Tuesday, October 06, 2009


It was good to get back to this project. I’ve completed a quick composition sketch from the drawings. Charles Tunnicliffe did a lovely large watercolour of a snowy owl – it’s in ‘Tunnicliffe’s Bird Life.’ His model was a dead bird shot on Anglesea and he’s used the location where it was shot as a background. The background here is loosely taken from a charcoal drawing made in the Lake District – I’m not sure what the skyline is it might be Crinkle Crags or possibly Coniston Old Man.

I’ve used watercolour and kept the background deliberately loose – the bird will eventually get more detailed treatment. The bird in the Rare Breeds collection was large standing approx 24in. It really needs a full watercolour sheet like Tunnicliffe used. I’m unhappy working on such a large scale in watercolour so i think I’ll go for Heavy Body Acrylic on board.

I forgot to add that although its predominantly pure watercolour there are touches of White Acrylic Ink left foreground and on the distant snow patches. In fact there are also some touches on the bird - got carreiad away rather!

Monday, September 28, 2009


These sketches were made at the Rare Breeds Centre at Kington, Herefordshire. This seemed a very shy, nervous bird who didn’t like being sketched! As soon as I made a few cursory outlines it would flit to the back of it’s enclosure and seek cover behind a thick tree trunk. So the details were completed from several digital photographs.

Last week I acquired a good second hand copy of ‘Tunnicliffe’s Birdlife’ which had a watercolour of a Snowy Owl. He was presented with a bird that had been shot just inland from Carmel Head on Anglesea. He painted the bird against a background of the Anglesea coast with an offshore lighthouse.

This set me wondering about a background I might use for a portrait of the bird in this sketch. The Snowy Owl is an Arctic bird so a winter Welsh or Lake District scene may be appropriate.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


This is a sketchbook page of moorhen studies drawn from digital photographs taken on a recent walk along the Worcs. Birmingham canal. They are based on images from several photographs and the beauty of digital images as reference for wildlife is that you can zoom in to individual birds and observe visually useful details.

Charles Tunnicliffe did hundreds of notes like this in sketchbooks some of which were published a few years ago and were very popular - he compiled his from life returning each evening to make more refined compositional studies from notes made in the field. I think it's a practice worth following even if the starting point is a digital photograph. To catch the life of any living creature it's prudent to make some preliminary sketches rather than to go straight in and try to produce a finished painting.

Incidentally the drawings were made with a 2b Carbon Pencil and for the colourwork I used Caran D'Ache Neoart watersoluble wax crayons. I'm trying these out and I've created washes by taking the colour off the crayon with a wet brush just as you would from a cake of watercolour. As a bonus you can also draw with them - see the seed heads of the rushes.