Saturday, December 19, 2009


To finish off the painting, I added a few more washes to selective areas darkening some of the woodwork especially at the bottom where the light would be at its weakest. A number of details here and there were tightened up mostly around the cracks in the boards and more texture added to them along with woodgrain without overdoing it. All the framework of the barn featured rough-cut wood with the saw marks still to be seen so this was added being careful not to make this too obvious. I also darkened the window frames slightly noting a certain delicacy to them that I especially like. Finally I added the cobwebs and other details such as the few random bits of straw at the bottom.
To me the wonder of an image such as this is simply the way that the light plays along the main upright and how it in turn, reflects around the rest of the painting. It's a simple thing really but to me very powerful and brings me back again and again to images such as this. The painting is a bit dark here but I feel still captures what I had set out to. This watercolor is 22" X 15".

Thursday, December 17, 2009


At this point I feel that I'm getting closer to the depth and tonal values that I want for the painting. I still have to adjust some areas but I'm happy that the work is progressing as I had hoped. There is still a lot of work to do around the window itself as obviously this is the focal point of the painting and most of the smaller details will be found here. I used quite a bit of dry-brush technique to get most of the textures of the old and weathered wood but the rest were formed naturally as I laid in wash after wash. Since the window panes had years of dirt and dust on them, there was very little of the outside landscape to be seen - perhaps just a hint of the overhang from outside but at this stage, I hadn't made a decision weather to include this or not.


After quite a few more rounds of washes (mostly alternating between my darker brown mix mentioned earlier and Raw Sienna), the general shapes and form of the painting are beginning to emerge. I'm excited to note that the highlight on the right of the window is beginning to work in the way that I intended. At this point, I'm working all over the painting and not worrying about any of the finer details as these will all come later. It's the general tones of the interior walls that are important right now and I'm still deciding exactly how dark I want to go. Interestingly, for a change I worked on a sheet of Whatman which was slightly yellow unlike the more brighter white of Arches watercolor paper that I usually use - somehow the yellowish-white of the paper seemed just right for the bright but diffuse light coming through the window panes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


After the paper had dried bone hard, I began laying in washes. First on were layers of Yellow Ochre and when my tube of that had run out, Raw Sienna. Unfortunately Windsor and Newton have changed the formula of this color (which used to be one of my favorites) and have added some opaque white along with what seems orange. This has not made me happy! Until I can find a purer version of this color from another manufacturer, I'll finish out the tube that I have. Anyway, when all that had dried, I began laying in darker washes of Burnt Umber mixed with a little Sepia. I was careful to paint around my lightest lights and just kept adding more washes after each one had dried. All was looking good so far and felt that something good could come out of this painting.


Although travel has taken me to quite a few places recently and I have seen many landscapes that I have wanted to paint, somehow none of this has resulted in any new paintings - at least nothing that I want to show here. I have been working on things, finishing off a misty morning painting that I started some time ago along with a study or two, just nothing that I'm too excited about. I'm not sure why this is but lately when faced with a blank canvas on my easel, nothing seems to happen. Usually I paint every day so it is rare to go for so long without completing something. Fortunately I now seem to have left all this behind. Let me explain.
When I was staying with clients recently, they mentioned owning a barn not too far from where I live and gave me permission to visit whenever I wanted - which I quickly did! The first visit was just to scout the place out. Only half an hour away, it is not a large place and not really a working farm as such that there are no farm implements or machinery there (although the fields are tilled each year). Still there is a large barn, a silo and some out-buildings (where machinery used to be stored) along with a charming house. After that visit I completed a medium sized oil of a view into one of the buildings trying for morning sun and shadow. At first I was pleased with it but then after awhile very much less so! Now it is turned against the studio wall and will remain like that for at least a month!
On my second visit I took my watercolors and sketchbook. This time I concentrated on the lower section under the main barn and spent most of my time inside looking at the structure and windows planning paintings in relation to the darker interior and the winter light that filters in. After returning home, I started a large watercolor. The pencil underdrawing shown above was done quite roughly just making sure that my general shapes and perspective was correct. I didn't worry too much as some of the boards had cracked and settled so most of the accurate work was done around the window and window frames. Then the paper was stretched and stapled to a board to dry.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


