DIARY

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

IMPORTANT MESSAGE; Please excuse any disruption to the website. Due to my images being stolen from the website and then offered on other sites which illegally claim to hold the copyright for them, I am having to change elements within the website to avoid this happening again. Please protect yourself by not obtaining or using any of my work through other sites or without my permission as an ongoing copyright investigation is underway.

These pages are intended to keep you up to date with the progress of my work - new prints, paintings and projects will all feature (I hope to take a series of photographs during the work so that you will be able to see them develop). There will also be a short (or maybe not so short) piece of writing about any wildlife encounters that I have experienced in the past months. To see diaries from previous years, please go to the link at the bottom of this year's diary and click.

Tutoring

Jane is widely experienced in tutoring painting and drawing days and weekends, working in pencil, charcoal, watercolour, acrylic, pastel and pen and ink. She organises residential weekends and one-day courses. Watch this page for information on any upcoming events that you may wish to participate in. She is also available to tutor courses and demonstrate and give talks for other art groups and clubs. If you require further information please email or call her.

DIARY

UPCOMING EXHIBITION

at Monymusk Arts Trust from 22nd July until 11th August

New originals and limited edition prints will be on view. Watch out for further details in June.

May 2017

Well, once again months have passed without an update here. As usual, life events get in the way. we have had a serious illness, a new baby born into the family and upcoming wedding to plan - what a mix!

The perfect antidote to any troubles - a cuddle from my new grandson!

Enough of that and onto more arty matters.

I have completed a new acrylic painting based on the ten hares that I watched racing around a field near my home last spring. This year there were not so many in one place, so I was lucky last year to catch them on their "speed dating" weekend. I really wanted to capture the movement and the great shapes that their gangly, long bodies made as they ran at full speed, scattering the flocks of starlings and rooks as they went.

The initial rough washes to captures the composition with essential shapes and movement

A bit more of the background washed in - ready to start working in to.

The completed painting. For more details, see the "Originals" page.

Finally, after it sitting half finished for over two years, I got back to my arylic painting of dancing Japanese red crowned cranes. It has been staring at me from the corner of my drawing board and finally I took a daft turn one day and flew through it to completion. It was just one of those times where I was on a roll, and knew exactly what I wanted to do to it to finish it off.It was originally to be the other half of a pair of paintings of this subject.

Inspired originally by a visit to Pensthorpe where they have a crane breeding programme and I watched various species of crane indulging in a bit of courtship dancing and also a film about them that I watched around the same time, I felt compelled to paint them.They make the most wonderful shapes as they launch themselves into the air. The first painting, sold just after it was completed was "Dancers at Dawn" and this one is "Dancers at Dusk", both featuring the birds in differing postures with a whole different palette of colours to suggest the colours at either end of the day.Again, all about the sense of movement and the fantastic shapes of the birds.

Both completed paintings side by side after a mere couple of years! Look at the "Originals" page if you want to know more about the both paintings.

The book that I was illustrating with a series of seabird sketches has now been published by Usborne and is a compelling tale of men and boys being abandoned on a sea stac off St Kilda when they were fowling (harvesting the seabirds). The brief was that the drawings be "anatomically accurate, sketchy but with some detail". It was an interesting project and I have to say that the people at Usborne were very easy to deal with. Thanks to them for the opportunity.

Guga (young gannet), guillemot, puffin

Storm petrel, fulmar, great black backed gull

Manx shearwater, gannet, guard gannet. It was thought during this period in time that the book was set, that one "king" gannet was left "on guard" while the rest slept at night and if you could kill the guard then you would be able to surprise the rest of the colony.

Both images above are of the great auk, now extinct, but still around in the time that the book was set (1727)

I always seem to return to some subjects again and again and as any of you who know me well or have met me on many of my otter stalks, these wonderful creatures are one of my all time favourites. Two new paintings are underway with first washes laid down and I am raring to get going on progressing them.I love the way otters sit almost motionless on the surface with the minimum amount of their bodies breaking the surface, often among the loops and shiny orange brown fronds of the half submerged kelp, just staring at anything that seems out of the ordinary - a dog, a person walking along the shoreline, any unusual shape that is not normally there.with poor eyesight, they rely on the wind bringing them a scent or a sudden movement or noise. I have filled many sketchbook pages with quick drawings of them doing just this, the ripples of water radiating out as they disturb the surface of the water.

Also watching one from the high ground above Calgary Bay on Mull you get a different viewpoint, looking down on the water's surface as they suddenly pop up with a fish or after an unsuccessful dive and roll over and over , as though revelling in their own fluidity of movement.

Base washes of greens and blues will soon be followed by some initial washes on the animals themselves to give me a starting point to build more washes and detail on.

Small is beautiful and my small triptyches are proving very popular so I continue to raid my Lunga sketchbooks for postures of puffins that I can use successfully in this format - her is the latest!

"Puffins......Sitting Pretty"

Spring, especially May, is my favourite time of year. I love colour - it excites me and I enjoy experimenting with paint to get just the right one. inspired by the colours emeging in the countryside and the garden, I did a spring colour sheet. Oh yes, and I've included photos of some of the flora that I was attempting to mix the colours for.

Talking of Spring, I have picked up the thread of another painting that lack of time has stopped me from completing. Based on an observation on a walk while the May blossom was in full blowsy bloom, below are the first watercolour washes of a male yellowhammer and male reed bunting sitting among the hawthorn flowers on the top of a pathside bush.

When completed I hope that this will be a worthy memory of a special spring day!

 

December 2016

Merry Christmas to everyone and I send you all my very best wishes for a happy, healthy and fulfilling 2017.

Nearing the end of another year - unbelievable! I could use a few adjectives to describe the last few months - busy, challenging, interesting - with a mix of high and lows.

If you are looking for somewhere to visit, there is still time after New Year to catch the end of my exhibition as the December featured artist of the month at Country Frames Gallery, Leslie. For opening times see their facebook page.There are a few new originals and a varied selection of limited edition prints and cards.

A couple of the originals

A wall of the exhibition at Country Frames Gallery

Apart from my regular classes, I have also tutored a couple of day workshops and in November, I visited Stonehaven Art Club for the first time. We spent the day exploring lively acrylic techniques and they produced some exciting and interesting artwork. Well done to all who attended - I had a lot of fun.It is really nice to meet a new group of enthusiastic artists and we had a productive day (despite the malfunctioning heating!). I am looking forward to future visits.

A few of the 14 participants at the Stonehaven workshop

I have been exceeding busy in the run up to Christmas. I drew out out a couple of hare paintings based on the sketches (one to be a watercolour, one an acrylic)that I did in the spring of ten hares racing around the fields pusuing one another and generally living up to their "mad" reputation. So far, I have not had the concentrated, undisturbed time to take them any firther, but I have my eye on a couple of days next week. They are sitting on the drawing board in the workshop and I am itching to get some paint going!

Sketches from spring

The drawing for the watercolour - the idea was to capture their movements as they raced in a ling towards me, then suddenly turned on their heels to run away again - bit of flirting and going on! The "try out" on the right is a practice for the sky, trying to get the essence of the rain showers sweeping across the fields covering and uncovering the sun. I wanted it to complement the movement of the hares - quite happy with it but now all I have to do is recreate it on the painting!! Though I might use the one below at first - felt it was a bit "tame", more of a summer sky - I am much happier with the more turbulent sky.

The acrylic is so lightly drawn, that I cannot get it to photograph well, so you will have to wait until I have the first washes on.

One of the hares had a lazy ear which always drooped down. in fact neither ear seemed to want to do as it should! It would start off with both ears pricked, but as it lost concentration, slowly they would droop until they were hanging well down. It looked really comical and I could not resist a "Bad Hare Day" (awful pun!) acrylic painting in some little slate frames that I had..I also love the way they "bank" on the corners - reminds me of riding my motorcyle in my youth!

It is now a few days after Chrsitmas and we missed a white Christmas by just one day! After a Christmas day of 14 degrees! - how wierd is that - on Boxing day we woke to snow and there was enough for snowmen and sledging. Since then frosty mornings ,bright days and clear evenings have given us a cavalcade of stupendous sunrises and sunsets, each more glorious than the one before. Having no street light beside us, we can see them in their full splendour.

Sunrise.....................................

..................................Sunset. Just amazing colours and patterns

Merry White Boxing Day!

