Thursday, September 21, 2023



Whenever I start a new journal, I illustrate the front of each one with a pen and ink drawing. This Short-eared Owl was done on an older journal that I filled during the winter of 2002. That one contains mostly notes on birds seen on a day to day basis but I also wrote about the weather, any mammals seen and actually anything else of note. Being by the coast, I witnessed a lot of bird migration - some days noting thousands of birds passing overhead! I soon ran out of space so started a new one.

This barred Owl graces the cover of my second journal completed that winter. This one mostly covers observations during late winter and the beginning of some early spring migration.

Usually I only write up notes and observations in my journals but occasionally do small drawings directly inside - especially if I have a bit of time during birding lulls.

This small drawing was done on the bottom of a page as I sat looking over Guard Shore inlet in the Chesapeake. This was a favorite place to visit and being winter, was usually deserted so it was just us, the amazing landscape and the birds!

Monday, September 11, 2023



As is usual with a lot of my work lately, finishing seems to take quite a bit longer than I had hoped. Eventually I got close to how I expected the completed painting to look but I'm sure that after putting it aside for a while, I'll find something else to do to it. I do think I accomplished what I set out to do though and that was to capture these two jewel-like birds sitting in bright sunlight, and the way the light interacted with their plumage. I really like the reflected blue highlights on the heads of each bird and in the shade, how dark that color becomes. Barn Swallows is done in pure watercolor on Arches paper, size is 15 x 11 inches (38 x 28 cm).

Tuesday, August 29, 2023



Here is the second bird brought mostly to completion. I wanted to do quite a lot of work to the two birds before going back into the rest of the painting. Following on from here, I'll continue adding details to the weathered planks they were sitting on and trying to get a balance between the sunlit wood and the shadows, trying all the while to judge the correct balance of light on the scene. Hopefully I should wrap this one up relatively quickly as I have so many other paintings to get to.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023



After collecting quite a lot of references of Barn Swallows (mostly in my sketchbook), I decided to do a larger watercolor of a pair of them resting on the old dock. We don't usually see swallows on the ground so I felt this would make for a slightly more interesting painting. I wanted the birds in full sun which would I hoped, bring out the best in their plumage. The iridescent blue on the head and back looks dark in shadow but amazingly jewel-like in the sunlight. Since my earlier color studies were done in watercolor, I decided to do this one in the same medium but using transparent watercolor without any gouache - any white highlights would be pure paper showing through. My initial effort on the nearest bird was close to how I wanted it so I then worked on the background for a bit. Next I'll make a start on the second bird sitting slightly behind. I'm sure I will come back to this first swallow and do a bit more but for now, I'm happy with how things look and feel that I have at least made a reasonable start.

Sunday, August 13, 2023



Mute Swans are not that common over here although I do see the odd individual from time to time. One was resident at a nearby lake for some time so I did manage quite a lot of studies etc. The bird I have painted here is half asleep while standing on one leg. I actually prefer to draw them when they are laying down as this means that the body is slightly more horizontal and seems to aid the composition. I started an oil study of a swan some time ago but have yet to finish it. This is mostly because of the texture of the neck feathers - I am having a hard time capturing that area to my satisfaction. I'll try and get back to it soon as the rest of the painting is going quite well. This small watercolor done in my sketchbook is around 5 x 7 inches (12 x 18 cm).

Wednesday, August 2, 2023



One of the first things I do when waking each morning is to observe the sky. A window slightly angled to the East allows me a quick look to see if there are any interesting clouds about and how this will affect the sunrise. Often I have been able to do smaller (and necessarily) quick studies of what I see looking out. Usually these paintings are in watercolor but occasionally oil. When working in oils, I have to have everything set up and ready to go as often the sky changes rapidly. The other morning when I did these studies in my sketchbook (the lower one first), I was trying to capture not only the colors but also the feeling of the clouds especially as they changed shape. Fortunately on that morning, they only did slowly as there wasn't much wind. These studies are especially important to me as they not only capture what I saw on any given day, they also give me a better idea if the arrangement of light, color and clouds can be scaled up for a larger painting. Size of each are around 5 x 7 inches.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023



A smaller painting from our Iceland trip a few years ago. We saw many such vistas as this and some of the landscape was really un-worldly! Love to take an extended trip there and spend more time painting the incredible landscape - such beauty wherever you looked. This oil on canvas is 8 x 10 inches.