My recent trips down to the Eastern Shore of Maryland has re-awakened my desire to do more paintings of the region. I prefer the marshes and backwater areas, often finding myself driving down roads I had not travelled before. Most of the landscape thereabouts is flat, the water table not far down so my views are sweeping with large open skies, such as the painting above. This one done in the studio was based on a smaller plein air study finished earlier and both were the inspiration for the much larger 30" X 40" Blackwater painting posted on my blog sometime ago. When out walking and painting in the landscape I prefer the mornings and evenings, often getting up before dawn to witness the breaking of the new day. These time are very special to me and is the reason why I paint so many of them. I never tire of the different light and moods that nature has to offer during those times and no two days are the same. I truly haven't spent enough time there to really understand the landscape but plan on going back time and time again, hopefully gaining more insight with each visit. Blackwater Evening Study is an oil on canvas, size 8" x 10".

Friday, November 20, 2009


I saw this scene some time ago and only recently got around to finishing the small study. This painting was one of many that I exhibited last weekend at the Waterfowl Festival in Easton. Over the four 4 days of the show, I enjoyed meeting new acquaintances and old friends, so a big thank you to all who came by and said hello. Also many thanks to Matt and Julia for all their hospitality, the sailboat ride was magnificent!
Now back in the studio, I have started a huge cleanup getting ready for the new year and some serious studio painting. While I do go out in the winter to paint, it is nice to be snug and warm in the studio painting away when it's freezing outside. Fortunately it's not that cold yet and I'll be taking another short trip this weekend visiting the Eastern shore again only this time going a little further south to Chincoteague. More paintings to follow.........
Evening Over The Marsh is 5" X 12", oil on canvas.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Although being very busy working towards the Waterfowl Festival next weekend in Easton Maryland, I have found some time to get out with my easel and paintbrushes. Weather has generally been good with warmish temperatures and for the most part, rain has held off - at least while I was out and about anyway! The skies have been fantastic, mostly overcast with breaking sun and shadow lending to many wonderful moods. I sat on the top of a nearby hill and just watched the clouds pass by. Wind was strong higher up but much less so where I was and created many different patterns as the drama unfolded. I'll post some of the other paintings I did from that day later on but for now, here is a small 5" X 7" study finished when the sun broke through the clouds and lit the Autumn landscape.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


This scene was close by to the dawn study of my earlier post but of course at a different time of the day. I did a smaller study first then painted the slightly larger one. Initially I had a somewhat cloudy sky painted in but this didn't work so that was wiped off and a graduated sky put in its place. This really set the overall tone for the painting (as skies often do) so the trees and grassy banks were kept somewhat subdued. Again this is not a great photo of the completed study, I'm happy that the painting looks a little better! This oil is 12" X 9".

Monday, October 19, 2009


I recently completed these two studies, again continuing with my Dawn and Dusk series. While I'm not exactly ecstatic with the outcome, the two paintings are after all studies so I have to take them for what they are - studies. I may do larger versions of them, that remains to be seen but often one painting inspires another and so on I go. Sometimes these small paintings will hang around my studio for months until I come across them again then I will consider them with a fresh eye. This usually leads to a more in-depth contemplation about what I was trying to do in the first place and consequently, a new painting arises. Dawn over Salmon River measures 6" X 8" while Cloudburst from Upper Fields is 6 1/2" X 10", both oils.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Awhile ago, we stayed with friends in Pittsburgh and still have many fond memories of that time. There were many walks in the woods along with visits to art galleries and eateries, most of the time accompanied by the stately Pirate. Mature and dignified is how I would describe Pirate. His gentle demeanour and intelligence gave him a sense of quiet but penetrating dignity. I knew that I wanted to do a portrait of him but only got around to it lately. I started by choosing a greenish grey background color which went on thinly. The rest of the painting was painted alla prima with just a few tonal changes over the next few days. Being so dark, the painting was extremely difficult to photograph properly and I feel that this photo (the best that I have) does not do Pirate quite the justice he deserves. The oil is 8" X 10".


