Wednesday, November 30, 2022

WADER SKETCHING ALONG THE SHORE

 



While visiting the Eastern Shore not too long ago, I came across quite a few groups of waders and managed some sketches of them. I am not all that familiar with Marbled Godwits but still did some reasonably decent studies of them, one of which is shown above. The smallish party of them were feeding quite close to the road so was able to work from the car.





Willets were seen all along the beach and being a little more approachable, I did more studies of them. I tried to capture some different poses and some weak sunlight on the birds created an interesting interplay of light and shadows.





This bird was actively preening for some time which allowed me to first finish an initial drawing, then I could fill in the details with watercolor trying to capture the rather subtle plumage of these birds. It is only in flight that the black and white feathers are seen and are quite a contrast from the rather drab look of these birds. I think I need to do some oil studies of them which would allow me to more accurately paint the many variations of warm greys around the head, neck and back - as well as doing a better job of capturing the foaming surf they are so often seen in.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

WINTER MARSH

 


The marsh in winter always has a special appeal to me, difficult to explain why exactly but this feeling is more intense during dawn and dusk. I expected to find a small party of Black Duck but none were seen although the deep croak of a Great Blue Heron resonated across the reedy expanse as one flew overhead. In the end, I still came home satisfied that I had seen something different and rewarding. It was this that I later translated into the painting shown here. Size is 11 x 7.5 inches, watercolor on Arches paper.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

SKETCHBOOK STUDIES

 


Some sketchbook bird studies that I didn't get around to posting. This female Boat-tailed Grackle was sketched when we drove down to South Carolina a while ago and seen while birdwatching along the coast. There was quite a large flock of them feeding on the leftovers from shucked oyster shells so I moved closer to get a better look at them. I was able to stand quite close by as birds dropped down to feed for awhile then moved on as others came in. I really enjoyed all the displaying, calling and posing between the males while the females were more concerned to quickly grab what they could. Interesting to note that the males were far less concerned about me than the females were.




This Horned Grebe in winter plumage was diving just off the access road next to Little Tom's Cove at Chincoteague NWR so I parked up for a while to get some sketching done. Fortunately it stayed around the same area for some time - enough to get most of this small study done.






The European Eagle Owl sketched here was being rehabilitated at Kadoori Farm in Hong Kong and was done in Jan, 1984 when I still lived there. Although there wasn't a lot of light, I did have quite a bit of time alone with the bird so along with the smaller sketches, I was able to do a slightly larger watercolor study of the bird as it sat looking at me.





Another quick (and unfinished) study of a female Red-flanked Bluetail also painted when I was in Hong Kong. Most of this one was done in the field while a little more detail was added when I got home. I still have a lot more sketchbook studies that I'll get around to posting once I have finished off my latest commission.

Monday, November 7, 2022

DOWNY WOODPECKER

 



I enjoyed drawing the female Downy so much, I thought that I would do a male but this time in watercolor. Using some of the reference gathered at the lake a week or so ago, I carefully drew out then painted this bird using an underside view. I have some sketches done of this bird as well so will post them later. Size is 12 x 9 inches, watercolor on Grumbacher paper.

Monday, October 31, 2022

RECENT BIRD DRAWINGS

 


Walking around a nearby lake the other morning, we found this Downy close to the path, the first of 6 species of woodpeckers seen - Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Pileated! Seeing as Downy Woodpeckers are usually more approachable than others, I was able to do some quick sketches while this female explored the lakeside trees and shrubs. Later I turned those sketches into this drawing when we got back home.



 Also present was this Great Blue Heron and looked amazing as it sat and preened in the morning sun. Since the bird didn't move much, I was able to do more in the way of sketches and studies so after I had finished the Downy drawing, I drew this one. I'll probably paint it in watercolor sometime soon as the light was perfect. Both these were done in my sketchbook, sizes 5 x 8 and 11 x 8 inches.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

MUSCOVY DUCK

 



On our walks around the harbor, we often saw this beautifully marked female Muscovy Duck. Being quite tame and used to people walking by, it would usually sit quietly on the waters edge where I could sketch and photograph it. There was also a male Mallard that the Muscovy followed around so perhaps they were a pair! A few times I saw the bird in flight and didn't realize how well they can fly as they are usually associated with tame or barnyard collections. This watercolor study was done on Grumbacher paper, size is 12 x 9 inches.

