Thursday, December 31, 2020



A new study looking across the central marsh of the National Wildlife Reserve at Chincoteague. We visit on a weekly basis and have yet to tire of it. There is always so much to see and paint that I have a hard time deciding what to do next! There are also some great hikes and the beach is accessible from the main reserve, and also slightly further to the south at Assateague Island National Seashore. Of course the main draw for many people visiting Chincoteague are the ponies and fortunately, we have seen plenty of them too! Size of this painting is 5" x 7", oil on canvas.

These small studies (done in my sketchbook) are a way for me to work out ideas and compositions. I keep them small so as not to take anything away from the larger paintings that will be done from these smaller ones. They are all of places I have visited or seen while staying down here on the Eastern Shore.

Monday, December 28, 2020



This view across the beanfield looks west towards the setting sun and has become a favored one of mine. Consequently, I have done quite a few paintings that look out towards the distant treeline and include the various weather conditions I have seen. This study is one of the first I did of the area and shows the field before the beans had been harvested. Size is 8" x 10", oil on canvas.

Guard Shore Beach is about a 15 min drive from where we are staying and has become a favorite destination of mine. While perhaps not as picturesque as others on the Chesapeake, I like the views across the marsh on the one side and the water on the other. The quick study shown here was one I did when we visited on a cold but sunny morning a few weeks ago and I tried to capture the bright light shining across the landscape and water to the distant trees. Size is 5" x 7", oil on canvas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020



After settling in down here on the Eastern Shore, I have begun some smaller landscape studies as a way of getting a little more familiar with the land surrounding us. This study is a view looking across the nearby bean field to the distant treeline with evening back-lit clouds. I'm working on a series of similar scenes such as this so more to come.


At nearby Chincoteague, I did this study in the reserve looking across the marsh to the distant treeline. The wonderful clouds were a range of warm and cool colors and made for an exciting morning. Both of these studies are 5" x 7", oil on canvas.

Friday, November 27, 2020



I started this portrait some time ago using just graphite but it seemed a little flat so I used white chalk for the highlights. Size is 22" x 15".

Monday, November 23, 2020



White wagtails were common winter visitors on Lamma Island, Hong Kong when I lived there so I took the opportunity to do a number of field studies of them. Shown here are a few that I did.

All these studies were done in sketchbooks, the color ones using watercolor which I found easiest to use in the field.

These studies represent the various races seen during that time, I also saw a Japanese Wagtail (rare in HK) but didn't do any studies of it - pity!

I'm on the Eastern Shore at the moment staying in a house that is well off the beaten track with spotty internet access so posting has been limited. I'll be able to do more when we move closer to town.

Friday, October 30, 2020



These studies were done at Mai Po nature reserve in Hong Kong quite a few years ago. Mostly I sketched and painted the few Saunders Gulls that were about but also some Black-headed Gulls.

I did a few watercolor studies too trying all the while to capture their unique characteristics.

These smaller gulls have a certain amount of charm that totally captivated me and I wanted to spend days just working on them!

Later in another part of the reserve, I came across some sleeping Shelducks. This is one of the watercolor studies I did of them.

Saturday, October 17, 2020



Looking through some of my sketchbooks recently, I came across a few studies that I thought interesting enough to share here. The female peregrine falcon shown above was moulting into adult plumage. A falconer friend was looking after it for a few days so I sat close by and made these studies. She was initially quite nervous and shivered for awhile until settling down. I added watercolor to some of the drawings which helped show the stage of the moult.

This page was dedicated to starlings in winter when they came down to roost in trees just outside my studio window. Some of them didn't make it through the colder nights so I drew and painted studies of them the next morning while in my hand.

I always enjoy drawing and painting black walnuts. The nut forms inside a green hard outer layer that gradually turns blackish-brown. They usually fall around this time too and I am always picking them up and breaking them open to see inside. When split in half, there is a wonderful shape of an owls head inside!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020



First off, I decided to darken the background slightly with another wash. This had the effect of lifting the breast slightly off the paper, then I began adding details to the head. As usual, this process took some time as I slowly built up colors and tones. I mostly used a medium brush with a fine point but there was enough body in the brush to allow washes as well. A slightly larger brush was used on the back and wing, panting carefully around all the white markings. The breast was washed over a few times being very subtle with the details and only using the lightest tones to define the edges of some of the feathers. Finally shaping and darkening the tip of the bill finished off this one. Size is 7.5" x 11", watercolor on Arches hot-pressed paper.

