Monday, December 29, 2014


Here are a few illustrations I did a long time ago for a proposed book of birds. The plate above was to include Little and Chinese Egrets (you can faintly see the pencil outlines) but only the Great Egret was completed.

This plate included some of the tern species seen in South-east Asia, again not completed mainly because I couldn't find a publisher willing to sponsor the time and money to do the project. Both illustrations gouache on paper, size about 11" x 7".

Friday, December 26, 2014


I finally finished this large painting that was started some time ago. Since sky patterns and colors at dusk (and dawn) change so rapidly, I was only able to do a small study in my sketchbook before the colors faded to grey as the sun set lower below the horizon. A few photos helped my memory along when it came time to do the actual painting, and since I had planned on doing a large version, I first painted a smaller study (about 9" x 12") to help solidify the design etc. A graduated deep and slightly greyish-blue was laid in first from top to bottom then the darker clouds were painted in. The lower areas of the clouds that were picking up the last rays of the sun were carefully added and I continued working my way down to the horizon. I kept the land below simplified in tones of grey so all the focus was on the sky and when that area was completed, went back to the sky for some of the final details in the clouds. Size is 30" x 40" (76cm x 102cm), oil on canvas.

Monday, November 24, 2014


I did this young Bald Eagle study some time ago, working this time in oils instead of watercolor as I usually do. I actually prefer the look of immature Bald Eagles as apposed to the adults of the species - probably because I haven't been able to properly resolve painting a basically white head against the contrasting dark body. Perhaps some day I'll be able to work it out but until then I am enjoying working on these young eagle studies. Size is 12" x 9" (30cm x 23cm), oil on board.

Friday, October 31, 2014


After much time spent working over the rocks, I decided to finish the figure trying to bring completion to the work. I started by slowly laying in washes of color building up tone and form. This process took a surprisingly long time but eventually I got to the point where I was happy. I'll put the painting away for awhile and will probably do some work to it at a later date but for now this is as far as I can take it. Size is 22" x 30" (560mm x 762mm), watercolor on Arches paper.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Most of the rocks are complete at this point. Usually while working, I'll step back from time to time and see what areas need more work and selectively pay more attention to those parts as needed. It's a case of fine tuning when I'm this far along, seeking a balance and if needed, I'll scrub out some areas so that I can re-work them, trying all the while to get closer to the final image I have in my head. I'm also adding subtle washes to the figure and slowly bringing it along as well. This painting has been a bit of a marathon, working on and off for a few months - hopefully not too far to go now.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


I completed the first pass of the large rock using mostly thin washes as before then followed with smaller details for both texture and to help shape the various rock forms. More work was done to the further rock shelf keeping things light and underdeveloped at this point. Washes to the figure also helped maintain a general tonal harmony as I was careful to keep both parts of the painting coming along at the same time. This helped me get a better overall feeling of the work and was easier to see what part to work on next. It's getting there but still lots to do though!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


After quite a bit of work on the rocks, I felt a little happier. The tones were still too light at this point but I would adjust them later on when I had almost completed the painting. At this point it was mostly just a case of laying down thin washes of color, slowly building up the form and textures of the rocks. I tried to keep things interesting and used a dry-brush technique here and there for added texture. I also put in the beginnings of gentle waves in the background and dropped in my darkest tones in the lower right.


I started this watercolor a few months ago and am still working on it! My largest figurative work to date, I tried not to be intimidated by the large expanse of white paper. This one took a lot of initial drawing and some erasing of misplaced lines using a soft kneadable eraser - this I hoped wouldn't leave any marks on the delicate watercolor paper surface. After I was happy with the drawing stage, I washed on some raw sienna to establish a background tone then started with some of the rocks building up color from light to dark. The figure got a few washes too as I was initially unsure how things would look. So far, not quite the brilliant start I had hoped for but I was confident that it would come together towards the end.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Some time ago I did a smaller study of this scene which turned out okay so I felt it was time to do a larger version. Still the finished work is not that large - only 12" x 9 " but is big enough I feel to more easily capture my thoughts and emotions that I have for the coast and for the sea. Growing up as a boy in Bude on the North coast of Cornwall in the UK, I spent many an hour beach combing, watching birds and climbing the cliffs around the harbour, so I suppose this painting is a reminder of that time. Oil on canvas, 12" x 9" (30cm x 20cm).