Back in July, I posted an unfinished image of this painting and here it is now that I have finished the final areas of the foreground. I will have this painting (and others) at McBride Gallery this month in their Autumn Celebration Exhibition so if you are in the Annapolis area, please come in and have a look. I am continuing with the dawn/dusk series that I mentioned earlier and hope to post some more of these paintings soon. Blackwater Landscape is an oil, size 18" X 24".

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Some time ago, I mentioned in one of my blogs that I was eager to start a series of dawn/dusk landscape paintings from scenes observed during my daily walks around where I live. This was one such a scene, actually the sun has already set here but there was still enough light in the upper sky to illuminate the landscape. While this is not the best photo of the painting, it does I feel, show something of what I was trying to capture insofar as the quality off light playing against the deeper subdued tones of the landscape. This series is coming along more slowly that I had hoped as I am still trying to finish off a number of painting that have been left unfinished in my studio. I'm determined to do them all by the end of the year! Sundown is an oil on canvas, size 9" X 12".

Friday, October 2, 2009


I saw this scene in the South Californian desert a number of years ago and I was moved by the soft evening light and the shapes of the round boulders. I have done quite a few paintings of this area - the trip that I took left a deep impression on my psyche and I hope to go back one day perhaps to Death Valley. I started this painting some time ago and it has dragged on for all this time - even now, I'm still not convinced that I'm finished with it. Anyway, I have had enough of it for now and will take another look at it sometime in the future when I can look at the painting with a fresh eye. The watercolor is 15" X 22".

Sunday, September 27, 2009


This study was actually completed before the Saker Falcon of my earlier post but as I wasn't quite happy with what I had accomplished, I put the painting aside for awhile and have been going back to it a few times working on a few different areas. And I still feel that there is some more to do to it. I'll put it in a frame temporarily and that should let me have a better idea on where to go with it next. I have a feeling though that just a little darkening of some of the brown marking should do it. Anyway, I do love these 'wood' owls, mostly it is their liquid eyes that have such depth to them that I find so fascinating. Similar to European Tawny and Ural owls, the Barred along with the Spotted owl are their American counterparts. I have seen (and painted) many Tawny owls over the years but have yet to see Ural or Spotted owls. Both of which would make interesting painting I'm sure. This watercolor study is 7 1/2" X 11".

Saturday, September 19, 2009


This is the second watercolor study recently completed for an upcoming wildlife exhibition. I was happy with the way that the Eagle Owl came out so was inspired to do another watercolor using a similar format. In the past I have done a number of raptor and owl studies (mostly in watercolor) including a similar version of this one. I have always loved large falcons and this particular bird which I saw in Hong Kong has served as inspiration many times. I'm still learning the characteristics and plumage of Sakers so was happy spending time on this portrait. I hope to put together all I have learned about them into a larger painting one day, in the meantime I'm happy working on studies such as this. Size is 11" X 7 1/2".

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Finally here is the completed painting. After finishing the rest of the back and wing of the owl, I went over the whole painting tidying up here and there. Some further final details were added then after taking a long look, I decided that I wanted the background to be a little warmer and darker. A wash of raw sienna greyed with raw umber was carefully laid around the owl then when that had dried, I added a few washes trying to create texture within the lower areas of the background. I felt that otherwise, the owl was a little stark against the background. And that was that! Size is 7 1/2" X 11".

Friday, September 4, 2009


Most of the head has been completed here and I've started working on the wing and back of the bird. I have decided to keep those areas a little lighter than the head as I want more of the focus to be around the eyes. The orange-red helps here as it is quite a contrast to all the ochres and browns. You will probably have noticed that the eye on the right is closed slightly more than the one on the left. This is because the sun was coming from the right hand side so was a little brighter on that side of the face. I hadn't realised that owls could do this until I had observed the bird for some time and suddenly noticed it. A few more glazes to the eyes brought them to about the right tone and color. At times while working on portraits like this, I overlay the dark markings with a thinner wash of lighter color (in this case raw sienna) as this helps the darker colors 'sit' a little better on the paper. Here it also helped bring some slightly warmer tones to the bird as I had also decided to make this one a little darker (most owls have quite a range of coloring even among the same species).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Now I feel that I am getting somewhere. Most of the final details have been added to the left side of the head and I am slowly working my way downwards. I'm beginning to get excited as it seems that my cautions beginning is starting to pay off. Things are in their right places and the tones are starting to make sense. As before, I have been using the same mixes of raw umber, raw sienna and cerulean blue for most of the details. In this photo though, the overall painting has taken on a much warmer tone. That is because I have been trying a few different light sources, this one being daylight-balanced bulbs in my studio, all the others were in direct sunlight.


