Wednesday 25 December 2013


To all my followers and other visitors to the blog may I wish you all a Happy Xmas and a successful and prosperous 2014.  Already things are moving. Yesterday I signed up with some trepidation to Saied Dai's highly rated -`exacting'- Life Drawing course at Bath Artists Studios. I'm told it's really tough.This is ten three hour sessions beginning 13 January. Fortunately Pat Walker from my Avon Valley Artists group is also going so I won't be alone! More about this later.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Birds in Watercolour

As regular visitors will know I like painting birds. The following are a collection of paintings I like but once again are impressionistic rather than photo realistic. I'm not about to get into the argument about photorealism - each to his own.

Abigail Larson

Dean Crouser

Peter Nilsson

Robin Berry

Vickie Nelson

Gerard Hendriks

Peter Williams

Morten E Solberg Snr

Jean Haines

Susan Crouch

Sarah Yeoman

Lars Kruse

Bev Jozwiak

Gerard Hendriks

Cemal Selimgl

Of the above artists Gerard Hendriks, Robin Berry, Morten E Solberg Snr, Bev Jozwiak, Jean Haines and Lars Kruse are the ones I know most about. I'm not a great fan of Jean Haines, despite her being flavour of the moment. When I look at paintings like the example above I am reminded of the story of the King with no clothes. I'm a big fan of Gerard and Bev Jozwiak and also think Morten E Solberg Snr is terrific. The others, whom I know little about, are also excellent although I realise this is a matter of personal taste. What I would suggest is that they are not looked at solely as paintings of birds, but the use of colour and various other techniques, and whether the various approaches can be applied to other subjects. If I've misspelt any of the artists names I do apologize to them. Many of the above appear on Facebook, which is a treasure trove of paintings of all types.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Pacific Ghosts

The islands of the South Pacific are full of shattered wrecks of World War Two aircraft, still being sought by collectors and enthusiasts. I painted one such - probably in the New Guinea region - of a WW2 Mitchell bomber. When I searched for subjects I also came up with the following which I've now painted.

Japanese Mitsubishi G4M Navy Type 1 Attack Bomber 18" x 12" Fabriano Extra White not 140lb (300gsm)

Because the Japanese named their aircraft in a way that westerners found difficult to comprehend a code system was introduced by the Americans with boys names for fighters and girls for bombers plus some other variations.  The G4M1 or 2 depicted above was code named `Betty'. The Betty was the standard navy attack bomber of WW2 and soldiered on to the end as potential replacements failed to appear . It was fast and had an enormous range but suffered from lack of protection for both crew and fuel tanks, a major Japanese weakness. As a result losses were very heavy. Nevertheless it is considered one of the outstanding aircraft of WW2. This example was lost somewhere - I would guess - in the Solomon islands.

I first made a loose pencil drawing, the only area of any detail being the aircraft itself, which is surrounded by a tangle of jungle vegetation. Colours were Cerulean, Cobalt Teal Blue (Daniel Smith PG50), greys from Ultramarine and Burnt Umber/Burnt Sienna. The fuselage colours included Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48), Sap Green and Hookers plus some Raw Umber. The surrounding foliage was a variety of greens including Green-Gold (Rowney PY129), Sap Green and Hookers, Apatite Green (Daniel Smith) Raw Umber, Cobalt Teal Blue and Ultramarine Blue.

Brushes used were the Isabey Kolinsky Series 6228, sizes 6, 8 and 10. The Da Vinci Artissimo 44 Kolinsky mop and also - unusually for me an angled shader, about 5/8th. I think I may introduce small flats with certain paintings. I've seen Janet Rogers on video use flats in her portraits to great effect.  

Tuesday 17 December 2013

A Surprise in the Mail!

Two days ago I received a most pleasant surprise in the mail. A lovely watercolour sketch of an `Orange-breasted Sunbird' signed Gerard Hendriks.

Since I first got to know Gerard, albeit at long distance, I've come more and more to realise what a nice and generous man he is.  Not many would do what he has done, first with my grandaughter Evie's portrait and now this. When I thanked him for Evie's portrait, when he wouldn't even allow me to pay the carriage charges, his response was he likes to make people happy. Gerard is planning a UK workshop visit in 2015 and I hope to be there.

Friday 13 December 2013


This was the subject at yesterdays Avon Valley Artists meeting. I decided to paint my two grandsons as a portrait rather then a group of figures. I have painted them before but keep striving to produce the `definitive' version - not yet achieved if it ever will be. 

I used two photos and combined them. The drawings were the same size as the images in the photographs and I used a ruler to gauge the distances from top to bottom and out to the sides of the face. A 2B 07 Pentel mechanical pencil was the drawing tool. I have pretty much given up using normal graphite pencils.

