Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Travelling has gotten in the way of Blogging! Our latest trip to Iceland was, simply put, incredible! So many beautiful scenes, places and images - I collected so much that I have about a lifetime of reference to choose from. I worked mostly in my sketchbook during the day and continued painting each evening when we got back to the hotel. The above study was the first one I did when I returned home to the studio - it is a small painting (5" x 7") but I'm happy that I captured the distant mountains with the covering of snow just as I remembered them.

We basically did the circle tour around Iceland but the weather when we arrived was rainy, cool and overcast. The winds increased so much that some roads were closed and we had to sit out in the hotel one morning until they re-opened the road. The previous evening, we had walked down to the beach shown in the painting above and were nearly blown over by the force of the winds - I have never experienced such rough weather! Amazingly just offshore were large flocks of seabirds seemingly in their element and the wind didn't seem to bother them much at all.

Fortunately the weather improved over the next few days until we had wonderful sunshine near the end. Birdlife was impressive as we visited during the early migration period. I had a few birds on my list that I really wanted to see and was happy that I saw most of them - including 3 Gyrfalcons! Pity we missed the puffins as the weather was too bad to visit their nesting sites. Equally impressive was the landscape which changed quite a bit as we circled the island. Apart from livestock, the only other mammals we saw were reindeer.

The Icelandic people were friendly and very helpful, our driver and guide exceptional. The girl in the watercolor above worked with horses and had a lovely voice. Other paintings of portraits and landscapes are to follow when I get the chance. I do plan to return to Iceland one of these days, probably in the summer this time to explore and further experience this wonderful place.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


The last few paintings from the trip. Another morning scene, this time on the next beach over from where we were staying - this time at high tide. Here I was taken by the stunning light across the water, the waves and the distant landscape. Size of this oil is 9" x 12". There were a surprising amount of wading birds resting and occasionally feeding along this strip of the coast. Since I didn't want to disturb them, there are no close-up photos to show you but amongst the more common species were quite a few North American waders and an occasional osprey drifted by. Brown Pelicans soared over the waves just offshore - marvelous!

Painting these banana trees were of special importance to me as when we were leaving the area, a  large flock of frigate birds flew over heading towards the coast - I distinctly remember seeing them appear and disappear as they flew above the treetops - wonderful! The painting was difficult and I had to take it slow - I don't usually like painting a lot of green in a painting but this was one that worked out okay I think. I especially wanted to capture the fan-like effect of the leaves as they seemed to soak up the sun. Size is 8" x 10", oil.

This small painting holds a special place in my heart as it seems to sum up all the experiences of Costa Rica in a single painting. I suppose it is mainly about the light which seems to be particular to the area, and this brings it all back. We passed many such places as this - so many paintings yet to do from this wonderful trip. Title of the painting is Roadside Trees. Oil, 5" x 7".

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Travelling as we did from one side of Costa Rica to the other gave us the opportunity to see many different aspects of the country. These large huts were half-hidden by the foliage and the jungle seemed to be slowly reclaiming the place. This is a smaller 5"x 7" study as I plan on doing larger paintings of most of the images shown here.

This one is a slightly larger painting of a study I did earlier but this time using a square format and aiming for the same bright and sunny effect. I think I pulled it off although for the larger one I plan on doing later, I'll be reverting back to a regular landscape format. I used an 8" x 8" board upon which I had glued a piece of canvas (using a neutral ph glue). I then then primed with two coats of acrylic gesso - sanding between coats. This results in a surface that I find I am liking more and more as time goes by so have made up a whole batch of different-sized canvas-boards on which to work.

I was lucky to be at the beach with the sun setting over the water for this one. Again, a small study (7" x 5") but hopefully to be painted much larger when I get the chance. I could have worked there for ages as it was a spectacular sunset but I focused on a smaller area towards the end of the beach where two small headlands jutted out into the sea. Managed to gather a lot of photographic reference also so have plenty of ideas to get on with.

The final painting in this part is again one of rock pools which has always been a favorite subject of mine and brings back many happy memories exploring the North Cornwall coast when I was much younger. Unlike the studies shown above, this one is painted directly on a gessoed board - size is 8" x 8".

Monday, July 31, 2017


Visiting Costa Rica with friends was an unforgettable experience that has resulted in a whole series of paintings. Mostly these are smaller studies done in oil with the intention of doing some larger paintings when I get back to the studio. One day in particular when I had a few hours to myself, I walked for some time along the coast and found some lovely places to paint. That outing alone has resulted in 5 or 6 studies with more planned.

Weather was truly outstanding with cool breezes in the mornings and bright mostly sunny days - talk about tropical paradise! The whole trip was well organised and we managed to see most of the country.

A lot of time was spent either in the pool or walking the beach. I tried getting up each day at dawn and seeing what was about before anyone else was up. Plenty of birds and truly spectacular scenery.

