DIARY 2009 - 2010

© Jane Milloy
Contents of this website are copyright of Jane Milloy and
may not be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.

 

October November 2010

It's been a busy month trying to complete commissions due for Christmas and fit in everything else too, so a very brief update.

The dragonflies have had another wash built up onto them but realistically I will not get back to complete it until after the festive season - can't wait as I am desperate to get on with it. I've decided to add some subtle tadpole shapes among the lily stems - they just swam into my imagination of their own accord but I think they will work. Watch out for this completed in January

The weather turned in November and for weeks we have had mornings of sharp hoar frosts, temperates reaching minus twenty some nights and snow piling up on top of more snow . Deja vu - last winter started the same way too. With no wind to speak of the snow coated everything - striking and very pretty to look at, but hard on the back when shovelling driveways etc.

Picnic anyone?

Oh well, back to trying to defrost my car!

I'll try and have a bit more of a chat next month.

August September 2010

Due to popular demand I am working on a series of smaller original acrylic paintings, all in the "wildlife expressionism" style that I am loving exploring. So far I have completed three different puffin ones and hope to soon manage some others featuring different birds and animals in the coming months.

September saw me start to produce a range of smaller versions of the acrylic limited edition prints as comments from many people met at exhibitions had been that they loved the prints, but as they are quite large they did not have a space suitable for them - couldn't I produce some smaller ones? Your wish is my command. Actual image size is 150mm square and framed they come out about 310mm square . Prints featuring boxing hares, diving puffins, fishing gannets and otters are available. Check out the limited edition prints page for further details.

I have blocked in another acrylic of a heron in flight - below is the start of the painting with the first washes.Next to it is a quick heron sketch that I drew in Norfolk, that may well feature in another painting at a later date as I liked the shapes and sense of movement.

I also have at last managed to block in the painting that you may have seen as a quick idea a few months back in the diary. The plan is to show dragonflies but to make it a little different the view will be from underwater with the sun filtering down through waterlily stems and leaves. Can't wait to get on with it, but as I have a few commissions to complete, it may have to wait a while yet.

 

Trip for this month was a couple of weeks in Norfolk and Suffolk. I seem to be running short of time for a detailed report, but special moments included watching little owls. At one stage there were two adults and two youngsters sitting on four fenceposts in a line in the distance - wonderful! I also had a closer encounter with one tucked down in a hedge, defiantly glaring at me as only a little owl can.

Little owl sketches

Of course I saw marsh harriers, avocets and even the small flock of spoonbills on the coast, but the big bag for me was the little reed bunting. For years it has eluded me and I got the usual "should have been here yesterday/ half an hour ago/ five minutes ago". On one particularly frustrating day I joined a few people scouring the reedbeds where buntings had been feeding. While we were straining to see a glimpse of them, a couple that had been standing no more than 50 yards further down the path strolled past casually mentioning that they had just been watching four reed buntings! This time however, I was sucessful and had the joy of watching a little flock among the reeds including one splendid male with his long, black, Mexican moustache, although he eluded me as far as taking his portrait was concerned.

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Final bonus was a great view from a small bridge of a water vole, swimming out, picking up some fresh reed stems and sitting on top of a floating pile of dead reeds to nibble away at it. It was so close that I could clearly see its black bead eyes, orange teeth and each individual tiny toe and claw. It is lovely to see colonies of these little mammals expanding where conditions are suitable and conservation measures are in place.

July 2010

What a month! We spent two weeks in the Hebrides and as far as wildlife was concerned it was a dream. Weather wise, it was not so dependable, the first week being sunny although windy, but horizontal wind and rain put paid to a lot of activities on the second week.

Naturally we saw masses of harriers and a fair number of short eared owls, including a family with two youngsters. These owls are fabulous as they hunt during the day and it is great to see the typical effortless, gentle, flying without having to resort to staying up past bedtime! At one stage one flew directly towards me as I crossed a field and its face with intense,bright yellow eyes surrounded by a mask of dark feathers coming closer was an awesome sight.

We found a beautiful small bay which took me into another world - that of kelp forests and underwater creatures and colours.I spent some time snorkelling, chasing flatfish and small transparent shrimps in the shallows and watching crabs among the kelp in the beautifully clear water. My husband said that the rumours of a minke whale seen in the shallows around the Hebrides was not true - cheeky begger - although it is not easy to look elegant in a wetsuit. Due to my rather inelegant entry into the water he also christened me Kate Bumble!! I didn't last long in the water- it may have been a bright day, but the water was absolutely freezing! I came out when I could not longer feel my face.

Travelling in our Landie, we had access to a lot of very beautiful, quiet and remote places as well as the lovely coasts. The machair was all that I expected and more - truly crammed with wildflowers and the biggest delight for me was the hundreds of orchids which I still struggle to identify, but never give up trying. It's a great excuse to spend time looking at them.In damp boggy areas, the sundew fascinated me - such life and death battles going on beneath our feet all the time and the plant, though deadly to insects, is truly gorgeous when the sun shines through it - finding a place to lie down flat to take photos without flattening any other plants was the biggest challenge.

Offroad in Lewis

Glorious Uig beach

The incredible Sundew (with victim)

I must just give a mention here to a couple of great bed and breakfasts that we stayed in.Just outside Stornaway was Broad Bay House, a fabulous site with large windows in the dining room overlooking the bay. Eating gorgeous food while watching fishing ganets and terns - that's what I call bliss!

On the small island of Baleshare, North Uist we came upon a gem of a place. Bagh Alluin is a beautifully located bed and breakfast, surrounded by machair and with access to the shore.Jac Volbeda, a lovely man and the owner, is a Dutch artist and the style of the house is open and light and very relaxed. He made us feel like we were part of the family and nothing was too much trouble and eleven out of ten for the breakfast Jac! - loved the home made bread.I would love to visit again and maybe take up Jac's offer of painting like him on a large scale!

The other highlight of this month was being told of the whereabouts of a family of wild pine martens - big thanks there Gibby!. A young friend and budding wildlife artist and enthusiast, Declan, accompanied me to see them one evening. What a few hours that was. We were within a few feet of them (although inside a bird hide). They appeared seemingly from nowhere - a female and three well grown youngsters - and proceeded to entertain us with their antics, racing around, performing acrobatics and being generally fantastic to watch. I just had to show you these pictures - if ever a creature deserved the title cute then these young pine martens deserve it. This was one of my favourite encounters of the year so far! For once I am at a loss for words to describe how fantastic it was. I really would love to paint them - think that is one for next year's list of "must dos".

Mum checking us out

First prize in the cute stakes

 

Thought that you might also like to see this photo of one of the adult barn owls from one of my sites that I check as part of my involvement with the North East Raptor Study Group. Half asleep and perched away a bit from the nest site itself, I took this to be the male - I think I am in love! Thsi photo was taken with a long lense to avoid disturbing him. I don't kid myself that he didn't know I was there, but he barely opened his eyes.

May June 2010

I have a problem; I don't know where to start in telling you about my week’s experiences in May. I have been on the Isle of Mull and was on wildlife overload. There is just so much going on all over the island at this time of year that the days are just jam-packed full of wonderful sights, sounds, scents and encounters. Cuckoos calling everywhere, warblers singing, wheatears, oystercatchers, eagles, seals, wildflowers in abundance, sunshine and sea breezes  - perfection!

Over the sea to Mull - halfway to heaven - now that's a happy face!

I just have to focus on two of Mull’s iconic species, sea eagles and otters. I had several great views of the awe-inspiring sea eagles, some from land and others from out at sea. One of the best things about Mull (apart from the wildlife!) is the fact that there is such a spirit of camaraderie among the visitors. You can stop anytime you see someone with a telescope and binoculars and ask what they are watching and end up with them telling you all that they have seen and where they have seen it. In one of the places we pulled in, we met a couple in a motor home who ended up dishing out mugs of home made lentil soup to everyone there, all total strangers to them. At this point we were all watching a pair of sea eagles sitting close to their nest site. Launching himself elegantly off his perch, the male took off and flew directly over our heads. There was an audible gasp from all present as he passed above us and then a flutter of excitement ran around the group as we all discussed how thrilling it had been. The sheer size and presence of this magnificent bird has to be experienced to understand the feelings and reactions it provokes.

I was lucky enough to have a wonderful offshore encounter too, when a bird came and soared in effortless circles above the boat, before suddenly dropping its talons, side-slipping to lose height quickly then coming down at a terrific speed, feet and legs extended way out in front, wings back, to snatch a fish from the surface. It was over in a few seconds, but what a sight – it brought goosebumps to my arms.

Very quick sketch of the sea eagle losing height ready to snatch the fish from the sea's surface.