We took a trip to Majorca in September for a bit of a break. We have visited several times before, but never at this time of year.It was exceeding hot, and speaking to the owner of the villa that we stayed in, apparently they had not had rain in seven months. Consequently, the countryside was dry, dusty and parched and it had badly affected many of the crops including the olives.I could not beleieve how busy the island was, with access and parking almost impossible wherever we went, even in the more remote and isolated of villages. Gone were the quiet streets and cafes we remembered from seven years ago. According to the villa owner, with all the problems surrounding some of the other popular European holiday destinations, many more tourists were choosing Majorca. I have to say that it put me off and I would not visit again if it was going to be so busy. However, there were some compensations. The wildlife was good ,although I noticed on my visit to S'Albufera, that the water was very low which did seem to affect the bird numbers.

At S'Albufera, I was delighted to see two male night herons perched in the trees - a beautiful small heron, they are incredibly dapper looking with slate blue backs, dark crowned heads and dark wings, bright yellow legs and eyes like puddles of fresh blood with that distinctive, intent, heron stare. Furthr into the reserve, and, as I crossed one of the many bridges, I spotted a bird standing on a raft of floating debris - a little bittern, in hunched Fagin-like posture, standing on long, yellow-green legs that stuck out at ridiculous angles. Streaky, with the typical cryptic patterning of the bittern clan, it was surprising hard to spot once it got among the reeds, so it was great to see one out in the water. It stood unconcerned as a small crowd of people gathered on the bridge and "oohs" and "aahs" filled the air as a dozen lens focused on its every feature. Eventually, it rose and flew slightly heavily into some overhanging bushes and vanished from sight.

The small streaky brown bird that created such a fuss.This is a female and I was disappointed to see a male only briefly, as he flew across a gap between two small trees. Males are beautifully coloured.

Much easier to find was the purple gallinule, a bird that look like a cross between a coot and moorhen, on steroids, and on stilts! It has an out of proportion, thick red beak and horny forehead and when the sun is on it, the plumage gleams in metallic and electric bright blues and purples. However, to complete this strangely proportioned bird, it also posesses the most exraordinarily long, red legs and toes which are ridiculous when it runs (see the photo below and you cannot help but smile).When swimming they extend deep into the water below it and you can see the long toes trailing.

Those amazing legs in action and the glorious colours of the plumage.

A young bird that approached quite closely - just look at the elongated toes!

I was also witness to a fight between two of these birds - it has to be one of the most inelegant fights I have ever seen - bit "handbags at dawn" in appearance, but no mistaking that they meant business, lashing out at each other with their long toes and leaping clumsily into the air. It finished by one "legging it" - if ever there was an appropriate saying

Fight!

It all happened so fast, with the sun flashing on their colours, that it was difficult to capture anything, but these quick watercolour sketches give a flavour. And yes, they really did manage to get themselves into these contortions - the long toes seemed to get in the way a lot!

There were quite a number of marsh harriers around - king of the reedbeds with their golden crowns. They had a floating, seemingly effortless flight, that was unhurried, confident and leisurely, as befitted their royal status.

At the villa, we were lucky enough to have booted eagles flying overhead every evening and it was quite a novelty to lie back in comfort and watch them.

Eleanora's falcon sketches above and below a very quick one of a booted eagle. Against the bright sky it was extremely difficult to squint and see the colours.

One evening, five grey herons appeared fliying in, frankly disorganised, circles high above the villa. There was clearly a "leader" that the rest were "sort of" following though there was a bit of chaos and breaking of the ranks. All this was accompanied by them all calling randomly and loudly. Eventually, still "cronking" away, they flew off in a disorderly line. Really don't know what all that was about.

There were lots of large dragonflies around the villa and every so often one large individual who clearly couldn't comprehend what I was, why I was in his territory and how I managed to keep appearing in different places, would fly his rounds, checking up on everything, but on coming across me, would hover in front of me then zip across to look at me from another angle then look down on me from above before continuing his patrol. Every time I was around he did this. Stalked by a dragonfly, now that's a new one!

I also spent a hot half hour pursuing a humminbird hawk moth around the verandah as it flitted from flower pot to pot, trying to get a good look at it. They are so like hummingbirds it is incredible from their behaviour and movements to their shape. Love them!

I did manage to see several more of the species that were on my "hit list". High in the mountains of Cap Formentor, I watched Eleanora's falcons hunting out over the rocky outcrops. Neat and smart little falcons (very similar to our hobby), with ginger underparts and "britches", strongly streaked breasts, barred tail and elegant pointed wings, they sliced through the air, or circled above, searching for large beetles and dragonflies, which, with impressive agility and speed, they can snatch out of the air and eat on the wing- in flight catering! I saw these lovely birs quite a few times - once at Tramantana, we stopped at the roadside to watch two juvenile Eleanoras and a young peregrine falcon all swooping around the steep rockface, calling all the time. At the lighthouse at the furthest point of the Formentor peninsula, standing at the top of the stomach churning height down to the royal blue sea, I picked out 50 cory's shearwaters offshore, a male blue rock thrush (looking exactly as the name would suggest) among the scrubby bushes as well as many small warblers. I could go on - and frequently do! - about kestrels hunting lizards, stone curlews under the fig trees in the fading light of evening, all the finches coming in to roost among the contorted pine trees growing upfrom between the paving in the town, but I'll upload this update for now and come back later to add some of my hare paintings' progress.

Goodbye to 2016 and hello 2017! Hope it's a good one and hope to meet up with some of you then.

July 2016

The summer is just slipping through my hands like sand. End of July and still waiting for that long spell of lovely weather!

Most of you who know me well, will know that the Isle of Mull is my adopted home. I visit every year for a full-on wildlife "fix", but this year was a slightly different kind of trip. The whole family accompanied us to celebrate my 60th birthday, so more swimming, beach and rockpooling time than normal and less five hour stints following otters! Rockpooling with a nine-year-old is great fun. Everything interests and fascinates a child of that age and many a happy hour was spent puddling around and staring into pools with pockets full of crab shells and claws, unusual stones, bits of seaweed, driftwood and pretty shells being the order of the day.On three occassions we came across mink doing exactly the same as us and they were not the slightest bit phased by our presence, coming very close to us, poking about under rocks and and diving for crabs in the shallows. My feelings were mixed - a lovely looking creature, but........

I was looking forward to introducing my favourite island to my two future daughters in law, however, the weather was a bit mixed (polite speak for torrential wind, huge swells and pouring rain on our Lunga boat trip, to warm winds, blue skies and whole days spend building sand sculptures and swimming in the sea), so not totally idyllic, but this is Scotland after all.

It poured with while we were on Lunga and it had been for a couple of days. Underfoot was just gloopy mud - as unpleasant for the puffins as for us. Just look at the state of these two!

Some were wise enough to stay in their burrows, or just tuck their heads under their wings and sit it out. I love the way that the raindrops just sit on top of the puffin's feathers - I could have done with waterproofing like that myself.

Tucked up against the weather, the puffins made rotund, organic shapes - if I was a sculptor, I would create some ceramics - they were so gorgeous. Apologies for the rain-buckled paper!

I have been enjoying producing some little paintings - small is beautiful. These two triptych combinations in watercolour are the latest, framed in recycled wood painted a lovely weathered scottish sea blue! Each tiny painting is only 11cm square (including the frame - the actual image size is 6cm square) and painting on such a small scale really makes you cut the subjects down to the absolute essentials - what makes a puffin a puffin? Distilled essence of puffin captured in each of these, hopefully. Don't ever say you have no room for artwork. Go to my "Originals" page is you want to know more.

Mini puffins.

I did manage to fit in some wildlife watching - a couple of very early morning otter hunts on my own and some great white tailed eagle views at both ends of Loch Na Keal and off the cliffs on the far side of Carsaig Bay with various members of the family.We spent a lovely few hours walking on a sunny day with a strong but warm wind blowing, around to the far side of Carsaig bay, which is a beautful bay of dark sand enclosed by high cliffs, steep hillsides and dramatic waterfalls. It feels like quite a wild place and the sight of the huge silhouette of a white tailed eagle soaring off the cliftops, seemed perfectly to fit the feeling - exactly what you would expect to see. A buzzard, no small bird itself, seemed dwarfed by this giant of the skies, but that did not stop it from harasssing the eagle, which, eventually losing patience, did a spectacular barrell roll and snatched out at the buzzard with huge talons. The buzzard backed off a little after that - still buzzing the eagle, but not quite so confidently!

The steep hillside behind the bay and the striking patterns cut in the sand by the fresh water running across it - if you saw this without anything to give it scale, it could seem like a section of coastline with a stack just off it, couldn't it?

With the sun out, the colours of the sand, seaweeds, rocks and sea were fantastic - stunning in fact. When I returned, I tried to capture the variety and complexity of the various colours while they were still fresh in my mind. It was a more difficult task than it seemed. The sand particularly, with its violet-blue-brown hue was a head-scratcher, but eventually a combination of Indian Red (a great mixing colour and one of my favourites) and Blue Violet got closest. Below is the scrap of watercolour paper with some of the combinations I tried for all the elements of the landscape.