What impressed me the most was the complete diversity of life and how in balance most of the country seemed. I felt completely at home there and could have stayed for months! For once I was able to spend my time as I had hoped, living my authentic self, travelling, observing and painting - for that I am truly grateful!

Sunday, July 23, 2017


Arriving in Hobart - the capital of Tasmania - was interesting as it is very picturesque with great museums etc. Surrounded on one side by mountains, the other faces a sheltered bay. We though, were staying about 45 min out of town in a very quiet village by the sea. Connecting with old friends was wonderful as it had been quite some time. John lives as a poet and editor so happily works from his garden office while M works in Hobart. Still, not much of a commute though - hardly any cars on the road and not a single traffic light until you get close to the city! Definitely my kind of place then. The general landscape was in a way similar to the mainland but still had plenty of its own beauty and charm.

Taking a two-day tour of North-Eastern Tasmania was a perfect introduction to the country! Our visit took us to most of the major tourist attractions and included a few strenuous hikes! Well worth it though and although I didn't manage any paintings over those few days, I did gather plenty of reference - both photos and sketches. Later in the week we took a trip over to Bruni Island  which was really unforgettable! Wonderful hikes through the forest and along the shore - great birds and perfect company -  couldn't have asked for more. We had lunch at a beach so beautiful that I could have lived there for the rest of my life!

Memorable birds included a fly-over of a large flock of Black Cockatoos - some of them landing in the trees right under where we sat - and both Scarlet and Flame Robins. We also picked up most of the endemic birds of Tasmania so were well happy with that side of things. Common birds were also welcome and John's garden attracted many including a breeding pair of Blackbirds. Wonderful waking in the mornings to Blackbird song as that really took me back to England where I was born.

So all in all, a great introduction to Australia and Tasmania - pity we had to leave so soon . We felt quite at home there and could have stayed for months. An added bonus thanks to John, was the sighting of 3 Wedge-tailed Eagles overhead as we drove to the airport on our last day! We will have to go back soon but for now the focus is on our next trip to Costa Rica.

Pics above:

Bay of Fires Study, 5" x 7", oil on canvas
Wineglass Bay
Bruni Island coastline
Silver Gulls
Native Hen

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Taking another day-trip from Melbourne, we traveled south down to the coastal road and onto the 12 Apostles. These offshore rocks tower over the sea below and are spectacular to say the least. There are a few viewing areas - the watercolor above shows probably the best of them - but the area is very busy with tourists, so setting up and doing any painting there would have been very difficult - the most I could do at the time was a quick sketch! We were also under a rather strict time constraints as there were other places to see and still the long drive back to the city. At least I would be able to work on the painting when I got back to the hotel room in the evening.

Birding was great! Some birds seen on the trip were more easily approached (and photographed) than others such as the Galah above. The coastal landscape was also very inspiring and I'm sure will be the subject of more than a few paintings. Fortunately the weather was equally as inspiring with only a brief rain shower and some overcast - it was hot but not humid.

Birds were quite tame back in the city too and taking a boat trip upriver was an unforgettable experience with quite a lot of new species seen. We also did a lot of walking around exploring the parks and enjoying what Melbourne had to offer. There is a lot of history there and some fabulous older buildings.

The next stage of our trip was a short hop across to Tasmania where we were meeting and staying with a friend from our Hong Kong days. I'll cover that part in the next post.

Above images:
The 12 Apostles, watercolor on paper, 7.5" x 11".
Galah parrot.
Black Duck.

Friday, June 16, 2017



A trip to Melbourne, Australia was to be my first - although for M, it was her 3rd visit! Staying for awhile in the city, we decided the best way to see what Southern Australia had to offer was to take a few different day tours.  One of them went to Phillip Island - home of the famous racing circuit and of course the Penguins! The drive out there was quite long but took us through some amazing countryside. On the island, one really got a feel for how exposed this part of the coast actually is - we had some rain squalls but also some sunshine - wind was very strong from the West.

I did the small 5" x 7" oil study (top) shortly after visiting as our time there was limited so no possibility of setting up for any plein air painting. I had to make do with small sketches done in my sketchbook. Still the experience was amazing with huge waves, sea spray, gulls, shearwaters and further offshore, albatrosses. Unfortunately those were too far away for identification but a welcome sight non-the-less.

A stop at the koala reserve turned up a few different individuals (mostly asleep) but we did find an active adult feeding low down in a tree that I managed some excellent reference photos of. Birds were quite good with a selection of parrots and other more common species seen.

Viewing the penguins was scheduled for the evening so we settled in at a viewing site and waited patiently until they came ashore. I could see a raft or two of them just offshore through my binoculars but it was almost dark when they first arrived. We were watching the shoreline and when a wave receded on the beach, suddenly a small group of them were standing there! In ones and twos they waddled ashore right past us but we weren't allowed to take any photos so any future paintings of them will have to rely on my sketches and drawings. So all in all, a wonderful start to our visit down under.