Friday, December 31, 2021



Getting really close to Forster's Terns at Chincoteague during the spring led to me being able to finish this head study shown here - at this distance, they are quite spectacular! You don't often see a highlight in the eye of a tern as they either have hooded brows or eyes that are deeper into the skull (I'm not sure which) so unless the angle of the sun is lower in the sky (as is in this case) the eye simply looks black. And it is only close up that you can see the very dark brown iris.

 And here is the same species showing the head in winter (I actually painted this study first). The bill looses its bright orange-red color and becomes dull red and black - some even darker than shown here. Just a faint highlight in the eye as the sunlight is weaker. Both watercolor on Grumbacher paper. Sizes are 6" x 9".

Wednesday, December 29, 2021



This back-lit cormorant was feeding close to where I was standing so I was able to do a few sketches in between dives. It once came up with a small eel that wriggled out of its bill and was quickly gone back into the depths! I found it interesting that the cormorant didn't even give chase and after a while, moved on to another area and began diving again. Size is 12" x 9", watercolor on Grumbacher paper.

Sunday, December 26, 2021


On of my first nocturnes. Just a study for now, but for me an important step in a direction I haven't travelled before. This is one of the buildings that I see out of our window looking across the harbor to downtown so I can closely observe it each day as the light fades out of the sky. In my painting, I wanted something in between evening and night when the sky still has a little color but it is not totally dark. I suspect my next nocturne will be when it is completely dark and I can capture all the lights and colors that go with city life. Size is 10" x 8", oil on canvas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021



This view looking down river is one I see most mornings (when I get up early enough!). I have been continuing my tradition of checking out the atmospheric conditions each day just as it is getting light and if things look interesting, I quickly dress and go downstairs then out onto the nearby boat dock which extends out over the water. From here I have good views in most directions and can observe the changing sky as it gets light and as the sun begins to rise. On this particular morning, it was cold and cloudy but the sky began to clear somewhat as the sun came up. More than anything, it was the cloud formation and the quality of light which caught my attention. For this study (and most of the others I have been doing recently), I have kept it small but even so really struggled with the painting of it! There are some areas that I had to redo and I am not happy with that but in the end, I did get close to what I was after. At least now, if I paint a larger version, I'll have the experience of doing this one to guide me. Size is 8" x 10", oil on canvas.

Monday, December 20, 2021



I found a flock of White Ibis on a visit to Chincoteague where they were mixing with other water birds near one of the paths. Initially nervous, they settled down after I stood quietly nearby then after a while, started to feed and preen as before. I managed a few sketches then later in my studio did these more detailed drawings. Early in the year, the adults mixed freely with the juvs but later during winter, the adults had split into their own separate group as had the juvs. Here some of the young birds are starting to show white feathers coming through as they slowly moult into the pure white plumage of adults.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021



Quick study of an adult White Ibis. These birds were often seen in and around Chincoteague, also they occasionally dropped in to feed along the grassy verges of Hopeland where we were staying last winter. Size is 12" x 9", watercolor on Strathmore paper.

Sunday, December 5, 2021



During a recent trip to South Carolina, we we able to get up close to a number of Brown Pelicans that were resting near a marina. It was a great opportunity to do a number of sketches and one or two small watercolor studies. After putting all this reference together, I did this slightly larger painting at home. Since I hadn't painted a pelican before, I decided on doing a juv first. The adult has a much more attractive plumage but still, I got a lot of enjoyment from painting this one. Size is 12" x 9", watercolor on Grumbacher paper.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021



I did this small study after noticing the buildings across the harbor and how the morning sky was reflected in the glass. It was an interesting exercise as I hadn't painted anything like this before which forced me to think quite differently about what I was trying to capture. Size is 8" x 10", oil on canvas.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021



Moving to a new location, it has taken me a while to start assimilating some of what I have seen around me into my paintings. Most mornings, if there looks to be an interesting cloud formation, I will get up just as it is getting light and go down to the nearby dock where I can take in the dawning of the day. This view across the harbor shown here, just as it is getting light is one of the first images that stayed in my mind and one that I really wanted to paint. I saw the three buildings and their reflections in the water as an abstract pattern, and this was the impetus for the painting. It has been some time since I have painting any large buildings such as these so I kept the painting small to start with. But the view does contain plenty of subject matter so I think will work well as a larger painting too. Size is 10" x 8", oil on canvas.

Friday, November 12, 2021



Okay, so it is not quite winter yet - at least not around here where we are having an Indian summer! These Turnstones were seen last year when we were staying down on the Eastern Shore and I have always enjoyed watching them. They are plump-looking birds with slightly small heads and stubby legs which allow them to easily turn over things such as stones (where they get their name), shells, seaweed etc looking for whatever they can find to eat underneath.

I also saw them in the Bahamas where I tempted them closer with crumbs of whole-wheat crackers sprinkled on rocks a few meters away from where we sat - then they were very tame but usually one can't get that close to them. I think I prefer them in their more subtle winter plumage as they have quite different markings in summer. Both these studies were done in my sketchbook, each sized around 6" x 9".

Friday, October 29, 2021



Ghost crabs were often seen as we walked along the shore. Most quickly disappeared into their burrows as we approached but some were caught out when we got between them and their holes dug in the sand. Then they usually would freeze and we could get a much closer look at them.

Occasionally, we would come across much larger specimens that simply stood their ground, pincers raised and at the ready! Two of those crabs are pictured here. Both done in watercolor on Canson paper, each around 6" x 9".

Monday, October 18, 2021



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.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021



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.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021



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.

Saturday, October 2, 2021



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.

Thursday, September 30, 2021



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.

Thursday, September 23, 2021



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".

Thursday, September 9, 2021



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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021



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.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021



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.

Sunday, August 15, 2021



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.

Thursday, August 5, 2021



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.

Saturday, July 31, 2021



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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".