Harvey and Mackenzie 20" x 14" Fabriano Artistico Extra White not 140lb (300gsm).

I used my small sketchers palette and colours for the face were Cadmium Red Light, a little Cadmium Yellow, with Cerulean added where I needed to darken. I was conscious that children's complexions tend to be quite light and lacking shadow, so care is needed to avoid making them look much older.  I painted the face initially starting with the eyes then the nose followed by the mouth,  not stopping at the margins but going into the hair. The hair is  Raw Sienna and Raw Umber. Brushes used were the Isabey travel brushes size 4 and 6, and the Rosemary Kolinsky travel brushes sizes 6 and 10. My inspiration for portraits is Charles Reid but I am also very impressed with the delicacy of Stephie Butlers work. I also admire many others, Stan Miller, Lin Fealing to name just two..

Yvonne Harry 

Jan Weeks - This is grandson Xavier

There were only 10 members present which is on the thin side. Next week it is Xmas Cheer - not a subject but a variety of `eats'.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

The Puerto Rican Tody - Todus Mexicanum !

I've not kept up with the weekly subject on the `Paint Colorful Birds' Facebook page but completed this one yesterday. What a mouthful of a name.

The Puerto Rican Tody 16" x 12" not

This is painted on the back of a failed or discarded painting. I think it the Great Art Centenaire paper but not certain. 

I made an initial drawing using a Pentel mechanical pencil 07 2B. This was done the day previously and painted yesterday. It is quite an easy subject compared to some other birds but interesting in the contrast of green and orange. I recently sorted my paints out and found I had at least ten different tubes of greens (!). When I looked at the bird I thought I would have trouble as I didn't have an emerald green but found a forgotten tube of Maimeri Cobalt Green Light (PG50). Although fairly old the paint was fine and I used it with touches of Hansa Yellow Medium (Daniel Smith PY97). The lower rear area has some Indian Yellow (Rowney PY153). The orange-red is Schminke Translucent Orange (PO71), and the breast some Ultramarine Violet (Rowney PV15) together with touches of Cerulean greyed with Burnt Sienna. The eye is Maimeri Ivory Black. The white areas were brightened with Acrylic white. The branch has Raw Sienna, Indian Yellow, Cerulean and Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48) and Raw Umber.

I used the Isabey Kolinsky sables series 6228 in mainly size 8 and the size 4 retractable. I like Isabey very much and while I think Escoda make excellent brushes the current spate of `big' name artists telling us Escoda are the `best in the world'  increases my cynicism about listening to such marketing hype.

Friday 6 December 2013

A Hostile Apache.

This Amerindian image is from the Edward Curtis series  and represents a hostile Apache brave circa 1880. I have done this one before but I think this is better. The likeness is not 100%, round about 70% I would say. 

I'm not sure what the paper is, possibly Indian hand-made,  bought from Foyles in Cabot Circus, Bristol. Foyles are a famous London bookshop - now a small chain - not an art supplier but they were selling a small range of watercolour paper. 

I used a scale divider to help me get the dimensions and spacing right scaling the guide photo up one and a half times, using a mechanical Pentel 07 2B pencil.

Stage 2 - approximately.

Stage 3

A Hostile Apache - 16" x 12" Not 

Face colours were essentially various mixes of Cadmium Red Pale, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cerulean and Cobalt Blue. The major colour is  Cadmium Red, very little yellow and small amounts of the blues to darken the mix.

The hair is basically Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber and Raw Umber in various mixes. His headband is Quinacridone Rose, Quin  Coral ad Perylene Maroon with some Cobalt Blue..

After seeing Charles Reid  paint portraits using the small Craig Young Sketchers box I decided to do the same. I haven't been using this in recent months and decided to start with fresh paint.  Charles checks the paint mixes consistency by holding the palette vertically and if it runs has too much water. The colours are, from left to right and top to bottom as follows: 
Ist Row; Hansa Yellow Medium (Daniel Smith PY97), Cadmium Yellow Light (Lukas), Cadmium Red Pale (Rowney) and Permanent Carmine (Winsor & Newton)

2nd Row: Ultramarine Blue (Rowney), Cerulean (Graham), Cobalt Blue Deep (Rowney), Turquoise (Lukas),

3rd Row: Ultramarine Violet (Graham), Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith), Viridian (Rowney), Raw Sienna (Rowney).

4th row: Translucent Brown (Schminke), Raw Umber (Rowney), Burnt Umber (Rowney), Translucent Orange (Schminke)

You may note (some with horror?) that six different makes are involved. I have added three colours that have taken my fancy in recent months, the Schminke Translucent Orange and Brown. The orange replaces Cadmium Orange and the brown Burnt Sienna. The Schminke orange is redder than Cadmium Orange, and more transparent. The brown is a brighter Burnt Sienna. As for Turquoise (PB16) I just love that colour! I still have supplies of these other colours so no doubt they will appear again. They won't necessarily feature in portraits.

