Monthly Archives: May 2020

Swallowtail Butterfly

Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machao)

Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machao). Watercolour painting on A3 paper.

This is one of about 20 species of butterfly, including 4 species of swallowtail butterflies, that are regular visitors to my small (2 m x 2 m) flower patch.

I used salt to create a speckled effect on the wings. The difficulty of working with salt is that it soaks up both water from the painted area and moisture from the air which results in a long drying time – a day or so if it is humid. I used a hair dryer to speed up the process, scraped away the crystals with a small blade, then brushed the residual dust and tiny crystals till the paper was smooth to the touch. I don’t use salt often but sometimes it provides a perfect texture for the subject. The grains I used on this occasion were fine. I have used coarse sea salt crystals in the past for a painting of a Hoatzin head, and a couple of other birds.


In the mood for Coquettes

Festive Coquette (Lophornis chalybeus)
Watercolour on A3 paper

One of the more interesting members of the hummingbird family are the coquettes. There are 5 in the genus Lophornis and two in the genus Discosura. Of these 7 birds I have seen only one in the wild that I managed to photograph about 15 years ago while living in Curitiba. The bird was in the Atlantic Rainforest near the Graciosa road, an historic road built by Jesuit priests from the coast, up the mountainside, to Curitiba.

Frilled Coquette (Lophornis magnificus)
Watercolour on A3 paper

I chose to paint these birds as I had named my ETSY store after the Festive Coquette (the species that I had seen personally) and, to date, have completed three: the Festive (Lophornis chalybeus), the Frilled (Lophornis magnificus) and the Rufous-crested (Lophornis delattrei) all on A3 paper (42 cm x 29.7 cm).

Rufous-crested Coquette (Lophornis delattrei)
Watercolour on A3 paper

By the end of May I expect to have completed all 7 species (plus the Rufous-crested which is not found in Brazil) though I may be interrupted by commissioned subjects (including some Bee-eaters) and a couple of other hummingbirds.

Alan Skyrme Gallery on Facebook

The Graciosa road in Parana, Brazil

Bee Eater

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
Watercolour on 300 gm 30 cm x 20 cm paper

I was told that there were a few bee-eaters currently nesting and feeding their young in Cyprus. While I have seen a species of bee-eater when I lived in India, and another during a visit to South Africa, I have not personally come across the European member of this family.

So, prior to starting work on painting some of the 130 species of birds that I have seen in South Africa, a project that will start as soon as I have sorted out a termite problem at home, I decided to do a quick painting of the European Bee-eater which is probably the most beautiful bird in its genus.

Touros Lighthouse

Touros Lighthouse (Farol de Calcanhar)
Acrylic on canvas, 60 cm x 45 cm

For about a year, ten years ago, I lived in a fishing village called Touros. Now a town of about 33,500 inhabitants, it got its name from a rock formation that looked, to the Portuguese sailors who had arrived there, like a bull. Sadly the sea has broken the rock into smaller rocks but the name remains.

Touros is still a base for fishing but its economy is now focused on agriculture and tourism. It is possible to get fresh prawns, a variety of large and small fish, and lobsters. On most days it is possible to see the fishermen put out nets from the beach, hauling them in when, from experience, they know there will be a decent catch.

The scene that I painted is of the beach of Carnaubinha, an extension of Touros on the south side, with the lighthouse in the distance on the northern side of Touros. The sea is the Atlantic Ocean.

The painting is my second attempt at acrylics and contributed to my education with this medium. I need to re-do the sky as I find the blue above the horizon to be a bit too intense. I used two types of blue with too much of the warmer blue. A nice thing about acrylic painting is that mistakes or changes in ideas can be painted over.

I shall repost the final painting once I am satisfied with the sky.

Update: 13JUL20

Here is the final version. The difference, made by painting a light, white wash over the sky, is a bit too subtle to appreciate in the photo but looks better close up.