Tag Archives: illustration

November Update

There was no update for October as I was in the middle of a six-week trip to Europe.

About half-way through the trip I developed bronchitis which stayed with me to the end of November at which point I caught Covid on my return to Brazil. All of this despite being fully vaccinated for Covid and flu, and wearing masks during my trip. In many locations I seemed to be just one of a very small minority using a mask. C’est la vie!

My trip was the first post-pandemic opportunity to visit my family in various parts of Europe. Without going into full detail I can summarise the trip: visiting Sicily, the Scilly Isles, Bristol, Weybridge and Franconville; seeing my mother, four of five daughters based in UK/EU, all six grandchildren, and my brother; and capturing a host of images to add to my stock portfolio or for use in painting studies.

December activity is likely to be minimal in view of the holiday season, post-travel admin, and planning for 2023 projects. There will be something to report.

In the meantime … happy holidays. Have a great Christmas and New Year.


Cashew! Bless you!!

Cashew fruit (false fruit), nut and leaves

Knowing that the first week of the month is usually peppered with admin distractions, including the recent termite attack and a plumbing leak, I decided to start work on a botanical painting that could be handled as a project that allowed stops and starts.

I used a photograph that I had taken of a cashew fruit and leaves from my wife’s grandparent’s farm. The photo is on sale via Alamy if anyone is interested in using it.


I made an initial pencil sketch on A3 paper based on my photo. The photo itself was taken a few years ago with fruit and leaves carefully arranged on a white background and photographed in natural light.

I then lightened the pencil lines with a soft kneadable eraser so as to give me a guide without creating more work to erase the lines after painting. When painting in watercolour I prefer to have very light pencil lines only.

The leaf veins were painted in with a light wash of cadmium yellow before applying a light cadmium red wash on the fruit. I pulled off some colour with a damp brush to ensure I knew where the highlights would be. As the nut is a pale colour I decided to paint it first, initially with a very light wash of raw umber before subtly building up the colour.

To see more clearly where I needed variations in tone I applied a very pale wash on the leaves – darker in parts where I wanted to see shadows.

I then made adjustments to the nut to give form and texture.

As I did with the fruit (pseudo fruit – as the seed is formed outside the pulp rather than within it – which defines a fruit) I used a damp brush to take out colour in the leaves where the highlights would be.

I had thought of leaving the fruit to the end but, as it was the star of the painting, I painted this next.

The leaves of the cashew are a yellowish green so, to accentuate this, I painted a yellow-green wash over the leaves to make them more vivid. A couple of subtle washes were added to the nut: red at the top and green below – barely visible but it made a difference.

I worked on each leaf, working on each segment between the veins, until all of them were painted. I had to take out some colour to create smaller veins on some leaves.

The final stage involved adding shadows in key areas and adjusting the colours to show where the leaves were slightly deformed.

I would have preferred a brighter red for the fruit as I find it too dark. That may be a result of the paper I used. Perhaps hot-pressed paper would be better.

I like to leave this type of painting for a few days to take a fresh look and make adjustments if necessary. I may add some shadow under the leaves.

Thanks for following.

Shoot Stock

Slow week

Red-billed Blue Magpie

I managed only two paintings this week, my time having been taken up with household activities after a second attack of termites in the house was discovered just after releasing my last post. Having left things for a whole week the termites are back today. It seems there are forces at work to keep me from doing what I want. C’est la vie!

The first painting I completed this week was of a Red-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa erythroryncha). It is one of my favourite birds from my Hong Kong days. I lived there for a total of ten years – most of that time in the Mid-levels within walking distance of my office – but also for a few years further out, at the edge of the Tai Tam Reservoir Park.

Among the 25 species of birds that I saw on a daily basis I would see several of these Magpies moving through the trees in the Mid-levels.

Watercolour painting on A3 paper

Tufted Coquette

Tufted Coquette (Lophornis ornatus)

This is the second time I have painted this bird (having painted all four of the Brazilian Coquettes), the first time was on A4 paper. This lovely bird is resident in the extreme north of Brazil including Amapa where I would spend the occasional weekend when I lived in Belem.

