Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I finished this simple painting some time ago and wanted to share it as I felt that it captured something of what I saw and felt one quiet evening years ago. I used to live near this lake and would go down there most evenings to paint or watch birds. There was a thriving heronry on the island and along with the usual duck and geese calls would be the persistent bill-clapping of hungry young great blue herons. Night and green-backed herons also used the island so there was always a lot to see. Sunsets were often magnificent over the water although in this painting I kept the colors more subdued to represent the time after sunset. This is when most of the geese would arrive and it was a wonderful experience to watch them as they made their way to the lake coming in from various directions. The lighter areas on the water are where earlier arriving geese have disturbed the surface - being near dark, they would be hard to see so I just put in the reflections. The oil is 9" X 12".

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Finally some time to update my blog! I have been really busy completing work for the Waterfowl Festival happening this weekend in Easton MD. The dates are: Friday Nov 14th to Sunday Nov 16th. Hours are generally 10:00 to 6:00. I will be in the Elks Lodge with many new paintings so please drop by and say hello. Website address is:, e-mail: I hope to find some time next week to post some of these paintings here.
Shown above is the finished River Rocks painting, one that I will be showing this weekend. Although this one took a lot of work, I was pleased with the finished result. I felt it captured what I saw and felt back when I initially saw this scene. Although I have changed the composition somewhat to comply with my wishes, when looking at this painting I am immediately transported back to the wonderful time I spent at the river. In the end I suppose, all we can do as artists is try to please ourselves and at least in this one, I felt that I have. This oil on board is 16" X 12".

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Quite a bit more work done to this piece concentrating mostly on the rocks and the darker areas of the water. I also worked on the lower reflections ahead of putting in the calm water in the foreground. Since I was working on gesso-primed board, it took a few layers of paint to bring the rocks to a level of completion that I was happy with. I especially enjoyed modelling each rock and creating depth in the shadow areas of the water. Being so clear, you could see all the underwater rocks and it was fun creating a surface to the water using opaque paint as opposed to the translucent layers of Raw Umber and Yellow Ochre that I used for the underwater rocks. I also worked a little on the water in the upper part of the painting, all along deciding on changes that I felt were right for the painting.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I became fascinated by these seemingly random jumble of rocks that I saw during my last trip to Canada. I like the way that the rocks seemed to cascade diagonally across the image. The top of the painting is more agitated with the fast running water which gives way to the hardness of the rocks. These in turn give way to calmer water and submerged rocks before the reflections take over at the bottom of the composition. These by the way are from a large spruce tree situated on the other side of the river. As in most of my paintings, I started at the top and worked down not bothering too much in getting everything perfect right away. I knew that I would be going back to do more work on some areas after the paint dried but felt that I was off to a good start.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Here the finished painting shows how I have continued working with color and tone generally making the bird's head darker and to define feather markings etc. Some careful (but understated) details are been attended to around the eye along with a subtle wash of pale yellow over the beak and around the gape. I kept the rest of the bird faded out so that the emphasis would be solely on the head. Some careful lifting of color brought out highlights and feather detail where needed. Red-tailed Hawks are quite variable ranging from quite dark birds in the Southwest to pale birds in the North. This particularly handsome bird is a medium plumaged individual and I have painted quite a number of studied of him. The final work is 71/2" X 11".


Here I have done a bit more work to the areas around the eye and beak and am almost finished with that. I have also started to work on the nape and shoulder area although the latter will be understated. At this time , it is a case of slowly defining details and bringing the tones up to where I want them. Mostly thin washes are applied and when I am happy with one area, moving onto the next. I spend quite a bit of time just looking at the painting working out in my mind what needs to be done bearing in mind the desire not to overwork the piece.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Here I have continued modelling the bird working mostly all over at the same time. A series of thin washes has brought me up to this point with darker detailed areas such as the eye and beak done with a finer brush. I'm happy with the way the painting is going even in this rough stage as in the past I would usually work on one area such as the eye until it was finished. I sometimes felt that I was otherwise loosing control of the work unless I could see that at least some part of the painting was working as I intended. Now I know that I can bring it all together in the end so don't have to worry about areas that aren't quite as I would like them to be. Most of the washes so far have comprised of Raw Umber and a little Burnt Sienna with some Cobalt on the beak. I have further modelled the eye using Burnt Umber and darkened the pupil and surround with Neutral Tint. Still a way to go but a good start so far.


While painting in the field during my last trip, I was trying to be aware of the local wildlife while I worked listening for bird song and keeping an eye out for any flyovers. I did manage to see a number of new species for me this time but also enjoyed re-acquainting myself with those birds on the West coast that I am not so familiar with. Disappointing was that most of the thrushes had stopped singing and were rather thin on the ground. Apart from the odd Kestrel and a few Bald Eagles, most of the raptors I saw were Red-tailed Hawks. Which got me thinking that I hadn't painted any birds recently so when things were running smoothly back in the studio again, I started on this portrait. Here I have washed in a background colour of Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Sepia on smooth Arches w/c paper. When dry, I made a careful drawing of the bird then started modeling form using light washes of Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. The darker areas were dropped in using washes of Sepia.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This small study was completed while spending a rainy day outside. This trip had a number of such days and while heavy rain kept me indoors, I was outside the rest of the time. Studies such as these are useful particularly in getting a better idea about ideas and for deciding exactly what I want to say. Here the distant mountains were partially obscured by low-lying clouds bringing focus to the mid-ground trees so the hardest edges were formed here. I have some ideas for a larger paintings of this scene and time will tell how these work out. As in the previous painting, the size is 6" X 8".

