A pair of mounted Gaúchos leading a horse

The Pampas of Argentina and the grassy granges extending into Uruguay, the southern states of  Brazil (principally Rio Grande do Sul, but also Santa Catarina and Parana) and Paraguay are home to the fabled “Gaúchos”.

Gaúchos were skilled nomadic horsemen, or cowboys, that roamed the grasslands in the process of raising cattle and horses. While there are still some that work as cowboys they tend to do so now on cattle farms, though the term “Gaúcho” still applies to the people of the region.

Having visited a couple of cattle ranches in Argentina I took a few photographs that I have now used to to make a collection of monochrome prints that will go on sale at the end of this year as limited edition prints. A small selection is replicated below.


Gaucho on horseback



Gaúcho boot in stirrup  


Gaúcho boots



Gaúchos leading a group of horses

I shall post on this subject again when the images are ready for sale (possibly end OCT18) with more information on the edition size, image size and how to order.

If you might be interested in buying any of the above or related images (24 images in the whole collection) please send me an email.



Brushing up!

A selection of brushes for general use

Tools of the trade … in order to create something artistic it is necessary* to have a few brushes.

* necessary but not essential … how paint gets onto a surface is not critical. Think about those cave paintings from aeons ago, or acrylic pouring techniques.

The funny thing is that when I began painting it was with just a few brushes, building up slowly as saw other brushes I might want to try out till I had spent a lot of money on what I thought I needed before finally sticking to just a few favourites that I feel comfortable with.

For my watercolour work, I have about 40 brushes including 2 decorating brushes (1 1/2″ and 2″), a toothbrush (for splattering, and a couple of ladies’ makeup brushes. I have a lot more brushes for oil and acrylic work.

Brushes for fine detail

For specialist work, I have a set of sable brushes are for painting fine detail. The sizes are 3, 1, 2/0, 3/0 and 5/0 – the “/0” denoting sizes smaller than 1 where 2/0 is 00, 3/0 is 000 etc. where more 000s implies a smaller brush. I use these only when doing special projects using my best watercolour paints and papers.

Brushes that get used most

My favourite brushes, the ones I use most, are a synthetic angle shader which is great for controlled painting into square areas, a small (3/0) squirrel mop brush which holds water nicely (though too small for doing large washes) and a small round (1) that I use for detail work in loose paintings. I use these in conjunction with any of the larger brushes for landscapes or with a 10 round brush for bird and flower paintings.

Getting decent brushes is a bit difficult for me unless I pay excessive delivery costs on mail-order items since there are not many fine art painters or stores where I live. My shopping list includes a couple of larger mop brushes and not much else other than paints and paper.

There is a lot to be said for getting good natural hair brushes eg sable, but I have been disappointed with one “pro” level sable brush while being very pleased with several synthetic brushes. It pays to go in person to a decent art store to try and buy what suits the artist.

Happy painting!

Painting journal

A painting / drawing journal is important to ensure one can practice and experiment daily. Apart from being fun and practical it is also a great way to record ideas for planning a painting

I admit that finding time to do something every day, particularly on busy days, is difficult but even a one-minute sketch is good practice.

The canal sketch above took less than ten minutes. It was done to remind me of a painting that I intend to do this month.

The entry below is part of a double-page spread (my journal is 28 cm c 21 cm so double page is 42 cm) and was made to plan the lighting for a landscape painting.

This took less than 5 minutes but will save valuable time when I paint the landscape.

Tiny tanagers

Extract from my painting journal

I have been fascinated by birds from an early age. Indeed, according to my mother, as a young toddler I would sit in our garden in Libya and watch the many birds that visited. But that’s another story. Among my favourite bird groups are the colourful Tanagers. There are 89 species of these little birds in Brazil though this number includes the Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) whose taxonomical classification is temporarily parked in the tanager group.