Monday, August 25, 2014


Sorry for the lack of Blog posts lately, I have been unable to update until today. The two clutches of eggs shown here were laid by a captive Black Kite (Katie) that was being cared for by Jim Ades in Hong Kong. Since the eggs were infertile, they had been collected by Jim so it was with great delight that I sat down and painted them. Surprisingly there was quite a bit of variation in markings (even within each clutch) which made the job even more interesting. Completing this work spurred me on to do a whole series of egg paintings, all of which are now in private collections. Sorry for the severe crop of this image - it was scanned from a slide. Black Kite Eggs, watercolor on paper, size about 15" x 11" (38cm x 28cm).

Saturday, July 26, 2014


As with many of my paintings, they seem to develop as I go along and many become part of a theme. The early morning light seen here was such a theme and I explored it in watercolor and also in oils. Some of the works were landscapes, others such as the Black Kite above, more wildlife oriented. I painted this one when I lived in Hong Kong and as mentioned in an earlier post, managed to get excellent reference if these birds so for once, it was easier to develop what I had into a painting. The view is one of looking down the mountainside during a hazy morning just before the sun rises. The background seems slightly too purplish in this image, perhaps because it is was scanned from a slide and as I no longer have the original, can't be sure about the true colors, Still, the painting is one that I am happy with and brings back many fond memories. Size is about 20" x 30" (51cm x 76cm), oil on canvas, private collection.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Some smaller studies done mostly in my sketchbooks - all from life. The immature Gryfalcon was seen at a wildlife art show some years back, first drawn from life then the above study finished in the studio.

Studies of an immature American Crow drawn via a telescope from my studio. The Greylag Goose done from a waterfowl collection in the UK.

This feather found on a walk near where I live, most likely from a Red-shouldered Hawk. They breed in the nearby woods and are almost always seen when we go that way. In spring their shrill and loud calling comes from high up in the sky as they soar over our home proclaiming their territory.

These unusual seed pods are from the Sweetgum Tree (Liquidambar stryaciflua). A mature tree grows just up the street and later in the year, these pods lie scattered all over the ground, the small seeds are inside and come out if you shake the pod.  Would love to rake up a few hundred and use them in the garden as mulch - they have a fascinating structure and invite closer study. All these studies done in watercolor - sizes vary.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I was wandering about outside one morning after a night of snow and saw this unusual cloud formation. Since there was only a light wind, I was able to work in comfort and completed the sky first working quickly while the cloud pattern was still fresh in my mind. Most of these smaller paintings I try and finish outside but sometimes as in this case, the painting was completed in the studio. Mostly this consisted of the finer details in the trees and grasses etc but I also touched up the sky in places. There is a strong horizontal feeling to this work, the bands of thin cloud are echoed in the foreground by the grasses and to a lesser extent, the patterns in the snow. Oil on canvas, 9" x 12" (23cm x 30cm). Private collection.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Living as I did in Hong Kong, some aspects of life there are synonymous with the character of the place - such as the hustle of Kowloon, the busy streets full of cars, people and buses, the trams running through Central, street hawkers and jay walkers, and over and around the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island - Black Kites. Seen year round, they are almost always floating overhead or flapping about just offshore looking for tidbits on the ocean waves. They have for me become part of the landscape there and I never tire of watching them. They bred on Lamma Island where I lived and the nest was nearby so I could study them at leisure. Often I would be up at dawn watching and waiting for their first flight of the day and this was the feeling that I tried to get into this painting. The upward thrust of the rocks leads (naturally) to the bird which I feel is just about to launch off into flight. I kept the colours muted and harmonious to tie the piece together using many washes of watercolor to obtain this. The size is 22" x 15" (56cm x 38cm). Private collection.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


I'll be showing new paintings at the Summer Exhibition at McBride Gallery in the Maryland State Capitol, Annapolis this weekend. The show runs until July 20 and my Summer Morning figure study shown in the previous post is on the poster advertising the exhibition. Address is: 215 Main Street, Annapolis. 410-267-7077. Their website has more info plus some of my paintings -

I did the above plein air painting last week walking down to the lake on two consecutive mornings as I couldn't quite finish the painting on the first day. The light was changing quite quickly so I only had about an hour and a half each time. My focus was on the strip of sun-lit grasses in the foreground as well as the reflections. The work does perhaps lack a focal subject but is a good starting point for future studies and I am already thinking of a new larger painting based on this scene with perhaps egrets or a heron. Size is 8" x 10" (20cm x 26cm). Oil on canvas.

