Monthly Archives: March 2020

White-faced Whistling Duck

White-faced Whistling Duck

I mentioned in my last post that I had felt a need to paint a landscape. A subject that had been on my “must do this one day” list was a view from the Rialto Bridge in Venice, one of my favourite cities. After completing the first wash I decided that it wasn’t going to plan, and things went downhill from there. I considered giving up, but instead persevered despite knowing this painting would not have my signature appended to it.

This prompted me to think “how important is a signature”? I decided to look through my stock of paintings. In one pile is a number of completed paintings that I deemed to be saleable. These, logically, have my signature at the bottom of each painting denoting that they are finished pieces. They are also catalogued with a unique stock number that ensures two or more paintings with similar subjects will not be confused in the sales process. I started this stock numbering last year having confused myself over 3 paintings featuring a Robin to which I had given the title, less than helpfully, Robin 1, Robin 2 and Robin 3!

The second pile contains some signed and unsigned paintings that, although finished, I really did not want to let out of my sight as they were not up to scratch. The best thing to do with these paintings is, as I did to my old school portfolio that I rediscovered a few months ago, to destroy them. I doubt if the paper can be reused so the paintings may be used for lighting my barbecue at the weekend.

After giving up the landscape painting I immediately set to work on a bird portrait – the duck.

The White-faced Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna viduata) is quite common in Brazil – particularly in the south where I used to live. They are noisy, gregarious birds but were pleasant to see and hear as they flew or swam in large numbers in a protected reserve outside Curitiba where I used to live..

I painted this in watercolour on A3 paper, 300 gm weight.

A number of bird watercolour paintings that I have completed can be seen on my site:


Watercolour landscape

Canal view from near the Rialto Bridge, Venice (perspective error due to paper curling rather than poor drawing!)

Last week I mentioned that I had wanted to paint a landscape subject that had been on my to-do list – a view from the Rialto Bridge. Venice is a magnet for painters and photographers and of course tourists in general and I have been fortunate enough to have spent quite a lot of time there over the years. Hence I would like to do some Venetian scenes in watercolour.

I had selected one of my many photos of Venice to use as a reference for my painting. Having drawn out a reasonably good sketch, allowing for a bit of reflection in the canal, I made a start with a positive mind.

After completing the first wash I felt that the painting wasn’t going to plan. Things went downhill from there and, while I considered giving up, instead chose to persevere despite knowing this painting would not have my signature appended to it.

When the painting was finished I put it to one side so that I could look at it critically. The washes were not how I wanted them – too many colours with no continuity. The detail was either too detailed while lacking accuracy or too loose – again, lacking continuity.

There wasn’t much that I liked! So I put the painting under a tap and washed the whole thing, using a large flat brush to get rid of as much pigment as possible.

I repainted the scene but didnt like the second attempt either. Back to the tap and brush!

Here is the video of the third wash:

Washing the watercolour pigment from a cotton rag paper.

The third attempt was little better. More washing and scrubbing! Luckily the paper has not suffered much from the mis-treatment.

Washed paper, with faint image from pigment, hanging to dry.

The paper, now dry, was ready for my next attempt.

Paper washed for the third time. It appears darker in the photo than it is.

To be very blunt, I do not think I am ready to do landscapes in watercolour. Most of the ones I have done so far have only one thing in common – an approach by an inexperienced painter! Far too detailed, lacking subtlety in brushwork, poor control of tonal value and no real style. Having severely wounded myself by admitting that I have done a few paintings that are ok, so there is some hope for me. I think.

A painter’s style is developed with experience over time. Experience comes from practice. So if I want to develop a style in watercolour landscape painting (rather than change medium) I need to practice while continuing to paint my birds. To do this I will start with small (A5 and A4) sized simple sketches (in my journal) before building complexity. That’s my project for March, though I started in the last week of February.

Purple Sunbirds

Purple Sunbirds (Cinnyris asiaticus) with bougainvillea. A3 cotton rag 300 g/m2. Watercolour.

After painting a fairly loose version of a Purple-rumped Sunbird (see the two paintings at the end of this post) I decided to have a go at doing a pair of Purple Sunbirds (scientific name Cinnyris asiaticus) with some floral interest, and so opted for the above arrangement.

The paper – Hahnemuhle Venezia – has a nice surface to paint on, handling well when lifting colour in a couple of areas. I wasn’t surprised as I had tested one of Hahnemuhle’s papers quite thoroughly or, more accurately, roughly and it came out of the treatment exceptionally well.

I still prefer to paint birds against an uncluttered background as I find that unnecessary clutter detracts from the final image. There are occasions when painting subjects in their natural habitat is both nice and essential.

Purple-rumped Sunbird (Leptocoma zetlonica) painted last month

Second, looser painting of the Purple-rumped Sunbird

Cherry-throated Tanager +

Cherry-throated Tanager

Last week was Carnaval week in Brazil so I took a few days off to relax on a beach, drink wine and have a cigar or two. Although it was a holiday week I decided to paint some landscapes in my journal – nothing special, just a bit of practice that I had promised to do.

This weekend, after catching up on admin, saw me painting more birds – three in total to get me into the swing of brush-wielding next week.

The three birds were the Cherry-throated Tanager, a Burnished-buff Tanager and an American Kestrel.

The Cherry-throated Tanager (Nemosia rourei) is a bird found in the Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlantica) near Rio de Janeiro though appears to be quite rare and endangered.

The Burnished-buff Tanager (Tangara cayana) has a fairly extensive range though-out Brazil though not in the south nor the Amazon.

Burnished-buff Tanager

The third bird, the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) can be found thoughout Brazil though, again, not in the Amazon region. I managed to see and photograph one of these beautiful birds just 20 metres away from my garden.

American Kestrel