Monday, October 17, 2022

WINTER STREAM

 



I usually jump across this stream on my way around the reserve but after snow covered the landscape, I hesitated as I didn't want to slip and get wet feet! This is a crossing I like to make as it leads to the old farmhouse which I love to see after a snowstorm. This time, I made it safely across and was rewarded with some wonderful views of the snow-covered farmhouse - a scene I still plan on painting. Size of this one is 11 x 7.5 inches, watercolor on Whatman paper.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

TURKEY VULTURE FEATHER

 



I found this feather in the middle of a field - the scene of an incident I saw in late March while staying on the Eastern Shore. It was quite damaged and I can clearly imagine just how this happened - plucked out during a squabble around a feeding site. It's obvious just where the eagles bill latched on about half way up the shaft and had cut through the barbs. The worn edges and tip show this to be an older secondary feather. My notes in my journal are as follows:

Way out in the middle of the bean field I see a small group of birds that through the telescope resolve themselves to be 2 Sub-adult Bald Eagles, 2 Turkey Vultures and a Black Vulture. The largest eagle is feeding on something that looks to be an animal leg, probably a deer, as I had recently seen one limping heavily. The other birds stand around looking on. Then the slightly smaller eagle (probably a male) walks around the larger eagle and launches an attack trying to snatch some food but is cleanly rebuffed! The female continues to feed while the Black Vulture then tries its luck – up to this point it has been quite active walking around and bullying the other two vultures which for now were just sitting patiently waiting. It moves closer to the feeding eagle crouching slightly but jumps back as the eagle lunges forward. The smaller eagle, senses its luck quickly (and rather nimbly) with one talon reaches out and grabs some of the carrion which looks to be another leg. Both eagles then feed for a while as the vultures look on, occasionally walking around and picking up a small scrap or two. Although being more active, the Black Vulture doesn’t find much either. Then the smaller eagle suddenly takes flight carrying the leg bone! It quickly gains height then disappears in a westerly direction and is gone. After the female has fed for a while longer, she too takes flight but I lose her against the backdrop of trees so don’t see which way she goes. The vultures are left with a few scraps which don’t keep them on the ground for long and they soon take wing then quickly fade into the dying light as evening comes in.


Friday, September 30, 2022

SONG SPARROW

 



Although I started this painting earlier in the year, I have only just got around to finishing it. As with most of my paintings, I'll set it aside for a few weeks and see if anything needs to be done to it later on. Getting reference for this painting was somewhat problematic as although these bird were often seen right next to where we were staying, they were cautious and often hid in the dense bushes nearby. I tried luring them out with crumbs but mostly attracted House Sparrows and Starlings instead!

Sunday, September 25, 2022

INSECT ILLUSTRATIONS

 


These paintings are part of a long-term project that sadly, I haven't had much time to work on lately as been working on other things. I think this is a Spur-throated Grasshopper (Melanoplus ponderosus) which are quite common on the areas around the Eastern Shore. They come in a green form (shown here - which I like the most) and also brown and grey/red forms. Apparently they are responsible for quite a lot of crop damage in the US. I was attracted to it by the interesting and somewhat striking pattern of green, yellow and black. Since it was a bright but cold day when I came across this individual, it sat quietly on my hand while I drew it in my sketch book - the cold made it slow and lethargic. I added the colors and finer details later when I got home.





Wooly caterpillars are often seen in late summer through the autumn and occasionally during spring when they come out after over-wintering. They turn into a somewhat drab Isabella Tiger Moth and although I can't remember seeing the adults that often, the caterpillars were sometimes seen everywhere. They were in our garden too feeding on the Clematis but they also feed on other plants including clover where we would find most of them on our walks around the reserve (being careful not to tread on them). The coloring and the amount of black/brown on these caterpillars (which varies) is supposed to be a portent as to the severity of the coming winter.