Friday, June 13, 2014


Here is the final painting, quite a change from how it looked in the last post I know. I thought that I had another pic of the painting between this and the previous stage but I seem to have lost that photo. Anyway, a lot of the more subtle tones are not coming through in this pic and blogger has made the left side of the painting darker than it should be, in the actual work there is a much more subtle gradation towards the light on that side. Anyway, I'm really glad that I have finally finished this one as the actual painting took ages and I found it quite difficult to get the feeling I was after. So now onto the other paintings that I have in the studio plus I am thinking of working on a completely new series - more on that later. 'Summer Morning', watercolor on Arches paper, 15" x 22" (38cm x 56cm).

Monday, June 9, 2014


Quite some time had passed by the time I came back to this painting and still not having a decent idea for the background, I eventually decided on some pillows. A wash of textured paint was put down over the background leaving the lighter areas of the pillows. When that had dried I started laying washes on the pillows themselves creating more texture, but after awhile decided that this was not what I wanted so the painting was once again put aside - this time for even longer! Coming back to the work later and making a final effort to finish the painting, I added yet more color washes to the figure. Almost there now but I knew that when I had painted in the hair, I would still have to slightly adjust the overall tones for a better balance. Next, I repaint the background, the covering and finally finish the figure.


Working with the human figure can be very demanding especially when working in a realistic style of painting. This approach demands accuracy so a slow and careful approach is called for. One needs to combine accurate drawing with correct skin tones for the work to be successful so it was with this in mind that I started the painting seen here done on stretched watercolor paper. I positioned the model slightly to the left of center which allowed a little more space in front of her. Once an accurate drawing was in place, I started to lay on washes of pale reddish orange greyed slightly with sepia. This process continued for some time until I thought that I was getting close to the final skin tone then I added some details around the feet and hands. The sheer material that the model was wearing had some pale blue flowers embroidered into the pink so those details were also put in using a fine brush and cobalt blue. Next, more color to the figure plus I try adding the background.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Another evening sketch, this time concentrating on a layer of clouds close to the horizon and the associated colors found at this time of the day. I purposely kept the colors of the landscape subdued and used a harmonious palette throughout. Although I consider these sketches finished works in their own right, I do them most often as a kind of experiment, some develop into larger works, some into a series of their own. But all through I try and capture the feeling that I have for the landscape, and the simple joy I feel when I'm out painting. This oil is 9" x 12" (20cm x 30cm), private collection.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Although this is a medium-sized painting, I still consider it a study. I have yet to do the larger version but hope to get to that as soon as I have finished the painting currently sitting on my easel (another sky painting). Again this is a view near to where I live looking over the relatively flat landscape of Montgomery County towards the setting sun. In the larger work, I'll probably push the vales slightly in the hope of creating a slightly more dramatic work. December Evening is 18" x 24" (46cm x 61cm). Oil on Canvas. Private collection.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


