Friday, October 28, 2011

My website: a rebuild

I've been preoccupied with my website for the past two or three days it's been badly neglected and I decided to make some changes. Now my current interest is wildlife – mainly birds – I decided to add a Wildlife Gallery. I started the website as a collection of pages which were medium specific - Watercolour, Pastel, Sketchbooks ie Drawings, and Digital. The Wildlife page is subject or genre orientated and it seemed best to show the works together rather than disperse them in the different media galleries.

When setting up a website the earliest advice I was given was to keep to a simple presentation. So I've always avoided moving text or motifs for banners – they may have a place for eye-catching adverts but they are a distraction on an artistic website. Back in 1999 I made a trip to New Zealand and met Grahame Sydney at his retrospective in Dunedin, He's New Zealand's most successful artists - a wonderful painter. I only mention this because his website is plain simplicity and it served as a model for my first designs. Since then I've added colour to my pages but I've tried to preserve simple clarity as a fundamental principle of design..

What began as the addition of a Wildlife Gallery page turned out to be a major rebuild which is taking much longer than anticipated. Files that once displayed well are now all over the place. Fortunately the newly added Wildlife Gallery seems to be working as was intended. For the purpose of displaying pictures I'm thinking pure simplicity works best. Take a look at Graham Sydney's website to see what I mean..

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Surprise Visitor

Our birdfeeders are beginning to attract more traffic now the weather is getting cooler. Nothing very spectacular so far Tits and Greenfinches mainly. It was nice to see a nuthatch and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the peanut feeders. The surprise visitor was a Sparrowhawk which was perched in the appletree where the feeders hang. He was around for almost an hour which was great for taking photographs. It was not until I downloaded the shots that I noticed he seems to have just one leg.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


On a lovely sunny day I took a boat trip around Havergate Island from the little port of Orford on the Suffolk coast . I was presented with a view just made for watercolour. The Church Tower and Castle Keep made striking motifs against a cloudless sky. I took several photographs of them astern from the boat. Keeping to a strict topographical treatment would have resulted in a very elongated composition because the castle is some distance from the church. So I’ve portrayed them close together by taking the motifs from separate photographs.

Other memories which linger are of the small groups of avocets on the waters’ edge of Havergate. So I’ve included a little group of four. Strictly they’re in quite the wrong place. But does it matter when you’re painting a fond memory?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Magritte at Tate Liverpool

I went to see the Magritte exhibition today - pleased to have seen it before it closes. What an odd imagination he had. I love the way he plays with representation and reality. He paints a representation which the viewer reads as a smokers pipe then titles it; "This is not a pipe". In another work he turns the idea around. A framed painting of a slice of cheese is placed in a 'Cheese Dome' - the title this time is "This is a piece of cheese". There are other paintings where he confuses what is actuality and what is painted. The paintings of this genre are ingenious and amusing - they have more appeal for me than the strange and disturbung surreal works. A bird morphing into a leaf which is being eaten by a caterpillar a bit grotesque and unnatural. There are many more which are strange associations of recognisable things. A face with roses painted where the eyes normally are. What do they mean? Magritte claimed they do not mean anything -" because mystery means nothing eiither, it is unknowable." Perhaps that's all that needs saying. It was a huge exhibition and it took a lot of concentration to try and take it all in. I'm glad I made the effort to travel to Liverpool to see it.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


HAVERGATE ISLAND 28th September 2011 A beautiful day gave the prospect of visiting the RSPB Reserve on Havergate Island. A boat trip round the Island from Orford offered easier travel arrangements. It was a worthwhile trip – there was a lovely view back to the town as the boat left which would be a good subject for a watercolour. The first bird sightings were gulls and a Grey Heron then what we were waiting to see – Avocets.

Avocet and Gull: Watercolour

Then followed a view of a pair in different poses
Two Avocets: Watercolour

The problem with observing from a moving boat is that there is no time to observe behaviour or make sketches. I was forced to rely on photographs and work up sketches from them.
Three Avocets whiffling in to feed: Watercolour with Chinese White.

These three arriving offered a nice opportunity for a painting. I’ve used a mid-toned 160gsm Ingres pastel paper to show up the mainly white birds. White is a difficult colour to modulate. White feathers sometime reflect blue on other parts of the bird the impression can be of a warm grey. There are always subtle changes. A flock of 12 or more Avocets flew over going roughly North. Were they making for Minsmere where we’d had little success 3 days ago?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


MINSMERE 25th September 2011 Made a second visit in the hope of catching sight of Avocets. The birds again favoured the eastern pool of The Scrape so the long walk to the East hide offered the best prospects. The first bird encounter was some nesting Cygnets seen on the bank of a small stream near the path to the West Hide. There were five in all preening intermittently – I drew the most active ones.

Drawn on cartridge paperwith Pentel Sepia Colour brush and a Wash brush.

The next stop was the South Hide. A Grey Heron was standing on a rocky spit in a small pool among the Reed Beds.

The outline drawing was made with a Pentel Brush Pen. The black ink in the brush pens is waterproof which is fine if the paper is heavy enough to take watercolour washes. The background in this drawing was added with soft pastels.

There was more activity to be seen from the coastal path leading to the East Hide. A flock of six ducks took flight from the Scrape Pool. I caught this impression of the leading four with the help of a long lens shot. The photograph had reasonable focus but the only certain detail was the white tail feathers. So I’m still trying to identify them

Watercolour on 160 gsm Ingres Pastel paper highlighted with Chinese White.

From the East Hide there were good views of geese, ducks and waders resting or feeding on the extensive gravel areas of the Scrape. Four Avocets flew in but they chose to feed off the far edge of one of the gravel islands so offered only the occasional glimpse. I settled for a sketch of a pair of Barnacle Geese.

Watercolour on 160 gsm Ingres Pastel paper highlighted with Chinese White.

The last sighting on the way back to the Visitor Centre was the Konig Polski ponies browsing in the Konig Field. This is a sketch of the most inquisitive one.

Watercolour on 160 gsm Ingres Pastel paper highlighted with Chinese White.

Sunday, October 02, 2011


A DAY AT MINSMERE 25th September 2011 Today's plan was to visit 'The Scrape' to see the RSPB’s flagship species – the Avocet. But no they seem to have all flown. The consolation prize was a Little Egret foraging among the reeds.

Then also from the West Hide a Hobby in some rough vegetation on the edge of The Scrape.

There had been a reported sighting of a Snow Bunting but I had no luck. No luck either with any sightings of Bearded Tits in spite of possible sounds. So we took the newly made Reed Trail ever hopeful. Had to settle for a distant view of the Konic Polski ponies – curse myself now for not trying a long lens shot. The ponies have been brought in to graze the wetlands.

The next objective was the Bittern Hide an elevated structure accessed by 4 flights of steps and looking out over extensive reed beds. There are a stretch of reeds where the Bitterns should have been 'booming' – but they were silent! Sections of reeds have been flattened to make the area more Bittern friendly. One of these provided another consolation – two juvenile pheasants.

So I took the homeward trail through woodland stopping to record an Ink Cap Fungus.

Then a final sighting of a small group of Red Deer browsing among the trees to round off an interesting day.