Thursday, April 26, 2012


Last year on the seafront at Ostend I encountered a small flock of 1st. Winter Lesser Blackback Gulls. It was bitterly cold and windy – not the weather for hanging about.  I took several useful photographs

I had enough material showing the birds in different poses the problem with photographic references is how to make use of them.  Charles Tunnicliffe I know would compose an unruly flock into a carefully arranged design. That level of skill is beyond my reach at the moment. Lars Jonnsson however has made some delightfully simple paintings showing just two or three birds set against the sea.  Lars Jonnson wins on this occasion!

28th April additional note

The gulls were scavenging on the promenade near the ferry terminal so a more natural environment was needed. The rocky motifs were taken from some pictures I took on a visit to the Farne Islands.  I decided to place the background for this picture in first. The gulls winter plumage was quite subtle and delicate and I felt that a strongly stated background would be out of character.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


In May last year my wife and I spent a day in Brussels while on holiday in Belgium and were surprised to Peregrines nesting in a tower of the Cathedral. There was an observation post nearby where you could observe them live through a telescope.  I tried to make some drawings but had to stop when I noticed an impatient cue forming up to take a look.

I’ve posted a link to the project website which contains a lot of interesting news of the birds.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I’ve been working on the Nenes today.  I decided to use the ripples in the water to group the birds together . The birds were mostly in shade created by the leaves on the overhanging branches. A little more work needed there and more on the water. 
I left the birds unfinished and they’re still as they were in the earlier post. I’ll be leaving them as a final touch.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


The family librarian – that’s my daughter who works at Newman University College, Birmingham – has  persuaded me to become Kindle convert! I haven't bought one of those little plastic things that appear sometimes on trains or in hospital waiting rooms . No I've downloaded the Kindle app so I can read the books on my laptop.

Started with the free ones like 'Winnie the Pooh' 'cos I like the pictures. Alice in Wonderland was another free one and Alice saw 'no point in a book which doesn’t have pictures or conversations.' Well now I'm now onto deeper adult stuff like 'Why does E=mc2' co authored by Prof Brian Cox - remember him from the telly? Fascinating book if you can cope with a little maths but no pictures – at least of the figurative kind – but at least Alice’s creator would have enjoyed the illustrations it contains. They are of the diagrammatic kind so you have to put your own visual interpretation on them.

So I’ve moved on to ‘The Wisdom of Birds’ by Tim Birkbeck. It’s a history of ornithology and it does have lots of coloured pictures. They are technically exciting but a bit wooden to modern eyes – they were after all mostly drawn from dead specimens. It’s surprising how ‘intelligent’ birds are in their own particular way.

Another free Kindle download was ‘Discourses on Art’ by Sir Joshua Reynolds. They are a series of lectures he gave to the ‘gentlemen’ of the Royal Academy of his day. I thought it ought to be compulsory reading for somebody claiming to be an artist.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


These are some of the Nenes I photographed at Slimbridge. There were small groups tamely wandering around but I caught these three in a narrow stretch of water flowing out onto the estuary. I thought at first I had a ready made composition once the overhanging branches and the far bank of the stream were put in. Now I’m not so sure.

Lately I’ve been looking at the illustrations in ‘Charles Tunnicliffe’s Birdlife’. He had a wonderful gift for composition – placing his groups of birds in a balanced design. There are the beginnings of a relationship between the three birds but the arrangement is not working properly yet.

Maybe reflections in the water will bring them together. Taking a break has made me realise too that the left hand bird is too small.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


With the Easter exhibitions out of the way I’ve been back in drawing mode for the past few days.  I’m planning a series of watercolours based on sketches which originated last year. I use an A4 sketchbook for quick sketches which aim at capturing characteristic features of pose and movement. The subjects are mostly garden birds which are never still so I have to use my photographs for reference. 

Given the  chance I could sketch all day. Drawing gives me just as much satisfaction as pulling off a finished painting. The next stage is to arrange the sketch motifs against a suitable background to make a satisfying composition.   For me the background has to reflect the bird's natural habitat.

Here are two examples. 

Monday, April 02, 2012


I've been framing work today ready to hand in at the LAS Spring exhibition on Friday. I'm using a frame I had in stock from an earlier exhibition - the painting came back unsold.

With both pastels and acrylics I like to use a linen or painted slip to separate the work from the glass. It makes a nice decorative insert if the colour is right. Traditionally gold was used for slips but in this case I've given the natural linen slip a coat of acrylic which picks up a colour from the painting.

I've taken the photograph without the glass insert. With acrylics it would be OK to not use glass if the support was MDF but with this painting I was working on a prepared canvas glued to backing board which is not so robust. So the glass and labelling will be the finishing touches to be added before Friday.