In this medium sized painting I attempted to capture the feeling of a late evening landscape when the sun has just set but there is still enough light in the grasses to give them definition. Some of the clouds are catching rays of sun on their undersides causing a subtle glow - a theme that I am exploring in a much larger painting currently on an easel in my studio. This time of the day holds a special meaning in my heart so no wonder then that I do so many paintings like this. Late Evening Sky is 16" x 20" (40cm x 51cm). Oil on Canvas, private collection.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Keeping with the Dawn and Dusk series, I painted this smaller study that shows the ridge line trees and lake close to where I live. It was a little later in the morning when I painted this one and the rising sun is off to the right of the scene. I was primarily interested in the early morning clouds so this is what the painting is mostly about. The main reason for posting the one though is that I have been working on sky paintings all week (I'll post some of them later) and since most of the studies have gone well, I am planning a larger work of one or more of these studies but still can't decide how much of the landscape to show at the bottom. Do I want the painting to be more like the one above of just have a thin line of trees and grass showing making the work more of a skyscape? To resolve this problem I'll probably do a series of watercolor studies in my sketchbook and see which one I like the best. 'Clouds Above Lake Anna' is an oil on canvas, 9" x 12" (23cm x 30cm), private collection.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Paintings of the dawn and the dusk has been an ongoing series for me almost since I began painting full time. In many of these works, I have been trying to capture the freshness of a new day. Most important is the sky and the associated cloud effects as light slowly grows in the East - usually the landscape plays a secondary role. Sitting in the pre-dawn stillness, I often have no idea what to expect and am always surprised, no two dawns it seems are the same. Evening skies are of course different and they, even more so than in the morning, can develop into something that I had no inclination of. I am often surprised and delighted, the process is one of discovery and wonderment as I try and capture what I have seen. Most works in this series  are 9" x 12", oil on canvas.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


While down at the nearby lake some time ago, I sat sketching and painting a Great Blue Heron that was resting on the opposite side. The day was warm with clear blue skies that seemed to go on forever and occasional bird song came from nearby along with the calls of Song Sparrows in the bushes close to where I sat. I had almost finished one sketch when I noticed the heron beginning to twist its neck in a most peculiar way - something that I had never observed before so I made a quick drawing of it.

At first I thought that it had seen some prey item on a nearby sapling but it made no move other than a further twisting of the head. After some time I realized that in fact it was looking up into the sky so I lay back in the long grass to take a look. Almost immediately I saw an adult Bald Eagle soaring at a great height overhead. Grabbing my binoculars I watched the bird sailing through the slight breeze without a single wing beat moving slowly to the South until after a few minutes it merged into the haze.

The lesson for me was that birds are far more aware of their surroundings than we are and without the telltale skyward look of the heron, I would have had no idea that the eagle was there. Now sitting indoors on yet another wet and windy day, I wish that the rain would stop so I could go back to the lake and take in some of the Spring migrants. All artwork done in my sketchbook, various sizes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


This drawing done on watercolor paper was from a bird held captive briefly before being released back into the wild. It proved a perfect subject as it sat calmly while I drew and painted nearby. These chance encounters are important to the artist especially as birds seldom keep still for long. Much can be learnt by careful study and observation and I am pleased that I had the opportunity with this bird. Size is about 20" x 13".

Friday, April 25, 2014


This view of nearby farm buildings is of the same farm that I posted earlier but this time looking from the opposite direction, almost due North. I was taken by the way the early morning light shone on the ends of the long barns and highlighted some of the more distant roof tops. I also enjoyed the slightly lower elevation here looking uphill and taking in the foreground grasses as well as the textures in the snow. It was a fun painting to do and completed as a smaller study. I always planned on doing a larger version so this one will be another painting that I'm waiting to get to. I apologize for the slightly lower quality of photo here, it was photographed on slide film and I really need to get it scanned professionally. Dimensions; 9" x 12", oil on canvas.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Living next to the sea as I did for so many years was a special and enlightening experience. Here I could sample nature in all her differing moods and spent many hours walking the shoreline. On one occasion, I came across this small tidal pool and did some small studies before starting this larger watercolor. The foreground directs the eye upward and into the painting with the subtle lines of draining water through the sand. The small ripples on the right are very important to this work also as they keep the eye inward too. I was especially pleased with the mood of this painting and didn't include any birds of other such seaside life as I felt this would only detract from what I had set out to do. This watercolor is about 22" x 30".

Friday, April 11, 2014


Another painting completed some time ago but recently scanned onto disc so I'm able to post it here. This young peregrine has left the nest and is now finding its way on its own. I wanted to pose the bird against a cliff face as to give some indication as to the place it was born. A few stray grasses give some extra spatial definition to the scene and I used diagonal cracks in the rock for a little movement. Otherwise a simple composition but one that was carefully thought out.

