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