Friday, July 31, 2020


Working on our extensive home project makeover this month has left me with little time for painting but I did manage to work on this small oil. This study was re-worked a little, darkening some areas and adding smaller details here and there. I think it's closer to the image I had in my head when I started the work some time ago. The image came from an early morning walk in the nearby reserve as I watched the sun come up on a cool and slightly cloudy day. Size is 7" x 5", oil on canvas.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020


I saw this female Ebony Jewelwing near the upper lake in the nearby reserve. As damselflies go, they are quite large and striking! Especially the female which has small white marks on the fore-tips of each wing. A male was spotted nearby. He is dressed all in black without the white spots but makes up for it by having an incredibly vivid body, head and thorax. Mostly the shiny color is a metallic green but also seems blueish at times - looks magnificent in direct sunlight (I'll paint him next). Ebony Jewelwings have also seen in our garden - perhaps they hatch from our pond along with the other species of damsel and dragonflies there. The female painted above had only 4 legs!

Monday, June 22, 2020


I found this Zabulon Skipper in the reserve resting on Blackberry blossom. I am slowly learning about and identifying American butterflies and moths to further my work on fauna and flora in the nearby reserve. This male sat for some time without moving so I was able to do some quick sketches and take a few phone pics which I could hopefully use later for details. Usually small butterflies don't settle for long so I was lucky to have so much time with this one. For butterflies, I have found it best to just hang around a favorite nectar feeding site and see what arrives rather than actively looking all over the place. Below are the various stages of the painting.

Size of this watercolor is about 11" x 7.5".

Thursday, June 18, 2020


Walking the nearby reserve almost daily through spring into early summer has revealed the incessant march of nature. With so much rain early this year, plants have grown quickly despite the cooler weather. The once bare field are now awash in grasses, brambles and flowers. This continued observation and note taking has allowed me to better understand the growth cycles of plants as well as which birds, animals and insects are seen in each month. Some of these I have drawn and painted in my sketchbooks as the mood takes me and I'll post some of them here on my blog. I'm trying to cover a wide range of fauna as well as flora to better understand this small area of land that I visit so often.

Saturday, June 13, 2020


I often do these small studies in my sketchbooks - sometimes in black and white but usually in color as shown here. For me, they are a way of working out composition and color as well as giving an overall look of what a future painting could look like. I try not to put too much work into them as I want to save that for the actual painting, instead just concentrate on getting down the basics without much detail. When looking for inspiration, I can go through them and pick out something I want to paint as opposed to just sitting there and thinking 'what do I want to work on next'.

Saturday, May 30, 2020


Double-crested Cormorants migrate through here each spring and I see them on the lakes in the nearby reserve where they feed and rest for a few days before moving on. It gives me a good chance to make field drawings of them in my sketchbooks so having done a number of them, I decided to use what I had collected so far and do a watercolor painting. As usual, a careful drawing was completed first then quite a few washes of color were added slowly building up the tone until I was happy with the finished result. These birds have wonderful emerald-colored eyes and to get this right, I used washes of heavily thinned Windsor Green.

The initial drawing was done with a pencil I picked up from the roadside when out for a walk one day. I found to my delight that it has a nice soft lead inside which suits the kind of work I do and I have it specially marked for later use. The paper is from Strathmore - not the best I have used but not bad either. Size is 10" x 8" (28cm x 20cm).

Sunday, May 24, 2020


After quite a bit of back and forth, the painting was complete. Since I had most of the difficulties behind me now that the first pass of paint had gone on, I just had to buckle down and keep working on it! Quite a bit of time was spent simply looking at the image and deciding which bit needed to be darker, which bit needed a little more detail etc. The shadows were dropped in last of all and I finally considered it finished. Watercolor on Arches paper, 11" x 7.5" (28cm x 19cm).

Thursday, May 21, 2020


These trees are one of my favorite with their unusual bark and majestic form. This tree has lost a limb from the one side, probably during an ice storm. Some storms over here have been known to fell whole trees when the ice gets really thick, a sudden loud crash and the tree is down! This one though still stands and the resultant hole will be used for nesting birds or perhaps a grey squirrel, This feature was something I wanted to include in the painting but the main attraction though was sunlight on the bark and the resulting shadows from all the branches. So far I'm trying to establish a sense of light and shadow then once I have that down, I'll finish the mottling of the bark and the other branches.

Friday, May 15, 2020


To finish off, I worked on some areas of the water first then finished the reflections and darkened the wavelets slightly. Completing the stumps themselves was a case of taking my time with a fine brush and slowly painting around the remaining leaves before adding the stems. Done! A somewhat simple watercolor but does capture these lone stumps in shallow water just the way I had envisioned. Size is 11" x 7.5" (28cm x 19cm).

Thursday, May 14, 2020


I felt that the overall tone of the painting was a little light so I added another thin greyish-blue wash overall then let that dry. Working on the willow leaves first, I mixed Hookers Green Dark with a lot of yellow to get a pale green. Hookers Green has to be my least favorite color and I hardly ever use it - the tube I have is well over 10 years old and there is still plenty left! Since this color is a heavily staining one, I was careful where I applied the green leaves as I knew once down, no amount of scrubbing would get the green off again! The darker areas of the stumps were then carefully painted around each willow leaf then darkened where necessary. Using mostly Raw Sienna, I did more work to the reflections darkening and refining them a bit.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


I saw these willow stumps in shallow water down at the lake. The beavers had been at them and severely stunted their growth. I liked the way that small wavelets lapped against the shore and created abstract patterns in the reflections so started this watercolor to try and capture the scene as I had seen it. To begin, I laid in a greyish-blue wash overall into which I added wave shapes while the paper was still wet. This has to be timed right - too wet and the shapes go too fuzzy, too dry and there are hard edges - timing is the key! When the paper had dried, I added the first layer of reflections - just feeling my way along so far.