Of these, I have seen and photographed 22 species including the Bananaquit, about 25%, which is not a bad score considering many species are in difficult areas to visit. Obviously, I would love to see more species but, in the meantime, I have started a project to paint the birds that I know.

The extract from my painting journal, above, shows thumbnail sketches of each of the 22 birds that I have seen. The thumbnails help me to work out some sort of order in which to paint each bird. I need to indicate which of the birds has differences between male and female – in some species, the sexes are alike – as well as showing where I may have reference photos of the juveniles of the species. The main focus of the first phase of my painting plan is on the single birds with a final phase doing a more detailed painting of a family of birds in their environment.

The following image shows a sketch of a Bananaquit that I had painted a few months ago.

Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola)

My thumbnail sketches were very quick to complete – a rough outline of generic bodies in pencil followed by touches of appropriate watercolours, some needing to dry before the next colour was added. Done in seconds for each bird.

The Bananaquit sketch took a bit longer but was also quite quick – just a few minutes to paint after doing a reasonably accurate pencil outline. The colours are by no means accurate but serve to illustrate the bird in a recognisable manner.

Green-headed Tanager (Tangara seledon)

Palm Tanager (Thraupis palmarum) and Silver-beaked Tanager (Ramphocelus carbo)

The Green-headed Tanager is a quite a bit more detailed in terms of brush-work, but isn’t  a particularly good illustration, while the painting of the Palm and Silver-beaked Tanagers is a bit looser. The last image, below, of a Silver-beaked Tanager and a Masked Crimson Tanager is a lot looser.

Silver-beaked Tanager (Ramphocelus carbo) and Masked Crimson Tanager (Ramphocelus nigrogularis)


More on Tanagers after I complete the project.

Rough treatment

I had seen a couple of artists scrubbing the paper they were painting on and was horrified. How could they do this? However, always keen to experiment, I decided to have a go myself.

Having started work on the painting of a shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), or Shoebill Stork, I decided that I wasn’t happy with the way it was going. So on a whim I started the hard treatment.

The first try was in the reeds at the front of the bird that were not of the value I wanted. So I grabbed a damp brush, rubbed hard, then scrubbed with tissue paper. The watercolour paper (Hahnemuhle) took it well! So I then tried the same treatment, a bit harder in parts, on the body of the Shoebill and in the background.

I even tried repeating the process in the same part, expecting the paper surface to suffer, but no issues even after repainting.

The only area where I had problems was a patch where I had used an eraser. Although used lightly the eraser seemed to damage the surface of the paper.

I am still not happy with the painting but will probably do some more scrubbing and adjusting to see if I can rescue it.

Watercolour paper

Wooden house with boat, a waterway near Belem, Para, Brazil

I accidentally used a sheet of my drawing paper to paint a couple of pictures. The picture above shows how the paint was absorbed quickly in the area of the background acai palm trees.

The paint was drying very quickly – almost as it hit the paper – since the atmosphere where I paint is hot and dry.

It is possible to soak the paper to maintain a damp surface but that then creates other problems.

I made a similar error of paper choice when sketching a hawk.

Alan Skyrme Gallery on Facebook


Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 17.03.30

It’s been a while since I posted anything here – I have been working on a number of projects, including a desire to rationalise the number of websites that I have. On this point, I have decided I no longer need any websites, not even the Alan Skyrme Gallery site that I have had for 15 years.

I have also been re-building my painting skills with a view to offering both photographs and paintings for sale.

Havings spent some time in Veneto and Sicily in the summer, and January/February in Sicily again, I have built up a selection of stock images for sale via Alamy and art subjects that will become Fine Art images that I will sell direct or via Saatchi, along with my paintings.

I have plenty of work to keep me busy in parallel with other ongoing projects, so the need to maintain websites was called into question.



Setting up a website

For many years I had used a couple of internet service providers – and Yahoo Small Business.

Through these companies I bought a number of domains but used only Yahoo for web-hosting.

The issue with Register was that I found the email service difficult to manage and was unable to launch a web-site through them.

