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.