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


It seems like ages since I last updated my blog. That's probably because it has been - ages I mean. Now that I am back from my latest Canada trip, I have finally established a regular presence in my studio again. This will I'm sure lead to more regular postings. During the trip and since my return, I have been busy completing studies and also working on new paintings inspired by some of the things I have seen. Morning mist at Lower Hamilton was from a walk taken on the first morning after my arrival. The slightly cooler weather brought many such misty mornings and was a delight to me as I travelled around recording what I saw. This scene has led to a series of paintings, more of which I will share later on. The colors and light that particular morning were amazing as the sun rose through the mist which slowly thickened as I stood observing and painting. So much so that these trees shown in this study almost completely disappeared. This oil is 6" X 8".

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I'm back in Canada again staying in the Maple Ridge area south of Vancouver. This time I brought along my plein air set-up so I can work with oils in the field. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to finish the larger landscape shown in my previous blog before I left but will get back to it when I return. In the meantime, I have posted this recently completed painting which is similar to an earlier work. This one like so many of my other paintings, is destined to become a series of work from the Pitt Meadows area. I have sent this one to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa OK, for their annual Art in Miniature show. It's a 9" X 12", in oil on canvas.

Monday, September 8, 2008


After evaluating the sky, I feel that I should add some of the darker tones at this point so that I can better judge the overall tonal value and see how that is developing as it these deeper tones that are integral to the painting. I first do some more work to the mid-ground using various shades of bluish-purple then start on the riverbanks. Here I mix different amounts of permanent green, yellow ochre and raw umber then indicate grasses and some of the smaller bushes before putting in the two trees on the left and part of the one on the extreme right. So far there is a good sense of depth and I feel that the work is coming along fine but I also realise that I will probably have to spend some time later on with subtle glazes to bring out the correct tones. I don't want to go too dark at the beginning then have to repaint some areas to make them lighter later on.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


After finishing the study of Late July Eve, I decided to do a larger version. Since I wanted to slightly change the format, I chose a canvas that has a more typical landscape look - in this case 24" X 36". I then proceed to draw out the image using thinned raw umber oil concentrating on getting a good balance between the sky, water and landscape. With this done, I sat the canvas on the floor of my studio and looked at it over the period of a few days planning and dreaming how I would go about the painting process. When I was ready, I started on the sky working wet-into wet and blending most of the colors on the canvas. I particularly wanted a softer effect in the upper sky with the lower clouds being more hard-edged. The study was helpful here and I referred to it often during this part of the painting. I added a little more warm red/orange to the lower sky than in the study then put in the distant ridge using a slightly deeper purple than what I had used in the sky. On reflection I was happy with the painting so far but realised that there would be a few slight alterations which I would address later on. Next, I work on the distant landscape and start to detail the mid-ground.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Another small study that I finished off this morning. I must admit that I struggled a bit with this one. I wanted something more from it than just another painting of something that I saw. So there was quite a bit of careful consideration while I was painting and some adjustment of tones and colors. Consequently the surface of the painting is a bit messy (for me anyway) but at least I got there in the end. For me, the finished painting has something of an uneasy feel to it. Almost as if this was a site of an awful catastrophe. I'm not sure why I feel that way, perhaps it's because of the darker tones (and hence feeling) of the work. Whatever the reason, I still plan on doing a larger version of it but may change the composition slightly, I'll see. The size of this oil is 8" X 10 1/2".

I have been meaning to mention a new gallery that is representing me in New York. Open Gallery is situated in the lovely town of Northport and currently have a number of my paintings seen on this blog. So if you are in the area, please stop by and introduce yourself - the owners, Ian and Han Soon Murdock would be delighted to meet you. Address is: Open Gallery, 66 Main street, Northport Village, NY 11768. Tel: (631) 754-0501.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Back in Feb-March of this year, I did a series of posts demonstration how I usually go about creating a watercolor. When I had finished the painting, I wasn't totally happy with the outcome so the painting sat in my studio for some time. Then just before I left to go to Canada, I took another look at it. I realised that I could make some improvements so started by applying more washes to darken the inside wall. Once this overall tone was established, I could see where next to go with the work and darkened the bottle first then added a few more washes inside the sill and surrounding walls. When I got back from Canada, I again returned to work on this piece. I added more soft foliage outside the windows and slightly lightened the shadows on the sill. With more dark green washes, I deepened the tone of the window frames and bars slightly. Some areas of reflected light seemed a little too weak so I added some Cadmium yellow to the lighter areas of the frame and that did the trick. A paler wash of this color was added to the upper panes to slightly warm the light there and I finished off by creating a few more textures surrounding the window. Finally happy, I now consider the painting finished. I found that by darkening some areas, there now seems to be more of a focus on the window and the diffuse light streaming through. Doing this little bit extra has I feel, allowed me to capture more of the essence of what I was seeing and feeling many years ago and this takes me right back to when I initially saw the scene. Now I can frame it and move on to my next watercolor. As with all my work on this blog, you can click on the image for a larger version. Also most of the paintings shown here are for sale so please contact me if interested (contact details are on my website).

Friday, August 22, 2008


I finished this small oil yesterday and was pleased with the finished painting for I was able to sort out some problems and get a better idea as to the tones and colors that I'll be using in the larger version. I think that I'm not completely satisfied with the composition and may change it slightly but I felt that I was off to a good start at least. Initially I was attracted by the sunlight on the rocks but the colors of the crystal clear water were amazing! I have alluded to this somewhat on the right where deeper water from the main flow of the river runs. Compositionally I like the way the rocks line up diagonally across the painting intersecting the thrust of the river which runs from the right to the left. There are a number of diagonals here that keep the eye moving about the painting. And the way that the underwater rocks are layered adds interest to areas surrounding the sunlit rocks.
A different view of this rock pool shows an even deeper emerald green of the water and I may try to do a painting of that too later on. I'm assuming the clarity of the water (and hence the colors) came because of the river being fed by snow melt - the water was very cold. This area was another memorable place during my visit and a wonderful playground for the creative. River Rocks II and other works which I am still working on are part of a series that I have going at this time. The study is a little over 5" X 7".

