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.

Friday, February 14, 2014


As mentioned in my last post, we were staying with our friends Richard and MY while recuperating in Hong Kong and this was the view that greeted me each morning looking out the front window! The mountains are a bit misty in this pic but for an artist, loads of atmosphere! I would often set up the scope and watch egrets, herons and other waterbirds feeding and wading in the waters outside. From the couch, I could lie quietly with my binoculars and watch other birds come in to the birdbath set up just outside the window - always a very enjoyable experience. And from the upstairs bedroom, I had great views into the small wood where thrushes and redstarts could be found, and I was often entertained by the calls of a very early Koel and later when the weather warmed up a little, the scratchy squeaky but sweet song of a Violet-whistling Thrush just outside the window.

Since I was not able to move around much, I started by giving myself a drawing project where I would open a book and draw at random in my sketchbook. After a few days of this, I felt able to start doing watercolor studies of some of the birds I had seen. The first was of a Grey Heron (above) which came out okay but was done on horrible paper in a cheap sketchbook - new reserved for drawing only! Later I did more studies of these birds along with some of the rarer birds seen during Jan and Feb. These will follow in later posts. Grey Heron, watercolor, 6" x 3.5" - sketchbook study.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Well, as you can see, it has been quite some time since I last posted on this blog - and there are some very good reasons! More on that in a bit. First I would like to wish you all the very best for 2014 and hope you had a wonderful holiday season.
To start off, I plan on making a few changes to this blog this year as well as to explore some different subject matter. One of the reasons for doing so is to be able to post on a more regular schedule and to offer more images of not just of my artwork, but also some of my photos. Don't worry, the adding of photos will be more to illustrate concepts and ideas - this will still be an artist's blog. I'll include some of my travel pics when required so as to add flavor to some of my stories and adventures.
Now, to the reason for my lack of posts. At the end of Nov last year, we traveled first to Hawaii then after a week of glorious sandy beaches, surf and sun we flew on to Hong Kong. Trying to post from over there proved problematic to say the least so I gave up and planned on posting again as soon as we returned to the US. Well, to cut a long story short, on the 22nd of Dec, I fell from a bicycle and broke my leg! This meant a hospital stay, an operation and some time spent in the recovery ward.
Thankfully M took great care of me and kept this rather traumatic event in perspective. I was also fortunate in that my good friends Richard and MY offered us a place to stay while I recuperated. They live in the Northeastern part of Hong Kong in a wonderful house overlooking a tidal bay with the Pat Sin Mountains as a backdrop. For me I couldn't have wished for a better place to recover. The incredible view aside, each day I could look out as egrets, herons and kingfishers went about their daily life. Black kites soared overhead, a nearby island held a pair of breeding white-breasted sea eagles, and thrushes and flycatchers could be found in the woodland behind the house. All in all, perfect for an artist and birdwatcher like me but I realized that it was going to be a long road so tried to relax as best as I could and took each day at a time.
Presently we are back in the US so I will start regular posting from now on. The heavily cropped image above is of a young Ring-billed Gull - a species I look forward so seeing again soon. Size is about 4" x 5", watercolor on Canson paper.