Here is a close-up of the bird - I really enjoyed painting this one. Oil on canvas, size about 30" x 40". Sold.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


With all the snow and cold weather we have had this winter, I just had to post a seasonal painting. This one was completed some time ago and has since sold. The farm is not that far from where I live and having driven past many times, I stopped and did some studies etc before starting the actual painting. In this work I wanted to capture the feeling of an evening sky in winter against which the farm and surrounding trees could stand out. Unfortunately the surrounding area has been developed so I am glad that I captured the scene when I did as so many of the farms around here have gone. The painting was done in oils on canvas, size 20" x 40".

Monday, March 31, 2014


And finally here is the completed painting. Not that much different from where I left off last time but there have been some remaining feathers of the lower wing lightly stated along with a subtle deepening of the burnt sienna tones of the upper wing and back. I added the fine hair-like feathers between the eye and the beak and tidied up some of the smaller feather markings here and there. Not a lot really but this attention to detail is important to me and brought the painting to its final stage. With most of the detail concentrated around the head, ones focus goes there first but I think there it still enough of the rest of the bird to explain it's unusual name and the fading out of the ferruginous color keeps that from dominating the painting - this was what I had in my mind for the portrait when I first conceived of the piece. Ferruginous Hawk is in watercolor on Bainbridge rag matboard. Size is 8" x 12" (20cm x 30.5cm).

Sunday, March 30, 2014


More work done to the wing and back along with some defining of the markings around the cheek and nape. I also darkened the yellow around the bill and eye-ring hoping for some slightly better definition of these parts. Some thin washes under the chin help define the throat along with some very fine streaked markings there. The image here is a little lighter than the others - actually closer to the original painting but I can see even at this point that there will have to be a subtle darkening of some of the values. I don't think there is much left to do at this point, a little more work here and there along with some final details right at the end.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Here I have started laying in washes of burnt sienna to represent the ferruginous color of the back and wing coverts - very exciting! I have also put in some of the darker feathers on the back and started to indicate some of the fine markings of the breast feathers. More work was done to the head, cheek and lores of the bird trying to get a feel for this bird as well as capturing some of the particular characteristics of this species. I also darken the iris slightly. At this point I'm happy that the body is taking on a round shape and seems to have form as well as substance.


As is my usual working style, I started painting with the point of most interest - in this case the eye - laying down thin washes of color until I had built up what I thought was a good representation of the eye. This was followed with local color surrounding the area and on the crown of the bird. Pale yellow for the cere, eye-ring and the gape (which is quite extensive on this buteo) was brushed on. The bill I took extra care with as this area really gives character to a bird, so many thin washes and small dots of color were added until I thought I had it about right. At this point, I wasn't trying to finish any particular part as that would come closer to the end when I could judge the balance of tones a little easier. In part 3 I'll be working on the areas that give this bird its name!

Friday, March 28, 2014


I recently started this painting after realizing just how beautiful these hawks are. Quickly grabbing a piece of matboard (because I couldn't find any of my smooth watercolor paper) and over the course of an afternoon, I slowly and carefully drew in the bird paying special attention to the proportions of the head, bill and eye. The complex patterns of the back and wing coverts took some time to understand so I was extra careful there. A pale warm greyish wash followed and was allowed to dry before adding on any details. Next I'll start laying in some color concentrating mostly around the head.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


A few years ago, we drove down from San Francisco along the coast to Carmel stopping at a few different places along the way. Spectacular doesn't really sum up the incredible views seen looking along the shore and out to sea. I managed to do a few sketches while on that trip planning to do a whole series of paintings once I got back to the studio but other paintings and projects took me away from that idea. Lately, since I still can't stand for long, I am doing a lot of watercolors which are usually done sat at a working table. This small study was one of them - usually I would do this kind of thing in oils and as time goes by and I am able to work at the easel for longer periods, I may do a larger version of this. Here I was simply trying to catch the warmth of the sun on the rocky coastline and the spray from a breaking wave. Size is 5" x 7", watercolor on Fabriano paper.

