I saw these Eastern Sycamore trees lined up next to the path on a bright and sunny day in a nearby park so tried to capture the scene in watercolor. Size is 7" x 5" for this study.
I finally managed to finish this one! There may be a little more work to do later but for now, I'll put it away so that I can come back in a week or so with a fresh eye and see if there is anything more I want to do to it (there usually is!). Size is 15" x 22", watercolor on Arches paper.
After a final pass, I think that I am about finished with the logs. Looking for something else to do after spending so long on the woodpile, I begin adding texture and various scuff marks to the siding behind, and also some smaller details around the window. The tree gets more washes and I begin to add branches although I haven't finished with that either! I'm hoping another session or two will see this one done as I have other work I want to get on with.
I have spent most of my time working on the logs slowly defining their shapes and adding a little more color. When I was happy with how they were coming along, I washed in a darker tone to indicate the window behind which helped give the painting a bit of depth - still quite a long way to go with this one though.
The start of a new painting! Obviously one can see part of a woodpile here but what about the rest of the painting? Well, I'll reveal more in the next post when I hopefully have worked on other areas of it. Along with some background color, I'm just getting the basic washes down here and trying to get a feel for the painting as I go along. I'll continue with deepening some tones as necessary then finish other bits while adding more detail. For this first pass, I am keeping things light though and will probably tone parts down when I am closer to finishing it.
We recently came back from a trip down south where I was able to get new reference and do some watercolor painting. We passed through some interesting country and saw I quite a few old tobacco barns along with plenty of farms - hopefully all this will lead to some new paintings.
Both of these sketches were done in my sketchbook along with a few others which I'll post soon. Each painting is about 5" x 7".
These studies are all around 4" or so and represent some of the more interesting things I have seen during the latter half of 2020 and into 2021 while living on the Eastern Shore. Each day I would try and find something new to study and often this led to various sketches of them - either in graphite or watercolor. Occasionally this work would lead to new ideas for paintings.
As you can see, subjects vary ranging from a late-form Common Buckeye butterfly to a Coopers' Hawk flying overhead at dusk! The shells and mermaid's purse were found during some of the many long walks we took along the beach.
Owing to the fact that we are living next to a busy harbor, it's not surprising that my first watercolor of the area was of a boat. This surface skimmer shown here has been specially adapted to scoop up all the floating debris found around the inner harbor. I saw it early one morning heading south towards the marina next to the Industrial Museum so decided to paint it almost as I saw it with strong back-lighting. Like most of my work though, I seldom stick to my references and the painting usually develops in its own way. Size of this study is 5.5" x 7.5". Painted on Strathmore paper.
Having recently moved, I now have a completely different view out of my studio window. Our apartment overlooking Baltimore harbor is a completely new and exciting place for us! Gone are the fields and trees of our last home along the Eastern Shore, now we have water, boats and birds! The empty dock just next to our building is used by quite a few different birds during the day, a place off the water where they can rest, preen and loaf in safety. I did these studies in my sketchbook while looking through my telescope - there is always plenty to see and draw out there.
Touring Germany a few years ago, we walked into an ancient church in a quiet town street. It was dim inside with a rare kind of peacefulness that is hard to find. Darkened and shadowed corners held mysteries I was unable to decipher - other features of the interior were hazy and now just a blur in my memory. But this single candle burning near the alter seemed to sum up the whole experience of my visit. Looking carefully, I took note of the tall slim flame and the translucency of the candle. And how melted wax had pooled around the iron base. The small reflected highlights. All that I have left now is this painting which serves as a reminder of that day. I wished I had had more time to explore and discover other wonders there but for now, this will have to suffice. Size is 11" x 7.5", watercolor on Strathmore paper.
These Lily of the Incas flowers were a birthday gift to my wife from her friends. One evening while at work on something or another, I happened to look up and I noticed how most of the flowers and leaves were cast into shadow while the uppermost ones were lit up. I think I decided right there and then to try and do a painting of them. Since I wanted a dark background onto which I would paint the flowers, I first painted the whole canvas almost pure black (mixed from Ultramarine blue and Burnt Umber). I let more of the burnt umber show near the top indicating where there would be a bit more light. When that had dried for a few days, I started from the top slowly working my way down until I reached the glass vase which was only lightly indicated in greys going slight lighter on the rim where there were a few highlights. After working on and off for a few more days, the painting was complete. My initial concern was that the purplish shades that I would be using for the petals would be absorbed into the black background but the pigments were sufficiently strong enough to counter that. This was a fun one to do and I have more similar ideas to work on in the future. Size is 11" x 14" - oil on canvas panel.