Monday, September 28, 2020



I have been neglecting my blog for some time now but finally have some time to my own. I started a small study this week of a male Augur Buzzard as a way of getting back to painting - it had been quite some time since I held a watercolor brush in my hand! Not that I felt rusty or anything, just ready to start painting again. Usually I have no problem picking up where I had left off so I began this study as I usually do with a detailed drawing overlaid with watercolor washes. Augur Buzzards don't have a lot of color (apart from their reddish tails) unlike their close cousin, the Jackal Buzzard (we saw quite a few of those in South Africa), so I mainly used shades of grey with a little blue and yellow around the beak. Other details were dropped in here and there slowly building up the marking of this spectacular male. The eyes had a deep base color of burnt umber put down first then that was overlaid with black to darken and form the eyes properly.

Friday, July 31, 2020


Working on our extensive home project makeover this month has left me with little time for painting but I did manage to work on this small oil. This study was re-worked a little, darkening some areas and adding smaller details here and there. I think it's closer to the image I had in my head when I started the work some time ago. The image came from an early morning walk in the nearby reserve as I watched the sun come up on a cool and slightly cloudy day. Size is 7" x 5", oil on canvas.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020


I saw this female Ebony Jewelwing near the upper lake in the nearby reserve. As damselflies go, they are quite large and striking! Especially the female which has small white marks on the fore-tips of each wing. A male was spotted nearby. He is dressed all in black without the white spots but makes up for it by having an incredibly vivid body, head and thorax. Mostly the shiny color is a metallic green but also seems blueish at times - looks magnificent in direct sunlight (I'll paint him next). Ebony Jewelwings have also seen in our garden - perhaps they hatch from our pond along with the other species of damsel and dragonflies there. The female painted above had only 4 legs!

Monday, June 22, 2020


I found this Zabulon Skipper in the reserve resting on Blackberry blossom. I am slowly learning about and identifying American butterflies and moths to further my work on fauna and flora in the nearby reserve. This male sat for some time without moving so I was able to do some quick sketches and take a few phone pics which I could hopefully use later for details. Usually small butterflies don't settle for long so I was lucky to have so much time with this one. For butterflies, I have found it best to just hang around a favorite nectar feeding site and see what arrives rather than actively looking all over the place. Below are the various stages of the painting.

Size of this watercolor is about 11" x 7.5".

Thursday, June 18, 2020


Walking the nearby reserve almost daily through spring into early summer has revealed the incessant march of nature. With so much rain early this year, plants have grown quickly despite the cooler weather. The once bare field are now awash in grasses, brambles and flowers. This continued observation and note taking has allowed me to better understand the growth cycles of plants as well as which birds, animals and insects are seen in each month. Some of these I have drawn and painted in my sketchbooks as the mood takes me and I'll post some of them here on my blog. I'm trying to cover a wide range of fauna as well as flora to better understand this small area of land that I visit so often.

Saturday, June 13, 2020


I often do these small studies in my sketchbooks - sometimes in black and white but usually in color as shown here. For me, they are a way of working out composition and color as well as giving an overall look of what a future painting could look like. I try not to put too much work into them as I want to save that for the actual painting, instead just concentrate on getting down the basics without much detail. When looking for inspiration, I can go through them and pick out something I want to paint as opposed to just sitting there and thinking 'what do I want to work on next'.

Saturday, May 30, 2020


Double-crested Cormorants migrate through here each spring and I see them on the lakes in the nearby reserve where they feed and rest for a few days before moving on. It gives me a good chance to make field drawings of them in my sketchbooks so having done a number of them, I decided to use what I had collected so far and do a watercolor painting. As usual, a careful drawing was completed first then quite a few washes of color were added slowly building up the tone until I was happy with the finished result. These birds have wonderful emerald-colored eyes and to get this right, I used washes of heavily thinned Windsor Green.

The initial drawing was done with a pencil I picked up from the roadside when out for a walk one day. I found to my delight that it has a nice soft lead inside which suits the kind of work I do and I have it specially marked for later use. The paper is from Strathmore - not the best I have used but not bad either. Size is 10" x 8" (28cm x 20cm).

Sunday, May 24, 2020


After quite a bit of back and forth, the painting was complete. Since I had most of the difficulties behind me now that the first pass of paint had gone on, I just had to buckle down and keep working on it! Quite a bit of time was spent simply looking at the image and deciding which bit needed to be darker, which bit needed a little more detail etc. The shadows were dropped in last of all and I finally considered it finished. Watercolor on Arches paper, 11" x 7.5" (28cm x 19cm).