Watercolour painting on A3 paper

Stay safe.

Shoot Stock

Back to the birds

Hippeastrum striatum

A new stock of paper arrived last weekend so I celebrated with some bird paintings and a floral painting of an “amaryllis”. My sumi-e practice is on the back-burner, for a while at least.

The bird paintings in watercolour on A3 paper were of two Hermits, which are a type of hummingbird, and a Green Bee-eater.

Saw-billed Hermit

The first was a Saw-billed Hermit (Ramphodon naevius) that I saw (no pun intended!) in the Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlantica) near Curitiba when I lived there 15 years ago. The area in which I saw and photographed the bird is the Graciosa road that runs down the mountainside from the plateau, about 850 m above sea level, down to the sea. I used to visit the area about once a month to capture photos of the many species of birds, insects and monkeys. The Mata Atlantica runs along the eastern coast of Brazil from the southern states to the northeast corner of the country though where I live the the rainforest barely exists and the wildlife is harder to see.

Planalto Hermit

The second was a Planalto Hermit (Phaethornis petrei) that I saw while visiting the state of Goias. I was on the way to a solo exhibition of my Inca Lands photos at the Legiao de Boa Vontage in Brasilia. We stopped off, overnight, at a “pousada” (an eco hotel of sorts) at a nature reserve.

The two birds are similar in appearance with most of the visible differences being in the breast feathers.

Green Bee-eater

The Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) is a common bird in India that I saw regularly while living there. A few of them perched close to a pond in the Botanical Gardens in Kondapur, a suburb where I lived in HYderabad, where they would rest between flights to catch insects over the water.

The floral painting is of a Hippeastrum striatum that I found on the same trip to Goias in which I saw the Planalto Hermit. There were several of these flowers growing in a “scorched earth” environment where a recent fire had eliminated the herbaceous layer of the countryside. Interestingly I found other species of Hippeastrum growing in similar conditions in the south of Brazil.

Hippeastrum are endemic to South America (H. striatus being from central Brazil) while the similar Amaryllis is a South African flower.

Hippeastrum striatum

This painting took a couple of days to complete, the red petals needed to be built up in several layers using multiple colours (cadmium red, rose lake, burnt siena, alizarin crimson, violet, sepia and Payne’s gray).

I find that when I do more floral paintings, like this one, I become more patient and allow myself more time to focus on the details. No rush to finish. I would like to try something more challenging but all too often I am obliged to do other tasks that interrupt me. Maybe next week? Who knows.

Thanks for following. Feel free to comment or ask questions.

Shoot Stock

Venetian landscape

Veneto farmhouse on A3 paper

This week was severely disrupted by things happening, or not happening when expected, so I only managed to paint a landscape (two versions) and do a portrait drawing in pencil.

The landscape is a view of a farmhouse near the town of Porto Santa Margherita, Veneto, where my mother lived for many years. Whenever I visited I would often drive out into the countryside to take photographs of the farms, waterways and villages.

Earlier version on A4 paper

I had experimented with the view of the farmhouse on A4 paper but wasn’t happy with the either the composition or the lines. There are elements in both versions that I like so I may have another try when time permits. The hills in the background, foothills that lead up to the Dolomites much further to the north, were not included and I would like to put emphasis on the flatness of the land. There is a river beyond the tree-line but otherwise trees in the landscape are less noticeable.

There are actually three trees in front of the farmhouse, as painted in the A3 version, but I had separated them in the earlier version.

I hope I can clear all administrative tasks over the weekend and allow time to catch up on my painting projects next week.

Thanks for following. Feel free to comment or ask question – I try to reply within 24 hours.

If you are in the mood to see my Instagram account, ShootCandids feel free to visit and like or follow. 🙂

Web site admin

Common Myna

It has been a busy week. On monday I had my first coronavirus injection, which was quick and painless. At least that’s out of the way till jab two in three weeks time.

Apart from four bird paintings (the Myna above, a Piping-guan, a hummingbird and a Chaco Chachalaca, each on A3 paper) I devoted time in the remainder of the week to building my new Shootstock website.