I'm not sure of the species of this damselfly but I loved the blue and black markings and the zebra-striping on the thorax! This one was done in gouache on tinted paper. The others done in watercolor, all are around 5 x 8 inches.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

DRAGON PALACE

 



 When I saw this building with its arches, lights and dark windows against the evening sky, I immediately thought of dragons. I'm not quite sure why but the place exuded a certain atmosphere that I haven't felt anywhere else. During the painting, I needed quite a few applications of paint until I got the tone and texture that I wanted as most of the painting is quite dark. Size is 12 x 9 inches, oil on canvas.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

DARK WATER STUDY

 



We didn't get a lot of snow last winter but still, there was enough for me to get out and find some interesting scenes that I wanted to paint. Mostly, this painting related to studies done in my sketchbook and as there wasn't that much subject matter to consider with this one, I started working directly on a smaller canvas panel. I laid in the dark strip of water first building up a few layers of paint then started adding the grasses trying to keep a flowing motion running throughout the painting. I needed quite a few goes before I was happy with how the grasses looked, then the smaller details were added. I'll probably do a larger version when I'm back in my proper studio and have more space in which to work. Size of this one is 8 x 10 inches, acrylic on canvas.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

THREE BOATS

 


 A recently completed commission of some boats I saw on Lantau Island, Hong Kong. I liked the way these back-lit boats created abstract shapes against the lighter water. The reflections and ripples gave the scene some sense of movement - I dotted a few different colors around the painting hoping to add interest without overdoing it. Size is 7.5 x 11 inches, watercolor on Arches paper.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

YOUNG LAUGHING GULL

 



Laughing Gulls were almost always seen along the shore and also in the harbor where I could usually find about 30 or 40 individuals. The younger birds would congregate along or near the edges of the water where people would often feed them with pigeons and sparrows joining in. This was a great opportunity for me to get references and do plenty of sketches. This study of a young bird moulting into its first winter plumage piqued my interest as most of the brown juvenile plumage on this one was slowly giving way as new white and grey feathers came in. Size is 6 x 9 inches, watercolor on Grumbacher paper.

Monday, August 22, 2022

EDEN STREET TRANSFORMERS

 



I first thought of transformers as a subject for a painting while I was travelling in Japan. Most cities and towns had them in various forms so when returning from our travels, I fully intended on exploring what I had seen of them and doing a painting or two. Well, like so many of my ideas, that didn't happen - instead much later, I focused on these three transformers I found near where we were staying last year. I really liked the way the morning sun created shapes and shadows along with all the wires going in different directions. It certainly was a challenging subject and for some reason, I couldn't seem to stop working on it! Every day I would find something else that I wanted to do until finally I decided to hide it away under a pile of sketchbooks! I think that when I pull it out again, I'll still find one or two areas that I want to work on. Now that the painting is (mostly) finished, I'm not precisely sure what I think of it. Perhaps I could have done a different background or something as this hasn't quite lived up to the initial idea I had in my mind. Well, so often is the case. Size is 15 x 11 inches, acrylic on Strathmore paper.

Monday, August 15, 2022

DAWN, EASTERN HARBOR NOCTURNE

 



I saw this scene in early Jan 2022 when the Christmas decorations were still up. Getting up before dawn had been my habit for some time and when I walked down to the boat dock and looked across the water on a cold and still day, this composition presented itself to me. My small study was done directly in a sketchbook trying to get down as much information as I could before the light changed too dramatically. I used acrylic so that I could more easily overpaint the darks once the base color was dry. For the larger version, I switched to oils and once I had most of the shapes in place, I let the paint dry overnight. It was then a case of subtly adjusting some of the tones then adding the various lights and subtle reflections. I think I'm getting closer to what I want to say with these nocturnes but actually each painting requires a lot of planning and thinking through. This oil is 8 x 10 inches.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

BY THE ROADSIDE

 


Walking back from a day exploring, I came across this view across the meadows. I liked the way the roadside ditch drew your eye into the scene, and on to the thin yellow strip of brighter grasses against the distant treeline. I kept the sky simple in this one so as not to detract from the landscape. Foxtail grasses and wildflowers added interest to the near bank. Oil on canvas, 8 x 10 inches.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