Colour memories of Carsaig!

Just finished - mini otters. I love their fluidity and flexibility under the water, weaving in and out of the kelp fronds. I would love to be an otter just to experience what that is like - clumsy wetsuits, snorkels and the limitations of our human anatomy abandoned! Wouldn't that be something?

Otter contortions.

Again for more info. go to the "Originals" page.

June 2016

My exhibition at Braemar gallery is finishing shortly, so if you want to pay it a visit, time is running out. They have a lovely display of my work and thank you to those who have already purchased pieces.

"Jane's wall" at Braemar.

After drawing out a triptych of my "undergardener" (my very tame robin that is my gardening companion) quite a while back, I have eventually got around to finishing it. Being watercolour and painted quite loosely, I needed and uninterrupted period of time in which to do it in one go. Such time is a rare commodity in my life. However, I am quite pleased with the result - I wanted to capture his different expressions, from alert with cocked head, watching for "beasties" to eat as I worked the soil, throwing his head back to serenade me with his song from atop the shrubbery to just keeping a lookout for the cat!

I have framed them in a recycled wooden frame which has the remains of a lovely soft mossy green and cream paint on it - somehow suits it I felt.

 

"Gardener's Friend... robin"

As my puffin triptych paintings are selling so well, I have been once again raiding my Lunga sketchbooks for some more drawings that I can put together.

"Puffins..wagging tongues..He said..then she said...well I never"

Although June weather was mixed (that is a polite way of putting it) we have had some lovely days, and as I had some work to deliver to Spindrift at Tomintoul, we chose one of those to drive over there. The countryside was looking stuning, with hawthorn blossom at its best and lots of birdlife to see enroute.

Passing an old ruin of a cottage, I was immediately taken with the image of it, as the remains of the garden were still there but being taken over by nature. Parts of he old wooden paling fence still stood, the aged silver wood totally encrusted with lichen and rising up from the most wonderful "natural" garden of wildflowers. It was a lovely contrast - I just had to stop and take some photographs. I would love to use the images and my memory (and add a bit of artistic licence) to create a painting from this.

Very special! We are very lucky to have lots of hares this year. I have seen a few half grown ones which means that at least some are managing to rear youngsters (I suppose that is what you would term hare-raising! - sorry couldn't resist). Every day when I am out I am seeing groups of between three and five and I am addicted. Every trip or walk is interrupted by a stop to watch them. They are in the potato field furrows and along the rough edge of the crop fields.My camera and pencil are on overload!

Why hares are difficult to spot in ploughed fields!

Galloping around or keeping an eye out for me!

Finally, watch out for my new parallel website coming online in the next month. As well as artwork, it will include an art blog, wildlife blog and photographic pages. Also, I am being dragged kicking and screaming into the technical age and am in the process of setting up Facebook business pages and an Etsy shop. Wish me luck as I do not have a natural affinity with modern technology (although my husband has had to "repair" things on my computer, where his comment has been "I don't know how you managed to do that!", so I must have some skill).

May 2016

EXHIBITION - BRAEMAR GALLERY - work on show now - just in time to celebrate my 60th birthday

I have just returned from delivering originals, limited edition prints and greetings cards to the lovely Braemar Gallery. Among them were a few brand new original paintings including one of my "Wildlife Expressionism" pieces, this time of otters floating on the surface of the sea among the kelp and entitled "Watching you, watching me".

Inspired by the Isle of Mull otters (where else?) who, when they see a person or dog on the shore tend to float motionless on the surface, staring and trying to make sense of the movement - their eyesight is not great, but move suddenly or make a noise and they are onto you. Based on sketchbook pages of drawing done on Mull, (where you can really see how well adapted they are for showing the minimum above the water, with ears eyes and nostrils high on their head, I picked out some shapes that I liked to compose an image that pleased me and worked them up in acrylic.Memories of early morning walks with low sun streaming through the half submerged kelp, turning it into pieces of glowing amber and some photos for reference, helped contast with the rich blues and greens of the water reflecting the blue sky - oh joy! I enjoyed it so much and had lots of sketches that I still wanted to use, that, having got into "otter mode" I did some more..

Perfect otter hunting ground - half submerged kelp forests.

Sketchbook pages and the first bold washes of acrylic in the water.

The completed painting and the initial washes for a few small otter studies.

Just chillin'.... hanging out relaxed on the surface. I have now completed this small painting and have it framed in a recycled wooden frame.

Another small acrylic study

My puffin triptych watercolour painting are proving very popular and selling well and so I have produced a few more, two of which can be viewed at Braemar.

Puffins... "He said....then she said...she never did!"

"Puffins....setting up home together". I love the way that they snuggle up together when first laying claim to burrows, their bright little faces peeping out from the darkness.r

"Puffins....coy"

What a glorious day we picked for our trip over there. It was sunny, warm and the countryside was looking particularly stunning. After dropping off the work, we drove part way along the Linn o' Dee road and parked for a while to enjoy the sunshine and spectacular views up the river valley. Scanning with my binoculars, I saw three black grouse on a little rough grass and heathery hummock just in front of us. They were jumping up into the branches of some small larch trees and delicately picking off the little clusters of freshly opened soft needles. What a fresh, succulent, beakful they must have been after the slim pickings of winter. I could almost taste them myself. The birds looked great, with their lyre shaped tails and plumage the colour of a ripe bramble contrasting against the delicate spring green of the larches - what a delight to watch.

A visit to the Knock Gallery at Crathie brought double pleasure. The delightful company of Alicia and Bruce and a visit to their striking gallery plus superb views as we left.With a backdrop of Lochnagar with snow still lying in the deep corries and the new greens of spring in the foreground, the scent of spring was in the air.

May and spring has arrived AT LAST!! After a very cold and wet March and April we have had a lot of lovely weather in May. This is now nearing the end of the month and the countryside has been a froth of blossom, hedges and trees a frilly petticoat of blooms. Earliest, blackthorn, starry and delicate, then gean , open and plentiful, flinging itself about in the wind, followed by apple, each generous cup looking like its petals had been dipped in red wine. Now, rowans, in clotted cream heaps, and hawthorn so prolific that it is impossible to see the branches. With no heavy rains, whipping strong winds or frost, the blossom has endured, remaining mush longer than normal and ther have been plenty of pollinating insects around, soit looks like later in the year there may be lots of fruits and berries.

Here in the north east, I came across a marvellous and heartwarming site. In a field of shortish grass, I encountered no less than 10 (yes 10!) hares in a group. It appeared to be a speed dating weekend, with them feeding together, socialising, interacting (and there was a fair bit of pursuing and rebuffing going on too). I have never seen that many together in this part of the world. Favourites of mine for their ungainly and gawkish looks and "mad" eyes, I could not resist and over a period of three days, while they remained in this one large field, I took every opportunity to watch, draw and photograph them.

Sketchbook page - the car makes a great hide. Incredibly difficult to draw as they stay still for such a short period of time and are so fast when running. However, constant observation helps me get to know how they move, what happens to their legs and bodies while they are moving and the essential "hare-iness" of them.

Ditto! The top sketch is an attempt to get down the track and flow of their movements.

 

Every so often they would take flight and gallop off at high speed across the field - at one stage they were all tearing down the field, parallell to me, neatly spaced out. I love the way they lean over and bank like a motorcyclist on the corners! My sone calls them "hot rod hares" - all the power is in the back end!! I feel some hares galloping around inside my head busily creating paintings. On the fourth day all 10 hares vanished and I have not seen a single one since. Right place at right time on my part.

NEW VENUE FOR REGULAR ART CLASSES

On a slightly different subject, due to the sad closure of Touched by Scotland, I have had to move venue for my regular weekly classes. Thanks must go to Jan, Robin and all the staff there for looking after us so well and being so generous over the years that we were there - happy times. I am now in the centre of Insch and we are lucky to have a new, light and bright, warm and inviting space to work in. Classes are Wednesday from 12 noon to 3pm, Thursday morning 9.30am - 12.30pm and Thursday afternoon 12.30pm - 3.30pm.

The garden is flourishing in the recent good weather, and at the moment it is like the set of "Top Gun" with birds flying at speed low level back and forth all over the place; feeders to nestboxes; shrubs to holes in trees; feeders to fluttering, peeping chicks scattered all over the undergrowth and trees, borders to dust baths. The house sparrows have totally taken over the front garden hedge and filled it with nests and they have also developed a large colony in the gap between the solar panels and the roof. Tree sparrows nests too are stuffed in gaps and holes and nestboxes. Blue, coal and great tits, blackbirds a pair of songthrushes, wood pigeons, two great spotted woodpeckers, treecreepers, goldfinches aplenty, siskins, wrens, swallows, dunnocks, greenfinches, bullfinches and chaffinches, to name but a few residents, and of course, a visiting sparrowhawk. The flowers are opening almost as you watch with the rhododendrons, azaleas and tulips doing particularly well this year and lasting for simply ages - the bees are just loving it!