I am a self-confessed “otteraholic”. I love these beautiful creatures, so lithe, graceful and so totally adapted to their watery world. Frustratingly, in the early pat of the week, close encounters eluded me  - I kept just seeing distant shapes or the rear end of one vanishing into rocks - and I was suffering from otter deprivation. However, at Grasspoint, I spotted to tiny black dots away over on the far side of the bay. Training the binoculars on them, I recognised two fishing otters. As I was in no hurry, I watched as they slowly made their way across the bay towards me. I soon realised that there was a female and quite a small cub. It took them a good twenty-five minutes to reach close to my shore and now I had to think like an otter and anticipate where they were going. Deciding that after such a long swim over for the young cub and a lot of successful fishing, they may be going to ground to lie up for a while, I set off to my right where there were lots of large, loosely piled up boulders. Luckily, I had guessed correctly and by doing a loop around behind the rocks out of their sight, running and stumbling frantically, I got ahead and positioned myself, lying flat on a rock, looking down to the water. Within a minute, there they were below me. The youngster was staying very close to the female and as the adult dived, the cub poked its head under the water, anxiously watching her and as soon as Mum surfaced with a fish, it paddled frantically over to her, constantly making a piercing, high-pitched, whistle. This happened a couple of times before they swam further along a few yards, and then disappeared into the rocks.

Pleased with this encounter, I was not to know that on my very last evening on Mull, I was to have the best otter experience I have ever had. I had identified a spot where a female and two well-grown cubs had been resting up during the day and emerging between nine and ten in the evening. I was just making my way over to position myself to watch for them coming out, when suddenly, and seemingly appearing out of thin air, there was an otter fishing about twenty feet offshore. I followed it around the bay and reckoned that it would have to pass a particular point where a small spit ran out into the bay, so I got ahead of it and placed myself in a good spot where there were lots of small seaweed covered rocks just below me and around them, as the tide was halfway in, huge clumps of half uncovered bladder wrack seaweed. I was delighted, and astounded to say the least, when the otter caught a large crab and swam straight to one of the rocks below me, less than six feet away, and hauled itself and its catch out of the water and proceeded to demolish it with fervour.

The very trusting otter - to let you know how close to me it was, some of these were taken with an ordinary lens!

Twice more the otter did the same thing, then spent a bit of time among the seaweed catching smaller crabs. It was amusing to watch it surface, sporting on its head and back long strands of seaweed, like a particularly bad wig. While I had been watching it, a man had come along the rocks and was sitting further along and a small crowd of people had gathered on the shore from a nearby campsite, where they had been sitting outside enjoying the evening sunshine. I had not noticed any of this – I was that otter, totally involved in its world for that period of time, marvelling at its swimming skills, watching enthralled as it held the crab in its webbed paws with their little orange nails. After the otter had moved on, everyone wanted to talk about it and, like me could not believe how close it had come. The evening was very still, so no scent would be carried to it, I did not move an inch and it seemed to be totally unaware of my presence.

I had been sitting for over half an hour in the same cramped position, my buttocks were totally numb, my legs and back stiff and sore, the midges had had a field day, munching into me, and I didn’t even have the satisfaction of swatting a few as I was scared to move, but I was absolutely ecstatic - couldn’t stop smiling. What a privilege it had all been - a once in a lifetime, lucky encounter. If you have never visited Mull, then I would urge you to do so, but beware as, like me,  you can fall under its spell very easily.

Could be the tropics, but actually the last evening in Mull - what an end to the week.

At last I have managed to do a little more to the painting of the black grouse lekking.I have tried to capture the "feeling" of a frosty winter's morning at dawn and the colours that the light brings out in the birds. As I like to incorporate some features and colours of the habitat too, I have brought in some stylized granny Scots pine and am introducing some of the gnarled old heather stems. Colours are those I see in heath and heather. Movement and colour is what excites me in these wildlife encounters.

This month I have also completed "The Playmates" an acrylic painting of two otters - see if you can spot the lobster! This painting is already sold. The acrylic painting "Dancers at Dawn" featuring a pair of dancing cranes is also now complete.As it is a mating dance I tried to incorporate a heart shape into the background -but in a subtle manner!

"The Playmates and "Dancers at Dawn"

Troup Head on the Moray coast is a wonderful place to see a variety of nesting seabirds, but in particular gannets. I love these wonderful birds and spent an afternoon these drawing and photographing them and gnerally just soaking up the sights, sounds - and smells! Of course everything has a downside and at Troup head it was black flies and midges - millions of them - all intent on getting inside my shirt,my ears and eyes and among my hair where their biting was almost unbearable. The picture below shows the density! But just have a look at the beautiful birds - well worth the discomfort.

A few midges!

The glorious gannets - just look at those eyes! Note all the little black flies that ruined the photos!

April 2010

Once again two months have passed, this time tinged with an overwhelming sadness, as suddenly and unexpectedly, I lost my dear Dad at the end of March.He was a man who believed life was to be lived to the full and his enthusiastic, happy spirit will be sorely missed.

Getting back to painting has been difficult, but my painting has helped me during this hard time, as I become so engrossed in it - very theraputic.I haven't done too much as yet, but I thought that I'd let you see how things are coming along.

The paintings "The Playmates" and "Dancers at Dawn" (acrylics) have both progressed a little as you can see below and I hope to complete them both in the next couple of weeks.

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Below is a small rough colour sketch of my next intended acrylic. The idea is that it will be a view from below the water with the light filtering down through the lilies, and the dragonflies above. Hopefully it will get blocked in shortly.

This month I had the thrilling experience of helping Natural Research PIT (passive integrated transformer) tag an adult peregrine. This involves putting a special ring on its leg, one which has a tiny transformer attached. The bird then has an individual identity and the information gathered is helping fill in the gaps in peregrine research concerning demography, turnover of birds, recruitment and site fidelity, which is a fancy way of saying that it helps us understand the size, structure and distribution of the population, in particular the adults and how often the individuals in a pair change.

The experience of seeing such a wonderful bird, that you would under normal circumstances never be able to study close at hand, rendered me almost speechless - and that takes some doing! I marvelled at the beauty and intricacy of the delicate markings across its belly and under its wings, the grace and superb design of its body structure, so obviously built for high sped flying, the fearsome beak and needle sharp claws and those eyes. Eyes that glare directly at you with Clint Eastwood style defiance. The ringing was over in minutes and I had the privilege of releasing the bird. The power that you feel from the muscular legs as it pushes off is incdredible - heart poundingly thrilling!

Ready to go!

One last glare at me before release

I am now playing catch up with all of the workshops, classes and talks that were delayed due to the severe weather and to my family circumstances so I'll keep this brief for now and hopefully be able to add a bit more very soon.

January February 2010

I cannot believe that it is now the beginning of March. The first two months of the year have rushed by in a flurry of snowstorms, freezing conditions, cancelled classes and workshops and time in hospital. I have now fully recovered from both my broken wrist and my spell in hospital - time now to push on with catching up on my work. Most of the workshops rescheduled due to the severe weather have now taken place. Apologies to those of you who are awaiting commissions and thank you for your patience.

The commissioned watercolour painting showing two different views of a falconer's red tailed hawk is now complete, framed and with the new owner. He paid me the best compliment when he came to pick it up -"It's not just a painting of a red tail" he said, "It's a portrait of Nala". Painting any creature that is an individual and that the owner knows intimately is always a huge challenge and I was delighted that he felt that he could recognise his own bird. This particular bird is beautiful and in tip top condition so was a joy to paint and I loved tackling the plumage - such subtle colour and pattern.

The painting "in progress" and the completed portrait.

In the last update of the diary, I had blocked in one of a pair of dancing crane paintings that I was working on. Below you can see the other one. If you remember, one was to be a moring sunrise scene and the other a dusk scene. This month, I am hoping to complete both.

The "Dancers at Dawn" and the "Dancers at Dusk" - blocked in and raring to dance right off the page!

As promised, I have completed the first of my smaller size acrylics (20 x 20cm), pictured below. You can see a better image of it on the "Originals" page of the website. I did this one as an experiment to see if I could make it work on a smaller scale and now have a few more in the pipeline.

"The Playmates", an acylic of a pair of otters is progressing, with the main areas and shapes now in place. I am looking forward to seeing this one completed as I think the composition will work well.

The last two months have been bitingly cold and incredibly snowy up here in the north east and much as I love the snow, I feel we have now had quite enough of it thank you and I am aching for spring to arrive. The signs are appearing; birds are becoming territorial and displaying, winter aconites, snowdrops and crocus are blooming; catkins decorate the bare branches. To be fair, the snow has been fun and at this point I have to say two things in winter's defence - you are never to old to make snow angels and it's never the wrong season for a paddle!

Snow angels in the back garden

North sea in minus 5 - the Med it is not!

In the last two weeks, there have been some lovely sunny days under a dome of flawless blue sky and I have taken the opportunity to get out and about. I spent some time at Culbin sands near Nairn on just such a day. Walking along the dunes, with the wind blowing off the sea was very invigorating. Flocks of gulls and waders standing on the small islets ofshore, all heads facing into the wind, waited to the very last minutes to rise en masse as the tide eventually forced them off their resting place. Their brilliant white shapes against the deep royal blue of the sea was gorgeous to see. The hills on the far side of the Moray Firth were also blindingly white in the sunshine, still covered as they were with deep snow.