Thursday, May 21, 2020


These trees are one of my favorite with their unusual bark and majestic form. This tree has lost a limb from the one side, probably during an ice storm. Some storms over here have been known to fell whole trees when the ice gets really thick, a sudden loud crash and the tree is down! This one though still stands and the resultant hole will be used for nesting birds or perhaps a grey squirrel, This feature was something I wanted to include in the painting but the main attraction though was sunlight on the bark and the resulting shadows from all the branches. So far I'm trying to establish a sense of light and shadow then once I have that down, I'll finish the mottling of the bark and the other branches.

Friday, May 15, 2020


To finish off, I worked on some areas of the water first then finished the reflections and darkened the wavelets slightly. Completing the stumps themselves was a case of taking my time with a fine brush and slowly painting around the remaining leaves before adding the stems. Done! A somewhat simple watercolor but does capture these lone stumps in shallow water just the way I had envisioned. Size is 11" x 7.5" (28cm x 19cm).

Thursday, May 14, 2020


I felt that the overall tone of the painting was a little light so I added another thin greyish-blue wash overall then let that dry. Working on the willow leaves first, I mixed Hookers Green Dark with a lot of yellow to get a pale green. Hookers Green has to be my least favorite color and I hardly ever use it - the tube I have is well over 10 years old and there is still plenty left! Since this color is a heavily staining one, I was careful where I applied the green leaves as I knew once down, no amount of scrubbing would get the green off again! The darker areas of the stumps were then carefully painted around each willow leaf then darkened where necessary. Using mostly Raw Sienna, I did more work to the reflections darkening and refining them a bit.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


I saw these willow stumps in shallow water down at the lake. The beavers had been at them and severely stunted their growth. I liked the way that small wavelets lapped against the shore and created abstract patterns in the reflections so started this watercolor to try and capture the scene as I had seen it. To begin, I laid in a greyish-blue wash overall into which I added wave shapes while the paper was still wet. This has to be timed right - too wet and the shapes go too fuzzy, too dry and there are hard edges - timing is the key! When the paper had dried, I added the first layer of reflections - just feeling my way along so far.

Thursday, May 7, 2020


To finish off, I added some soft-edged clouds in the sky to create a little movement but was careful not to overdo it as I felt the foreground was quite busy enough. The rocks were completed and I also added a little detail to the sand and darkened those areas too. Then it was a case of slowly going over the painting adding and correcting here and there until I was happy with the finished look. I liked the view through the V shape between the two middle-distance rocks to the distant headland. Earlier I had explored this area and found some very interesting rock formations that may become the subject of a future painting. The main rock in the middle of the painting reminds me of one of the giant head sculptures found on Easter Island. With its grim mouth and crumbly nose, I felt it was an interesting focal point for my painting. Size is 11" x 15" (28cm x 38cm). Watercolor on rough Arches paper.

Thursday, April 30, 2020


I realized that the rocks would need quite a bit of work and because of the busy foreground, I kept the sky simple. I slowly added tones and color to each rock working from the middle-ground forwards as needed then put in a few washes to darken the sand. There was also some green patches on the closer rocks so these areas were done at the same time. The main rock in the middle was darkened and this helped set the overall tone.


I could have spent ages exploring the coastline of the Algarve in Portugal. Although our visits were in Winter, the weather was non the less wonderful and we came across some of the most amazing beaches I have ever seen. In the scene above, I had walked away from the main beach and turned to look back from where I had come when I saw this scene. The littered rocks of the foreground led my eye into the scene then onto the distant sea and headland. I knew there and then I wanted to do a painting of this view so after a few brief sketches, I started a watercolor. In the work so far, I have been trying to establish some of the base tones of the painting which will need quite a bit of darkening as I go along.

Monday, April 20, 2020


Well, I'm about finished with this one. There is a slight difference in tone between the previous stage in the earlier post and the finished painting. I decided that the base tone of the bird was too light and a bit dull so I washed another layer of pale yellow over the whole sheet. This had to be done very carefully so as not to disturb the paint already laid down and cause any smudging. When that had dried overnight, it was simply a case of carefully applying the many markings of the plumage and building up the tones until I was happy with the result. I think the painting works as is and I probably won't do much else to it. In reflection, I think it is one of my stronger Gryfalcon paintings and I am happy to finally finish it after so many hours of work. This watercolor was painted on smooth Arches paper, size is about 12" x 9" (30cm x 20cm).

Friday, April 17, 2020


Well, quite a bit of work has been done to this painting so far. I was enjoying working on this bird so much that I forgot to stop and take more in-progress shots! Here I have almost finished the head and am starting to do the darker markings of the breast. I used a dull orangish-yellow for the background and this has also become the bird's base plumage color. All the markings were laid on top of this and although there isn't much color to this bird, I think I am getting the important bits down in a way that is pleasing to me. The cere already has that Arctic blue color and is exciting in that for me, it points to the lineage of this bird. I'm happy with it so far but still quite a long way to go.