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Here is my latest work from the Canada series. I saw this scene as I walked along a dike and was immediately inspired by the tonal contrasts between the foreground and the late evening sky. I also liked the way the sky was reflected in the river creating an abstract effect and providing a break in the massed grasses. Here the sun has already set but still providing plenty of light in the sky. This interesting halo effect around some of the clouds was a pleasure to paint. The pic looks a bit dark here but in reality has less dark tones in the fore and mid-ground areas.
It was especially enjoyable working on the foreground grasses trying to create mass and interest within a limited tonal range. In some ways I was reminded of the landscape in Italy and this is probably more down to the shape of some of the trees and rolling hills in the background than anything else. These Canada scenes have certainly inspired me and am now looking at my local landscape in a different way. I hope to have some of those up here soon but I simply have to get the Canada work out of my system first! This oil is 18" X 24".

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I have finally finished a studio painting from all the studies and sketches that I did while I was in Canada. A pre-study in oil (see earlier post) done when I had returned was also helpful. For some reason everything about my Canada trip was truly inspiring and I saw many landscapes that I wanted to paint. I had been looking for a scene like this for years and when I came across it, immediately thought of doing a painting. I was attracted by the way that the light was falling across some of the grasses leaving the foreground in shadow. The set of the tall trees against the mountains was very appealing and also the way that the tops of some of those trees were catching the light. I changed the composition slightly to one I preferred then roughed in the scene with oils. I went back to work on it after the paint had dried a bit adding more colors then put in the final details. This painting was a huge step forward for me in terms of subject and style formation. I couldn't be happier with it and especially like the way some of the bushes and smaller trees are highlighted against the shadowed background. It was a very rewarding painting to do and its success after all the studies done previously is sure to inspire similar works. This one is 12" X 16".

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I saw this scene on my first day in Canada. I awoke before dawn and stepped outside just as it was getting light. Fortunately the Fraser river is easily accessible from where I was staying and that early, the world seemed calm and quiet. As I walked along the banks, I discovered these boats at mooring. I explored the scene from a few different angles then just stood and watched the new day being born. A crow called and a bald eagle flew past heading upriver. From the nearby woods I could hear the song of a Swainson's thrush and faintly across the river came the bleating of sheep. While I made studies of the scene, the sun began to rise highlighting the trees on the far bank, the light and colors were incredible. I spotted another bald eagle sitting on a post in the distance and geese flew slowly downriver calling. It was one of those special mornings that will stay with you for a very long time.
When working on this painting, I was first attracted to the almost abstract quality of the scene and did the smaller study first as a way of exploring my ideas about what I wanted to say. It was a very enjoyable painting to work on and I plan on doing a larger version soon but this oil is 9" X 12".

Monday, August 4, 2008


One of the places I spent some time wandering around and painting while in Vancouver was Pitt Meadows. I had visited there during my last trip and the surrounding landscape with tall trees, open water and distant mountains inspired a number of paintings. Some of the most spectacular scenes were seen late one evening when the light was raking across the landscape. This study came out of what I saw and experienced there. I kept it small and loose as I want to finish a larger painting similar to this later in the week. The study taught me a lot about what I was trying to capture and from it I will better be able to completer the larger painting. Although I brought my watercolor box and sketchbooks, I really wished that I had my oils on this trip as it would have been wonderful to work set up with my easel along the dyke. There was so much to see, I could have painted there for weeks!

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Back in the studio now and I have managed to finish off this small study - the first from the new Canada series. The view here is from Whistler looking across the valley to distant mountains. As mentioned earlier, there was still plenty of snow around so this coupled with the clouds sometimes cloaking the mountain peaks was just the kind of scene I was looking for. I'll probably do some larger paintings later but I was happy to get going with this one for now. I have also completed a late evening scene away from the mountains which I'll post tomorrow. My memory and the references in my sketchbook of this mountain scene was somewhat different from how I finished this study. Most importantly though was that the outcome was what I had envisioned before starting. I was helped by first accurately painting the mountain line and I subdued some of the clouds so that I could show the peaks and snow more clearly. There was very little detail in the hazy atmospheric lower slopes which suited me just fine. Unfortunately I'm still struggling to get good photos of my smaller studies although photos of my larger paintings are fine! Herculean study is in oil and measures 8" X 10".

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Another study done in my sketchbook, this time looking South from Whistler peak. I love the feeling one gets when looking at the distant landscape. And viewing other mountains from where I stood looking across what seems like eons of space and time was truly exhilarating. It really didn't matter which direction you looked. Fortunately the weather was only slightly cool with a bit of overcast so we were lucky in that regard. This set the scene for some interesting skies along with cloud shadows and the occasional bursts of sunlight breaking through. Whistler was certainly one of the highlights of my trip and I'm eager to start working back in the studio creating some oil paintings from what I have seen and experienced.