Bobbing around on the sea offshore were rafts of ducks. Among the usual quota of eiders and mallards, were groups of long tailed ducks, looking exceeding elegant in their striking plumage and with their long, slim tapered tails whipping aroud in the wind. Among these pied beauties were dark ducks, common scoters, which, like the long tails, are winter visitors and will shortly be returning to their summer breeding grounds. I am amazed by the effortless way all these sea ducks ride the heaving surf, floating over the top of a large swell, disappeaing r behind it only to rise again on the next swell.

I even managed to see a pod of dolphins swim past, distant, but lovely to see nonetheless.I also enjoyed a flypast by a flock of whooper swans.

The prize for the most uplifting moment of the day had to go. not to any rare or exotic species, but to a robin, perched right on the very top of a tree.. It was facing the sunshine, singing its little heart out, pouring forth the most melodic and melancholy of songs against a blue sky. I just had to stand for about ten minutes and listen to it. I felt that to walk on past would be like leaving halfway through an artist's performance at a concert. It really made me feel that winter was behind us and that Spring really was on its way at last. Ever the optimist aren't I?

December 2009

Well folks, it's happened! - Jane's annual festive accident. I fell on the ice in the back garden just before Christmas and landed in a heap in the rockery, breaking my right wrist in the process - had to be the right one didn't it?. Hopefully, as none of the major bones are broken, I will soon be out of plaster.In the meantime, it remains a nuisance, as I have many paintings underway that I had hoped to progress over the festive period. My unscheduled break (if you will pardon the pun) has put paid to that.

However as I can still type with one hand and one finger of the other hand I thought that I would bring you up to date with what I was up to before this happened.

I had a couple of ideas that I jotted down very roughly. Please excuse the quality of the dragonfly sketch as I did it with my hand in plaster so it doesn't have the control or precision that I normally possess. The idea for the dragonfly painting is to have a view from under the water looking out through the water to the sky with lily pads and buds on the surface and the dragonflies flying around them. This allows me to bring in the lovely fluid underwater stems of the lilies and perhaps some other underwater foliage and creatures (still to be decided upon). The thought process is still in the very early stages and needs a fair bit of refining, but I think that I could make it work well.

The dragonfly and lily sketch and the sleeping ducks among the lilies

The second idea also involves lilies (total coincidence) and is based on a drawing that I did about seven years ago on the first painting weekend that I organised and tutored at the Bein Inn, Glenfarg in Perthshire when it was still owned and run by the lovely David Mundell.. The drawing was of two mallards, a male and a female, resting with their heads tucked back under their wings, among a large, dense patch of waterlilies in the gorgeous Glenfarg gardens. The shapes and patterns on the birds and the elegantly curving stems of the lilies appealed then and still attracts me now. Locked away in the far recesses of my mind is a little "mind photo" of the colours too, that I can access when I come to paint it.

I drew out two "dancing crane" paintings and managed to get one blocked in.The idea is that they will be a pair called "The Dancers at Dawn" and "The Dancers at Dusk". The postures will be different although both will be wintry, snowy scenes and the colours of the painting will reflect the time of day, with the dawn one having lovely warm ambers in the trees and sun, peachy shadows on the birds and blues and lilacs in the sky. The dusk one will be rich blues and violets in the sky, cool blue and lilac shadows on the birds with hints of warmer oranges here and there - can't wait to get going!

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The dawn dancers blocked in

The acrylics that I have been producing have all been about the same size, but I thought that I would like to try a few smaller pieces as several clients have pointed out recently that they don't all have space for a larger one. With this in mind, I plan to create a few smaller pieces (about 20 cm square actaul image size), in the same style but featuring perhaps only one bird. The rough painting sketch of a puffin below is an experiment to see if it would work. I think it may, so after the turn of the year watch out for some smaller ones appearing on the "Originals" page.

The very rough "try out" of the small acrylic

A commission for a portrait of a falconer's bird was coming along nicely, but again has ground to a halt temporarily. The owner helpfully brought me some moulted feathers, so that I could get the colours and patterns absolutely accurate. The rich russet of the tail feathers is gorgeous and the subtle grey barring on the primaries with just a hint of a warm colour along their paler edges is quite something to try and capture. I am having a great time with this painting - I haven't been working much in watercolour recently as there has been such a demand for the acrylics. I am rediscovering my love of the subtlety and fluidity of the medium and it is the perfect medium to achieve the softness of the feathers and yet is versatile enough to still be able to create the dark eye, sharply defined beak and shiny talons.

The progressing watercolour

Another commissioned watercolour - not the most tradtional setting for a penguin, walking along a road with greenery in the backgound, but suffice to say that this had a very personal meaning to the receipient. Lovely when you can do something like that!

The street walking penguin!

Finally, I thought that you might like to see some very seasonal photographs that I took on Boxing Day. We have had snow and very hard frost for almost two weeks now and consequently have had some stunningly beautiful and atmospheric early mornings of mist, hazy, golden, diffused sunshine and snowy fields and hills. When I look at these photographs, I an almost forgive the weather for causing my fall (almost but not quite!!).

Oxen Craig from above the house

Early morning mist at the foot of Bennachie taken from up the hill a bit from home

Bennachie's Mither Tap

Happy New Year to all of my friends, family and to of all the interesting people I have met through my art this year. May 2010 bring you good health, fun and fulfillment and hope to see you all sometime during the year.

October 09 (again)

Just a quick add on of a couple of items while I am, literally watching paint dry. As I am working in the studio today, I can hear the skeins of geese flying over as they make their way out to their feeding grounds in the fields around the house. What a fabulous sound they make - a true "wilderness" call that is the distilled essence of winter.

I couldn't resist blocking in the blackcock painting that I sketched out last week. Hopefully it will be full of lovely heathery colours, warm morning light and scots pines as well as the rich, dark blue hues of the birds themselves.

I also have now completed the watercolour of a buzzard based on the pencil drawing I did a few years ago. I hope that I have managed to capture the alertness of the bird and the wonderfuly refreshing limey greens of springtime.

I have got a head of steam on now and am working hard, but inspired. Three more commissions to complete before Christmas and then I can start on the list of "can wait until I have done the Christmas ones". Thanks to everyone who is being so patient while waiting on their paintings.

Well, must be off - paint is dry and ready for another layer!!

September & October 2009

Don't panic me by telling me how many weeks there are until Christmas. I have a lot of work to get through before then. However, I am so involved in and inspired by my current work that I am whizzing through paintings. My brain is so full of images and ideas that I can't get them down fast enough.

By popular request, I have now completed another puffin painting and it is available to view on the originals page. For some time I have had an image of lekking blackcock in my mind, thinking that they would make a wonderfully lively composition. Last week I decided to put it down as a rough sketch just to make some more room in my brain.

The completed puffin painting and the sketch for the blackcock painting.

I have also been working on several commissions. I have another "long" painting to do this time featuring a pair of otters. It is drawn out and "blocked in" and I can't wait to get started on building it up.

The first stage of the next otters painting - think I'll call it "The Playmates" !

Also added to the originals page (you may have to scroll down a bit to find it!) is a portrait sketch of a ring tailed lemur female and her youngster. Last year I spent several hours in the company of these wonderful creatures in Norfolk. They are the most attractive and endearing of animals and I could not resist a sketch of this female's beautiful, gentle, face as she carried her baby piggyback, its little, strangely old looking fingers gripping on tightly.

The lovely lemurs!

I have a couple of watercolour commissions to complete. It is quite a while since I have worked on a watercolour painting that I am really looking forward to it. Below is the colour sketch for one of the paintings, based on a pencil drawing I completed a few years ago. It is to be a springtime painting with lots of lovely fresh limey greens - just the thing to chase away the winter blues!

Weeell.....that is just a quick update of "works in progress" - I promise I'll do a fuller update at the end of this month.

July & August 2009

The summer seems to have slipped away through my fingers and here we are in September and I am just managing to get around to this update.I am going to keep it a bit brief as I have some updating on the originals and limited edition pages to do too!

At the moment I am steadily working my way through a number of commissions mainly for acrylics, but also a couple of watercolours which I am looking forward to as it is a while since I have worked in watercolour. Two are recently completed and are pictured below but you can see a better image on the originals page.The first in my usual square format, featured a heron and the second whcih was in a tall, portrait format, a pair of oystercatchers. I really enjoyed doing both and now can't wait to push on with some more.

The first "block in" and the completed painting "The Pipers"

The first "block in" and the completed painting "The Flight of the Heron"

Next on the easel are another diving puffins a pair of underwater otters and dancing cranes - let me at them!

