Tuesday, December 31, 2019


Black-crowned Night Herons are sometimes seen in the reserve, usually at dusk when I hear their calls coming down from the evening sky. Here though, the bird is at its roost sight in broad daylight a few miles away on an island on Lake Whetstone. There is an active Great Blue heronery there and night herons can be sometimes seen along with Green-backed Herons. I did this watercolor study in my sketchbook, the size is about 9" x 5".

Monday, December 30, 2019


I found this burl growing on the thin branches of a tree in the reserve, interestingly there were a few other slightly smaller ones on the same tree. Usually I only see much larger ones around the bases of larger trees near the roots etc, or on the side of the trunk. Anyway, I liked the sculptured shapes of these and also the subtle textures.

This illustration was done on thin sketchbook paper which is not really suited to watercolor but I like to experiment from time to time. It was a bit more difficult to paint this one but came out okay. The start of the illustration is shown above. Thin accurate pencil lines followed by washes to capture the effect of light and shadow. More darker washes follow with the smaller details at the end. Size is about 7" x 9".

Sunday, December 29, 2019


On Chung Chau Island (about a 20 min ferry ride from Central, Hong Kong), I sat and watched the tide slowly spill over rocks near a deeper channel just off shore. The slowly rising water turned some places into rock pools, totally submerging others. There seemed to be a kind of timelessness to it - the way the scene changed so slowly, had been doing so for eons. In this painting, I tried to capture something of what I saw and felt that day - perhaps more studies will be necessary before I get close. Size is about 4.5" x 5", oil on canvas.

Friday, December 27, 2019


After returning from Japan, we had a few days left in Hong Kong so visited some of our favorite places. The closest temple to where we were staying in Tuen Mun was the Ching Chung Koon Taoist Temple. Set amongst high-rises to the South and off a busy street, it is like entering another world. There are so many different things to see there including mini Chinese-style gardens, ponds, bonsai, statues and of course, wonderfully decorated temple buildings. This study of a stone lion (one of a pair) was opposite the well-known Dragon Gate statue situated between the two larger temples. This study differs from the ones I did in Japan as I had started a new sketchbook when in Hong Kong so the surface and rate of absorption of the paper took a little getting used to. I finished the study back in the flat. Size is about 5" x 7".

Driving to Shek O on Hong Kong Island, we spent some time on the beach and in the village where I found many subjects to paint. It was incredibly hot though - 38 C (100 F) so kept out of the sun as much as we could. A recent typhoon had washed out the bridge linking to the headland so weren't able to walk up to the pagoda. The sunbather study above is about 5" x 12".

The last one was completed as a quick exercise in trying to do smaller studies within a set time limit. The size is about 5" x 5" but I think I may do a larger version or something similar.

Thursday, December 19, 2019


Back in Tokyo the next day, I finally got the chance to meet up with the intrepid Dave Bull at his woodblock print shop Mokuhankan in the Asakusa district. What a wonderful guy! I have been watching his webisodes for many years so feel that I know him quite well by now. And after e-mailing back and forth it was great to see him in person. Wonderful collection of woodblock prints in his shop too of which most were created by him and his staff. We talked a bit about his latest print and I thanked him for single-handedly revitalizing the woodblock industry in Japan which had been in decline before he moved to Tokyo from Canada quite a number of years ago. An amazing feat really - such a down to earth kind of a person and very humble too - really impressed with this guy! We were planning a return visit to his shop the next day but the approach of Typhoon Hagibis had us scrambling for an early exit. We luckily managed to get an earlier flight back to Hong Kong as our original flight was on the very day the typhoon was to hit Japan. So, although slightly shorter than expected, our Japan visit was truly amazing and really we couldn't have asked for more! The small shrine shown above was found near Dave's shop in Asakusa and couldn't resist a final sketchbook study of it.


On a day-tour from Tokyo, we visited the area around Mount Fuji and was awarded spectacular views of this iconic mountain from many different angles. Later in the day, an amazing mushroom cloud formed around the top and this is what I painted here. Truly a spectacular day and beautiful scenery all round.


In Kamakura were a few kimono-clad ladies, one of which was wearing a particularly boldly-patterned kimono which I decided to try and capture in my sketchbook. I chose a view from behind so as to maximize the fabric pattern. Also taking note of the red under-lying garment and the hair-do. I'm quite happy with this one and am sure will do larger versions of it when I get the chance.