About a two hour drive north of Vancouver is the village of Whistler. Initially only a winter resort, the village now has about 10,000 residents which swell by many thousand more during the peak season. We visited Whistler last week and I was treated to many spectacular vistas surrounding the village and also on the drive up. After exploring a bit and watching some of the many mountain bikers, we took first a gondola ride up Whistler mountain (which goes about three quarters of the way) then an open ski lift to the top. I can't begin to describe how beautiful everything was. From the peak the view is simply incredible! There were many distant mountains to focus on, most of them capped with various amounts of snow. The sketchbook study above is from the end of the gondola ride looking North. While I only have studies to show at the moment, I'm sure that there will be many oils to come.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I'm away in Canada at the moment staying on the Fraser River about 45 min south of Vancouver. This is my third visit to the area and I have come back once again to explore and to paint the landscape. The surrounding mountains make the area particularly beautiful and this time more than ever, I am hoping that some exciting paintings will come out of my visit. I have managed a number of drawings and watercolor studies so far plus some photos of evening skies although for the most part, it has been hot and sunny. Away from the mountains and forests, the lowlands are interesting too and being mostly flat, one is able to get a better understanding of the landscape. 'Clearing Skies' above was painted on the Eastern shore of Maryland back in the US but in some respects is similar to what I have seen here. There are plenty of lakes with the occasionally boggy area much like what we have back East although most of that is tidal.
Birds have been good here too and I have seen a number of 'lifers'. Plenty of Eagles and Osprey patrol the river and on my early morning walks through the forest, I am treated to the etherial fluting song of the Hermit Thrush - surely the most beautiful song of any North American passerine. Now I'm anxious to return to my studio and get busy painting some of the things I have seen here and recording my ideas and impressions. Some of them are sure to look like the painting above. Clearing Skies is in oil and measures 9" X 12".

Friday, July 11, 2008


While I am still hard at work on a few larger works which aren't finished yet, I did manage to complete this small study. This one is more about the clouds than anything else - I like the effect of the sun bursting through the bottom of the cloud formation and it's reflection on the water. Since the clouds were so heavily back-lit, I struggled to get the tones of the clouds correct but this is why I do so many smaller studies like this. It really doesn't matter how many times they are repainted or if they become finished paintings or not. In many ways, each one is more of an experiment than anything else and my studio is littered with them! Some are mere scraps of canvas tacked to a board, others are done on gessoed paper but all are important to me in one way or another. This oil is 8" X 10".

Monday, June 30, 2008


This small study was recently completed and is of a pathway through the woods that I usually follow on my way home from the reserve. The snow was relatively thick on the ground at that time reflecting some of the evening glow of the setting sun behind me and hence is lighter than the sky. I especially liked the contrast between the darker foliage and lighter ground/sky areas along with the abstract quality of the scene. A few stars added some interest to the darkened sky.
I haven't done many night scenes but finishing this one has opened up a new direction for me to explore. I was pleased with the outcome although I struggled to get a good photo of the finished painting and it still isn't right. For one thing, the stars are a little brighter and there are also more subtle details in the darker areas. It seem that a lot of these finer details in my work are being missed when I photograph my work and is a problem that I have been aware of for some time. I am experimenting with various lighting methods and hopefully I'll soon have it figured out.
While continuing with this series of small studies, I am becoming more aware of how many different ways there are to paint a picture - one of the reasons that I am continuing with them. Within these studies though, I'm not only looking for ways to tackle a certain idea but also working in the hope of getting something that perhaps wasn't there in the first place. This of course, is more related to my feelings about art and design rather than to the scene itself. Wyeth got around this problem by making many studies both in pencil and watercolor of his intended subjects but for me, I have to be careful as too much of this and I can lose interest. It becomes instead a feeling of having already created the painting (in a study form) then I want to go onto the next one without having done the larger painting. Path through the woods is 7 1/4" X 5 1/4".

Friday, June 20, 2008


I have not posted here for some time and this is due to two things: One, I have been working on a few larger paintings which are taking their sweet time! And two, I have had somewhat of a painters' block. Unfortunately this does happen from time to time and I have found the only way to work through it is to try and keep positive, and work on smaller studies. These times are not about if I can paint or not, I think it is more along the lines of re-arranging my inner self. Since all my painting comes from my feelings and thoughts about the natural world, this inner feeling is central to all that I do and create. Consequently when out of balance, painting is the first to suffer. On a positive note, this usually happens when I am about to take a step forward with my work so I'm hoping for a happy outcome!
The smaller study above was inspired by a program I saw on TV and reminded me of the view I saw when looking out of Sheep Canyon while I was out west. As posted earlier, this trip made a deep and lasting impression on me. I'm still planning new paintings from the desert and hope to make it out to the Grand Canyon later this year. I can imagine the effect that place will have on me! Sheep Canyon is an oil and the size is 5" x 7".

Friday, June 6, 2008


This more recently completed portrait had (like so many other paintings) been started some time ago. I'm hoping to do more along this particular line but with me, you can never tell! While I have spent most of my recent studio time working on landscapes, there is so much more that I want to do - if only I had the time! Since this was the first attempt at a more formal portrait, I kept the lighting and composition simple. I was quite pleased with the outcome of this one though, but I still have a few areas that I'll work on when I get the chance. In this portrait I tried to capture her inherent beauty and proud heritage. I especially enjoyed working on the traditional Chinese dress. Made from silk, this was fun to paint with the silvery sheen highlights and the sudden deeper tones. I think I caught the model in a pensive mood too and I worked hard at trying to capture the correct skin tones. There certainly seems far more for me to explore within this subject matter and I have plenty of ideas too, and dare I say it - perhaps a self portrait!!!! I'll post more when (and if) I get some of them finished. This oil is 20" X 16".

