Saturday, July 31, 2021

ALASKAN MOUNTAIN STUDY

 



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.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

IN ALASKA

 



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.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER

 



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".

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

ALONG THE SANDS - SEMIPALMATED PLOVER

 



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".




Monday, July 5, 2021

BY THE LAKESIDE - SEMIPALMATED PLOVER

 



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

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

FORSTER'S TERN IN WINTER

 



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".

Saturday, June 26, 2021

EAGLE IN THE MIST

 



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.

Monday, June 21, 2021

MID-MORNING SUN

 



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.

Monday, June 14, 2021

WILLET IN THE SURF

 


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".

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

THE ORANGE DOOR - SPAIN

 


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".

Saturday, June 5, 2021

CLOUDS OVER GUARD SHORE

 



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".

Friday, May 28, 2021

THE LIGHT AT MID-DAY

 



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!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

LITTLE BLUE HERON STUDIES

 



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".

Monday, May 24, 2021

LITTLE BLUE HERON

 



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".

Thursday, May 20, 2021

TURKEY VULTURE STUDIES

 



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".

Thursday, May 13, 2021

WILLETS AT REST

 



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".

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

CASTLE WINDOW, PART 2

 



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.

Friday, April 30, 2021

CASTLE WINDOW, PART 1

 



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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

PIPING PLOVER

 



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".

Friday, April 23, 2021

THE ANGRY SEA

 



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.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

DARK-EYED JUNCO

 


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".

Thursday, April 8, 2021

RESTING WILLET

 



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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE

 



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".

Friday, March 26, 2021

COMMON GRACKLE II

 



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.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

COMMON GRACKLE

 



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.

Friday, March 19, 2021

NEAR MT RAINIER STUDY

 



I did this study after visiting Seattle and taking a trip out to Mt Rainier. I haven't yet completed any paintings of Mt Rainier itself but I have enjoyed discovering interesting compositions like this one along the way.




Here is the beginning to the painting. When working on small studies like this, I don't do much preliminary work, usually a quick wash drawing is enough to get started and the work develops as I continue painting. Size is 5" x 7", oil on canvas.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

HORSESHOE CRAB STUDY

 


Walking along the shore you are likely to come across all number of things. Occasionally we find horseshoe crabs that are either washed up on their backs or dead like this one. The live ones are turned right side up then gently directed back to the sea. The dead ones I usually draw and in this case paint. Heavy surf probably caused this ones demise as a major storm had passed a day or so before we found it - you can clearly see the broken shell on its left side. Still, I found the underside of the crab with its many claws to be interesting enough to make a painting. This watercolor was done in my sketchbook, size is 9" x 12".

Saturday, March 6, 2021

FADING LIGHT

 



This evening view across the reserve looks north to a distant treeline. When working outdoors, I can usually set up my easel and get everything ready beforehand which allows me a fair bit of time for working on a painting like this before it gets too dark to see. Sometimes I come back the next evening for another session but for this one, I finished it in my studio as I had a pretty good idea what I wanted the final painting to look like. Initially I felt that the underpainting was a bit too dark but I came to realize that it allowed for a better contrast between the land and the sky. This is yet another painting that will be exhibited at McBride Gallery in Annapolis, Maryland. Size is 8" x 10", oil on canvas.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

GUARD SHORE BEACH STUDY

 



Being only a short drive away from where we are staying here on the Eastern Shore, Guard Shore Beach offers an opportunity for walks as well as some relaxed birding. At this time of the year, there's not that much around but we have had good views of Loons (Divers) as well as a selection of ducks and other waterbirds. I have also completed a few paintings of the area and this study was done looking south along the beach. We'll continue to explore this area and see what else turns up as there is always something interesting to see each time we visit. Size of this painting is 5" x 7", oil on canvas.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

CRESTED SNAKE EAGLE

 



I think this is the third or fourth study I have done of this interesting bird. I have always admired the rather subtle plumage and unusually-shaped head, with a crest that to me resembles a cobra. I also prefer doing these kinds of studies in watercolor as although they take a long time to complete, I find I can obtain a better feeling of softness in the feathers than if I were to use any other types of medium. This one is another of my paintings currently showing at McBride Gallery in Annapolis. Size is 14" x 10", watercolor on Arches paper.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

EVENING CLOUDS, PART 4

 



I finally got this one finished! The painting certainly took longer than expected (as is usually the case). I think I struggled a bit with the balance of the foreground grasses and the water. Also getting the tones in this area right took some time too. I really should have done a pre-study first as that would have helped sort out some of the problems that I had to work through. Anyway, this and a few other paintings will be at McBride Gallery in Annapolis, MD soon. Size is 13" x 25" (33cm x 64cm), oil on canvas.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

EVENING CLOUDS, PART 3

 




After adding the darker areas and finishing the trees on the edges of the painting, the water looked a little too light so decided to repaint it. I then had to subtly adjust some of the other parts of the painting too. When I felt there was a better balance between lights and darks, I indicated the areas of grasses in the shallower water on the right and made a start on the tawny-colored grass of the foreground. Hopefully during the next session I'll be able to finish the painting.

Monday, February 1, 2021

EVENING CLOUDS, PART 2

 



Things are progressing slowly with this painting but I think it is heading in the right direction. I'm only managing to work on it from time to time and it seems somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle at this time. Hopefully it will be finished soon as I have so many more paintings to get to!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

EVENING CLOUDS, PART 1

 



The start of a new painting based on my studies done over the past month or so. Here I have laid in the sky keeping it quite simple but offering a series of differing tones and colors in the sky to keep it interesting.




Here is the simple layout for the painting done in a thin raw umber wash laying in the key elements without too much detail. I want this painting to be an open view of the marsh typically seen on so many of my trips around here on the Eastern Shore.


Friday, January 8, 2021

RECENT SKETCHBOOK STUDIES

 



Bald Eagles are common around here with at least one bird seen every day and in late November last year, up to 8 were together at one time! I never tire of them but seldom get any close views - they are usually in flight or perched way off in the distance. My sketches of them have been hesitant and unfinished but I think I captured something of the powerful character of this bird in the above study.



We visited the Mutton Hunk Fen Park for the first time last year (10 mins from us) and I found this unusual barn next to the parking lot. I did this study trying to capture something of the character of the place which had features I have not seen on any other barn. Later, walking around, I found quite a few owl pellets on the ground under the eaves where owls must have rested. I didn't dissect any of them but they usually contain undigestible matter such as fur, bones and feathers etc.



At Chincoteague, herons (and egrets) are common, and with the continued presence of people walking about, many of them become used to you and can be approached without them flying away. This Great Blue Heron was just by the roadside so I was able to get quite a bit done.



This kind of scene is common around here with the land being so flat, water goes everywhere! There are usually plenty of birds to be seen around too (also deer and wild ponies) so there is always plenty to look at. I think I have got some of the best reference I have ever found down here, hopefully all these studies will lead to some finished paintings.