I completed this small study recently from sketchbook reference that I did a few years ago. I remember that there wasn't much color in the landscape since it was a cloudy day and we were way up in the mountains. But what really attracted me to the scene was the way that the top of the mountain disappeared into mist. While it wasn't the easiest watercolor that I have done, this small study has captured something of the essence of that day. I feel though that I haven't fully reached into the heart of what Alaska is really about. I think that everything just overwhelmed me while I was there as there was so much to see and experience in a completely new way. Probably this is why I am still keeping these studies smallish for the time being, hopefully I'll be able to do some larger more serious paintings soon.
While in Alaska, we saw many such landscapes like this. The size of some of the incredible mountains towering above often made one feel small and insignificant. I did this study as a kind of experiment to see if it would work as a larger painting. I'm still thinking about it - perhaps in oil. Size is 7" x 5", watercolor on Strathmore paper.
All through winter I had watched large flocks of waders nearby the house and my favorite amongst them were always the Black-bellied (Grey) Plovers. I loved hearing their soft evocative 'ploee' calls especially when it was misty outside. I would hurriedly dress and be out the door just as it was getting light so as to be near the tall hedge in time to watch them stream overhead from the channel and on to the large bean field beyond. Those times were especially moving as their calls seemed more muted and distant than usual as they wheeled about overhead - one minute visible, the next fading back into the mist. I waited all winter long for them to begin changing into their breeding plumage and finally I began to see dark spots appearing on the breasts of some of the birds. Their backs got darker too and eventually there was a whole range of plumages from ones still in their grey winter dress to birds that were complete in their breeding finery. While they always kept at some distance, I was able to do a few drawings through my telescope (some of which are shown below) trying to capture the different plumages I saw.
I was much luckier at Chincoteague NWR in early spring as the birds seemed more used to seeing people about so was able to get far better reference. I could stand or sit nearby as they rested near the water and complete as many studies as I needed so long as I didn't try get too close. All this led to the completion of the watercolor shown here. Of course, I had to chose a bird in intermediate plumage as this was what had initially excited me while waiting for them to change. Size is 12" x 9", watercolor on Canson paper.
These drawings done in my sketchbook, size 12" x 7".
During a strong passage of migrating Semipalmated Plovers a few months ago, I found this single bird along the shore associating loosely with a small flock of Sanderling. While they were doing their usual thing, ie running up and down the beach "chasing the waves" as some put it, the plover stood still and unmoving for over a min before it finally began walking around and feeding. Consequently I was able to get rather a lot of reference and the sketches below are of the same bird. Standing as it did on a flatter part of the beach, the sand was often washed with a thin film of water as the tide ebbed and flowed. This created reflections of not only the bird but also the sky above. In some areas the sand began to show through as the water drained off and this effect was what I wanted to capture in my painting.
After washing in the background, I had to work slowly to accurately to get not just the shape and colors of the bird right but also its reflection which I felt was critical to the composition. Since it was near mid-day, the sun was close to directly overhead and the bird's shadow almost right below it - I took some care to get this right along with the reflected light on the underparts. In some ways, this is a perhaps a simplistic composition with the bird centered in the painting but I spent quite a lot of time getting the size of the bird and other spatial differences just the way I wanted them. I did this watercolor on Canson paper, size of this (and the sketchbook page below) is about 12" x 9".
A month of so ago, there was a strong passage of Semipalmated Plovers moving up the coast and 7 or 8 were found on the creek near where we were staying. I never got great references from those birds but the idea remined in my mind for a while so I came up with this painting. I did this on quite a bit looser than I usually work but am happy with the outcome. Size is 9" x 10", watercolor on Canson paper
I did this small painting almost as an experiment. After stretching a piece of watercolor paper, I gave it a few coats of gesso then when that had dried, laid in a diffuse grey background in oils. I let that layer dry for a few days then painted in the bird using fine soft brushes. I needed a few passes leaving the painting to dry in between them so the work took a little longer than usual, but I'm quite happy with the result. I'm sure that I will do more paintings like this. Size is 11" x 7".