The dancing cranes are drawn out ready to go - as soon as I decide on the colour palette for them! As the birds are black and white and I intend partially snow covered ground, I cannot decide whether to make them an "evening" painting all rich violets and lilacs and blues with moon and stars and stark tree silhouettes, or a "morning" painting with rich warm russets in the trees and sky and shadows a mix of warm and cool colours. I am thinking that maybe I will have to do a pair of paintings! As the "dance" is a mating dance, I have tried (in a subtle manner) to incorporate a heart shape into the background using the landscape shapes. Hope it doesn't come over as too twee!!

The next puffins are progressing!

In August we decided to have another week in Mull and it couldn't have been a bigger contrast to our "tropical" week in June. It rained all weeek apart from one afternoon when I took the photographs below. As you can see it was very still and with all the rain and the mild weather, the midges were out in force, all intent it seemed, to spend their irritating, short lives between my eyeballs and the lens of my binoculars or camera. These photos were taken from the cottage that we stayed in. This was Brooke Cottage right at the entrance to the Grasspoint road and overlooking the estuary into Lochdon - - well worth considering if you are looking for a quiet spot with great wildlife right on the doorstep. On the first (wet!) evening, from the kitchen window we watched a male hen harrier hunt on the other side of the estuary and the walk down to Grasspoint from the cottage gave me red deer, seals, masses of small birds such as pipits, linnets and stonechats, more harriers and some really good views of sea eagles flying low over me on the Grasspoint road - if only the weather had been better I might have managed some photos or drawings, but the images are all tucked away, stored in a corner of my brain and labelled "for future reference".

The view out over the estuary and Lochdon

From Lochdon bridge on the one dry but midgey afternoon - glorious!

 

May 2009

Once again a busy month - I never seem to have any other kind! The acrylic painting of the underwater gannets ("The Deep Sea Fishermen") is now complete and is hanging for sale at the Knock Gallery at Balmoral. See it at www.knockgallery.co.uk The gannets make such fascinating, almost prehistoric shapes under the water and it was interesting trying to capture this and create a successful composition.

"The Deep Sea Fishermen"

As I mentioned last month "The Boxers" acrylic painting featuring boxing hares and lapwings is completed and is now also sold. It was a bit more difficult to execute being mammals rather than birds, and took a few "painting it out and shifting things about" trials before I got it to a stage where I was happy with it, but I am quite pleased with the final result.

"The Boxers"

The bee eaters have progressed (a bit!) and I have some sketches of ideas for the next ones on their way onto the easel. I have always admired cranes and last year watched some displaying - leaping about, throwing their heads back, beaks pointing skywards - and thought what wonderful shapes they created. Their movemnets manage to be both balletic and ungainly at the same time! Based on those sketches, I have put together some rough compositional sketches. Also, I have three commissions to do for one of my regular clients. These I am really looking forward to painting these, especially as two are in a "long" format - below are the sketches.

Some of the sketchbook pages of "dancing" cranes

Some ideas for the paintings

A pair of oystercatchers and a few gannets - a new challenge to fit them into the "tall" format

Likewise the otters! I think that I might get to like this long format - it gives me a bit more scope for bringing movement into the painting.

As I said, the bee eaters are coming on, but slowly due to lack of time on my part! Can't wait to get in among the palm fronds in the top right - lots of stripey light filtering through I think!

This month, during the scorching week, were lucky enough to be on a tropical island. Well,that may be a bit misleading, although it was an island and the weather was certainly tropical, but the island was Mull not Monserrat.Mull was looking its glorious best with mirror-calm seas of unbelievably clear water and an amazing abundance of fabulous wildlife. We stayed in a great cottage called Ormsaig, which has some of the best views on the island.

Views from the cottage - the sunsets over Staffa were heavenly!

On the very first day I came across a female otter and well-grown cub sleeping on a litle seaweed-covered islet in a bay. They were lying flat on their backs, heads tilted back, a blissful expression on their faces, legs akimbo, soaking up the sun - "flaked out" seemed an appropriate expression. I watched them for about an hour and a half and apart from a little half hearted fishing they seemed content to lie and sunbathe. It was great to see them so relaxed and there were lots of ther things going on to keep me occupied while I waited for them to do something. ....lots of small shorebirds foraged and it was fun trying to pick out the pepper backed, well-camoflaged young ringed plovers and oystercatchers. During that week I had heard of the huge influx of that elegant and well-named butterfly, the painted lady that had flown into the south from.their wintering grounds in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. They were all over Mull too - what an absolute delight!

A sketch of the "flaked out" otter

The wildflowers in Mull were beautiful and walking along the shore even the swarms of midges couldn't spoil my enjoyment of the heavy scent of the swathes of bluebells covering the hillsides. Their rich lilac-blue among the acid lime green of the emerging bracken was a striking combination. Along the shore was a painter's palette of colour with pink thrift oozing its honey sweet scent, bright blue spring squills and canary yellow vetch. Damp spots had orchids - I got totally cross-eyed trying to identify them - and butterwort.

A visit to Mull would not be complete without good views of sea and golden eagles and we managed to get both on the shores of Loch Na Keal and to complete that perfect day while we were standing talking to some friends a perfect little male merlin flew onto a rock on the hillside above us.

What a blissful place to be - Mull in good weather. In fact, Mull in any weather. Hello to all of my friends that I met in Mull, both new ones ands old aquaintances - Mull is such a lovely, friendly place!

Well, back to the easel for me - speak to you next month!

April

I really don't know where the months are going! I can't believe that Spring is progressing so fast.

Firstly, I have to put out a call for some people who I have been in contact with this month. Mr and Mrs Rosie, who bought my original kingfisher acrylic painting "The High Divers" from the Knock Gallery (before we even had a chance to hang it!) - could you please either call or email me. I would like to give you a copy of the photographs of the painting in its various stages of its development and I also have a receipt to give you. Second person is Alison Davies who called me with regard to buying the original "First Snow" which was already sold. The email address you gave me keeps returning. I think I may have something wrong - probably just a stupid dot in the wrong place. If you are still interested in me sending you the images of the other otter paintings, please contact me again.

Now, on to this month's work and play!

The original acrylic painting of underwater puffins "The Divers II", featured in last month's diary is now sold, as is "The High Divers" (kingfishers), but limited edition prints of both are available.

Wildlife Art Exhibition Corrie Gallery Isle of Arran I had a brief trip (very brief) to Arran again this month to deliver the paintings and prints for the Wildlife Art Exhibition to the Corrie Gallery. This time I had a gloriously sunny day and Arran looked wonderful - it was just a pity that I didn't have longer to spend there. The Wildlife Festival Week is 13 - 20 May but the artworks will be at the gallery for a bit longer. I have a selection of new and previously unseen originals and limited edition prints at this exhibition, including a couple of new acrylics.For further information on gallery and opening times call 01770 810209 and for further information on the Festival go to www.arranwildlife.co.uk

I have completed a couple of acrylics this month. Below is "The Fisherman" featuring an otter and an oystercatcher. This painting captures, for me, several elements that to me cry out "west coast of Scotland"; otters of course, one of my favourites twisting and turning among the fronds in the kelp forests; oystercatchers flying overhead calling constantly; clear water, pure light. I hope that I have managed to capture the fluidity of the hunting otter and the wonderful colours underwater.

Next, "The Boxers", featuring the fabulous shapes of a pair of boxing hares and a bird that always seems to frequent the same fields as the hares - the lapwing. See if you can spot the third hare! A photograph of this will appear here shortly as soon as I can organise one.

The next two paintings on the easel I am loving! Gannets are the most wonderful birds in the air, but when they are diving and "flying" underwater they are amazing. I have tried to pick a few of the more unusual shapes they create and using a bit of artistic licence hopefully put together a pleasing composition. Below are the sketches used as inspiration, the first block in and then the next couple of stages.

Sketchbook pages and some compositional sketches

Block in and the next two stages - watch this space for completion shortly!

A commission for a painting of a heron rising into the air from a river has now been blocked in and I am hoping to complete it in the next month.

Dragonflies lend themselves beautifully to this style of painting and I have the sketches and some rough ideas below.I thought that I might like to incorporate some kind of water plants into the background - flag iris, water forget me nots, monkey flower, marigolds, or even common reeds are all possibilities - decisions! decisions!

A page of postures and a couple of scribbly compositional drawings

Last, but certainly not least, those flying jewels - bee-eaters! When we were in Mallorca last year I watched flocks of these highly coloured birds feeding high in the blue sky above our villa. They zipped about on stiff wings, their paths criss-crossing in the air, chasing insects, butterflies and of course, bees. With their elegant shapes, long pointed tails and wings and those wonderful colours it should be an interesting one. Thought Imight incorporate some palm fronds.

Sketches and compositional ideas and the first block in

As you will have guessed, I have been so busy with my new acrylics that there has not been much time for other work. My work will be temporarily interrupted for a short time at the beginning of May when I have an operation on my shoulder, but I hope that recovery will be quick - I don't have time to be ill!

February and March

A busy couple of months completing lots of commissions and preparing for several exhibitions.