Monday, June 2, 2008


Lately I have been working on a few large paintings that are taking longer that I had expected. I do hope to finish them soon and will have a few pics of them for you to look at on Pigbristles. In the meantime, I have posted this small study of a late evening sunset near where I live. I find myself doing a lot of these smaller studies, usually in the response to something that I have seen but also as a way of exploring ideas in paint. It makes sense to keep them small because they don't always work out! Working like this is I feel, an important way to keep developing as an artist. I don't want to simply paint the same kind of painting over and over again as I feel this leads to stagnation. By constantly challenging myself I continue to grow and while this process is difficult and often depressing (when things don't go my way), I usually come through the other side with a better understanding of the process of art - and of myself.
Working en plein air has also been very beneficial for me as it forces me to make decisions quickly and to work with what is in front of me. Usually it is the opposite in the studio where I can sit around looking at studies and make more careful decisions on where to go with the painting. I used to paint almost all of my landscapes outside and while this was not always practical, I did learn a lot. Now that I spend more time in the studio, I am still looking within and drawing on ideas from my thoughts and experiences. Most of these have made the transition into paint but I still have so much that I want to do - some of them very different to what I have painted before. The more typical Sundown in June is an oil on canvas mounted onto board and the size is 7" X 11".

Friday, May 30, 2008


I finished this small study yesterday all the time trying to do a quick and loose impression. The result wasn't quite as free as I had hoped - I'm afraid this is about as loose as I get! I had been inspired by a field study completed by another artist so I really went at it this time using thicker paint and larger brushes. It didn't seem to help though and the painting tightened up all by itself (honest). After completing the sky, I worked on the distant mountains and foreground using a smaller brush as there were a number of details that I wanted to include. I used only four colors (plus white); French Ultramarine, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red and a little Burnt Umber. I think that it came out just fine and is for me another reminder of the wonderful time I spent in Southern California and Arizona. The oil is 8" X 10".

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Most of my landscape paintings are of the evening time or occasionally the morning but sometimes I see something completely different that I want to paint. Such was the scene shown here, again Blackwater and close to the same view point shown in 'Late Evening - Blackwater' of my May 3rd post. The time of the painting is late autumn with most of the distant trees in fall foliage, just the pines showing some green. I was at first attracted to the scene by the splendid yellowish-orange grasses in the foreground so with that being the focal point, I kept the sky somewhat understated. This one was a bit of an experiment for me and while I like the result, I feel that perhaps I need to spend more time working on paintings such as these to see where they will take me. This oil on canvas is 9" X 12".

Friday, May 16, 2008


The last few weeks have been spent working on a large oil and I don't have much to show for it. So here I present this simple painting. Over the years, I have been working along on a number of different avenues, some wildlife orientated, others mostly landscape and the like. I have though, always drawn and painted the nude. While I feel that perhaps not enough personal effort has gone into this, we are what we are and art (along with life itself) can not be forced. Life drawing sessions though were arranged both in the UK and in Hong Kong, and were very enjoyable. One learns a lot during these times and the experiences are to be treasured.
In this watercolor, I wanted to concentrate solely on the torso and hence the painting is simple in composition and execution. I used mostly raw sienna for the skin tones and raw umber for the darker areas. While watercolor is difficult to control on the smooth Arches paper used here, I feel that the work does say something about what I was trying to capture - mostly the beauty of the female form. I have a lot more paintings of this nature planned both in oil and watercolor and hopefully will get to them sometime soon. Size of this one is 11" X 7 1/2".

Friday, May 9, 2008


Here we have yet another of the Morning in the Desert series. I feel that perhaps this series is winding down to a close now with maybe only a few more to go. This painting was another protracted work that was started well over a year or so ago. Initially the sky was painted in along with the distant mountain range but as with a number of my earlier works, I was less than happy with the result. So there it sat, gathering dust and the occasional spider's web, until last month when I decided to do something about it. I thought that if I could successfully repaint the sky, then the work would have a chance. So it was dusted off and put on the easel. I started by darkening some areas of the sky, adding and blending lighter clouds into the upper section then finishing off with the darker clouds that gave so much depth to the sky. I stood back and took a critical look - much better! Now onto the foreground.
This area of the painting took quite a long time to complete as along with the details in the shrubby brush, there were many different other minor decisions to make. I didn't want to go too dark because although there is not a lot of light in the scene, there would still be plenty of details in the foreground visible. So it was a bit of this and a bit of that working back and forth until finally I called it finished. On reflection, I think that it turned out fine and is perhaps another lesson in not giving up too soon. The work has a pleasing richness to it unlike some of the others in the series, mainly due to a slight change in my painting technique. Looking at it certainly takes me back to the time I stood and watched the gentle dawn breaking over the desert. This oil is 12" X 24".

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I saw this scene of one of my travels and was immediately attracted by the shadows cast on the snow by the tall trees behind me. I also liked the way that they led your eye into the scene. The warm trees and grasses contrasted nicely against the cooler snow and sky. Because I wanted the focus to be on the lower part of the painting, I kept the sky relatively simple graduating the blue towards the horizon and adding just a few warmer clouds. I really enjoyed working on the strip of vegetation creating texture and depth by laying colors onto each other - something that I am doing more often now. There are some warm highlights in the foreground where the low sun angle is catching the ridges in the snow and this helps also with the balance between cool and warm colours. Although a simple scene, there is enough going on here to keep your eye moving about the work.
Unlike my paintings of interiors, I often edit my landscapes removing (or moving) trees, adding bushes and doing all manner of things in the search of a perfect composition. In this view, there was a large tree right in the center which polarized the painting into two halves. Leaving out the tree was an early decision and also an easy one to make. Other times, I have finished a work and wondered why I wasn't that happy with it - then the looking and thinking starts! When this happens I prop up the painting in my lounge and glance at it from time to time as I walk by. This usually does the trick and I am able to see what to do next within the context of making it a better painting. Fortunately, there was none of that here! Morning Sun is an oil on canvas, size 12" X 14".