Over the past winter, we were able to observe Bald Eagles daily from where we were staying on the Eastern Shore. Apart from the resident pair, there were quite a few other eagles around too mostly feeding along the coastline but I sometimes saw them in the large bean field nearby. Occasionally mist would blow in from the sea and I would often try to capture the effects this had on the landscape. In this painting, an adult eagles is flying towards the distant tree-line which is diffuse and somewhat flat. I used mostly tones of grey for this with only slightly warmer shades in the foreground. Size is 9" x 12", oil on canvas.
Wanting to paint a snow scene, I re-visited a favorite place near where we lived for more reference and a little pre-study. Fortunately these barns are still standing and I liked the way the morning sun lit up their ends and the siloes. The snow was of a much deeper bluish shade and this I really wanted to capture in my painting so I took care to mix the correct tones before finishing with the darker trees in the background. I started the painting in mid-winter but only recently finished it! Size is 9" x 12", oil on canvas.
During our long walks along the beach in winter, apart from gulls, Willets were the most common bird seen and we spent hours observing them. They were almost always present, usually in small groups but sometimes solitary. In winter plumage, they are a little on the drab side but then most waders are. Still, they made very interesting subjects for me and I'm still working on studies of them although I have yet to put together a work that will show them off to their best. This watercolor study was done in my Canson sketchbook - size is 12" x 9".
While walking through a small town in Spain, I followed an alleyway and came to this orange door. Everything seemed to draw me in, the off white walls, the narrow walkway and the sunlit area surrounding the door at the end. I did this study in in oil and has become something of a milestone for me as it has opened the possibility for doing other and more complex paintings of scenes like this. For simplicity, I kept this one small, size is 7" x 5".
I did this small study on a cold and cloudy winter's day. The wind was biting but I managed to get enough information to finish this painting off at home. We often walked along the shore there and I found many painting opportunities, some of which I have noted for future works. This one is an oil on canvas, size 7" x 5".
This back-lit scene on an intense day in late summer was captured in acrylics which I sometimes use depending on the subject. Somehow the shady little bench in the foreground with its view between the towering trees invites one to linger and to gaze around in wonder. There was a quiet solitude here too that captivated us and in a nearby pond we found wild Mandarin Ducks, some still displaying - others resting on the shore - a truly magical day!
While watching waders at Chincoteague last week, a Little Blue Heron landed close by and began stalking fish close to the shoreline. I managed to do some reference studies which then led to these small watercolor studies done in my sketchbook. Size is about 12" x 9.5".
I found this Little Blue Heron resting on the waters edge recently at Chincoteague. It had been feeding in the shallows nearby then it moved much closer and posed for a while (probably digesting its catch). I did these drawings in my sketchbook while the bird was in bright sunlight - fortunately it didn't move about too much! Once I had got most of the two poses down, I darkened them slightly and added a few of the finer details when I got back home and the bird was still fresh in my mind. Size is about 12" x 8".
We often see Turkey Vultures on the ground around here. I think it is a combination of the very high winds that sometimes sweep the area (especially in winter) and the fact that they can often find worms on the road. I drew and painted these birds as they sat nearby in the back yard. They also roost on the house (making loud clomping noises) or the the roof of the barn next door so I have plenty of opportunities to sketch them. Occasionally there are as many as 20 or so around at one time and I never tire of watching them soaring overhead especially in windy conditions. These studies were done in my sketchbook, size 12" x 9".
Willets are often found in groups along the Eastern shoreline of the US and around here are quite common. In winter and at rest, they make interesting subjects to draw and paint. With the amount of beach walkers at Chincoteague (and more importantly no dogs), they get used to people passing by and often allow a close approach. I can usually sit nearby then slowly move closer as needed to get as much reference as necessary. These drawings were done from a group of birds that were resting a bit further up the beach away from the waves. I'm hoping to do more studies and watercolors of these birds soon, and have quite a few ideas for paintings. These drawings are on Strathmore paper, size is 12" x 9".
I continued by working on the sunlit area on the right then followed by deepening the shadows contained within the window alcove. There was quite a lot of variation of tones to deal with and also texture created by the rough stonework. The rest of the wall surrounding the window was in deep shadow and it took me 2 tries to get right, having to wait until the paint dried before I could overpaint it all again. I got there in the end though and was happy to leave the painting as it was for now. Size is 14" x 11", oil on canvas.