HAMMERHEAD SHARK

 


While walking along a beach last year, I came across two fishermen with their lines strung into the water. I got talking to them, asking about bait and what they had been catching. Just as I was about to move on, one got a huge bite and so started reeling in his catch! After a bit of a struggle, a fin appeared in the shallows and eventually a young Hammerhead shark was pulled out of the water! A series of photographs were taken by his family then the shark released back into the sea. Quite an experience especially since there were quite a few bathers around at the time! This quick watercolor study done in my sketchbook - about 4 x 8 inches.

Friday, July 29, 2022

BIRDS IN FLIGHT

 


I think bird in flight are the most difficult to do and require many hours of study to get them right. Of course you could just rely on photos but this can lead to unusual distortions and odd angles. I prefer to do as many sketches as I can trying to get a feel for the bird - of course this is not always possible when a passing bird only leaves a fleeting image in your mind. But I have used that too and with a bit of work, can lead to some convincing studies like this study of a sub-adult Bald Eagle.



This Black Vulture for example came from some pencil and pen & ink drawings I did a while ago in my sketchbook. I liked the final version so much that I decided to do a watercolor study of the bird in a similar pose.



Like the vulture, this juvenile Northern Harrier was flying away from me - as most of them usually are! But I think I did capture something of its presence. Hopefully the next one I do will be in a landscape setting.




Although this adult Bald Eagle also looks to be flying away, it was actually soaring quite low down and almost directly overhead. Admittedly, I was close to its nest, so for a while I got some amazing views of this most spectacular raptor! All the watercolor studies shown here are about 6 x 9 inches and done in my sketchbook.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

WILLET RESTING

 



Walking along the shore in winter, we would often come upon Willets, either singly or in small groups. After a bout of feeding in the tidal surge, they would then walk a little further up the beach to rest and preen. I found that this was the best time to slowly approach them and due to the familiarity with other beach walkers like myself, they would usually just move a little then go back to what they were doing before. Often I could get quite close to them and sitting quietly, could do any number of studies. For this bird, I loved the way it was back-lit and with its bill tucked into its back feathers, made for a slightly different composition. Size is 15 x 11 inches, watercolor on Arches paper.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

FLEET STREET ROOFTOP

 



When walking around I often look up to see if I am missing anything interesting above me, and having a love for architectural details, quickly decided to do a painting of this rooftop when I saw it. I heavily edited the actual scene (as I do with most of my paintings), keeping the elements that excited me the most and discarding those that didn't. Mostly this scene first attracted me by the overall shape against the sky, then I saw the effect of the light and shadows and thought it would make an interesting painting. I used acrylic paint for this one (as I have for most of this urban series) but laid it on in the same manner I do with my watercolors - ie, with many washes slowly building up the tones and color until I got to the intensity I wanted. I think the effect of the bright sunshine came through as I had intended and am pleased with the finished work. Size is 15 x 11 inches, acrylic on Strathmore paper.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

BOSTON STREET EATERY

 


We walked past this restaurant a few times. One day, approaching from the south, I noticed this interesting effect of light and shadow. Later I took along my sketchbook for a few studies then back in the studio, I started this one but only recently finished it. This painting is part of my urban landscape series and as usual, I select the components I like and think will help the composition discarding those that don't. I did change a few things in the scene but still, this was quite close to how I initially saw and remembered it. Size is 15 x 11 inches, acrylic on Strathmore paper.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

FALLING INTO NIGHT

 



I think with this painting, I have come full circle with the urban series that I have been working on of late. It started with dawn views across the harbor, then windows and walls in sunlight, now I have focused in on the ending of the day with scenes like this and darker nocturnes that are still works in progress. This painting is an acrylic on Strathmore paper, size is 11 x 15 inches.