I had something like 25 domains in total, the majority of these registered under Yahoo, translated into 6 web-sites. Four of these were full web-sites while the other two  were simple landing pages.

I used a Yahoo-recommended web building software called Sitebuilder, easily confused with Sitebuilder the webhosting service when searching for them on the net.

All was well up to 2012 – I had access to the sites and was able to maintain them using Sitebuilder and even used html to code some pages and content.

I was then obliged to put the maintenance on hold for a while as some time-hungry projects had come up. To cut a long intro short I found that I was unable to get access to my domains for maintenence purposes. Sitebuilder refused to let me in and once I was able to get in I could not download the sites in order to maintain them.

Countless contacts with the helpdesk got me nowhere.

Having gone to the trouble of buying a new laptop (PC) and having tried to upgrade and downgrade the Windows OS I got nowhere. Sitebuilder does not work on Mac hence the need to use a PC. Situation made worse by having both my new laptop and my Macbook go missing in transit between Mexico and Brazil!

I had no alternative but to ditch Sitebuilder and therefore to rethink both Yahoo (Aabaco) and the number of domains that I owned.

The re-thinking process began in earnest this year. I looked at 10 service providers in addition to another that I used (Amazing Internet) before deciding on SquareSpace.

My new ShootStock site is now running, though still work in progress in parts. On balance I found that SquareSpace offered both a flexible site that, while not perfect, as well as domain hosting. I am still experimenting with the site – and its blog capabilities, and in the meantime I am running three blogs in parallel: this one, Shoot Stories and Continental Drifter.

Feel free to contact me for details of my reviews of other web providers.

Shoot Froot – Passionfruit

Passion fruit on plate


Name:                   Passionfruit

Scientific name:  Passiflora edulis

Other names:      Passion fruit, maracuja, maracuya, fruit de la passion, liliko’i


A vine, originally from southern Brazil / northern Argentina. The fruit, or pepo, has a hard skin within which are the seeds and juice

Nutritional Benefits:

Rich source of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and fibre.

Vitamin A (43% RDA)

Vitamin C (30% RDA)

Carbohydrate (18% RDA)

Iron (20% RDA)

Phosphorus (10% RDA)

Health benefits:

Antioxidant benefits, prevent cancerous growth, stimulate digestion, boost immune function, improve eyesight, increase skin health, regulate fluid balance in the body, lower blood pressure, boost circulation, and improve bone mineral density.

ASG images library:

We have a number of images in stock and can shoot to order

NB: While Alan Skyrme has a number of diplomas in Nutrition it is strongly recommended that the latest available analyses of the nutritional contents and benefits are obtained from appropriate sources. Those indicated here are indicative only and may be out of date.

Shoot Stock

Shoot Froot – Goji Berry

Goji Berry (Lycium chinense)



Deciduous perennial shrub originally from China.

Its egg-shaped fruit are the size of small rose hips and a rich source of nutrients.

Nutritional Benefits:

Goji berries  are rich in antioxidants and a good source of nutrients, minerals and vitamins with multiple medicinal uses.

Vitamin A 390 µg (55.71%)

Iron, Fe 1.9 mg (23.75%)

Carbohydrate 21.58 g (16.60%)

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) 13.6 mg (15.11%)

Total dietary Fiber 3.6 g (9.47%)

Protein 3.99 g (7.98%)

Threonine 0.1 g (5.68%)

Sodium, Na 83 mg (5.53%)

Calcium, Ca 53 mg (5.30%)

Health benefits:

Antioxidant benefits, prevents diabetes, reduces cholesterol, prevents cancer, protects liver, eliminates free radicals, protects cardiovascular system

ASG images library:

We have a number of images in stock and can shoot to order

NB: While Alan Skyrme has a number of diplomas in Nutrition it is strongly recommended that the latest available analyses of the nutritional contents and benefits are obtained from appropriate sources. Those provided here are indicative only and may be out of date.