Here I have cautiously added the eyes and worked on the ear tufts (not true ears). I have also laid in more washes around the face of the owl and also along some of the feather tracts in the wing and back. Much more work will be done to these areas of course, but I'm planning at this point to almost finish the head before going on to the body. I carefully define the fine feathers around the bill by using a smaller pointy paintbrush then go back to the forehead with darker washes of raw umber. There is not that much of a change between this and the image before but I wanted to take things slowly on this one, analyzing each stage before going on to the next.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Here the painting has some simple washes added, mostly to the upper part of the head. At this time I'm trying to define the basic shapes and get a feel for how the painting is going to progress. For the darker areas, I used raw umber, for the lighter, raw sienna. A mix of Cadmium yellow and Cadmium red was laid in to the eyes but I realised that they would have to be a lot darker and also be slightly more of a reddish-orange. A few thin washes of Cerulean blue were used for the bill. I then went back into the darker areas with more raw umber but this time working on the edges of the feathers making sure they were done in a way to look light and soft. Although there is not much pigment on the paper at this point, I feel that I am off to a good start. I am especially careful in the beginning while working on watercolors as a mistake can be very costly later on so I tend to keep things light until I can see that the painting is starting to work.


I'm now back in the US and hard at work in the studio after an interesting time in Hong Kong. I did find some time for pleasure over there including a birding trip with my good friend Richard. Being out and about again brought back many wonderful memories of days spent in Hong Kong watching birds and one specific time in particular - seeing an Eagle Owl in the wild for the first time! I have always had an affinity for owls so seeing such a large and rare owl was very special, so much so that I wanted to have another go at painting one. The image above shows the start in a series of images of a smaller head study, this time done on smooth (hot-pressed) Arches watercolor paper. After a careful drawing making sure I got all the proportions correct, I washed over the whole paper with raw sienna slightly greyed with raw umber and cobalt blue. The sheet was then stapled to a board so that it would dry nice and flat.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Another painting completed some time ago, this time in oils. This scene was more of a reflection of something I saw early one morning in the Southern Californian desert. I was able to successfully add some of those stunted bushes which are characteristic of the area to the foreground and this helped bring that part of the painting into focus without distracting from the overall mood of the scene. It was very important to get the mountains in the background finished in a way that would reflect what I saw without becoming too bogged down in details. I like the sense of hazy distance in this one along with the effect of morning sun and a promise of a very hot day to come!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Due to an emergency trip overseas, I'm now in Hong Kong and will only be back in the studio later this month. I did however manage to find some time before I left to grab a few images of previous completed work and I wanted to share this small watercolor study done some time ago during an exhibition. The idea was to complete a painting during the evening as a demonstration of my technique, so I arrived with the underdrawing and background wash already complete. Basic washes were applied to form the shapes of the head and neck, and as these dried I added darker tones and finer detail to the beak and eye. For an on-the-spot demo, I think it turned out okay and will form the basis for a larger painting later on.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Although most of my time spent in the studio recently has been towards completing watercolors, I did manage to almost finish this oil. I say almost since I only really have the foreground to complete. Right now, it is blocked in but will need some reworking along with some slightly darker values added. I'm not totally pleased with the shape of the water either so will probably re-work that too. I kept the clouds in the upper part of the sky soft-edged to hopefully impart some movement. I see them as slowly drifting from right to left in the light evening breeze. Since I love scenes such as this and never tire of painting them, I planning a new series of evening landscapes similar to the one shown here. I'm hoping that I can impart a more local flavor (to me that is) as there are a number of wonderful scenes around where I live that I walk past most evenings. Right now, they are mostly watercolor studies in my sketch book but I'll do the series in oil. I have done a number of plein air oil studies too and all this along with the sketchbook studies will get heaped together as reference for the final paintings.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