EXHIBITION

Spring Fling Exhibition at Country Frames, Leslie. A selection of my works are on display at this exhibition. A great little gallery set in the Aberdeenshire countryside, well worth a visit. The exhibition opens on Saturday 4 April. For opening times call 01464 820389.

Isle of Arran Wildlife Festival. A selection of new originals and limited edition prints will be at Corrie Arts Gallery in May as part of the Isle of Arran Wildlife Festival. I discovered this lovely gallery while I was on Arran in March and was pleased to be invited to exhibit during this event.For opening times call 01770 810209 and for further information on the Festival go to www.arranwildlife.co.uk

Nairn Book and Arts Festival at Nairn, Moray. I have submitted several pieces for the art exhibition that is part of this festival. It runs from 4 - 14 June. For further information go to www.nairnfestival.co.uk

Knock Gallery, Crathie, Ballater I am delighted that this wonderful gallery will be displaying some of my artwork. If you have not visited this gallery on Royal Deeside then you really should pay it a visit soon. It has the most perfect position high above Balmoral. The owners display an interesting selection of contemporary artwork and the most gorgeous amber jewellery. For opening times and for more about the gallery visit www.knockgallery.co.uk

My next acrylic titled "The High Divers", featuring kingfishers is now complete and already sold, but limited edition prints are available. Until the limited edition page is updated, email me if you are interested in a print.

Next on the easel is another acrylic with an otter and oystercatcher and above you can see it blocked in.

Despite working hard,I have had some time for "playing" on a week long visit to Arran. The weather left a lot to be desired. Arran threw it all at us - gales, thunder and lightning, snow, hail, rain and then mid week one glorious day of sunshine which made me remember just how lovely the west coast light can be.

Just look at the light on these displaying black guillemots - so pure and clear and the water transparent and the most glorious colour.

As I said Arran threw every type of weather at us, but it redeemed itself with one whole day of sunshine. There is a light on such days that has a clarity and  purity, such a special quality that is so hard to describe, you really have to experience it in order to fully appreciate it. It was on this day that I stopped in a bay to watch cavorting seals. The sea was flat calm and the seals were leaping out the water, surfacing with a watery blow like a stifled sneeze and rolling around each other. As the tide was receding, some had already laid claim to the best basking rocks and had assumed the classic half moon pose. As the rocks were still partially submerged, this meant that the tail end and head end were out of the water while the middle section of body, which was lying on the rock, was still underwater. This gave a very strange effect.

While I was watching amused by their antics, right alongside one of them, three bumps appeared on the surface – no, not a mini-Nessie, but a large dog otter, the three bumps being the head, part of the back and then the topside of the tail. Being an “otterholic” (my husband’s phrase), I was at once galvanised into action and was soon stalking the otter along the shoreline. He was fishing and I knew that sooner or later he would catch something that was too big to eat “on the hoof” so to speak and he would have to bring it to shore. I followed him along the beach in fits and starts, being careful not to disturb him and at last he surfaced with a huge fish. He immediately turned determinedly for shore. In this circumstance, you have to think like the otter, and with such a large fish, he would not want to carry it any further than necessary. A quick assessment of the surrounding rocks and a guess as to which was closest and looked easy to climb onto and I scuttled to position myself up the beach a bit from the little rock, and then crouched down against a large rock. This is by no means an exact science and, often as not I end up in the wrong spot, but luck was on my side this time and I couldn’t believe it when he landed exactly where I had anticipated. I then had about ten minutes of being able to watch him at close quarters and take some photos while he munched his way through his catch.

Sitting there with the warmth of the sun on my face, surrounded by the beautiful rich oranges and browns of the seaweed, royal blue water and cerulean blue sky, that special fresh air smell in the still air, in silence apart from the huffy blows of the surfacing seals and the sounds of the otter feasting, I thought, “This is the life”, a moment of tranquillity and absorption – absolute perfection!

On our sunny day, I also spent some time at the shore watching the seabirds. Gannets glide by on gleaming wings and guilded heads.  A pair of black guillemots flirt with one another, spinning dainty little pirouettes around each another. Their bright red legs look so out of place with the formal black and white plumage, like a prim Victorian lady in scarlet bloomers. Around them, the water was so clear that I could see the colours of the underwater kelp and rocks  - what a beautiful picture it made.

I love watching a squall come and go over the sea and with the weather we encountered, there were plenty of opportunities. One day, while walking along the shoreline, I saw the hills on the Mull of Kintyre disappear behind gossamer veils of pale grey cloud. As it hit the sea it seemed as though the dye was running out of the clouds down into the sea. It came racing across the water towards me, accompanied by a dark “gulls-back-grey” shadow. As it sped closer to me, the surface of the water beneath was boiling with the falling hailstones. Suddenly, the front edge hit me, the large hailstones pelting me with such force that they stung even through my waterproof trousers and  mercilessly stinging my exposed face. Within minutes it was over. I turned and watched it chase up and over the hills behind me, leaving everything in its trail white. The sky brightened and I was left feeling as I always do when caught by such sudden squalls, a bit assaulted and slightly foolish, as there I was, scarlet-faced and sodden, waterproofs dripping, and no sign of so much as one little rain cloud around.

A sketch of whooper swans drinking from the freshwater burn where it runs into the sea.

I am finalising dates for painting/sketching days and weekends at a variety of locations. Those of you who are on the mailing and emailing lists will receive dates automatically. Anyone else who is interested can email me your details and I will keep you in touch with what is happening.

Until next time, Spring is Springing so enjoy it - I certainly intend to!

January again

Very brief add-on to January. The puffin painting is now complete and available for purchase. Should you be interested. email me and I will get back in touch.

"The Divers II"

The kingfishers are progressing too.

January 2009

Well, I am now almost fully recovered and madly trying to catch up. I have completed a couple of commissions and have been busy tutoring classes and workshops. I have however, managed to find some time to spend taking some of my paintings a step further.

A recently completed commission - the view towards Bennachie in autumn from above my home.

The progression of the puffin painting - a few more days at it should complete it!

The boxing hares and the kingfishers are progressing too and are now blocked in, ready to build up the layers on..

I have been commissioned to do a heron in flight, again in acrylic. Below are the rough sketches that I have given the client so that she can choose her favourite.

Well, I am off to batten down the hatches as the forecast is telling me that we are in for some serious snow - in fact it has just started!

December 2008 January 2009

Happy New Year to all!

Firstly an apology in advance to everyone who may have me booked for talks or demos in January and to art classes. As the saying goes "There may be some disruption and normal service will be resumed as soon as possible". I am afraid "Calamity Jane" has struck again and I cracked a couple of ribs on Hogmany night ( and yes, this is the second time that I have broken ribs in the last year!). In my defence I have to say that, as I don't drink, I was perfectly sober at the time! Of all the nights to end up in casualty, New Year's Eve would not be my first choice and seeing the new year in doped up to the eyeballs with strong painkillers was not my idea of a good time either. However, time will fix me and I will get back to normal hopefully in a few weeks.

My exhibition in Inverurie has now ended. It proved very successful and many thanks to all who attended and bought pieces. It was great to meet some new people who were purchasing my work for the first time and to get to know them a bit.

One of my New Year resolutions (apart from not breaking any more ribs!) is to get this year's painting weekends and days organised early and hopefully by the next update I will have some confirmed dates for your diary. At least three painting weekends are planned (possibilities are Cromarty, Moray coast, Fyfe coast, Perthshire or Invernesshire) and single days at Dalhuaine Gardens, Rhynie (after our very successful first day there last year), Castle Fraser, Leith Hall, Kildrummy gardens and a couple of other new locations that I am just making enquiries about at the moment.

December was taken up mainly with commission work and I was looking forward to having some time to progress with some other paintings in January. However, this may be somewhat restricted by my temporary incapacity and tendency to fall asleep at every opportunity due to the strong painkillers - it is a bit difficult to paint with your eyes shut!

My next trip planned is to the beautiful island of Arran where we are going to stay for a week at a remote cottage on the west coast.Arran is a "childhood memories" island for us both. It holds lots of promise and we are looking forward to a week of peace and tranquility, fresh air, walks and wildlife to inspire me. No doubt, if past experience following reports from Mull and Skye are anything to go by, many of you will be beating your own path there in the future. Watch this space to see how I got on over there.

November 2008

Only a month to go until Christmas! I shouldn't say that or I'll panic as I still have a few commissions to complete before then - guess I'll be having a few late nights.

Firstly, thank you to everyone who came along to the opening day of my exhibition at Gallery i in Inverurie. The exhibition is running into December, so if you haven't managed along so far then there is still time.

The exhibition features among other things the original ink illustrations from my recent book project and now that it has been published, I can show you some of the illustrations as a sneak preview before they go on the "Originals" page.

With nearly 50 illustrations, I can't show them all ,but here are a few as a taster and a list of the subject matter of the others. Many are already sold, but should you be interested in purchasing any of the others, please contact me and I will send you a small image for your perusal. Original drawings are £195 framed or you may want mounted only for £115 or the drawing only for £70.