Saturday, May 3, 2008


And here is the finished painting. I think that because of the field study that I did and the fact that I know this place so well, I really had no problems with the completion of this painting. It was one of those that went well right from the start. With a large brush, I started with some lighter color in the sky area then laid in the darker clouds next. With a little blending, I was able to create a nebulous feeling to the sky and also to the cloud reflections in the water. I kept the thin strip of land greyed to suggest distance then used a bold mix of cadmium yellow deep, burnt sienna and raw umber for the marsh grasses. Some smaller details were added here and there and that was it.
I like the way that the light works in this painting creating the interesting reflections among the basically three band of color. I did see this work as being slightly differently to my other marsh paintings and I feel this one is the most abstract of them all. It does have a quiet meditative feel which really is what I was after and this was something that the client who purchased the painting reflected on too. This oil on canvas is 30" X 40".

Thursday, May 1, 2008


A while ago, I posted a number of consecutive images showing how I went about creating a watercolor painting. This time, I thought that I'd do the same but showing work on an oil painting instead. I'll do a longer series next time with more in-between stages as this one will unfortunately only have two. The location shown here is one that I am very familiar with and I have done many paintings on this spot. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and has been one of my favorite places to visit and to paint. I love the flat open marshes with the towering skies above. This simple composition has spawned many paintings and is one that I still use and enjoy. While a smaller study was done in the field, I painted the final version in my studio. On a large canvas, I first worked out the proportions of the sky, land and water as this was very important to get just the right balance. Fortunately my study helped a lot with this but sometimes I just jump right in and work directly on the canvas without even a small sketch to guide me. Typically my paintings of this type of landscape are usually composed with a large area of sky and a smaller strip of land at the bottom but in this painting, I wanted just the opposite! Still, I would give the sky its due as it would set the tone for the whole painting. Using a heavily thinned mix of yellow ochre and ultramarine oils, I first put in the horizon making sure that it was exactly level, then I added more ochre to the mix and painted in the reed bed. A few indications of thinner strips of land and that was basically it! When it had dried a bit, I started on the actual painting, working from the sky forward - you'll see the finished painting in my next blog.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


The gyrfalcon is my favorite falcon and I have done a number of studies of this most impressive bird. All this work led up to the completion of a large oil that was exhibited at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum and is now in a private collection. In this study though, I was after something different and wanted to show something of the bird's character in a more relaxed pose. Done in watercolor on smooth paper, I first washed in the background over a relatively detailed drawing - some of which you can still see at the bottom of the painting. I stuck to two or three basic colors and worked from the head down using thinner washes as I did. I like this somewhat simple composition and faded out appearance, and feel adds something to the work. I don't do as many bird paintings as I used to but still enjoy the challenge from time to time. This painting (also in a private collection) is 15" X 7 1/2".

Monday, April 21, 2008


This is another view of the central square at Ibn Tolon that I first mentioned in my March 10 blog. I became fascinated by the smaller building in the center of the square and couldn't help exploring it from many angles. There was no way to get up to the top of the dome but I did climb onto the roof of the outer corridors and also up to the top of the tower seen on the left in my painting. This is where the Mullah calls the faithful to prayer and by the way, also gives a wonderful view of surrounding Cairo. I did this painting in oil, again mainly as a study to see what I could make of it in paint. My other smaller studies of Ibn Tolon were also in oil and I am in the process of creating a large painting that shows a view down one of the corridors. Other obligations have prevented me from finishing it at present but I hope to get back to the painting soon. You will note that in the center building above, you can see right through two of the higher windows on the second story. It was amazing how many of the arches and windows lined up from different angles and was obviously designed that way. I was careful to include these details in the series of paintings I have done and to this end, did a number of careful sketches first. Since there were quite a few details in and around all the arches, I kept the sky simple with just a hint of high clouds. The floor is actually paved but looks like desert sand. Even in mid day, there was a strong spiritual feeling about the place, something very holy and wonderful. Obviously a place well loved by the residents too as there were a few groups of students walking around, some of them taking an art class and sketching different views as I was. This small canvas is 9" X 12".

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I have been working with found objects since I started to draw and paint as a child; birds eggs, feathers, bones, oddly-shaped and colored stones, beetles, leaves; all were carefully noted and drawn (usually life size) in my series of diaries, note books and sketchpads. My father's workshop offered yet another place to find unusual objects and tools to paint. I still maintain a large collection of the like and over the years, many have found their way into my paintings. I have some wonderful antique colored bottles along with Japanese pottery and lacquered boxes that were collected throughout my travels around the world. My paintings of these are usually done in watercolor on a plain background as in 'Gourd' above. While I admit this is not the easiest way to create a still life painting (especially using the smooth-surfaced paper that I do), I feel that I can often come closer to actually creating something of worth than if I were to use an opaque medium. In this I think I reflect the feelings of Alan Magee who's early works in watercolor and colored pencil are profound, and still form an inspiration. I decided to make a painting of the gourd when I discovered the smiley face burnt into the surface along with the other patterns. The 'ear tufts' on each side are unusual beads . This one sold at my Caulfield show - the size is 8" X 12".

Friday, April 18, 2008


This painting was done in response to a mood I felt when I was out one evening after the sun had gone down. Time at moments like this seems to pass very quickly - everything changes so fast. The light fades and colors are drawn to shades of grey. The magic happens within perhaps ten minutes or so - one has to work quickly. This small valley hides a stream within the mass of mid-ground vegetation and the open fields are surrounded by steadily maturing trees with some smaller bushes. I stood for some time looking until it was almost dark and with the image firmly in my mind, I later relied on what I saw that evening when it came time to paint. Over the years I have found my memory retains certain moods and feelings that I can bring back much later to use in a painting. This is certainly useful as an artist and most of what I had seen and felt that evening seemed to come out in this small work. The painting was also an exercise in the use of deep green, a colour that I always struggled with. The culprit is my tube of permanent green deep which is so strong that it stains the hairs of my paint brushes but I am determined to master it! I have learnt to use it very sparingly and grey it out with burnt sienna. I can then lighten it with yellow ochre and perhaps a hint of white. It is these deep tones that make the painting, and the way that they contrast with the brighter but toned down sky. This oil is 9" X 12".