To finish off the painting, I gave the shadows another thin wash and darkened the underside of the overhang. This helped solidified the window more securely in the wall. I was careful to keep variation within the shadowed areas as this was very important to the realism of the work. More work was done to the front of the overhand and also to the wooden window frame on the right. Now that it is darker, the edges are more defined helps pull it away from the wall. Now it seems to jut out into space as intended. Then I just went carefully over the painting looking for areas that needed subtle tweaking. That part didn't take long and when couldn't find anything else to do, I declared the painting finished.
When I started Afternoon Sun IV, I was remembering the hot sunny days spent exploring old villages around Hong Kong. I was fascinated by the architecture and style of the older homes and temples that I came across. So the window here is a pleasant reminder of that time and although the main subject is in the center of the painting, it still has a somewhat abstract design caused by the shadows that I like. Sadly this building is no more, razed to make way for new homes. I suppose that is the price of progress, still seems a shame to me. Size is 30" X 22".

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Upon further reflection, I decided that the shadowed areas needed a little more attention so more washes were applied here. I kept quite a bit of variation within each wash as there were lighter areas within the shadows that I wanted to retain - getting a good balance was trickey. I started work also on the bottom of the overhang. The thing about this area and the underside at the top of the window was the reflected light coming up from the ground. I was careful not to go too dark here so it was a case of laying in some colour and seeing how it looked. I spent some time painting the front of the overhang and used drybrush to create some textures. I also added Burnt Sienna washes to the window frame on the right as a way of lifting it off the shadows behind which were a little greyer. This helped some but I realised that I still needed to go darker. All of the elements were in place now though and I could see how they were working together to create interest and depth. I knew that only a few things remained for me to do and these were some of the smaller details along with a few areas that weren't quite finished.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I starting the days work with a final wash over the wall area being careful to keep it from going too dark. I wanted to maintain the feeling of bright sunlight and still have enough tone on the wall to keep it from looking too washed out. Next I applied the first washes to the shadowed areas - I had kept the pencil lines indication them very light as I didn't want them to show through in the final painting. With that area working well and drying, I turned to the bars again and added further washes to the deep shadowed areas inside. I also worked on some of the fine line details here and there but would keep most of this work until the end. Right now, I was basically concentrating of keeping the overall values correct. I added some deeper tones to the ends of the broken window frames as well the bars as a way of defining some of the textures there and yet more blue. Not too much to do now, another couple of days work should see it through.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Here is the result after having laid on a number of washes using mostly Sepia with a touch of Burnt Sienna. There is plenty of texture now along with quite a bit of modulation of the surface. It looks as interesting as I had hoped, some of the lighter areas were left as the bare paper underneath. Now that I had more tone on the painting, it was easier to judge consecutive washes so I darkened the blue using more of the Cerulean that I had started with and darkened the rust on the bars with alternate washes of Sepia and Burnt Sienna. So far the painting was progressing well which is always a relief when working in watercolor! I added a hint of shadow in the upper right below the overhang in a way of getting a better understanding of how dark the shadows need to be. Since I never work directly from a photograph, I do spend quite a bit of time just looking at the painting itself and seeing what it needs instead of just slavishly copying directly from whatever references I may have. My aim is to create something new, something that may just be different and unusual enough to excite others the way that the initial idea excited me.


I was pleased with the work done the day before and was eager to do some more work on the window. So after laying in a few more washes of Aureolin overall and letting them dry, I started on the bars and broken window frames. Several thin washes of color were laid onto these areas slowly building up layers of colour and deepening some of the tonal values as I went. I found that there was quite a bit of time spent looking at the painting in between stages and deciding what to do next. Since I had worked on the back of the paper (Arches 140lb), most of the pigment soaked into the paper making it hard to remove. This would be problematic should I find the need to lighten some areas later on - hence my caution in laying on thinner washes initially. The pigment didn't go on as smoothly as I had expected either, probably due to the fact that it was an old sheet of paper (I always date the paper after I buy it). Not that this would really be a problem as there weren't that many really smooth areas and in fact these irregular washes could help in creating extra texture especially on the wall. At this point it was looking a little bit messy but I knew that the painting would tighten up as I went along so I wasn't too worried. Next, creating interest and texture on the wall around the window.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I have had an image in my mind of a window in sunlight for some time. And it had been slowly growing in intensity during the passing months, so last week I decided to start a large watercolor of this scene. I have painted a few different versions of this particular window before but there is something about it that doesn't want to let go. I find myself being strangely drawn back to the same scene time and time again. I don't usually repeat my paintings but I have given myself the excuse this time that the view is slightly different and I am also working in a different medium from the earlier works.
I decided to limit myself to a narrow palette and concentrate on recording accurate values painted onto an accurately worked out underdrawing. This painting, more so than some others that I have done, depended on careful examination of the facts to allow for the correct illusion of sun and shadow. The drawing itself took some time and I only finished at around 11:00 at night! I had to take special note of the perspective along with the way that the shadows fell on the wall. Once I was happy with it, I laid in washes of Aureolin yellow the next day then when that was dry, washes of Sepia indicating the darkest areas of the interior. Next, the textured wall and those interesting weathered bars.