Beautiful bee magnets.

 

January 2016

Where has January gone? It has been a very quick month!

I have had a busy few weeks. All of my classes have restarted. For those of you who were asking recently, regular classes are Wednesday 12pm - 3pm, Thursday 9.30am - 12.30pm & 1pm - 4pm (all at the studio at Touched by Scotland) every second Tuesday 10am - 12pm (for Painting for Pleasure group) in Insch and I am looking forward to another spell at Tarland, for the Tarland Art Group, beginning on the 19th February. The calendar is also filling up with workshop dates for the coming year - I will publish a full list once it is complete.

I have completed the small loose watercolour of the barn owl "caught in the headlights" and above you can see it in its recycled frame. For a better image and more details please visit my "Originals" page.

We have had a strange mix of weather this winter from almost spring like to snow and heavy frost. The poor plants and animals in the countryside don't know whether they are coming or going. Confusion reigns! On the first week in January when out for a walk in the snowy countryside on a bright, sunny day, I passed some young hawthorn trees about ten feet tall. They actually had bursting buds and fully open newly emerged fresh green leaves. In fact, all four seasons were reperesented together on the one tree - some red berries remaining from autumn, dormant winter buds, emerging green foliage as you would expect to see in spring and the full leaf of summer months - it was weird to say the least. Where the sun had reached the frost had thawed and the sun brought out some glorious warm tones in the saplings and dead grasses, but as you can see from the photograph below, in the shade, they remained frost-laden and silvery blue agaianst the dark depths of the trees behind.

Another unusual sight on the morning of the frost was on the glass top of our outside table. This pattern is all frost - the glass is plain. Mother nature showing me up again! A natural artist of the finest calibre!

Back indoors in the warmth, I have been doing smaller work, that I can "dip" into more easily as I am short of time just now and also my recent health problem is still ongoing, and so sometimes I cannot give a larger painting the concentration it requires. I have to say though, that I am enjoying working on a smaller scale and doing a lot of sketching too.

The "business" end of my new studio (or the "messy corner" as my husband refers to it!). I am lucky to have a lovely big window looking out over the countryside towards the Bennachie range. Lots of light too.

Below are a few more quick barn owl sketches (I am of the opinion that you can never have too many barn owl sketches!). Near where I live,a barn owl is roosting ,in an old drainage pipe sticking out of a stone railway bridge.. Most of the time he is deep in the darkness of the pipe, but on late afternoons, if it is sunny, the sun shines right into the open end of the pipe and he is tempted out to the edge to doze in the sun. He looks lovely gleaming bright in the sun, head tucked down into his shoulders, hunched up, and scrunching his normally perfectly heart shaped facial disc into some wonderful shapes. I just had to sketch them while they were fresh in my mind (things don't stay in there as long as they should sometimes). Isn't he handsome?

I remember during last summer watching a kingfisher as it fished and the great shapes that it made when diving off a branch or rising back out of the water. Each was only a momentary glimpse, as it happened so fast, but by watching it repeatedly, I formed a mental image of its posture, a little bit at a time. I also loved the intent, focused concentration of the bird while watching the water. From sketchbooks of the day and from my memory, below is a triptych in acrylic, of some dives. I intentionally made the background "zippy" to try and help the feeling of speed. Also below, the three linear compositional drawings of another that I am about to start in watercolour.

"Neon Flash" and drawings for "Kingfisher Watch".

I recently took several original works to be displayed at the Knock Gallery at Crathie, near Balmoral. It is such a stunning and beautiful gallery both in content, design and position and I am delighted to have my work exhibited there.. The gallery owners, Alicia and Bruce are wonderfully warm and welcoming and the gallery reflects their elegance and good taste. It also has a very extensive (and tempting!) range of amber and silver jewellery personally chosen by Alicia. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

From the first approach....

to the stunning interior with its fabulous paintings and sculptures....a wonderful gallery!

Alicia and Jane with some of Jane's work....

and some more...

All for now... running late for a class!! Another update soon.

New Year's Day

A day spent out in the cold, doing a bit of tidying up in the garden accompanied by the cat and my robin, both of whom kept a beady eye on one another throughout..

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

December 2015

Just a few days after Christmas now and I hope that you all had a really good time. In two days it will be 2016 and I wish everyone health, happiness and a year of fulfillment ahead.

My son's cat is unimpressed by Christmas! It finds all the disruption and unwrapping a bit tiring - time for a nap..

My last painting before Christmas was, by popular request, another puffin triptych.Working again from my sketchbooks to create "conversations". This one I called "LOL" which for those of you (like me), who are above a certain age, is youngspeak for "laugh out loud".It shows off the striking colours of the beaks and the egg yolk yellow of the inside of their mouths.

After the rush and fuss of Christmas, I have had a few days to "play" with paint and pencils without there being a final piece or purpose to it, something I don't manage as often as I would like. Thought that this might give you a bit of insight into how my mind works artistically (venture there at your own peril!) and how my scribbles and doodles produce lots of information for use in my paintings.

In our new home, we have a stunning view out over the fields towards the Bennachie range. This changes daily, sometimes by the hour or, as is the case at sunrise and sunset, by the minute. It provides endless opportunities for quick impressions to be laid down in watercolour - and I do mean quick, as sometimes by the time I wet the brush and choose the colour it has almost vanished, but then it is fresh in my mind for a short period and I can usually rely on that. Below are some morning and evening skies from my sketchbook, some with Mither Tap (one of Bennachie's most distinctive peaks), some with just sky or fields.

Glorious sunrise colours - the changes in hue and type of sky happened within five minutes!

 

Two consecutive days - one on the left showing all the reflected colours in the puddles in the ploughed field with blue-purple clumps of trees in the distance . On the right, the next morning of freezing fog hanging over the furrows, the sky colours pale and the trees hazy and putty coloured, What a difference a day makes!

At the other end of the day, being out in the country and away from street lights, the night skies can be truly awe-inspiring ans very beautiful. Once again, quick impressions were the best thing, this time using watercolour and white gouache.

On the left a more foggy night and on the right, a clearer and darker one.

On Boxing day, a "White Christmas" a day late. Enormous, soft flakes drifting silently down - magical!

Cosy inside, cold outside

Sky at night, sky by day.Full moon on Christmas eve.

Sun up!

Still in "playing" mode, watching a video that a friend sent me of a fox hunting in the grass verge, doing that foxy leap onto a vole."Scribble" drawing, where I start with the rough shape and scribble down tighter into the posture can give a lively, loose image. I also did a couple in this style while watching television - an Attenborough documentary impressed me with its underwater shots of sealions and their wondefully elegant movements and even a short film on young gymnasts - they are so flexible and agile.

 

Native American art has always fascinated me and I love the different way they approach their art.Fiddling around with some ideas, I would like to explore this a bit further at a later date. For now, these few "ideas" of a fox, black grouse and capercaillie, should prompt me.

Sometimes I just pick up bits and pieces of inspiration and if I don't put them down on paper right then, they will vanish as quickly as they appeared. Anything to hand will do to jot it down - in this case a scrap of paper with some notes on it. I was looking at a nautilus shell I have sitting on a shelf and thinking how much the spiral pattern intrigued me. For some reason, I was a bit "hare-brained" at the time (and that is not a spelling mistake). I had been feeling the urge to paint or draw hares again for a while and remembering the folklore about "hare parliaments" where hares on moonlit nights would sit around in circles facing in and sometimes stare at the moon, felt that I could perhaps combine the two.

I have a lovely frame made from recycled wood and my husband used a small offcut of mahogany to make an inner frame. Immediately, I could envisage a painting of a barn owl in it, knowing that the colours would work together wonderfully. Scouring the many, many sketches and drawings of perched barn owls (anyone who knows me will be able to imagine just how many that is, as barn owls are one of my favourites), I redrew four as line drawings to see which would best fit into the proportions of the frame. My feeling is far left or second from the left (see below) although I do love the gangly, sticky-out legs on the other two. Hoping to get on with it over the New Year break.

Recycled frame (although I will obviously be using it portrait fashion, rather than landscape as it is shown).

Some while ago, I drew some portrait sketches of my little "under gardener", a tame robin that accompanies me in my gardening pursuits. He has such an enquiring and bright face which I tried to capture in the sketches. Before committing to painting him, I had a bit of a practice run, trying out some colours and technique. The brown and blue grey on robins is very specifi , with subtle hints of other colours and I really wanted to get it just right.