The site has been closed down for a while as I needed to move it to another domain hosting service. It was on Square Space – excellent service but proved to costly for me – and is now on HostGator.

The site, built using their templates, is now ready and just waiting for confirmation if the domain transfer.

I used to have sites with Yahoo, using their templates to start then writing my own code to make changes. The issue with that was the time taken to maintain the site which was a distraction (but a great learning experience).

I prefer template-based sites as I can concentrate in painting, design or photography, minimising the time spent on admin.

The new site shootstock should be visible this weekend*.

Shoot Stock is one of the first domains I bought in support of my stock photography business almost 20 years ago. Now it promotes all of my work – work that used to be spread across 6 websites!

I shall confirm when the new site is accessible.

Mynas, above, are common birds in various parts of Asia where I saw and photographed them on various occasions. Watercolour on A3 paper.

Thanks for following. Feel free to comment or ask questions – I try to reply within 24 hours.

If you are in the mood to see my Instagram account, ShootCandids feel free to visit and like or follow. 🙂

  • Looks like it may take a few more days for the domain transfer to complete and then for the site to be updated 😦

Subtle dfferences

In last weeks post I said I was not entirely happy with the drawing of the Doge’s Palace, specifically that I felt it needed more contrast to accentuate the Palace.

A close critical look was taken to see what I could do. The first action I took was to erase the shading on the facade of the palace. This wasn’t easy, in fact I made it worse in parts through smudging and had to redraw some windows as a result. An advantage of pencil drawing is that it is fairly easy to make corrections. Anyway, this action helped to boost the contrast and highlight the subject better. Job done, almost.

The side by side photos are not a great indicator as they were taken at different times. Obviously I cant retake the initial version.

I then added more shade to the right hand side of all buildings. There was a temptation to do more but I decided it was best to be guided by the level of contrast at the corner of the Doge’s Palace.

The building between the palace and the Danieli hotel, on the right, is partially in the shade of the palace so I added shadow to fix this.

The end result is, for me, better.

Pencil drawing is something I love to do. I haven’t done much of it in recent years and that is something I need to fix. When I schedule my projects for the month I shall ensure that there is at least one large (A3) drawing among those subjects, and I suspect that for the remainder of this year I shall draw Venetian scenes.

Thanks for following. Feel free to comment or ask questions – I try to reply within 24 hours.

If you are in the mood to see my Instagram account, ShootCandids feel free to visit and like or follow. 🙂

Attempting botanical illustration


Botanical illustration is, for me, an aspiration. While I have painted quite a few flowers in the past I have treated them as floral paintings rather than botanical. The reasons for the difference in terminology were covered in a couple of posts, the last at the end of last year. I decided to attempt a botanical painting to see what I could learn from the process.

The initial drawing took me over an hour to complete, closer to two hours, but perhaps should have taken a bit longer to ensure all details were recorded before painting. I didn’t time myself though this would be an interesting part of the process for future paintings. Getting the drawing right before painting avoids heartache later in the process.

The initial wash, a very pale pink using Rose Lake and Lemon Yellow, gave me the base colours. I left some areas unpainted where I expected to have some highlights.

This process took about a hour.

I left the painting to dry overnight and, next day, started first on one of the darker buds and then on an outer bud. This gave me an indication of the tonal range. I then worked randomly on various parts of the flower, allowing areas on which I had worked to dry. I think I spent about 3 hours painting before closing down for the day.

Next day, yesterday, I spent the whole day working on the painting. Working on the yellow parts first, then the reds and deep reds, leaving the negative space in parts to finalise the painting with the stamens.

This is a situation in which a wider palette would assist. I launched into the painting having quickly assessed that the paints I would use would be: rose lake, violet, cadmium red, raw umber and a couple of yellows. I also used a touch of paynes gray that I had mixed myself. In botanical painting I would need to assess exactly which colours and colour combinations to use.

One needs a very steady hand to get into the detail and edges of the flower. I suspect this is where I need to focus attention – my hands not being as steady as they once were – and will account for quite a bit of the time expended on a painting of this type. This took me well over 12 hours to complete so, if I were to do another, I reckon ten times that length of time will not be out of the question if I want to regard the end product as botanical rather than floral.