A few words about Graham paints. I do like Graham but they do tend to be over moist and remain so on the palette. When I squeezed out the Cerulean  there was separation with liquid and pigment. Some tubes I have of Graham have leaked, apparently from pinholes. This is happening in a not particularly hot climate so I can understand the problems that occur in places like California. One colour, Mineral Violet, turned a muddy brown and three tubes later it still  did the same thing, despite my being told the third tube was from a different pigment supplier. Will I buy more? Not sure but I do like some of their colours especially Quinacridone Rust.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Butterflies & Birds

This was the subject at last Thursdays AVA session,. There were fifteen members present, much better than last week but below the average of what used to be the norm. We could do with an influx of new members, perhaps five or six.

Jo McKenna

Jan Weeks

Peter Ward

An interesting subject, one that we haven't tackled before. 

Friday 29 November 2013

This and That

I went to the AVA session last week but forgot my camera! I actually set out the previous evening to sort myself out and get better organized. I thought I had but when I got there realised I'd left my camera. The pleasures of advancing age!

The subject was Figures or Portraits but this was affected by the proposed model being unable to attend. Basically we then did our own interpretation of the subject. This was the one item (apart from the camera) that I hadn't finalised and I was at a loss  what to do. First of all I raked out an old Amerindian study but in the end attempted a photograph of eldest grandson Harvey taken about a year ago. Quite often at home, with no time or any other pressures, I'll carefully measure and calculate the distances between eyes, nose, mouth etc - if the old masters could use all sorts of mechanical aids why not - and produce a  careful drawing. In this instance I did it the hard way and drew the outline of the head, then put in the features using rough measurements. It worked out roughly right although I didn't quite catch his expression and made him look about fifteen when he is not quite ten.

Harvey 16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico Extra White 140lb (300gsm) not

Not great is it - actually rather poor, eyes too big, face wrong shape etc etc - although the hair isn't bad. Still another step on my return to painting. 


I did a post recently on the demise of PY153 the pigment mostly used in the popular Indian Yellow and Gamboge paints. This was a bit of a blow as the replacements are mixed pigment paints or not identical in colour. However one of the art shops in Bath, F J, Harris in Green Street, has been selling Rowney watercolours at very keen prices for  months. They didn't have the complete range but Indian Yellow was included. When the news broke I  visited the shop, as we live quite close to Bath, but they were out of stock of that colour. On a subsequent visit the same thing occurred so I thought that was it. Last week I called in again and lo and behold the Rowney had been re-stocked and I bought the  two 15ml tubes they had. It says `PY153' on the tubes so I assume this is correct, although some companies have been known to change the pigment without correcting the labels. Price was £5.63p which is almost  £1 cheaper than mail order from Jacksons. This should last a year or more. I wonder how Rowney are fixed with pigment supplies? Added 17/12/13: I called on F.J Harris in Bath at the weekend to buy some art materials for my granddaughter Evie. Checking the Daler Rowney watercolours I spied more Indian Yellow PY153 so purchased another tube ( 15ml at £5.63p). I now have three so that should last a while.


The Spanish company Escoda make a very good range of brushes including Kolinsky sables. From what I have heard they are very nice people to deal with. They are also very good at marketing and have been getting an increasing number of artists to promote their products. The Dutch artist Gerard Hendriks was recently sent an assortment - I gather gratis - and has been testing them. I must admit to being very cynical about the huge, ever growing range, of art products, paints, papers, brushes, you name it, with artists names attached. 

In the case of Escoda, specifically their top of the range Kolinsky series 1212, and retractable series 1214, they have at least two sets, one with Charles Reid's name,  and most recently John Yardley. Up until 2012 Charles Reid always recommended Da Vinci Maestro and indeed this was so on the 2013 workshops, although Escoda retractables were also mentioned and on some demos he used them. He also had a series 1212 Size 14 Escoda, possibly others, and  I subsequently bought one after examining it.  

 On one of his Catalonia workshops Charles was given the royal treatment with a visit to the Escoda factory.  We now have a three brush set of Charles Reid Reserva Series 1214 travel brushes in sizes 6, 8 and 10. Jacksons price is £57.80p but the standard Escoda series 1214 in the same sizes work out at £54.80p.