Colour trials and notes for the robin (bottom and left), kingfishers (bottom and right) and puffins (top) - great fun! Practice run for the robin portraits.

Art of another kind - a shared afternoon carving a pumpkin - joy!

In November, I tutored Upper Deeside Art Society for a weekend workshop on painting sea, rivers, lochs and boats at Aboyne. Fifteen very enthusiastic particpants took part and we covered a lot in the two days. On the Sunday, not only had they learned a lot of techniques, hints and tips, but were applying them to some wonderful paintings. Well done to everyone who attended - I had a lot of fun with you all.

My ongoing classes will re-start after the New Year hols. Presently, I am every second Tuesday in Insch, Wednesday afternoon/evening, Thursday morning and Thursday afternoon at Touched by Scotland and am doing a block for Tarland Art Group - phew! They are all a great bunch of people and we always have a bit of a laugh (usually at my expense!) as well as learning and producing art.

Also in November and December I gave quite a number of talks, so I am enjoying having a bit of a break at the moment.

Before we moved house, walking down the garden one day, I rounded the corner and nearly fell over a fox laid flat out on the grass in the sunshine, his chin flat on the ground in front of him. Apart from staring at me through slits of golden eyes, he did not react. I slowly backed up, but continued to watch him as I worked in the studio. He dozed and every time the sun moved he followed it. As dusk approached he stood up, stretched and trotted off into the wood. I could see then that he was an old dude, slightly wobbly on his feet, a bit scruffy, exremely boney and with a rather tatty tail, but his face still had that foxy beauty. He reappeared every day for the next four days and slept under the piles of tree clippings in the woo at night.. I tried leaving water and food out for him, but all he wanted to do was lie around in the sunshine. Sadly, on the fifth day after he did not move with the sun, I went out to find him curled up but lifeless. He actaully looked comfortable, but I was very upset. However, as my husband said, "He certainly knew the right place to come for the last few days of his life - a sunny, peaceful walled garden, where he could rest undisturbed among the herbaceous borders with no-one to harm him and you to look out for him". True enough, I suppose!

Couldn't resist drawing a sketch of him from my studio window as he lay in the sunshine, half on the lawn and half in the borders. Maybe I'll paint him one day?

 

February - August 2015

Where do I begin? With an apology to all followers of my website for a start I think. The first half of this year has been frantically busy. After a long, rollercoaster journey of ups and downs, we have finally moved home. Ridiculously, it may seem, we have only moved five miles, but to a totally different type and location of house .My studio is, at last, organised and functioning and things are slowly getting back to normal. New teelphone number for home and studio is 01464 851209. Email will remain the same.

I have also had a period of being unwell for six or seven weeks (including a spell in hospital and no conclusion to what is the cause) so my work output has been somewhat limited.Updates on my work, from now on, should be more frequent.

A few of my new originals will be at the new exhibition at Country Frames Gallery, Leslie. Check out their website for dates and further details.

There is a lot to catch up on though, so here goes.....

Two new greetings cards based on my two most recent acrylic paintings are now available "On Silent Wings" featuring barn owls and "Goldfinches and Japanese Anemone Seeedheads" ( see below). Check out the "Greetings Cards" page for further details.Also, for those of you who have been asking, the five cards that had run out of stock have now been reprinted and are available again.

Art wise, I rushed to get work completed before we moved, knowing that I would not have a working studio for quite a while.

Having completed and almost immediately sold my recycled wood framed triptych featuring puffins, I decided to do another in the same format. This time, I again picked images from my Lunga sketchbook, pairing up the "coy" looks that sometimes pass between the puffins when they are re-establishing their pair bonds. I have entitled it "Puffin..... First Dates". I have a passion for puffins (just in case there is someone out there that I haven't told already!!). I have a real notion to paint quite a large puffin painting with a group of them in the lovely light that you get on the west coast of Scotland (when the sun shines - remember that?).

"Puffin Courtship.... First Dates"

We are lucky enough here in the North East to have a huge mainland gannet colony on the Moray coast at Troup Head. In the early morning the bright light reflects off the sea and as they sit on the ledges and preeen, they make some beautiful shapes with fresh, pale blue shadows. Last year I spent some time sketching these and decided to use some of the postures to create another triptych but portrait rather than landscape format. Like the puffins, painted it in watercolour on Moulin du Roy paper which I really like for the semi-controlled edges you can create and the effects of the texture of the paper

The page of sketches

...and the completed "Gannets Preening" which sold at Touched by Scotland's spring exhibition.

I have a very tame robin who is my "under gardener", following me around when I am pottering about and nipping in to pick up anything that I turn over in the soil. He has such a lovely little bright-eyed face and is always tilting his head to get a closer look. I have done a few portrait sketches of him, and now have decided to immortalise him in three small watercolour paintings. I want to capture his character without getting too carried away with detail - outline drawing below and I hope to get the watrecolours done soon.

A moment in time - a chance sighting of a male yellowhammer singing from the top of a hawthorn bush in full bloom just at the very moment that a male reed bunting came and perched briefly just below it. Against the flawless blue sky they looked fantastic and I have been mentally working up a watercolour of the picture that is seared on my mind.

The drawing below is the first step towards a painting. It may be difficult to make out as I always draw with an H or 2H pencil, very lightly, so that there is no loose graphite to muddy the colours of the paint and so the colours remain fresh and pure.

In typical Milloy fashion, although we were moving only two weeks later we decied to go to Mull for a week - what were we thinking?? However, as usual our time there was wonderful and although the weather was a bit mixed and a lot cooler than normal, ther were still some outstanding wildlife encounters. No matter that I have been watching wildlife in Scotland all of my life, there are still new experiences to have, new behaviour to witness and delightful, surprising glimpses into the lives of the natural world and its inhabitants.

One day in particular, it was a "dreich" day as we call it in Scotland - damp, misty and with constant drizzly rain that seems to manage to get through any amount of waterproof clothing. Any views of the hills were obscured by low cloud and we were driving back over the moor when, through the rain streaked windows I spotted a male kestrel hung in the airby the roadside over and outcrop of rock and heath. I never tire of watching these little "windhovers". Just as we halted, it dropped suddenly to the ground out of view, rising almost immediately and I could not beleive my eyes when I saw what it had caught. There dangling from its talons was a large adder. I could not help but admire the samll bird's prowess, as it continued, in the face of buffeting wind and rain, to hover steadily, whilst dealing with the thrashing snake. The reptile tied itself in knots, wrapping its body around the bird's legs but luckily the kestrel was gripping it just behind the head, so it could not bite. While still hovering, it bent it head down and bit at the snake's head - it took quite an effort before the snakewent limp and the kestrel flew off with it. I did not envy the chick that was to have that large snake as a meal. I could imagine it saying "Hey, what's thius? What happened to nice, meaty voles and tasty birds?"

I have never before seen a kestrel take a snake - a case of being in the right place at exactly the right moment, so will probably never see it again. I tried to snap some quick photos before it flew off, but they were pretty poor as the settings were wrong and I had no time to change them and with the added poor visibility, the only word for the photos was "atrocious" and I would not normally allow them out in public, but I thought it was worth showing you as it lets you see the scale of the snake and a flavour of the "battle".

 

We did have some lovely sunny days and during one of these we were crossing a very picturesque hump-backed stone bridge over a river, just where it joins the sea loch, when we spotted tow adult and one young red deer standing on the bank. They fitted the scene perfectly, landscape aglow in the sunshine with rich orange-yellow and purple-chocolate seaweedy edges to the river, , lichen-laden silver rocks, clear, peaty water the colour of malt whisky, bright broom and gorse and the fresh limey green of newly emerged leaves. It looked like a scene from one of those classic "Higland" landscapes by De Breanski or Landseer, so beloved of the Victorians - paintings loaded with rich ambers. golds, lilacs and reds and always with the obligatory mountains, highland tumbling burns, reflections, bracken, heather and rugged Highland cattle or red deer. Now here it all was in reality, right in front of us. What was to follow was even more the iconic "Highland " scene. The threee deer began to wade across the river, the adults leading the way, the water halfway up their sides, strands of ochre seaweed trailing along with them. The young deer followed on but being much smaller had to actually swim across, struggling against the force of the outgoing tide. Joining the others they shook out their coats like dogs, before trotting off along the bank. What a wonderful scene!

One of the great joys of a new garden (and I have nearly an acre now), is that, as the season progresses, it is like a magician's trick - you don't know what is going to happen next or where anything will appear.There is s small stone raised bed and within it is a mound of hebe, with glaucous silver-green foliage and a mass of fat, cone shaped clusters of tiny white flowers. It is a a lovely place to sot with a cup of tea as it is a magnet for insects. The dome of lfowers attracts lots of bumble and honey bees, hoverflies and red admiral, small tortoiseshell, small white and a few painted lady butterflies. To my delight, right next to it is a clump of common spotted orchids - I have always wanted these in my garden so to say I am pleased would be a bit of an understatement! With nearby lavender, foxgloves and chives flowering the whole patch is a veritable bee buffet.I cannot wait to see what else will appear.