During a recent trip down to the Eastern Shore, I sketched and painted quite a few scenes like the one shown here. This particular morning was a bit misty and had a hazy sky quite often synonymous with moisture-laden air found along the shoreline and marshes of the Chesapeake. I never tire of this place and try to explore different areas each time. I am planning to start a mini series of images from the region but have to work through the pile of unfinished paintings in my studio first! Fortunately there is not too many as I'm itching to start something new.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Here is the finished painting and although I completed last week, only got around to posting it today. I especially enjoyed working on the water and submerged rocks. The bottom of the river was well illuminated by sunlight and the ripples created interesting abstract patterns which were fun to work on. I'm not completely sure if I will leave the background as it is. I remember there being more highlights within the rocks and bushes but I have a feeling that adding these will distract the eye too much from the rocks and water - I'll have to give it some thought. In the meantime, I have been busy on other paintings, finishing an smaller oil and a large watercolor which I'll get to in my next post.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Not the greatest image I know, but here is an update from my last posting. I had hoped that the painting would have been finished by now but I have been working on a number of different projects, unfortunately not all of them related to creating art! Another few sessions remaining on this one so should be completed soon. I did spend quite a bit of time adding more definition to the rocks along with a few glazes to the shadow areas. I still haven't decided how to finish the background yet but will get to that when the foreground is done. There are still a number of reflections to come along with the clear (but slightly deeper) water in the lower right - should be fun!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Last year, I did a small 8X10 study of this scene that I saw in Canada. When I got back to the studio I started work on a slightly larger version. Well the half-completed painting sat around in the studio for some time until recently when I decided that I wanted to finish it. Here I am working on the water and foreground rocks having completed most of the rest of the painting some time before. It is getting there but for some reason I like the study better! Perhaps I need to finish this one before giving a final judgement as this painting does contain more foreground than the study. One of the things that attracted me to this scene initially was looking through the crystal clear water to the bottom of the river bed and wanted to try and expand on this feeling by including more water in the larger version. Hope this one will work out as intended because I want to get on to a few other paintings in the River Rocks series. The painting hasn't that much further to go and a few more days work should see it done.


After working on a few different things, I returned yet again to the barn painting as I felt that there were a few areas that could do with a bit more work. Mostly it was a case of generally darkening some of the tones in various areas and adding a few smaller details. I also worked on the ground being unhappy with what I had done before but am still not totally satisfied with it! I did intensify some of the textures on the upper section of the painting as well and added a bit more green to the lower. It's about finished now so I'll be thinking about getting it in a frame. I'm also thinking about the next watercolor which will be somewhat similiar but also a little different - watch this space!

Friday, May 29, 2009


Finally after many more hours of work, the painting is about finished. There are still a few small areas here and there that I'll probably do some work to and I want to also work on the foreground a little. As mentioned earlier, this one really took much longer than expected. One area I struggled with was in the lower doorway. Initially I wanted to include a landscape that you could see through the open holes on the other side of the barn (see last post). But this really didn't work out for a number of reasons. I was a bit unsure exactly how to proceed with this area right from the start and this held up the painting significantly. After some thought, I first cut out some paper shapes to match those of the holes in the rear wall. This way I could get a general idea how things would look without permanently putting in something that I wished I had not. A few different landscapes were then painted on the shapes and attached to the painting in turn. The landscapes themselves were fine but when added to the painting, they distracted too much from the overall work. And it didn't seem to matter what I put in there, the eye went straight to that point which was really not what I wanted. To me, the painting is about the light and shadows on the side of the barn and the old bucket on the second floor. Anything else would be a distraction so I decided to fill in the broken out parts with boards. There is still a hint of things behind the barn but this I felt was a much better way to go. Often a simple direct statement is better than too many points of interest. Anyway, I was happy at last and glad to see it finished (for now anyway). I still don't think that I have exhausted this subject in any form and have a number of ideas that I still want to try. Abandoned Barn - Afternoon Sun II is 30" X 22".