We explored a number of castles during our trip to Ireland a few years ago and discovered many different aspects of them. In this painting, I wanted to recreate a view looking out of one of the narrow windows high up on the south side. The drawing for this one was (for once) relatively simple and was quickly taken care of which allowed me to proceed onto the painting part which I usually enjoy more. I remember there were tall trees that took up most of the view so I started putting those in laying down thin layers of oil and creating a bit of texture. I then began working on the edges of the window itself trying to capture the idea of sunlight streaming in from the left. I also worked a bit on the rough stonework surrounding the window then put the painting aside for a while to dry having made, I felt a good start.
During a recent trip to Chincoteague, I was very happy to discover that Piping Plovers had arrived - I found 3 feeding on the same mudflat quite close to each other along with Dunlin and Black-bellied Plovers. I was able to stay and draw them for a while but did this watercolor later when we got back home. They really are diminutive birds but typically plover-like in behavior. And when a Merlin zipped past heading north, all the other waders took off but they amazingly stayed, crouching slightly for a while then they began feeding again. This painting was done on Canson watercolor paper, size is 12" x 8".
Walking the Atlantic shore in winter is not always the most pleasant thing to do especially when it is wet, windy and cold. Still, there is usually something interesting too see even if there isn't much wildlife around. A passing storm had whipped up the sea so there were whitecaps way out and plenty of foam too. And the breakers were having their tops whipped off in the wind! I tried to capture what I saw and experienced that day in the small watercolor above. Size is 11" x 7.5" - painted on Arches watercolor paper.
Dark-eyed Juncos are quite common winter visitors around the Eastern Shore where we are staying. The population we see here are 'slate-colored' and are a basic combination of dark grey upperparts and white underparts - the females have some brown on them. Consequently for the artist, they are perfect subjects when using a pencil. During winter, I have had up to 40 Juncos feeding around the house usually in the company of Chipping and Song Sparrows with whom they flock during the colder months. Most have moved northward now that it has warmed up but being so common, I had plenty of chances to draw them as they either fed out front or sat and preened in the small bush outside one of the east-facing windows. These drawings initially started out as quick studies but I did more and more to them as I watched each bird until they were far more detailed than I wanted. Still, this was an enjoyable experience and I suppose that is what really matters. Drawn in my sketchbook, size 12" x 9".
I have been drawing and painting Willets - a medium-sized wader usually found along the coast. We most often see them in a around Chincoteague where there can be quite sizable flocks on some of the tidal ponds. At other times they are dotted along the shoreline either resting, like the sketchbook study I did here, or actively feeding in the surf. They don't quite chase the tide line like sanderlings do but will also feed in shallower water as the tide recedes. This bird is still in its winter plumage although a few new feathers have come in. During spring and summer, they have darker streaks on their breast and sides of belly along with markings on some of their back feathers - I'm looking forward to painting these breeding-plumaged birds.
I found this Boat-tailed Grackle drinking from a puddle near the ocean at Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore and did some sketches as the bird was present for some time. Later at home, I painted this illustration, trying more than anything to capture the wonderful iridescent plumage of the bird as it appears in direct sunlight. Although not as obvious, the black on the wings and tail also have a subtle reflective sheen that changes due to the direction of the sun but these areas lack the bright iridescence seen on it's body. While following it around, I discovered that they are somewhat large and lanky birds with what seems to be an almost too-small of a head set on top of it's body. This watercolor was done in my sketchbook, size is 9" x 12".
Although Common Grackles look black from a distance, close up they show a completely different array of colors. Most mornings, they can be found in the shady area next to the house feeding amongst the early spring flowers where I can get a good look at them. As long as I sit without moving too much, they usually come quite close and I can draw their basic shapes then get down some of the smaller details looking through my binoculars. In this study, I mostly wanted to capture the tones and colors of a grackle without much iridescence showing - this is an adult male in early breeding plumage. Size is 9" x 12", watercolor on Strathmore paper.
As their names suggest, Common Grackles are.. well, common - especially around here. They surround the house each morning, feed in the grassy areas nearby and also gather in large flocks out in the bean field opposite us. They have a large communal roost in the marsh behind us so all this means that I see a lot of them. From the top deck I can get really close views of them as they fly into the trees out front and display. Usually there are three or four gathered close to each other and take it in turns to preform calling all the while - quite a racket! They don't seem to bother that I am close by as long as I stay inside so can get lots of sketches and studies done as they go about their daily life. Above is just one of the finished paintings that I have completed trying to capture the lovely iridescence of their plumage as well as their unusual shape and the keel-like tail. Size is 12" x 9", watercolor on Strathmore paper.