December 2014

Literally just this minute, finished a watercolour triptych of puffins, entitled "Puffin Conversations...sweet nothings...a joke...gossip". I am in pure puffin mode at the moment as I have been leafing through my Isle of Lunga sketchbooks. Some of the head sketches appealled to me - pairing them up to create imaginary "conversations" - juat a bit of fun really. See below for some of the sketches. The frames are recycled wood - I love that worn, slightly bleached out look!

"Puffin Conversations...................

...............sweet nothings..............

...................a joke.....................

.....................gossip..............."

Happy Christmas to everyone and may 2015 be good to you all!

December was a bit frantic for me with lots of teaching of classes, workshops and commissions to complete in time for Christmas. On the weekend of 13 & 14 December I returned to Upper Deeside Art Society to tutor a workshop on acrylics. The fifteen participants produced some lovely work and really got to grips with the techniques. A good time was had by all!

Some photographs of the workshop

Over the festive period I am hoping to have a bit of time to do some painting for myself and to get out and about. I have already had a few walks during the crisp, sunny days we have had just after Christmas and there is a lot of wildlife about.We are lucky enough to live on the main flyway for the geese betweent heir roosting and feeding grounds and so can watch them flying over every morning and evening in their hundreds.On the sunny, bright, frosty mornings of late, the passed over on wings burnished by the rising sun to a gleaming rose gold - absolkutely gorgeous! Sometimes, they are so high that they appear like wisps and curls of smoke and other times are so low that you can see the detail of beaks, and heads.The variety of patterns they make with their wagging scarves "v" formations is astonsihing.

High fliers......

...and those a little lower.

The fields around us are full of flocks of foraging fieldfares and redwings just now, as well as lots of mixed flocks of smaller finches, buntings and tits. There are noticeably many more yellowhammers than in previous years which is good news. When I saw a flock of them perched in some dogrose bushes that still held onto some scarlet rosehips, with the sun making their sulphur yellow almost luminous they were like Christmas baubles.

Some yellowhammer rough sketches

Fieldfare sketches - lovely birds!

Using another of my recyled wood triptych frames, this time rectangular rather than square, I am painting a group of puffin paintings called "Puffin Conversations" once again using my sketchbooks from Lunga as inspiration. Below are some ideas that I am considering, pairing up different head postures to make "conversations". I hope to finish them over the next few weeks.

October 2014

IDEA FOR AN INDIVIDUAL AND UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS GIFT!

I now have gift vouchers available for individual, one-to-one tutoring. One or two people can be accommodated in my studio (see below) and for numbers of three or more arrangements can be made for the tutoring to take place at the studio at Touched by Scotland, Oyne. In Spring and Summer the tutoring can be in an outside venue (weather permitting!). If you live out of my area, the alternative is for me to come to you at a location or venue of your choice.

Vouchers are available for two hour, half day or full day. Why not treat an arty friend or get together with a few friends for a fun day to further your art? I can adapt the time to suit everyone from absolute beginners to the more advanced.

For further information and costs please either email me on milloy@btinternet.com or tel 01467 681398

My studio where I tutor individuals.

Tutoring at Upper Deeside Art Society - group tutoring of a weekend workshop which I still love doing.

Outside painting in summer

Using another of my recycled wood, triptych frames I have painted three kingfisher studies in acrylic. In bright, clear, days, I love the backlit "halo" effect that you get around the birds when the sun reflects off the water. This bird was a female (note the orange lower mandible of the beak).

July to September 2014

A commission to paint three white tailed eagles for a 70th birthday is now complete. After discussions to get a feel for what the client wanted, I worked up some compositional sketches and after a bit of "tweaking" we settled on a final approximate composition.

A few of the possible composition choices and a rough colour sketch.

The various stages of painting and the final completed acrylic of white tailed eagles.

I have also completed my newest acrylic of barn owls. We visit Norfolk regularly and often see barn owls hunting in the late afternoon and into the evening.. One evening in particular, I watched two birds floating over the reedbeds. It was a breezy and the reeds rippled like waves below the birds. I just knew that I would have to capture it all in a painting.

Washes being layered up

The completed painting - can you spot the third little barn owl in the distance?

I had a trio of small frames made from recycled wood and decided to paint three small watercolours of puffins based on my experiences on Mull in May. At the time that I visited, the puffins were in the process of refurbishing their burrows and as one bird of the pair was down in the burrow working away, the other was perched above the burrow entrance leaning forward and peeping in to see what was going on. They created some lovely shapes and so I drew out three different postures from my sketchbooks and the result is below.

The little watercolours - size of the actual image is 4 inches square.

We have had a lovely couple of months with another ten days in Mull where the weather was incredibly kind to us and the otters fabulously co-operative (see more about that below), and a couple of great weddings, where dancing the night away was the order of the day. Most of you who know me will be used to seeing me scruffy, soaked through, covered in mud (or in worst case scenarios, bird poo!), lying on seaweed covered rocks and at times even smelling a bit dubious, and don't even get me started on how my hair normally looks! Just to prove that, just occasionally, I can scrub up, here is a family photo - me and my three boys!

Outside painting days are always great fun and if the weather is kind, the day can be wonderful. I was asked this month if I would be prepared to do a watercolour tutoring day at Leith Hall gardens. She wanted to give them this day as a thank you for their help and kindness towards her during her university studies. She also joined us and the four of us had a fabulous day - the sun shone, the watercolour flowed and the al fresco lunch was pretty good too - thanks for that Lizzie! Below are some photographs of them at work.

Lizzie painting the flower borders and Jackie trying to capture the magical moon gate at the top of the garden

John mastering the art of mixing greens.

We visited the Isle of Mull again in September. Once again, we were really lucky with the weather and, by rising early, I was lucky enough to be able to watch a female otter and two large cubs every day for three or four hours. On a couple of morning the water was like a mirror and so I was able to get some great views and also to hear the sound of their breaths as they dived and surfaced repeatedly, and the squeaks and whistles of them as they called to one another. I liked this photo of one of them sticking its tongue out at me (actually it was licking its lips after consuming a large fish). Next to it is the best otter portrait I have taken - EVER! Pretty good even if I say so myself! It's only taken me about thirty five years to get it!!

Very early morning on Mull's stunning coastline.

Their are lots of young birds and animals about in May and June and I watched a family of little grebes on the small loch in Drumtochty Glen. What an entertaining half hour or so it was as the adults dived and brought up titbits for the young chicks who never strayed far, bobbing around on the surface, just bundles of down sitting on the water.I couldn't resist sketching the tender moment when the adult gently proffered the food to one of the young. All together now - "Aaaaaaaw".

In July we visited Cornwall, my first time there. It was very hot and sunny and some great wildlife experiences. We walked along the towpath of the Bude Canal one day and stopping to look over a small bridge, a flash of the most stunning neon blue against the muddy beige of the water caught my eye. This was one of the creatures that I had really been hoping to see, one with a title that does not even come close to describing its stunning glamour, the beautiful demoiselle. That is its name, not a description - it is actually called "the beautiful demoiselle" - isn't that just fantastic? It is a striking iridescent blue and green with much richer, darker blue wings. The female is metallic shiny bronze-green with coppery wings. It is a large damselfly with a very fluutery flight, more like a butterfly - on the wing they they flicker and gleam as they "dance" over the water. Seen up close, the viens on the wings catch the light and appear a bright electric blue - a delicate tracery of lines, colours and iridescence to defy any artist's brush. I was totally mesmerised and got very hot and bothered pursuing them up and down a small stretch of the canal, trying to get a good look at them and to capture them with my camera. I had to drag myself away.

My firat glimpse of the beautiful demoiselle

A closer view of a male and female - just look at that unbelievable blue.

Later on in the holiday, I found a small, shallow overgrown stream and, in a patch of sunlight, I spent the best part of an afternoon, in swelteringly humid, thirty degree heat watching their close relative, the banded demoiselle. Slightly smaller than the beautiful demoiselles, they have a band of royal blue across their wings and the same eye catching metaalic bodies.The personification of fairies (with slightly less pretty faces!) they flitted around the same stretch of stream for hours, perching on the patches of gently floating water crowfoot, males fighting over females and linked pairs laying eggs among the plants in the shallow water.

Once or twice, a huge coppery coloured dragonfly sped past me on rattling wings - it seemed enormous and almost clumsy compared to the delicate damselflies.