Streamertail hummingbird (sold) - Baya weaverbirds - Peregrines nesting in the city

Penguin line up (sold) - Young cuckoo and foster parent

Macaws (sold)

Great crested grebes mating dance - Toco toucan - Bar headed geese migrating over the Himalayas

Feeding avocets

Arctic skua pirating puffins (sold)

The other illustration subjects are: Hen harrier food pass, Diving petrels flying into waves and out the other side, Archaeopteryx, Hesperornis, Bird orders, Ratities and tinamou, Magpie goose, Fighting coots, Anhinga swimming, Shoebill catching lungfish, Crowned pigeon feeding young, Clarke’s grebe in mating dance, Frigate bird males displaying to females, Sage grouse lekking, Greater bird of paradise displaying, Albert’s lyrebird displaying, Hammerkopf and its giant nest, Greater flamingos on nest with young, Helmeted guineafowl make their way in orderly fashion to the waterhole, Great Indian hornbill, male feeding holed up female in nest, Bar headed geese migrating over the Himalaya, Emus migrating, Cockatoo flying off with wool, Greater black backed gulls dropping clam, Arabian babblers feeding, Western scrub jays “cache” food, Caledonian crows making and using tools, Young  herring gulls pecking at a red spot on the mother’s beak, Nacunda nighthawk feeding around streetlight, Lean mean dodo, Adjutant stork in Indian street, Traditional dodo

Below is the first stage (blocking in) of my next "new style" acrylic, featuring puffins underwater. I am having such fun with these paintings - it is great to really let myself go after the tight style of illustrating (not to say that I don't love that too!) - I think I may have a bit of a split personality. The painting should be completed by the next update of the diary.

Puffins seem to be featuring heavily in my work at the moment - a pair of watercolour paintings I had just completed sold at my exhibition and below are a couple of watercolour pencil sketches. Please excuse the reflections on the images as they were photographed after they were framed. They are A4 size and come in plain white wooden frames and are priced at £170 each.

As this might be the last diary update before Christmas, I would like to wish all of my clients, business associates and friends a happy Christmas - have fun!

September/October 2008

EXHIBITION IN INVERURIE - NOVEMBER 15 onwards

The book that I finished illustrating earlier on in the year (Consider the Birds" by Colin Tudge) is being launched by Penguin in the UK and Crown in the US on November 6. I have not yet seen the completed book, so it will be interesting to see how it all turned out. Should you wish to purchase a copy you can do so by using the link on the bottom right of the opening home page of this website. Clicking on this will take you direct to the book on Amazon.

An exhibition of the original illustrations from "Consider the Birds" will take place at Gallery i in Inverurie, opening November 15. This is the first time that these illustrations have been shown. Original illustrations, mounted and framed will be available for just £195 or you can purchase them mounted only. There will also be an opportunity to purchase the book at this event and I will be there on the opening day to chat and answer any questions. Some of my other works will be on display too, including some of my smaller paintings and drawings (including some watercolours sketches of puffins) as well as larger works.As soon as the book is officially released, I will put some of the illustrations on the Diary pages.

This is a bit of the press release from Penguin which will tell you a bit more about the book.

"In "Consider the Birds" Colin Tudge explores the life of birds, all around the globe. From the secrets of migration to their complicated family lives, their differing habitats and survival techniques to the secrets of flight, this is a fascinating account of how birds live, why they matter and are they really dinosaurs. Featuring birds who navigate using star-maps, tool-making crows and the great co-operation of the penguins, he shows us how birds - who are like us in the general sense, but very different in the particulars - live and think. For birds have minds: they feel, they are aware, they work things out. And so, by considering the birds, asking how and why it is possible for them to be so different, we gain insight into ourselves. Birds are beautiful, lively, intriguing - and all around us. This rich and endlessly absorbing book opens up their lives to everyone."

September proved a hectic but fulfilling month for me. As far as drawing and painting are concerned, I am working my way steadily through my outstanding commissions. At the moment I have a pair of hen harriers to paint in watercolour. This is a subject dear to my heart as the harriers, and indeed the background (which is Misty Law and the surrounding moorland at Muirshiel) are clsoe to my home village. I spent a lot of my youth walking the hills around there - something special for me to paint. Also underway at the moment are a couple of acrylic paintings in my new style, a portrait of a hawk and a view of Bennachie in autumn.

The drawings below are some rough ideas for a couple of works based on my lemur encounter in August. Ever since I had a chance to be close to them and become totally bewitched by them, I have wanted to draw and paint them and this is the first step towards that. I intend to paint one of the family groups (not sure what medium but probably watercolour or a mix of mediums) and do a detailed pencil drawing of the other. A bit undecided as to whci group I should do in which medium, but at the moment I am leaning towardds the group of three as the drawing and the female and youngster as a painting, as I can visualise the group of two with the edges diffused and fading out into a very subtle backgound. Limited edition prints will be available after completion of the originals. My trouble is the old story - too many ideas, too little time!

Family portraits of the wonderful ringtailed lemurs - rough sketches for a painting and a detailed drawing.

Early in the month a small band of intrepid artists attended a painting day that I tutored in Braemar. We had mixed weather, with the morning being mainly dry but by 3pm we had to give up outside and move indoors to finish our painting. However, it was a lovely spot to be in, right beside the river Dee (and on occasion nearly in the river due to the wet, slippery rocks) and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and to be inspired. The water rushing and tumbling over the rocks, the variety of colours and textures, the perspective of the river itself and the changing light conditions offered them plenty of challenges as you can see from the photographs below. Thanks go to the Fyfe Arms Hotel for allowing us access to their "back door" and the river and for the space in their lounge to carry on when the weather beat us.

The view down the River Dee and the view upriver towards the bridge

Later on in September I visited the Isle of Skye to see some old friends who moved there early in the Spring (nice one Louise and Eric!) and on the first day the weather was very unusual. The sea was flat, mirror calm, there was not a breath of wind and it was very mild - a perfect day apart from the hordes of midges! Luckily we had chosen this day to take a boat trip out of Portree. I had gone prepared with waterproofs, heavy sweaters etc.but I needed none of them. Skimming along in the boat I looked back at the wake - it was absolutely beautiful - like moulten glass formed into the most amazing reflective patterns. What a lovely start to the trip. We had some great views of sea eagles sitting on the cliffs too, just to make a good day even better.

While in the north west of the island, standing on the very windy clifftop, we spotted a large, dark, triangular fin slicing through the water in a straight line and, a distance behind it, a taller, slimmer fin weaving from side to side - unmistakeably a basking shark! From our high viewpoint we could see the huge mass of its body underwater. What a thrill it was to see it and barely 30 feet from the shore. I t was frustrating not be able to get down to the shore and closer to it, but just seeing it at all was fantastic. This late in the year we were very lucky. No otters this trip, but you can't have it all!

We also had a walk out to the famous "coral" beaches. These are blindingly white, to rival any caribean beach and made from millions of tiny pieces of dead maerl (which is also known as "Scottish coral" ) which have been washed up from the offshore maerl beds. Maerl in its live state is reddish pink and very slow growing, so these beaches have taken a long. long time to form - absolutely amazing!

Jane getting down and personal with the maerl and a view of the famous white coral beaches.

Well, with the porspect of a very busy remainder of October and November ahead of me. I'll get my nose back to the grindstone. It is a very pleasant and interesting grindstone though!

August 2008

In the last few weeks, I have been putting my ideas for a couple of new paintings into sketch form.These will be executed in the same style as the last two acrylics "The Fishermen" and "The Divers". I intend starting the puffins first, then the hares followed lastly by the kingfishers.I have a dragonfly one to put together too, but, having watched kingfishers a lot recently I was inspired to draw that one first.

Plan for the puffin painting

Some of the preliminery sketches for the puffin painting - I think I may put an arctic skua in the top left hand corner and also some sea thrift.

Some of the ideas, sketches and the final composition for the hare painting. I have put a flying lapwing in the top left hand corner as hares and lapwings are always together in my mind's eye. I am going to use stylized grass tufts, wildflowers and ploughed fields to link the design together and to exaggerate the motion.

Sketches and rough idea for the kingfisher painting - I wanted to use stylised water plants to give some movement to the painting and chose water crowfoot as it has the most fantastic long bright green tendrils under the water that create lovely shapes with the flow of the water as well as little white flowers held above the water and bullrushes simply because they are such dynamic shapes.I wanted to portray the speed of the kingfishers too so chose to draw them in dart-like poses.

During this month we visited Norfolk and Suffolk for a couple of weeks. These areas have some wonderful wildlife and some great nature reserves. While there I visited several including the famous Titchwell and Cley Marshes. Both gave me great views of marsh harriers and avocets, among others and I loved all of the dragonflies that seemed, with the hot weather, to be even more hyperactive than ever.Cley even produced four spoonbills! The shore also produced some super plants - noteably two of my favourites, horned poppies which have normal yellow poppy flowers, but the plants produce the most wonderful long green spurs, and viper's bugloss (what a great name that is!) along the dry path edges a vibrant splash of vivid blue against the dry grasses. However, away from the reserves, I was still lucky enough to see kingfishers, green woodpeckers, Egyptian geese and many other interesting species. As well as all of these, I also met some wonderful and helpful people - hello to all of them (including the great bunch at Gatton Waters).