Friday, April 11, 2008


Another painting from my Caulfield Gallery show for those who haven't been able to visit the gallery yet. This oil is yet another scene from the reserve near where I live and like two earlier posts features a quiet evening sky with the sun having already dropped below the horizon. The thin somewhat wispy clouds were the focus here, the ones in the upper part of the sky catching just a little of the sun's last rays. This painting is about color as well - they say that places change you and coming to the US has certainly changed me. My work before was much more muted in tone as well as color but now while I still love an understated work, I also feel free to indulge in bright colors and darker tones that I would never have used ten years ago. I paint these evening skyscapes not for the romantic view of sunsets, or even for their bold colors, but mainly as an expression of myself. This type of scene I hope reflects my feelings and love of the land.
At this time of the late evening, colors are quickly fading from the landscape and soon the sky too. There is an atmosphere of wonder and mystery, a feeling that anything could happen. Owls call, deer become active, mist fills the hollows and creeps slowly across the lake. Geese drop down through the deepening dusk and clatter noisily onto the water to roost. All is very moving and I stand as a silent witness to another night being born. Sundown near Lake Anna is 15" X 30".

Thursday, April 10, 2008


This painting is the second in the Abandoned Barn series and in keeping with the first, is another watercolor. Like Abandoned Barn - Winter, this painting is exactly as I saw the scene on a cool but sunny winters day. I was first attracted by the abstract shapes formed by light and shadow but there is a lot more visual interest besides that within the painting. The well-weathered boards of the outside are slightly cooler than those inside and I was careful to use only three basic tones throughout the painting; a lighter value for the exterior, a mid-tone for the sunlit interior and a darker but still warm tone for the shadows. This makes the rather busy painting less fussy and is more in keeping with the "KISS" theory. The shadows were amazing and really were the driving force behind the painting so I took extra care to make sure that they were accurate in shape as well as in tone. And I like the way that there are still details within the shadow areas although these I have kept subdued. The broken out boards on the right adds another dimension and tells a slightly different story. This attached room was originally a store room for corn and the slowly rotting floor was littered with corn husks. I couldn't help wondering what had broken out the boards like that but enjoyed the pyramidal effect of the sunlight shining inside.
Within the shadowed area deeper in the barn is a sunlit area from an open door which is out of the picture (see Abandoned Barn - Winter). Again the sun has created a wonderful abstract shape here and adds greatly to the composition. The small square board although in shadow is picking up quite a lot of reflected light and has a subtle golden glow to it. Through the gaps between the boards on the far wall you can see some bare branches and this speaks a little about the landscape beyond the barn. Other details within the interior are the beams and supports which are weathered in their own way, and were fun to paint. The old tractor wheel was the most difficult though and I had some struggles there, mostly with the treads on the tire. Eventually the painting was finished but it demanded a lot of effort along the way with many many washes of color. I slowly built up the tones until I was happy that the correct balance had been achieved. The ground was kept relatively simple with just a little detail to add interest. The painting's size is 15" X 22".

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


This painting is a little unusual for me as I usually avoid summer scenes with the often overpowering vision of leafy green vegetation. I have overcome this somewhat by using more yellow greens which are balanced by the blue in the sky. My painting shows a scene in the nearby reserve looking down a small valley across a tall grassy meadow. Trees are bathed in the morning sun and the hazy air has created softer forms in the distance. Two streams converge here then feed into a slightly larger river, the flow of these is dependent on the amount of rain. Still, adventurous beavers have moved in damming a lower section and generally making a nuisance of themselves, felling trees and the like. Still, I'm always glad to see them.
I was reminded of England while working on this painting as I have seen many similar scenes over there. The view shown is a favourite of mine and I have spent many an hour painting in this spot noting the comings and goings of deer, foxes, and the many species of birds including a pair of Raven (rare around here) on a cold blustery fall day. This painting though shows a peaceful summer day before any real heat has built up. Slow moving clouds are passing and this more than anything suggests peace and that all is right in the world. I wanted to give a pastoral feel of timelessness to the scene and a feeling that this vision could be played out in many parts of the world. Mid-Summer Morning is 9" X 12" in oil.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Posts have been far and few between here lately, this is mostly because I have been working up to the last moment for my show at Caulfield Gallery mentioned earlier. Well, the reception has come and gone so thank you to all who dropped by the gallery on Saturday. I had a wonderful time and it was great seeing old friends and fellow artists again and meeting so many visitors. Also a huge thanks to Cory Caulfield for all the work she put in to make the exhibition a success. The gallery looked fantastic and everyone who visited agreed! I plan on posting most of the show images here and "High County Farm" is one of my favorite smaller works. Again, like Winter Solstice, this painting shows the land after the sun has dropped below the horizon. I kept the foreground understated so that the eye would be drawn to the upper part of the painting where most of the details are. The original is a little more subtle that this picture shows and viewed from across the room, the foreground grasses have a quiet glow that reflects the light in the sky. This effect is one of those happy accidents that we artists love but they are usually rare. What is even more rare for me is a reworking of a panting once it has left my studio but it is what I did to this one. It is not that the structure of the painting has changed so much but more that I have slightly altered the tones both in the sky and the ground which had led to (I think) a stronger painting. This small oil is 9" X 12".