Banded demoiselle

While in Cornwall, we took a walk along the Bude Canal. Canals, by their very nature, create good homes for plants, insects, birds and animals. The banks of the canal were thick with plants, the fleshy, lime green spears of iris leaves, stiff, upright bullrushes, tall pyramids of purple loosestrife, drooping heads of purple and blue comfrey flowers, saucer-like, white heads of valerian, providing perfect landing pads for the insects, cowparsley covered in bright orange and black, slim soldier beetles, each bloom hosting up to eleven beetles. From the large areas of reedbeds, chiff chaffs, reed and sedge warblers sang, perched on the stems. The water was full of little families of mallards, the unbelievably pretty ducklings obendiently following mum.

Around the weir, where the canal and river met, I spotted a brown, furry shape paddling furiously across the water towards a clump of iris. It was only a brief glimpse, but I knew it was a water vole. Later on I was to meet and chat to a man who involved with the introduction of these fabulous, furry, beasties (the original, if mis-named "Ratty" in "Wind in the Willows") to the canal. Further along, from another bridge, Another hurriedly crossed the water right below me his black, beady eyes shining in the sun, tail trailing behind and I could even see his tiny, pink, back feet working like crazy to porpel him across as quickly as possible - with good reason too, as a nearby fishing heron would see him as a snack.

"Ratty" crossing the canal.

One sunny and wonderfully breezy afternoon, we visited West Pentire peninsula, where the fields on the headland are managed for "arable weeds". I had seen the photographs of these fields here, but I did not imagine that they could live up to them. However, I was greeted with acres of poppies (three different kinds no less - common, rough and long headed), brilliant, egg-yolk yellow corn marigolds, purple tufted vetch, fat heads of white campion, bacon and egg colours of bird's foot trefoil, electric blue, starry, bee borage flowers, brambles, thistles, the list went on and on. It was stupendous! I felt that I had stepped back in time. In one field, tall, slender stems of a pale, silvery green grass moved, as the breeze made the dainty, dangling seedheads nod gently. It gave the whole field a magical "haze".

The "weeds" were host to a multitude of insects, including masses of butterflies: meadow browns, wall, small coppers, lots of whites, tortoiseshells, skippers and red admirals. Six spot burnet moths flew away on a crimson blur of wings and the drowsy hum of bees came on waves on the breeze and larksong poured down. It was absolute bliss to walk through.

May 2014

May is Mull month for me and I had been looking forward to our trip there since the beginning of the year. I make absolutely no apologies for devoting all of this month's diary to my adventures there.

We were very lucky as, apart from a few torrential, but short-lived, thundery downpours, we had glorious weather.I rise at 5am (sometimes earlier) when we are in Mull. I adore the early mornings along the coast, with nothing but the natural sounds, the sparkling sea and who could say that it is not worth a yawning start to witness such a beautiful sunrise as the one below. I always promise myself that I will go to bed early to make up for these early rises, but somehow, there always seems to be something to take up my attention in the evenings too and so I end up burning the candle at both ends. Again, with sunsets such as this one below to wonder at, who can sleep? Surprisingly (or maybe not!), I feel I have lots of energy and can sustain it, apart from an odd day when I suddenly get overwhelmed with weariness and my body decides to send me to sleep in the middle of the day whether I want it or not!

A delicate, silver, lilac and peach sunrise and a raging purple and orange sunset.

This is typical posture for me on Mull, either scanning the skies and crags or searching the shorelines, whether through binoculars, telescope or camera. Every dot in the sky may be an eagle, every small movement among the seaweed an otter, a dark shape on the sea's surface can be a dolphin, seal or porpoise, a flicker in the trees or bushes may reveal a stonechat, redpoll, warbler or pipit. I find myself on high alert all the time - it is simply wonderful!

In Glen More, watching golden eagles.

On the coast, searching the skerries in Loch Beg for otters, and also watching herons, Canada geese, divers and virtually anything else I can find. My husband calls the last photo my "Ooo, a harrier" picture as, while trying to photograph an otter, I caught in my periphery vision, a lovely male hen harrier hunting over the rough ground and did a quick swivel on the spot to photograph it too.

Being the "otteraholic" that I am, I was always on the hunt for them. My "crack of sparrows" walks were often fruitful, and these tonal sketches show how the low morning light really shows up the form of this dog otter, as he had a bit of a spruce up among the seaweedy rocks. It was a particularly still morning, which was lovely to look at and created these great ripples and reflections on the water as the otter swam in. However, it did mean that the midges were out in force and a great many of them seemed intent on spending the whole of their short lives in the gap between my eyes and the eyepiece of the binoculars. . No matter how much repellent I apply, they will always find that one sesitive little bit of skin that is free of it. Midge torture apart, I spent a happy three hours or so following this individual along the rocky shore as he fished in the peace of the early daylight.

I love the fact that by watching any creature regularly and over a period of time, you can see new behaviour all the time and get to know a bit more about their daily lives. Several times I caught an otter leaving the water to hole up somewhere on shore for a while and it was interesting to see how its posture changed as it came up the shore. Above you can see a couple of photos that demonstrate this. The quality of the photos is pretty poor as it was an opportunistic couple of pictures - I only had a moment to take them and no time to change my position, so they were taken into the bright, low sun.

The first one shows the otter as it first leaves the water, making its way across the stones on the beach following the water of a small burn. Slinking out of the water, not even taking the time to shake the moisture off its coat, it kept low, body almost scraping the ground, head and tail even lower, covering the distance to the grass quickly. On reaching the grassy area, its behaviour immediately changed and instead of creeping low, it rose up onto its legs, head up and started galloping in a series of big bounds, speedily covering the grass in four or so such bounds, before, with one final arching leap, it disappeared into the bracken and irises. It was over in a flash but what an exciting moment.

Two cubs, one fish and a lot of aggro!

As I said, I often found myself exhausted by the evening, but one night as I was about to succumb to the call of my duvet, a last look out of the window revealed three otters swimming purposefully across the bay. Tiredness forgotten, I grabbed my binoculars and with a hurried "I won't be long" to my husband (which of course he did not believe), I sprinted out. My husband says I am like a cat, watching for any movement and unable to resist pursuing it. From their demeanour and having watched this particular female and her two well-grown cubs, I had an idea where they might be heading. There then followed, from me, a scramble and stumble across the slippy rocks and the sodden ground between, in an attempt to get to the spot and into position before them. I just made it, panting and breathless and trying to keep as quiet as possible.

Sure enough, the three otters were soon fishing among the seaweed and just beyond it. It was fabulous to watch and while I was standing there I noticed a young girl approaching and so signalled to her to make her aware of the otters. She sneaked along towards me and soon we were both enjoying watching them. In a whisper, she told me that her father and twin sister were further along the shore. Soon, by careful approach, they too joined us and the all seemed totally captivated by the otters. The girls were fantastic, staying still and quiet - well done to them - but none of us was to know that the best was to yet to come.

Suddenly, we heard an angry sounding chatering and muttering. Looking out to the open water just beyond the seaweed, we could not believe what we were seeing. Powering towards us through the water were the two young otters with an absolutely huge fish between them - and I literally mean between them. One had hold of the tail and one the head, like two dogs with the same stick. Both were clearly unhappy about this, and as they reached the shallows a fight ensued, the two of them thrashing around, seaweed and water flying in all directions. The noise was amazing- a mix of squealing, whistling and chattering and it sounded like they really meant it! One got the advantage and with a struggle hauled the fish up onto the rocks, but soon they were rolling around on the rocks, still disputing ownership. The female then came out of the water and in no uncertain terms, started scolding them and shoving them around with her head. One cub took the opportunity to snatch the fish and haul it further up onto the rocks and the other cub, admitting defeat, went fishing with Mum.

I could not believe that this cub would be able to eat the entire enormous fish, but it did, and we were so close that we could hear the crunching and the ripping of the fish's skin. A couple of times the two others returned, but it made sure that it let them know that it was not in the mood for sharing. It was a wonderful insight into a private moment in the lives of the otter family. The cubs were nearing independence and this attitude of "you may be my brother, but this is MY fish" will be what is needed to survive when they are on their own.

We watched until ithe light was so poor that we could barely see them and when all three swam out into open water and dived, we took the opportunity to move off and leave them to their night's fishing. On the way back, my fatigue retuned and I suddenly realized that in my haste to leave I hadn't even grabbed a jacket and so was now shivering. Teeth chattering, midge bitten and weary I crept quietly into bed just before midnight, but was so excited by my experience I could not sleep. Four hours later I was up again and watching a dog otter in almost exactly the same spot.