I was told about a little hide on a farmer's land overlooking a stream, some marshy ground and some fields. Best of all right in front of the hide, was an old oak that had fallen over then regenerated. In the old root little owls had nested and I got some lovely views of these engaging birds.

While in Suffolk I have to admit to falling in love! My husband needn't worry though as the object of my affection is about nine inches high, furry, with huge ears and enormous orange eyes.Yes, it was love at first sight when I had a close encounter with a troop of ring tailed lemurs. They are just the most enchanting animals. They have faces like little elves, and when they all pile up in a heap they make the most wondeful patterns with their tails all wrapped around each other. I am just about to start a detailed drawing of an adult and two youngsters and would also like to do a painting of the troop in full flight, all moving along together with those wonderful striped tails pointing straight up in the air.

The object of my affection!

If I fell for the lemur, then a not quite so cute bird seemed to have taken a fancy to me. This ibis which had been hand reared kept offering me little tokens (really just little clumps of mucky weed and grass - they do say it's the thought that counts).

My admirer.

Offering me a gift - I think that we may be engaged!

On the way back I called in at the Birdfair at Rutland. It was lovely to catch up with old friends there and to see what they had been up to recently. Hols over, I am now going to get on with all of these paintings - can't wait! .

July 2008

Where is the summer going? Here we are at the end of July already.

During the glorious recent weather I was lucky enough to be at Daluaine Gardens Rhynie, by kind invitiation of Major and Mrs Crichton Maitland to tutor two separate painting days. I couldn't have had two more different days, despite them being less than a week apart, the first being showery and cool and the second scorching hot and sunny.They really are the most glorious of gardens with a fabulous walled garden with huge herbaceous borders stuffed to overflowing with a stunning mix of herbaceous plants, old roses, clematis and climbers. The colours combinations are quite spectacular. There is also a more informal meandering area along the River Bogie with ponds, shrubs and unusual trees.

Jane with Berni - painting clematis at Daluaine

Two of the participants in the "sunny" painting day - just look at the blue of that delphinium!

There should be some more painting days in September - these will be listed here when I add the August update. In the meantime should you wish to be added to the mailing list for up and coming painting days and weekends, then email your details to Jane.

I have just completed another acrylic painting in my "new style". This time it features penguins and an albatross, the penguins diving at speed through the water with icebergs and an albatross above, allowing me to again combine some of my favourite colours, oranges and blues. Once again, the painting had a "first refusal" label on it before it had even been started. Thankfully, the lady in question was pleased with the final result and I am delighted, as I know it is going to someone who will really appreciate it.

"The Divers" - underwater penguins. Can you spot the bird "shadows" on the iceberg in the top left hand corner of the painting?

After I have completed a couple more commissions, I am looking forward to some more acrylic painting. I have a design in mind featuring underwater puffins and a skua, boxing hares and lapwings and dragonflies and bullrushes (with this one I am hoping to incorporate some silver leaf in the wings). Bring it on!

June 2008

Firstly, I must apologise in advance if the website is a little bit all over the place for the next month or so while it undergoes an overhaul. The good news is that afterwards all the new paintings and prints will be here, along with card and photographic pages and some other new additions. Stick with it and bear with me.

It has been a very busy period for me recently. I have now completed my most recent book illustration project. The book is called “Consider the Birds”, written by Colin Tudge and is due for release here (by Penguin) and in the US (by Random House) in November. The illustrations have been interesting to execute, being mostly behavioural drawings rather than straight portraits of the birds and a few have been somewhat challenging, being more unfamiliar birds such as the shoebill or lyrebird. It was a project that could have been tailor-made for me and I have really enjoyed illustrating it. Hopefully, I will have more such projects. Should you wish to pre-order the book  or buy it after publication you can do so by clicking on the Amazon link which I will be adding to the top of the Diary page in the next week or so once I get all the details.

The intention is to have an exhibition of the original illustrations (and also an opportunity to purchase the book), close to the launch date in November – details will follow as soon as this can be arranged.

Now that this illustration project is completed, I have several commissions to do, then I hope to get back to some of my “new style” paintings. Over the last year too, I have had much inspiration on my travels both in this country and abroad and consequently have a mind overflowing with little thumbnails of paintings that I would like to produce so hopefully it will be a very productive summer and autumn.

The new Marine Wildlife Centre is now open at the end of the harbour in Gairloch featuring my interpretation work. The Centre has been busy and feedback about it has been very positive. To see it up and running successfully makes all the months of hard work worthwhile.

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Gairloch Marine Life Centre and part of the interior interpretation

As far as my wanderings and wildlife encounters are concerned, I am just back from a week in Mull – the weather and wildlife were both glorious. Hello to all of my Mull friends, both old acquaintances renewed and new ones made. Those who know me will not need me to say that Mull is one of my all-time favourite places and in a week such as we had, of warm, sunny weather and soft winds, the light is like no other in the world. Days upon days of navy blue and turquoise seas, huge, open skies the colour of a jay’s wing and the incredible richness of colours on lichen encrusted rocks, hills and trees made it an artist’s dream. Add to this the magical wildlife ingredients and you are cooking up a potent and intoxicating mix.

Enjoying the colours of Mull

Jane in her element - watching otters and sea eagles at Calgary bay

As usual, a lot of my time was spent following and watching one of my favourite creatures, the otter. They are just so mesmerising and addictive to watch and this time I saw more than I have ever seen on previous visits. By careful stalking ("commando tactics" was how someone watching me described it), I managed to creep up on a female with her well-grown cub and at one stage they came onto the seaweed strewn rocks very close to me and after rolling around to dry off, curled up together and fell sound asleep. Afraid I might disturb them if I moved, I sat where I was (which was on a very wet, seaweed covered boulder – I was aware of a distinctly damp posterior on the walk back), just enjoying the experience and privilege of being so close to two truly wild creatures in such a relaxed mode (that’s goes for me as well as the otters), until they awakened naturally and slipped off into the water to continue hunting. I love the wonderful chestnut colour of their soft fur when dry as oppose to their “wet” look when they appear to be made of melted milk chocolate!

I often rose very early in the morning and walked around the bay to pick up the female otter and her cub fishing just offshore and then spent a couple of hours following and watching them. One morning when I reached the next bay, where I often had first sight of them, there, on the flat, short grassy patch between pebble and shore, seven hares danced and leapt around. They were very entertaining to watch and a great way to pass the time until the otters appeared. It is a while since I have seen so many together and never before, have I seen them so close to the sea.

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Wet otter and resting otter sketches

A boat trip to The Treshnish Isles proved as usual to be amazing,  even after crossing very lumpy seas to get there. Lunga feels really wild particularly on a windy day, with its steep cliffs and noisy bird colonies. The very trusting puffins, razorbills, guillemots and shags were all nesting. Puffins have to be one of the most popular birds ever, and they looked particularly appealing sitting upright on the rocks, with the golden yellow, black and yellow lichens picking up the colour of their beaks. However, I liked the shags, sitting on twig nests in under the large boulders fascinating. Anything approaching too close was treated to a “hissy fit”, literally, as the sitting bird stuck its head out and opened its beak to reveal a gorgeous golden gape and hissed and cackled loudly. Granted, it is not a beautiful bird in the traditional sense. It looks like some ancient reptile bird from the era of the dinosaurs and its chicks are distinctly reptilian and frankly a bit ugly. However, they do have their redeeming features – wonderful emerald green eyes and feathers that shine with the metallic colours of a pool of spilt oil. We had nearly three hours there and sitting on the edge of the rocks looking down at a wheeling mass of birds and with a constant flow of comings and goings above, I had time to get used to the overwhelming activity and take time to sit and study some of the smaller things going on in the seabird cities; disputes between puffins, beaks clashing over possession of a burrow; the same puffin beaks being used to tenderly greet or preen a mate; one guillemot carefully turning over her single precious blue speckled egg; a gull nip in quickly and steal an unguarded egg. I could have stayed there all day.

Lunga - nesting guillemots, the trusting puffins and a happy Jane

No trip to Mull would be complete without some sea eagle experiences ansd I was very lucky to have a couple of great views, particularly when one flew down the side of Loch Na Keal right over our heads only thirty or so feet above us. When you see these huge birds in this type of situation all the usual superlatives flood into your mind – majestic, awesome, regal and yet none describe the feeling you get as this massive bird sweeps casually past on broad, eight feet wings, while all around chaos reigns, as it scatters panicking geese, gulls and a host of small shoreline birds in its wake. Some, with young or nests to protect, were brave enough to “bomb” the bird and it is only when you see a raven or even buzzard, (both quite large birds) next to the eagle that you can fully appreciate its massive size.