Thursday, May 7, 2020


To finish off, I added some soft-edged clouds in the sky to create a little movement but was careful not to overdo it as I felt the foreground was quite busy enough. The rocks were completed and I also added a little detail to the sand and darkened those areas too. Then it was a case of slowly going over the painting adding and correcting here and there until I was happy with the finished look. I liked the view through the V shape between the two middle-distance rocks to the distant headland. Earlier I had explored this area and found some very interesting rock formations that may become the subject of a future painting. The main rock in the middle of the painting reminds me of one of the giant head sculptures found on Easter Island. With its grim mouth and crumbly nose, I felt it was an interesting focal point for my painting. Size is 11" x 15" (28cm x 38cm). Watercolor on rough Arches paper.

Thursday, April 30, 2020


I realized that the rocks would need quite a bit of work and because of the busy foreground, I kept the sky simple. I slowly added tones and color to each rock working from the middle-ground forwards as needed then put in a few washes to darken the sand. There was also some green patches on the closer rocks so these areas were done at the same time. The main rock in the middle was darkened and this helped set the overall tone.


I could have spent ages exploring the coastline of the Algarve in Portugal. Although our visits were in Winter, the weather was non the less wonderful and we came across some of the most amazing beaches I have ever seen. In the scene above, I had walked away from the main beach and turned to look back from where I had come when I saw this scene. The littered rocks of the foreground led my eye into the scene then onto the distant sea and headland. I knew there and then I wanted to do a painting of this view so after a few brief sketches, I started a watercolor. In the work so far, I have been trying to establish some of the base tones of the painting which will need quite a bit of darkening as I go along.

Monday, April 20, 2020


Well, I'm about finished with this one. There is a slight difference in tone between the previous stage in the earlier post and the finished painting. I decided that the base tone of the bird was too light and a bit dull so I washed another layer of pale yellow over the whole sheet. This had to be done very carefully so as not to disturb the paint already laid down and cause any smudging. When that had dried overnight, it was simply a case of carefully applying the many markings of the plumage and building up the tones until I was happy with the result. I think the painting works as is and I probably won't do much else to it. In reflection, I think it is one of my stronger Gryfalcon paintings and I am happy to finally finish it after so many hours of work. This watercolor was painted on smooth Arches paper, size is about 12" x 9" (30cm x 20cm).

Friday, April 17, 2020


Well, quite a bit of work has been done to this painting so far. I was enjoying working on this bird so much that I forgot to stop and take more in-progress shots! Here I have almost finished the head and am starting to do the darker markings of the breast. I used a dull orangish-yellow for the background and this has also become the bird's base plumage color. All the markings were laid on top of this and although there isn't much color to this bird, I think I am getting the important bits down in a way that is pleasing to me. The cere already has that Arctic blue color and is exciting in that for me, it points to the lineage of this bird. I'm happy with it so far but still quite a long way to go.


I did mention awhile ago that I would be getting back to painting landscapes but I have been enjoying doing these bird studies so much that I decided to start a new one! Like the previous two studies, this bird also belonged to a falconer. I was told that the parents of this 1st year gyrfalcon were both pure white (Arctic) gyrfalcons and that in the following year, this bird would also moult into a white plumage. That was enough for me and although I have yet to see (and paint) an Arctic gyrfalcon, I was more than happy to make studies of this bird at the time for a painting later on. Well fast forward more than a few years and here is my first proper study of this magnificent bird. The initial drawing (using a HB pencil) was first done on smooth (hot-pressed) Arches watercolor paper.

Thursday, April 9, 2020


Managed to do some more work on this painting and am now about finished. I darkened some areas of the background to slightly lift the bird off the paper then worked on the breast and belly feathers. Lastly, I laid on some washes over the wing and subtly darkened the head and throat. A few more touch-ups here and there then I laid it aside. I'll leave it for awhile then come back to it in about a week or so with a fresh eye and see if it needs any more work. I painted this watercolor on smooth (hot-pressed) Arches paper, size is about 14" x 10" (36cm x 26cm).

Monday, April 6, 2020


Not too much progress from before but I have been taking it slowly regarding the modelling of the birds' head as there are some delicate whitish markings around the eye and beak that I want to get right. Since I don't use opaque white in my watercolors, I carefully paint around the lighter areas and all this takes time. I have also started adding the marking on the sides of the throat and the shadow under the bill. At this point, I'm unsure how much further I want to take the painting so I'll put it aside for a day or two and come back to it later.


I came across this bird recently at a falconry meet and as it wasn't a species that I am familiar with, I wanted to do some studies and portraits of it. I have seen the similar Jackal Buzzard numerous times in South Africa but as the range of the Augur Buzzard is further North, I haven't yet added it to my world bird list. Anyway, I initially thought the bird was rather splendid so armed with previous sketches and quick studies, began work on this one. I started the study the same way I do all my studies of raptors; a detailed pencil drawing, washes to establish the background color and tone, the eyes, then the bill followed by the head and body. Usually I bring each component to it's finished state before going on the the next area - here the eyes are about finished while the bill will still need a bit of work. I have also put down a few light washes on the head and nape. So far, so good.

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.