Monday, March 10, 2014


I recently completed this portrait of an Eastern Buzzard (a race of the Common Buzzard). The bird had been cared for by the late Jim Ades in Hong Kong prior to its release so I was able to do quite a large series of sketches and drawings along with taking a few pics - all were helpful in creating this painting. As is my usual practice, a careful drawing was followed by washes of brown and yellow to build up the background tones. When this had dried, I started with the head then as this began to come to completion, followed with the underparts and wing. I left the painting for quite some time and when I came back to it, I could see that there were only a few areas that needed attention before I could call it finished. Mostly this was a case of darkening some of the markings on the nape and breast followed by some smaller details around the eye. Size is 11" x 15", watercolor on Arches paper.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


When I looked out the kitchen window it was just sitting there in the morning sun, a young Sharp-shinned Hawk. Usually they don't stay around long so I wondered as I ran to get my telescope, would it still be there when I got back. Fortunately it was and actually sat looking around for over 10 mins - long enough for me to do some sketches and take some really bad pics through the telescope. Later I started this watercolor intending to do a slightly different background with snow - but that didn't work out so I just added the leaves and branches that it was sitting on. I struggled with the Canson watercolor paper it is painted on so will keep my supply for smaller works. Perhaps this study will be the beginnings of an oil painting - will have to wait and see. Size is 15" x 11".

Sunday, February 23, 2014


While recovering in Hong Kong, I was still able to do quite a bit of birdwatching thanks mostly to Richard and his network of birding friends. In fact, Jan was quite an unusual month in Hong Kong with regards to rare birds, I think that a total of 11 species were seen in the territories that were either a first for Hong Kong or uncommon enough to be of special note. Although we didn't get to see all of these, my total count for birds new to me during Jan/Feb was 11! Often when returning home from a day out, I would sketch these new birds in my sketchbook or finish off the ones I had done in the field. The Bluethroat above was one of these. While I had seen quite a few of this species in the past, I don't think that I have ever painted one.

Hearing about a Long-billed Plover seen not far away, we jumped in the car (well for me it was more like a hobble) and sped off, fortunately the bird was still there when we arrived and great views were had by all. It was associating with a small party of Little-ringed Plovers and at first took some separating from them. Once the characteristics were learnt though, it was much easier to re-find the bird when scanning through the birds.  Also seen near the plover was a Blyth's pipit so two great birds were had in one day! Both the above studies are about 5" x 7", watercolor.

Monday, February 17, 2014


Here is the finished painting. I basically worked all over the bird at the same time starting with the bill then laying in the warm purplish washes of the head and neck. Next I turned my attention to the back and the wing taking special care to get the correct look of the feathers. While one area was still wet, I worked on another back and forth until I was happy with how the painting was progressing. By now the bird had flown away but I still had enough information to continue. I initially got the shape of the eye wrong but was able to wash out the area and start again when it had dried. After the bird was almost complete, I added a few more washes to the background rocks then let the painting sit for a few days - that way I find it easier to see what needs to be done next. A little darkening here and there and that was it. Grey Heron, watercolor, 11" x 8".


Here the background is almost complete but I'll still do some more work to it later. Mostly this stage was a case of deepening the values of the rocks here and there but I didn't want to go too dark - I  was actually reserving the final colors until after I had completed the heron. Usually I would do the background first but initially I wasn't sure how the bird was going to look against the rocks - would it stand out enough or simply fade into the background. Often with drawing and painting, there are many such questions! Still, it seemed okay at this point but even though this is the third of four parts, I felt that I was only about half-way through!


Painting carefully around the bird (especially the bill) I laid in various washes of violet and burnt sienna. These two colors were also mixed together to form a range of warm and cool greys which were spread around while some of the washes were still wet. When the initial layer of paint had dried, I began lightly defining some of the darker areas of the rocks and let that dry off too. Next more work on the background.


After spending some time viewing and sketching Egrets and Herons at Shuen Wan, I decided to complete a field study of a Grey Heron in my sketchbook. As the bird was resting amongst rocks along the shoreline, I was able to observe it for some time and started with a careful drawing. Egrets and herons often spend a lot of time immobile while waiting for the tide to turn and so are easy birds to get to know - as a birdwatcher and as an artist. This bird was facing into the sun (and the wind) but looking slightly left so I drew it that way. Once I was happy with how the bird came out, I lightly sketched in the background rocks then contemplated how to proceed next - paint the bird first or start with the background. Since the tide was still quite high and the bird was probably going to stay around for awhile, I decided to work on the rocks first. Next, getting some color down.