Friday, May 15, 2009


A step further on now and I have mostly concerned myself with a series of washes to define the boards and the rusty roof. I have also used quite a bit of drybrush technique for added texture etc. Darkening the shadows has also helped too and quite a bit of time was spent working on the old bucket as it was to be the focal point. The shadow of the handle that falls across the side of the bucket was very carefully put in and I also defined the shadow on the lower edge of the handle itself to help it stand out against the side. A very subtle green was added to the bottoms of the lower boards to represent weather staining and rot but I may make this a bit stronger as the painting doesn't have much colour. Not that this is a bad thing but I'll finish the ground first and then see how it looks. To get to this point it has taken me the better part of a month! On reflection, I'm not sure why it has taken me so long. Admittedly, there has been time spent away from the painting working on other things and I have also spent quite a bit of time simply looking at it deciding where to go with it next. I'm still not totally happy with the shadow areas inside the doors as the view here is different from the earlier version and you can see where the boards have broken away from the far side allowing a peek right through. So more time will have to be taken to hopefully come to some sort of decision about that. Still, so far I feel it is going along the path I wanted for it and hopefully I'll get it finished soon.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


After reviewing my studies and a few reference photos, I decided to do a larger watercolor of the barn as mentioned in my last blog. First I carefully drew the basic image in pencil onto a large sheet of Arches watercolor paper. I decided on a T-shaped composition and made sure to accurately capture the slight lean of the two doors along with the correct perspective of the roof line. Dark washes were then applied to represent the shadowed interior then I washed a mix of blue and Burnt Sienna onto the roof. Then washes of Sepia were applied to the shadow area at the top and also to the barn walls trying to create interest and texture. This was cooled slightly with a little blue and put aside to dry. I then started to add details to the area around the old bucket on the second floor and Burnt Umber was washed on the inside to add warmth and also for the sunlit areas on the far walls. It seemed like a fair start so far, next more details and some tricky decisions.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


After the last heavy snowstorm a few months ago, I hiked down to this nearby barn to see how it looked in the snow as this was to be a new experience for me. Fortunately not that much had changed and I was very happy to see that the barn was still standing! After studying the structure from different angles outside, I went inside and immediately was taken by the quality of light streaming through not just the doors but also through the many cracks and holes between the boards of the exterior. This study was completed from the inside looking out through the smaller front entrance. I used just a few colours trying to capture some of the reflected light as well as the strong swath of sunlight on the damaged and uneven floor. This painting has set the scene for a number of interiors of this barn that I plan to do but more importantly, has renewed my interest in doing another larger painting of the exterior. I'll show you that one next time. This small oil is 8" X 5".

Thursday, April 2, 2009


This small study was recently completed after an afternoon spent dreaming of days gone by. The headland shown in my painting jutted out into the West Lamma channel and was a place I visited often. Living on the island, Blakney Point was a longish but pleasurable walk from my home - thankfully there were no real roads and hence no cars. The path to the point (which I named after the real Blakney Point in England) took me meandered all over hillsides, past vegetable plots and a few smaller villages then on and out to the point. Located on the east side of Lamma Island in Hong Kong, it was a quiet spot and had excellent views of the main shipping lane into Hong Kong harbour. I would spend hours there occasionally drawing and painting but mostly just watching life go by. Black Kites (a common scavenger in Hong Kong) were often seen riding the updrafts around the island and were our most commonly seen raptor there. I only ever found one kites nest on Lamma but this may have been more because of the presence of a resident pair of Bonelli's Eagles than anything else. The oil is 3" X 5".

