Sunday, May 22, 2016


Spring brings it's surprises and early one morning I went down to the lake to find a pair of Double-crested Cormorants there. They had obviously spent the night at the lake so I quickly set up and began sketching and painting through my telescope. The bird that I concentrated on was sitting on a slightly submerged branch and with the mist gently floating over the surface of the water, was an irresistible subject. The morning sun added a wonderful element to the scene and I whiled away the time working in my sketchbook. After a few studies were completed, I began the painting seen here. Most of the painting was finished in the studio where I was able to more easily control the multiple washes of color on the paper. Size is 15" x 11", watercolor on Saunders paper.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


An older painting that I'm thinking of doing a larger version of. The scene is at my local lake over in the reserve just as the sun goes down. I was captured by the orangeish evening light and the reflections in the water contrasting with the darker tones of the landscape. I find much enjoyment in trying to capture a quiet restful mood in scenes such as this. Size is 9" x 12", oil on canvas. Private collection.

Monday, April 18, 2016


This bird was present at Mai Po Nature Reserve in Hong Kong where I was able to study it for awhile and do a number of studies. It was in a party of  6 or 7 other stilts hanging about on the mud of Deep Bay waiting for the rising tide. The view of this birds was into the sun and it had a wonderful halo of white around the head and neck - this was something that I wanted to capture in my painting. Starting as always with a careful drawing, I then laid in the background colors wet into wet then concentrated on finishing the water and the muddy bank. The bird was rendered mostly in shades of soft grey. In Winter, stilts have a beautiful elephant-grey hindneck which turns to black as Summer approaches. I used a greenish black for the back and wings. The improbably long legs were a deep red. This study like so many others is a way of exploring birds in their environment and also as a means to further determine artistic possibilities in the future. The watercolor is 7.5" x 11" (19cm x 28cm).

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


I did some more work to this painting so decided to re-post it here. Didn't really add too much to it, a little work done to the water and also a bit to the bird - mostly to the wing and underbelly. The finished painting is closer to what I had in mind when I first started work on this piece so I think I'll leave it as it is now.
I have a special affinity for the Spotted Redshank. There seems, to my eye at least, to be a wonderful balance between the size of the head and the body which has more of an elegant shape than other tringa waders - although the Greenshank also shares some of this elegance. I also very much enjoy the plumage which ranges from the greyish bird seen above (in winter) to very mottled in-between birds, and during breeding a beautiful dark almost black plumage with paler markings on the back and tertials - from which presumably it gets its name. Size of this watercolor is 10" x 7" (25cm x 18cm).

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Avocets are such graceful birds, truly elegant with their slim shape and the way they slice their bills through the water when feeding. This bird though had one leg tucked up and its feathers slightly fluffed out for although the sun was shining, a cold wind was blowing across the mudflats. I remember the way the warmer reflection on the underparts contrasted with the cooler blue of the water and wanted to recreate this in my painting. Starting again in the background, I worked on the mud trying to create patterns but also keep the handling light at the same time. There was quite a bit of back and forth before I was happy. Then the bird was slowly worked on building up the tones and slightly warmer colours of the underside until I was happy with how it looked.
The individual in my painting had some brownish markings on its back so was probably a female or a juv moulting into adult plumage. This is perhaps a simple painting but holds special significance for me as it takes me right back to my time in the reserve and the wonderful spectacle of the masses of birds there. This watercolor is 7.5 " x 11" (19cm x 28cm).


The Mai Po Nature Reserve in the north of Hong Kong on the border with China is a very important wintering place for many rare and endangered birds and is a place that I love to visit. There are 3 main hides that can be accessed via the boardwalk and all look out over the mudflats of Deep Bay. The rising tide brings many birds close to the hides and this becomes the perfect opportunity to study ducks, waders and gull at close quarters. For me it is the chance to observe, to draw and to paint birds that I would not be able to do otherwise.
Although I prefer to paint directly from the subject, this is not always possible but starting from a brief sketch in my sketchbook, a painting can later be recreated in the studio. My initial drawing of this bird was transferred to a small piece of watercolor paper then added to as necessary. A poor and distant photo helped with some of the details but for the main shape I referred to my sketches. When I was happy with the overall shape of the bird, a wash of blue was added to the background followed with some darker areas while the paper was still damp. I then loosely indicated some of the markings of the avocet then let the paper dry.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


During dim sum with friends at Sai Kung, Hong Kong, a small party of Tree Sparrows were hanging around the lunch table. At first I "accidentally" dropped a few sesame seeds on the floor and in a quick rush, 4 or 5 sparrows grabbed them. After that more crumbs made their way onto the floor and soon the sparrows grew a little bolder. At first they were right under our feet but then began perching higher up on one of the chairs and also on the fencing between the eating area and the beach. This is where I drew and painted the individual seen above. I noticed how dark they were as soon as I saw them. Compared to other Tree Sparrows in Hong Kong, the pale areas around the face should be white and the breast a slightly warm grey whereas on these birds, they were much darker. On some birds, their plumage looked very oily and I came to believe that this (and their darker plumage) was from their diet. We often saw them on the cart that carried the used dishes and they were into what ever was left over from previous meals, including the small dishes of sauce that always accompanies many of the dishes served during dim sum. Mostly these sauces are soy based but there is also "ketsup" - similar to soy but with a sharper more vinegary taste - probably like HB sauce. Anyway, my point is that all of these sauces are very dark and much like shrimps give flamingos their feather coloring, I felt that this was darkening the plumage of this small party of Tree Sparrows. This painting was done in watercolor on Canson paper, size 7" x 5" (18cm x12cm). I titled it "Passer montanus soysauceus". Private collection.