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Most of my recent postings have been watercolor paintings so I thought that this time I would show something different. This painting will be part of my solo show at Caulfield Gallery ( The show runs from April 3rd to April 29th with the reception being on the 5th. The gallery is in the historic town of Washington VA, next to The Little Inn in Washington (directions are on the website). While not a very large gallery, it is none the less quite lovely inside and is very professionally designed and run. This will be my second solo show there and I hope you will take the very enjoyable drive through the rolling hills of Virginia to join us at the reception.
Winter Solstice was conceived some time ago while out walking in the reserve nearby. I did a smaller study of the painting then but didn't paint the larger version as I usually do, at least not until now. This is one of my favorite types of winter scenes with bare trees, tawny grasses and an evening sky. I am continually inspired by the strength and color of the evening light contrasting with the darker land mass and have done a number of different variations on this theme. This oil is 14" X 18".

Monday, March 10, 2008


I saw this wonderful scene while in Cairo last year. Days were spent strolling through the hot dusty streets exploring where I could, all perfectly safe. I chanced upon this unusual Mosque one morning and was enthralled. I spent a few hours alone within the central square looking at many different points of view, sketching and photographing. Back in the studio, I first did a smaller study in oil then tackled the larger watercolor. I found this painting difficult to finish and worked on it over the period of a few months (in fact I still feel the need to do something more to it!). Anyway, I was quite pleased with the finished painting and was thrilled to have it accepted into the 32nd Annual Exhibition of Transparent Watercolor hosted by the TWSA. Luckily, this painting was one of only 85 selected for the exhibition from over 900 entries! As the society's title suggests, only transparent watercolor is accepted with not even the slightest inkling of gouache allowed. This suits me fine as this is my preferred method of watercolor painting anyway. The show runs from May 16 to July 28 and is in the Bloomington Art Center, 1800 W Old Shakopee Rd, Bloomington, MN 55431. Web sites are: and (Transparent Watercolor Society of America).
Other news is that Barn Window (see Nov 27 post) has been accepted into the Baltimore Watercolor Society's 2008 Mid-Atlantic Regional Watercolor Exhibition. Slightly better odds here as my painting was one of 100 selected for the exhibition from 428 entries. Still, I feel honored and the show runs from April 27 to May 27 in The Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD 20852. I will be at Strathmore on the 27th and hope to see you there. Since early December, I have had a good run of watercolors but now feel the need to get back to some oils so expect to see some of those next. The size of 'Through the Arches' is 22" X 15".

Monday, March 3, 2008


And finally, the completed painting. You will notice some more work done to the walls as well as a little more texture. The shadows have been brought to completion and of course, the bottle has been finished. I had a choice of a few different colors here as mostly these kind of bottles are shades of pale ochre but this one had a reddish-purple tint that I thought would add a little more color to the scene. Generally, apart from the bottle I only used three colors for the whole painting so I think in this case it seemed a good idea to go with a colour that differed from those. I was pleased with the outcome and have certainly not reached the end of this series. I do have yet another painting planned (only in my head at the moment) that will hopefully bring together the best of two different worlds. The completed watercolor shown here is 22" X 15".

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Almost there now!. I have spent some time working on the walls, adding more texture and creating a little more interest without taking away from the window itself. The light and shadow on the sill is becoming more defined as I sort out this area but realise there is still a little more to do. Most of the time, I have been carefully looking over the painting for areas which need more work and cleaning up some of the highlights. The window panes have been completed with some diffuse greens, yellows and browns worked wet-into-wet to suggest foliage bathed in light. I'm pleased with how this area came out as I managed to add these details without losing the effect of bright sunshine outside the window. Although this photo is a bit blurred, if you click on it, you will get a better idea of what I mean. I'm also happy with the shadows of the bars and how the reflected light is bouncing around the scene. Now what to do about that bottle? After much thought, I decide to give it a go and if it doesn't look right, I should be able to scrub it out and patch up the area. Next, the finished painting.......

Friday, February 29, 2008


A lot more work has been done at this point, mostly darkening the walls with washes of Sepia with some Raw Sienna. The darker washes on the smooth paper has resulted in some interesting textures but I'll be creating more. The tones of the window and bars are about correct at this point and I have started to work on the shadows on the inside sill. Other areas of reflected light get more washes of the same mix and also some darker strokes for visual interest. I'm careful to not make it look too dirty though as although the window is very old, I still want a clean and clear look to the painting. If the washes are not left to dry properly, the result can be a muddy look which is obviously something to avoid. I still haven't decided on the bottle yet, usually at this point I would have done quite a bit of work to it bringing it along with the rest of the painting. With the darker washes added, there is an even greater impression of strong light outside the window which will be toned down a little later on as I add some barely visible tree branches and leaves.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


After yet more washes, I am feeling a little happier with the direction this painting is going. Adding more color has served to deepen the tones further and create more depth. There is certainly more of a sense of 'looking in' to the painting at this stage although the scene itself is pretty much two-dimensional. I don't plan on adding a landscape outside the window as this I feel would be a distraction - there will be plenty going on as it is. The sense that the painting is lit from the outside is becoming more apparent also and this is mainly due to the reflected light, the shadows (more obviously) and also light falling on some of the smaller objects such as the spider webs etc. I have continued to deepen the green of the window frames and bars which has also brought up the highlights of direct sunlight. Shadows are subtly diffuse as the window panes are slightly opaque and cut down on the sun's intensity. I'm still not decided about the bottle at this point so try to ignore the white space as I look a the painting from time to time while I go about other things in my studio. I am enjoying the painting process so far but don't want to rush it at this point and have to try to undo any mistakes.