I also was lucky enough to have a week long trip to the north of Mallorca in May. It is always exciting going to a different country with unfamiliar habitat, plants and wildlife. At home, I can pretty much guess what I am going to see on a walk, but in a foreign country everything is new and stimulating. I love being somewhere that I don’t instantly know or can guess what birds, insects and animals I am likely to find. Every chirrup or call in a bush is exciting and worth investigating, each having the ability to reveal something new and different, perhaps even something that I haven’t seen before.

I had some wonderful wildlife encounters, and for some of them, I had to go no further than the immediate garden and surrounds of the villa. From the first day we arrived, I kept hearing an unfamiliar bird calling loudly and persistently from a tree on the edge of the garden. I spent ages scanning the tree with the binoculars, to no avail. I just could not see any bird at all. Granted the foliage was quite dense in places, but the sound was easy to pinpoint to one part of the tree. Needless to say if I tried to approach, it fell silent and as soon a  I moved away off it went again. Hating to be beaten, I persisted and eventually on the fourth day, caught a glimpse of a speckly underside and dark stripe. I had an inkling then that I knew what it was, but it was another day yet before I saw it fly into a nearby tree and for a few minutes perch on an open branch. I was pleased to see that I had been correct in my hunch and that it was indeed a wryneck, a very strange bird, belonging to the woodpecker family. Having never seen one before (one of my “bogey” birds – sounds disgusting, but for those of you unfamiliar with birding terms, this merely means a bird I have kept trying to see but have kept missing out on) I was delighted, but this was to be the only view of it a I got although it continued to mock me by calling from the same tree all week.

Mallorca is full of wonderful birds and the garden also produced a hoopoe on a couple of occasions – a bird that looks like a product of a child’s overactive imagination, drawn and coloured it in by a child, with salmon pink, humbug striped wings, tail and long crest.

The garden also had lots of warblers, including blackcaps and Sardinian warblers, which are cracking little birds with velvety black heads, soft grey and cream bodies and bright red eyes. Just over the fence at the bottom of the garden the view looked across a scrubby area and then out onto the mountains and was a good spot to watch for birds of prey. As I often saw a woodchat shrike hunting there in the evenings, I always went there last thing for a look. Here, there was also a gate through to the neighbouring property which was “needing renovation” so had a very wild, overgrown garden. One evening out of the corner of my eye, I saw a movement there in the dry grass and patches of wildflowers. Turning on the area with the binoculars. I saw a head sticking up and staring at me with a wide-eyed, slightly terrified expression. The huge, staring yellow eyes, white stripes both above and below the eyes and the shape of the head told me that I was looking at a stone curlew. Like the wryneck, this bird did not look like the other member of its family familiar to us in Scotland. It has a short, stubby bill and heavy, yellow legs and those very large, wild-looking eyes, which do serve a purpose, as the stone curlew is a nocturnal bird. Unfortunately, as it had spotted me first, it scuttled off into the undergrowth, keeping low and continually glancing back at me. The next evening, at about the same time, I approached the gate more cautiously and got a much better and longer view of it. Just as the light was going I heard it call and that was the thing that gave it away as a curlew. The long whistling call was exactly like the first part of our curlew’s call. During the night, any time I awakened, I could hear it constantly calling.

Other visitors to the garden were a flock of bee eaters hunting high overhead, wonderful flying jewels, decked out in glorious enamel-like turquoise, burnt orange, and golden yellow. They swooped and dived in the company of the swifts, swallows and martins and what a spectacular sight they were – absolute magic!

Sketch of a cattle egret in flight and a very quick colour reminder for bee eaters

On a visit to the S’Albufera nature reserve, I had plenty of opportunity to watch three types of egrets and three types of heron, but undoubtedly, in my mind the stars of the show were the black winged stilts. One of the hides overlooked an area where they were nesting and I spent quite a time there, in the company of about ten other people and what seemed like ten million mosquitoes, all intent on biting me and me alone. However, the sight of the stilts, unbelievably elegant, with their ridiculously long magenta legs and slim black and white bodies made the conditions tolerable. A few minor disputes broke out and they leapt in the air, legs and wings sticking out at silly angles- not a very macho fight at all.

Those wonderful stilts in flight and some disputes - what great shapes!

Add to that the butterflies, dragonflies, spring flowers and many birds of prey and Mallorca makes an intoxicating mix for any naturalist. Nonetheless, it was good to come home and catch up with the progressing season at home too.

I had a beautiful walk in Fairy Glen on the Black Isle one weekend at the end of May. It was a gorgeous day with the sunlight creating interesting dappled light on the woodland floor and among the sweeps of bluebells and ferns. The warm day brought out the scent of the flowers and I felt that I couldn’t breathe deeply enough to fully inhale the glorious scent. Truly, a mass of bluebells in woodland has to be one of the loveliest of scents – rich, full and heavy, so that the scent stays in your nostrils long after you have walked past the flowers.

Further along the burn, I found two grey wagtails also taking advantage of the bounty of small flies hovering over the water. They were leaping up from mossy boulders in the centre of the burn to snatch the insects. At one stage, as I watched one through the binoculars I laughed, as it sat there with a beak jammed full of long legged insects, looking like it had a fuzzy moustache. They too gave away their nest site as they popped in and out of a gap among a large tumble of boulders by the burnside. While I was watching them, a dipper zoomed past at high speed like a low level fighter jet, hugging the contours of the burn, It too was carrying food, but went well down the burn out of sight so I didn’t see its nest.

The views from the top of the hills further out towards Cromarty over the Moray Firth with the royal blue sea, pale, sandy beaches on the far side and lime green and yellow of the gorse-strewn hillsides, all below a perfect dome of endless blue sky could not have been bettered.

One young creature that I didn’t expect to have such good views of, was a baby dolphin off Chanonry Point.  At several different times, just like a human child at a party, it seemed to get really excited when there was a lot of activity around it. When the other adults around it were feeding and moving fast, it sped along just below the surface and on several occasions leapt totally clear of the water, so I had good views of its pale grey colour and light stripes along its sides, which told me that it was a young animal. It was like a kid overdosed on Smarties! The adults also treated me to the sight of them bringing very large salmon to the surface, struggling to re-position them in their mouths and then to swallow them. An indication of how entertaining and enthralling all this was, was the fact that I was there for over four hours.  How time flies when you are having fun!

Trying (relatively unsuccessfully) to capture photos of the young dolphins (thanks for the photo Charlie!)

March 2008

At last I have found some time to update both the website in general and am starting with these diary pages.

My project at Gairloch, where I have been doing the interpretation work for the new Marine Life Information Centre which is situated at the harbour in Gairloch was finally completed a couple of weeks ago with a visit through to Gairloch to help install the interpretation material and complete some on-site work. It is all looking very good and I am pleased wth how it has all turned out. All credit to Sam and Ian French for having the vision and perseverence to get the project complete.

Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief and looking forward to a bit of "free" time another cracking project landed on my desk (I swear I could hear strains of "I'm just a girl who can't say no", as I was reading the email about it). This is a more straightforward project, being book illustration. The whole project could have been custom made for me as all the illustrations are ink, which is one of my favourite mediums and the subject matter is birds - need I say more! I am nearly halfway through them now and loving every minute. A lot of the illustrations are behavioural drawings and so are really interesting and challenging to execute. More details of the book will follow.It will be realesed in UK and US towards the end of the year. The deadline for the illustrations is the end of June, so once they are complete I hope to get some time to do some more acylic painting (where have I heard this before?).

Two of the large painted cut outs for the Marine Life Centre.


Some of the cut outs in place

A couple of the large background paintings for the Marine Life Centre.

For those of you who have been asking, I now have some smaller paintings and drawings for sale which will be added to the "Originals" page within the next couple of weeks. Look out too for an update of the "Limited Editions" page and the addition of pages for my cards and photographs. In the meantime, if you want to see a selection of my photographs go to ???

I have had some time to get out and about and when we were through at Aviemore I went out with the girls who fed the reindeer herd out on the hill. The day was bright and very cold but all that was forgotten when we walked over the frozen moor. There were a few reindeer down beside the burn, but on the top of the nearby hill were silhouetted a few more. One of the girls then started to call with a loud yodelling sound. Soon, a huge herd of reindeer were thundering over the hill and galloping at speed down towards us. It really was an awesome sight. I went down to the river to get some photographs of them leaping across the burn. Soon we were surrounded by the herd which numbers over 100. They really are the most delightful creatures, smaller than you imagine somehow and with dark, gentle eyes. Their muzzles as you fed them, were soft and velvety and the colours of their coats wonderful, varying from a rich dark chocolate or black, through reddish brown, fawn and grey to bright gleaming white. What a privilege it was to be among them out on the hill. I could have stayed out there all day, despite the cold.

Jane and friends

Leaping the burn

DIARY 2006/2007

To view my diary from 2006 and2007 please follow the link below: -
- My Diary 2006/2007 -