I did mention awhile ago that I would be getting back to painting landscapes but I have been enjoying doing these bird studies so much that I decided to start a new one! Like the previous two studies, this bird also belonged to a falconer. I was told that the parents of this 1st year gyrfalcon were both pure white (Arctic) gyrfalcons and that in the following year, this bird would also moult into a white plumage. That was enough for me and although I have yet to see (and paint) an Arctic gyrfalcon, I was more than happy to make studies of this bird at the time for a painting later on. Well fast forward more than a few years and here is my first proper study of this magnificent bird. The initial drawing (using a HB pencil) was first done on smooth (hot-pressed) Arches watercolor paper.

Thursday, April 9, 2020


Managed to do some more work on this painting and am now about finished. I darkened some areas of the background to slightly lift the bird off the paper then worked on the breast and belly feathers. Lastly, I laid on some washes over the wing and subtly darkened the head and throat. A few more touch-ups here and there then I laid it aside. I'll leave it for awhile then come back to it in about a week or so with a fresh eye and see if it needs any more work. I painted this watercolor on smooth (hot-pressed) Arches paper, size is about 14" x 10" (36cm x 26cm).

Monday, April 6, 2020


Not too much progress from before but I have been taking it slowly regarding the modelling of the birds' head as there are some delicate whitish markings around the eye and beak that I want to get right. Since I don't use opaque white in my watercolors, I carefully paint around the lighter areas and all this takes time. I have also started adding the marking on the sides of the throat and the shadow under the bill. At this point, I'm unsure how much further I want to take the painting so I'll put it aside for a day or two and come back to it later.


I came across this bird recently at a falconry meet and as it wasn't a species that I am familiar with, I wanted to do some studies and portraits of it. I have seen the similar Jackal Buzzard numerous times in South Africa but as the range of the Augur Buzzard is further North, I haven't yet added it to my world bird list. Anyway, I initially thought the bird was rather splendid so armed with previous sketches and quick studies, began work on this one. I started the study the same way I do all my studies of raptors; a detailed pencil drawing, washes to establish the background color and tone, the eyes, then the bill followed by the head and body. Usually I bring each component to it's finished state before going on the the next area - here the eyes are about finished while the bill will still need a bit of work. I have also put down a few light washes on the head and nape. So far, so good.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020


After a few more layers of burnt sienna on the back and shoulder, I finished up that area by darkening some of the feathers that had dark centers then moved down to the lower wing. I later noticed the curve of the bird's right eye wasn't quite correct so I fixed that next. With a few more touch-ups here and there, I considered the painting complete. I'll leave it still stretched on the board for a few more days to see if there is anything more I want to do but I don't want to overwork it. I want this one to look like a painting, not a photograph so have left some areas unfinished. I struggled with the paper a bit as apart from the sheet being a few years old, the surface was rougher than I usually use for my bird studies. Size is 15" x 11" (38cm x 28cm), watercolor on Whatman paper.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Here I am adding the back and upper wing color which gives this large Buteo its name. I mostly use burnt sienna but slightly modulate the color with sepia where necessary. Some of the black neck and wing markings are darkened and I'm still working on the head a little at this time making some areas a bit darker. I'm about finished with the eyes at this point - I try to get them completed early in the painting process. I find that if the eyes work out, the rest of the bird is likely to follow.


I continue working on the eyes laying in more color and continue until they are finished. I then move on to the bill then the markings around the head building up layers of paint with thin washes of color. I slowly mould the head and neck with paint creating form, texture and tone. Darkening the area under the bill gives that area a little more depth. I also start working on the darker markings of the back and shoulder. The belly gets a subtle outline to lift it off the background.

Monday, March 30, 2020


I went quite dark on the background. All in all, there were three washes of a warmish-brown color laid down over a few hours. Then while the last one was still wet, I gently lifted out some pigment around the head and upper breast. It's quite subtle and the tone doesn't change that much but I didn't want what is essentially a bird with white underparts looking too dark. I think the effect will look okay as the plumage has quite a lot of dark markings so that will make the breast and throat appear much lighter than it looks here. I add yellow around the bill then some grey to the pointy bit leaving a highlight. The eyes get some work too as this is the area that I usually complete first.


Although I have been working on landscapes this month, I came across this drawing of a Ferruginous Hawk that I did some time ago. It had been in one of my many folders of unfinished work just waiting for me to get to it. I had completed a similar watercolor study some time ago and also a drawing which still hangs in our hallway. Anyway, the drawing for this study was already complete and didn't need anymore work so I felt it was a good time to begin work on this one. I started by stretching the paper on a piece of plywood then let it dry overnight.