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


While in Canada on one of my recent painting trips, I saw this Northern harrier near where I was hiking. The next day saw me back at the same area but this time in overcast and misty conditions. Fortunately the harrier was still there this time hunting in and around farmland. I did a quick watercolor painting of the scene but retained this image in my mind until I got back to the studio. I like the way that the flooded drainage ditch draws your eye into the distance and then to the harrier. The finished result is pleasing to me and I feel that the painting captures the cool misty day that I remember so well. This small oil is 5" X 8".

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Finally here is the finished painting (at this point I'm now working back in the studio). The foreground went quickly and a number of subtle tones were added to the snow to keep it interesting. The shadows help give the painting a pull downslope and suggest motion while the tree is working the other way. Most important to the composition are these shadows, some are from other trees out of the picture and were a lovely bluish-purple. I added a few of the lowest snow covered branches last and they help give depth to the shadow under the tree. As a quick study, I'm happy with the results and the painting reminds me of a snow-covered Ent! Size, 12" X 9" in oil.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Not that much of a change from the last step, but now the tree has a solid base. Since I'm about finished with the upper part of the painting, I carefully go over it adjusting a few values here and there and adding some smaller details. At this stage, I stand back for a more critical look and as all seems fine, I'll work on the foreground next.


Here we are a step further along with most of the tree completed. I make the snow in shadow on the lower branches a little warmer by adding a touch more Windsor red to the mix then define some of the darker areas with raw umber. The highlights are almost pure titanium white and the snow shapes are defined with purple trying all the while to be subtle. I'm pleased that so far the painting is progressing as I had hoped. Next defining the lower branches and adding shadow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Here in the next step, I have defined the tree branches using a mix of permanent green and raw umber with a touch of yellow ochre. I have also added a slightly darker tone to the snow shadows higher up and brought some of that color down to the mid section of the tree. Using a warm white (mixed from titanium white and yellow ochre), I start to put in the highlights. So far I am satisfied that I have capturing the characteristics of this tree. I especially like the way that it leans uphill and it is obvious which direction the storm came from.


We didn't get a lot of snow this winter but the last storm left a thick layer of soft snow that was a delight. I started this painting in response to that storm and here we have just the beginning. I began by outlining the tree with a wash of thinned raw umber then painted a graduated sky with a mix of cobalt and cerulean blue. A warmer purple was laid in on the shadow side of the tree and a few darker areas indicated with more raw umber.
When working outside in the winter, one has to be well prepared. Sometimes I can find a spot where I can work from my car but more often I traipse all over the countryside looking for things to paint. Fortunately the day was warm and sunny so I could manage quite a bit before having to warm up. Next part two!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


An earlier version of this small study was completed some time ago and eventually led to the Morning in the Desert series of paintings. The study was painted in response to the early morning sun raking across the land. Most of the landscape was in shadow so is a more even tone and distance is implied more with color than a lessening of value.
Coming across the painting in my studio recently, I decided to repaint parts of it as I wasn't especially happy with what I had done. Starting with the sky, I added more clouds then reworked the distant mountains slightly trying to create a deeper feeling of distance. The mid and foreground also got a good going over deepening the overall tonal value and adding slightly brighter highlights. The finished effect is okay but perhaps a little pastel-looking. Certainly, it is better then the original and some valuable lessons were learnt. The oil is 7" X 9".

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


First I want to apologize for the lack of posts lately. I have been traveling quite a bit and also doing a lot of work on the house. Not real excuses perhaps but I hope to update more regularly from now on.
During one of my trips to Canada, I rose before dawn hoping to discover something new with the landscape near where I was staying. I certainly wasn't disappointed that morning as I was greeted with heavy mist when I stepped outside. Hiking near the river, shapes slowly formed into trees, bushes only to disappear within minutes as heavier mist rolled in again. It was a magical world unlike anything I had experienced before and as the light expanded slowly in the East, objects that were once shades of grey took on subtle form and color. And in the calm silence as I stood witness to the birth of another day, I was taken with a mood of peaceful unreality and delight. I seemed to be floating, part of an ethereal landscape with tendrils of mist slowly drifting past. Two crows flew silently overhead and distantly came the calls of geese far downriver. Moments like these are rare for me and have now led to a new series of paintings, the first of which is above. Morning Mist - November (oil on canvas) is an 8" X 10".