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".