Thanks for following. Feel free to comment or ask questions – I try to respond within 254 hours.

If you are in the mood to see my Instagram account, ShootCandids feel free to visit and like or follow. 🙂

Pencil, for a change

My list of things to do, that I wanted to do once I had a fresh stock of paper, included doing a large pencil drawing. I hadn’t done much pencil work since I left school many, many years ago but it was, and remains, a medium that I love.

Having done some quick pencil sketches in my journal I decided to stay with what is a favourite subject of mine, painting and photography, and do a Venetian landscape. It took about 8 hours over three days (lots of interruptions!) and provided me with a few things to remember for future drawing, principally:

– use hot-pressed paper if I want good detail

– start at the top left and work down to the right (I am right-handed)

This is the “finished” drawing though I feel I need to do some more work on it:

Doge’s Palace from San Marco Basin

Venice is a fabulous and photogenic city that I had the privilege of visiting on numerous occasions. My mother used to live not far from the City of Canals, in a fishing village that became a popular holiday resort for Austrians as well as local people. Her father was from Veneto. Hence I enjoy painting and photographing Venetian scenes having had the opportunity to explore the countless alleys and waterways of the city.

The reason I like pencil work is that it is monochrome (as was my early photography) so tones and textures are an important feature.

I started the piece by lightly doing a rough outline sketch based on my chosen reference photo. Next I made adjustments to the composition before making a start on the drawing. It was at this stage that I realised the light roughness of the paper was not going to give the results that I wanted to achieve. The options were to continue or to re-think how I wanted to do the drawing eg by using the texture to make a looser design. I chose to continue as I had originally planned.

The texture of the paper is visible here, making the shadow area difficult to see

The problem was that my pencil work became uneven. Where I had envisaged smooth dark areas the pencil marks were unevenly spread over the texture. Not a major issue but when I get some smooth hot-pressed paper I will be able to get the results I wanted.

I have plenty of pencils in hand. The majority, that are used for outline sketches for watercolour paintings, are basic pencils that I have collected from hotels while on my travels. The majority of my “good” pencils are Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils. I have a few old, but hardly used Venus pencils (F, HB and 2B) and an old set of Lyrato Ceder 666 pencils that have interesting grades (1 = 3B, 1 1/2 = 2B, 2 = B, 2 1/2 = HB and 3 1/2 = H). These are my preferred pencils and I hope I have more of them. While searching I also found a set of Masters pencils (3H to 6B) that seem to have been hand-finished but, other than that, I have no idea who manufactured them or where. I need to test them!

One thing I do not like about my Venice drawing, which I do not consider finished yet, is that although facade of the Doge’s Palace is in fact decorated with a pattern of cream and beige tiles (or bricks) the treatment of the drawing would be improved if I had not shaded the facade and left it plain white. This would make it stand out a bit more. I could also darken some of the shadow areas to help accentuate focus in the scene by providing more contrast and stronger tonal value range.

I shall review the drawing next week and do what I think is needed. The advantage of pencil drawing is that an eraser and pencils can always be applied at a later date.

So, next week I hope to finish the drawing and compare the two versions ie the one shown above and the final one. I shall also look at the pencils that I have in my collection to compare them and decide which I really like.

Thanks for following. Feel free to comment or ask questions – I try to respond within 24 hours.

If you are in the mood to see my Instagram account, ShootCandids feel free to visit and like or follow. 🙂

South African Hornbills

Last week was an uncreative one in which I did not paint, just catching up on admin stuff which included a tidy up of my Saatchi Online collection. While this painting lethargy was due mainly to lack of paper on which to paint I was also unmotivated to do anything on canvas. Good to have a break every time once in a while.

In the previous week, however, I completed a set of four Hornbill pantings, each on A3 paper.

These hornbills were painted from reference pictures I had taken on trips to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. In total I have seen about 150 bird species in the park – plenty of material for future painting projects.

There are 8 hornbills in South Africa but these four are the only ones that I have seen:

Southern Ground-hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri), Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas), Red-billed Hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus) and African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus). The other four Hornbills are not found, as far as I know, in the Kruger National Park.