 I mentioned John Yardley. Escoda have also introduced a John Yardley set of three Reserva 1212 Series, sizes 6/10/12. The price is £49.90p while the same sizes in series 1212 in the basic Escoda name are £60.70! This is really weird, an apparent premium with Charles Reid's name on the brush and a discount if it is John Yardley. I have just checked these prices (Jacksons)  again to make sure I have it right but it is certainly correct as of today. Bromleys appear to be similar although they are only selling some of these special sets and not the standard series. As for John Yardley now recommending Escoda he previously swore by Winsor & Newton Series 7 and used a Size 10, costing over £100, exclusively. In his book about him Ron Ranson commented on the number of series 7 brushes lying about John Yardleys painting room that had been discarded because they had `lost their point'. There is one odd thing. Bromley refer to the Kolinsky sable travel brushes as the `Optimo' range and the 6.8 and 10 come to £45.49p. Is this a different cheaper alternative to the Reserva series? Somewhat bewildering and reinforces the belief that you should take nothing for granted and very carefully check things out before parting with your hard earned money.

If you read the blurb, and the website comments, that refer to these brushes then claims are made that I find difficult to believe. They involve what sizes these artists are said to use and claims that they think they are the `best in the World or best they have ever used'. Well they may be and Escoda do make excellent brushes as I have several, both 1212 and 1214's.  On sizing though they are up to two sizes smaller than Da Vinci and also Raphael, possibly one in some others.  The prices are still very good even taking that into account. Best in the World? I think Rosemary, Da Vinci, Raphael, Isabey and others might dispute that. My current mix of brushes are Isabey and Da Vinci  plus Escoda and Rosemary Travel brushes. I like them all. 


One final item. While playing with my new ipad I came across a website called `'- apparently American. It claimed to `assess' blogs and the following figures were quoted for mine.

World Ranking- 14,335,201 USA 1,970,225
Number of visitors per month: 386
Daily Figure: 0 -17
Average Number of page Reads; 1

If these figures are correct I don't know why I bother. It would be like shouting to oneself in a sound proofed room. According to Blogger stats, this month will hit around 14,000 page reads, which is the highest ever. What should I read into this and which set are correct?

Monday 25 November 2013

The Stork-Billed Kingfisher

This is my latest attempt at a bird for `Painting Colorful Birds for Fun' on Facebook. I first of all made a pencil modified contour drawing using a Pentel  mechanical 07 2B pencil. I painted starting with the head and then moving down the body and finally the tail. After the head was dry I painted the eye using Maimeri Ivory Black leaving a white spot.

 A range of colours reds, Quinacridone Rose, Perylene Maroon and Quinacridone Coral., mostly Daniel Smith. Blues, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue Deep (Rowney PB72), Turquoise (Lukas PB16) and Prussian Blue (Graham PB27). Yellows Green-Gold (mostly for the background), Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith PO49), Gold Ochre (W & N PY43), Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and finally Viridian (Rowney) and Burnt Umber. I think that's it.

Stork-Billed Kingfisher  15" x 11" Fabriano Artistico 90lb Not

I used a lightweight Fabriano paper, mostly because it was handy, quite satisfactory for this kind of subject with very little overpainting. Brushes were the Isabey 6228 Size 8 and the retractable size 4 plus a Rosemary retractable rigger.

The whole thing took about 45 mins. This was my second attempt. I did start a similar study at the AVA meeting yesterday on cheap paper but it wasn't going well so I abandoned it. Too much haste.

Friday 22 November 2013

Animals in Watercolour

Continuing the series of photographic  selections of  paintings I  either like or have found interesting are the following on animals. I believe all are watercolour but I may be mistaken in one or two instances. In several cases I know little or nothing about the specific artist but searching the web may bring more information if you are particularly taken by them. Bear in mind this is just not about animals but illustrates different ways to approach the subject - which may well be applicable to other things - and I would point to the use of colour, which I think is not sufficiently exploited by many artists. Naturally they are only my opinion(s) and you may disagree. I would love to be able to paint like some of those below.

I'll start with this sensational painting from the superb American artist Bev Jozwiak.

Dave White

Frank Ebers

Lars Kruse - a disciple of Gerard Hendriks

Nigel Short - wonderful colours

Nora McPhail - again wonderful colours but in a more delicate manner.

Peng Zigiang - very bold and dynamic

Solveig Rimstad - actually I'm not fond of cats- they kill too many birds.

The delightful Stephie Butler a master of the delicate use of colour.

Peter Williams - amazing but is this watercolour I rather doubt it.?

Both the above are by the wonderful  American artist Morten E Solberg Snr who paints animals in the landscape.

Finally two from the Dutch artist and really delightful person Gerard Hendriks. I think they are both demos. Gerard's reputation continues to rise and he told me he is coming to the UK in 2015. Although this is some way ahead I'll strive to attend his workshop. I regard him in many ways as a European Charles Reid, although there are differences..