it grew. There are many interesting tones and textures to explore, and as an artist, subjects like this have been a favorite of mine to paint.

Sunday, January 19, 2020


I painted this chickadee illustration in my sketchbook from birds that visit my winter bird feeder. The feeder hangs just outside my studio window so I can sit quietly with a sketchbook on my lap and draw birds as they appear. If I don't move too quickly, they are not too bothered by my presence and seem to realize that there is a glass window between us so come and go as they please.

This was one of the sketchbook drawings I did and formed the basis for my painting above. Along with chickadees come Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Cardinals, House Finches, House Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Juncos, Starlings, Mourning Doves et al - quite a list of them! Occasionally there are also White-crowned Sparrows and other birds that are not so commonly seen around here. All this activity invariably brings predators - most often seen are Coopers Hawks but also Sharp-shinned and Red-shouldered Hawks - Jays are usually the first to give warning calls.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020


All through the fall and now well into winter I have been watching vultures overhead. I see them most times that I go to the reserve but frankly they can be see anywhere and at any time around here. Turkey Vultures are slightly more commonly seen than Black Vultures so I tend to do more drawings of them. Here, however is a pen and ink drawing of a Black Vulture gliding away.

After much looking at vultures in the field, I first draw them using a pencil in my sketchbook then do them again in ink. When the ink is dry, I erase the pencil lines. This Turkey Vulture was the first one I did in this series.

I did these two in slightly more detail (and larger) trying to be aware of the shades on the actual birds since using ink, you only have one color to work with. Various ways of cross-hatching create greys and one can modulate form this way. It is an interesting way to work and I used to do a lot of this kind of work.

These birds are the perfect subject for the medium of pen and ink as they are mostly shades of black and white (only Turkey Vultures have a bit of color with their red heads and legs) so it was a very enjoyable exercise.

I kept most of these ink drawings are quite small - about a quarter of a page each in my sketchbook.