Monday, June 27, 2022

PEREGRINE FALCONS AT DUSK


 

The shrill 'rek rek rek' calls of a peregrine came from behind me as I stood in the falling light watching the sunset. I turned to see two peregrines in the air, one chasing the other and calling all the while - I guessed that the aggressor was chasing the other bird from its territory and stooped on it a few times. It then turned and came back towards me passing quickly overhead and was soon lost to the darkness. I made a few quick initial studies in my sketchbook trying to remember what I had seen and later did the above watercolor with the intention of capturing the encounter with this bird - one of my favorite falcons.














The quick sketchbook studies shown above are all about 4 x 4 inches. The Peregrine At Dusk painting is 11 x 7.5 inches, watercolor on Arches paper.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

DEEKAY'S BROWN SNAKE

 



This is I believe, a young Deekay's Brown Snake (apparently they are somewhat difficult to identify). Usually the snakes I see quickly disappear but for some reason, this one just lay there in a half-coiled pose which allowed me to get some great reference. The drawing was done in my sketchbook then finished when I got home adding washes of color but keeping the illustration rather simple. Lately I have been working on these types of paintings and illustrations for a future project - I'm now up to number 87! I think that I'm over the half way mark but not sure how many will be used until I get closer to 150. I think that seeing them all laid out in front of me will help too. Hopefully the final 60 will come a little quicker as now I can finally see everything coming together.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

SPIDER CRAB

 



We found this crab along the shoreline and since it wasn't moving about very much, managed to get some real close ups. At times like this, I usually lie in the sand to draw. Compared to other crabs, Spider Crabs aren't much to look at - in fact they are perhaps a bit frightening! I got talking to a crabber emptying his crab pots some time ago and he mentioned that he always threw these ones back as they tasted rather nasty!

Monday, May 30, 2022

GREAT BLUE HERON

 


I spent some time watching this Great Blue Heron stalking the water around Swan Cove Pool, Chincoteague NWR. Being winter, the somewhat grey day didn't do much for the bird's plumage but I liked the interesting interplay between the tones and colors of the water and that of the bird. The heron was occasionally catching small fish but eventually flew away to try it's luck somewhere else. The drawings I did in the field later translated into this painting. Size is 12 x 9 inches, watercolor on Grumbacher paper.

Friday, May 27, 2022

EVENING LIGHT II

 



A recent commissioned painting. I tried to keep the mood calm and tranquil relying on soft slightly blended colors without any harsh edges. Size is 18 x 18 inches, oil on canvas.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

OSPREY AT DAWN

 



During most of our stay near the harbor, I would wake early and go down to the nearby boat dock both to see what was about and also to greet the new day. One morning just as dawn arrived, an Osprey flew past with a medium-sized fish in its talons. The image stayed with me so recently I did this small painting and tried to capture that encounter.




When I had finished the Osprey watercolor, I did this drawing of another Osprey carrying nesting material remembering a bird I saw in southern Virginia. It had calmly swooped down and scooped up a talon-full of dried grass that had washed up on the shoreline totally ignoring the sunbathers and beach walkers that were all about! Both these works are sized about 12 x 9 inches.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

OLD PLOUGH

 



During my walks around the countryside and parks, I often come across all kinds of unusual things -  these two old ploughs being some of my more interesting finds. I did these two studies one after the other finding wonderful textures and trying to capture the different structures of each one.




I have no idea of the age of these but am thankful to whoever had kept them in their collection. Both paintings done in my sketchbook, each about 6 x 9 inches.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

COMMON TERN

 



Terns in their breeding plumage are looking spectacular at this time of the year in their grey and white tones with black caps and bright beaks. I have wanted to do this painting for some time and finally finished it a few days ago. Size is 12 x 9 inches, watercolor on Grumbacher paper.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

HEAVY SURF

 


I like to walk the beaches after a heavy storm. All kinds of things are washed up on the shore and the wind is usually still strong and blustery. I love these bracing conditions with the pounding surf  and atmospheric skies. The waves can be incredible and this is what I tried to capture in the small watercolor shown here. Size is 11 x 7.5 inches.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

LANNER FALCON

 



I have been working on this Lanner Falcon study from a bird I saw in South Africa. It has taken some time to get the painting to this stage and I'm hoping one more session will see it finished. Watercolor on Canson Matboard. Size is about 9 x 7 inches.