The coastline of Mull is varied and always interesting. At Croggan these wonderful trees line the shore and further along among the many wildflowers of the machair, I found these orchids, the identification of which I was uncertain about. According to my orchid book they are heath spotted, but almost white and without the usual spots.

Wheatears are quite numerous along the grassy and rocky areas and this young one, on the shores of Loch Na Keal, was perched on a drystane wall, with the parents nearby. Sitting there for a while, I realized that I could see three different birds (wheatear, stonechat and redstart), all of which I could draw with just three coloured pencils - black, reddish ginger and soft grey.Their shape, where the colours were and the habitat they were in distinguished them from each other. The redstart was among the branches of the oak trees, the stonechat on the tips of the bracken and perched on the low fence and the wheatear on the rocks and cowpat laden short grass of the shoreline. Below you will see the resultant page of sketches..

Three bird species, three coloured pencils!

At Grasspoint, curiousity got the better of a mink as it kept popping up from between the stones on the old pier to have yet another look at us. Mixed feelings - a lovely looking agile creature with fabulous glossy fur, but not good news for the ground nesting birds in the area.

Low across the water, herons flew in pursuit of one another - just absolutely had to sketch the great shapes their big wings make in the air, with long legs dangling and necks folded back - pterodactyl-like, I almost expect to see a dinosuar walking past.

We were lucky enough to witness a bit of a battle between two pairs of white tailed eagles - it happened right over our heads with the large birds barrell-rolling and swooping and issuing forth with those loud calls all the time. Two seagulls (birds that are always up for a bit of a scrap) and a buzzard also joined in the fray.I suspected that it was a territorial dispute as evnetually one pair flew off across the bay to the mainland and the other two remaining soaring triumphantly in circles above us before heading off together in the oppossite direction. Speaking to the local RSPB officer about it, we agreed that territory was at the bottom of it. To qoute that much over-used phrase, another "once in a lifetime" experience - Mull always delivers!

During the battle, which lasted nearly fifteen minutes, I had no time to sketch the birds, but above are some sketches that I did throught my stay of birds in other areas.

Wildlife can turn up when you least expect it. Mull has mountain hares but no brown hares, and there are areas on the coast where you can see them out among the short grass and seaweed on the shoreline. They are very reddish in colour and almost the same colour as some of the seaweed, so difficult to spot sometimes. This one however, was sitting inside the foundations of a new house being built inland. The photo above was taken after it had jumped out and was heading towards a bit of wood.

No excuses for my next favourite creature - the wonderfully endearing puffin! As usual, I took a trip with Turus Mara to Lunga, one of the Treshnish Isles where you can get an overdose of puffin therapy. The birds were still nest building, tugging large beakfuls of grass and weeds to take into their burrows.

A coy look and peeping out from among the weeds surrounding one burrow

Collecting nesting material and one mucky puffin after a disagreement with another bird when it tried to muscle in on another pair's burrow. As they rolled over and over down the slope, beaks locked, they finally landed in the gloopy mud on the path. What a sorry-looking state!

Dressed for a blustery boat trip and crawling about on my hands and knees on Lunga. Thanks for the pic Willow!

 

If you are on Mull and you are intersted in gardening, you really must visit the stupendous and inspiring garden, Lip Na Cloiche. The garden is open dawn until dusk all through the summer and the owner is a true "passionate" gardener, most welcoming and knowledgeable. It is built on a steep slope and is full of wonderful plants, some exotic and so unexpected, like the echiums above, towering high into the Mull sky - just have a look at my friend on the bottom left of the picture to get an idea of the scale. The thousands of tiny flowers were alive with bees.Be warned - there are also lots of irresistable plants for sale! Needless to say, I came home with quite a few.

Good to come home to my own garden. It has been a great spring for the rhododendrons and it was nice to see that I hadn't missed this one blooming - what a joy.

As you can guess, not much actual painting done this month, but heaps of inspiration and lots of sketches to act as a springboard for future paintings.

 

April 2014

OK! OK! the nagging has worked. At last, I have eventually got around to updating the website. The weeks just slip through my fingers at the moment.

I have completed my painting of goldfinches with Japanese anemone seedheads in acrylic. If you wish to see the original, it is on view at Country Frames Gallery at Leslie, along with the two sizes of limited edition prints that I have taken from it.Check out the "Originals" and "Limited Edition Prints" pages on this website for details of sizes and prices.

The opening of Country Frames Spring Exhibition is on Sunday 27th April and I will be there chatting and working on my latest paintings if you fancy coming along. It is usually a fun, relaxed afternoon.You will also "be able to see first hand my new mini-originals" (see below).

Early stages of the painting as it starts to build up

The completed acrylic painting - they are just the most glorious of birds, particularly when you see them in flight.

Spring is springing with gusto. In March, the sunshine opened the crocus blooms wide and the honeybees were busy about their golden centres. Lots of bumblebees about too - I love their gentle humming as they fly around and the muffled buzzing, when they get deep inside a blossom.

Nature is a pretty good artist herself and one day arriving home in the late afternoon, the sun coming through the brances of the horse chestnus was casting a pattern of shadows on the gable end of our house. The closer branches were in sharp focus and those further away were softer and paler. It was so striking that I wanted to rush and get a ladder, climb up there and paint over the shapes so that it would be there forever. Of course it was moving all the time and within ten minutes it was almost gone - of course that is the reason I didn't get the ladder! I did take a photograph but it does not do the subtle nuances of tone and line justice.

Due to many requests, I have tried a couple of very small original paintings. So many people have said to me that they would like "a little tiny one of puffins" that I thought I would give it a go.

Tiny puffins - square one just 9cm square (16 cm in a silver frame) and trio 10 x 20cm (16 x 26cm in pale wood frame) both in acrylic.

Stylized Emperor penguins in watercolour - I just couldn't resist those fabulous shapes and the patterns of colours, although I have used a bit of artistic licence with the colours - perrogative of us creative types! Size is 11 x 18cm (18 x 25cm in a gold brushed frame)

Every so often my rummaging in the studio (my version of tidying up - I do tend to get sidetracked easily!), I come across a half finished painting that, for one reason or another, I have abandoned. Sometimes, just seeing it again can make something pop immediately into my mind and I feel the need to rescue it. Just recently, I found quite a large painting that I had begun about five years ago. It was based on some sketches that I did at Huntly Peregrine Wildwatch, sadly now closed. There were sketches of the perched birds, of the rockface and its great range of colours, an old bleached tree root that was one of the birds' favourite perches. All of this was backed by some deep dark conifers. Below you can see it as it stands at the moment and I want to build up the rock colours and shapes and get the detail painted in watercolour and perhaps a little bit of ink? on the pair of peregrines. It is a fairly large painting, so should be quite imposing when it is completed.

Sketches of the perched peregrine and the first stage of the watercolour painting getting the deep shadows of the pine woods in (the blue areas are masking fluid).

Masking fluid removed and pine painted in, washed laid on rocks and birds

Close up of the peregrine postures. This particular year the female of the pair (on the right) was a young bird, and still had some brown to her back feathers, whereas the male was a lovely steely grey with a gleaming mother of pearl white chest.

The acrylic painting of barn owls flying over reeds has progressed a bit, but not as much as I would have liked as the garden has been calling me on the spring days. The garden is now looking lovely as all the winter debris has been cleared (I never clear away the old foliage and stems as I think that it protects the plants from the worst of the winter weather, gives shelter to lots of "beasties" and provides the birds with lots of seedheads to feed on and leaf litter to turn over for food). Now I will be able to get on with the barn owls. So far, all I have managed is a few initial washes to give a "flavour" of the colour scheme.

I have some intersting trips to look forward to including two weeks in glorious Mull (one of my favourite places EVER!) and a few weeks in Cornwall - a place I have never been before), so watch out for lots of new inspiration and ideas after these trips.

January 2014

Well, 2014 and a happy New Year to you all! May I wish you all you wish for yourself.

With no classes over the festive period, I had enough time to "play" little with some ideas that have been rolling around in the back of my mind for a little while now. I have a large flock of goldfinches in my garden and they are gloriously beautiful birds. I had been watching them feeding on the large seeheads of the alliums but I also remembered them picking the flufy seedheads of the Japanese anemones. I really wanted to paint the golfinches with either of these very ornamental seedheads, so I went back to some sketches I had of goldfinches in flight and added some quick sketches of the firework like allium seedheads and the memories of the long blown away anemone one, which curve into lovely shapes when they are ripening.

Some of the goldfinches, allium and anemone seeds sketches and shapes

Playing around with some compositional ideas. The one above is the one that I finally settled on.I have now drawn it out on a board and am looking forward to getting started - all those lovely colours and shapes. I can't wait.

Before Christmas, I did a page of quick pencil drawings of some waxwings. I would like to do a traditional style watercolour painting of a group of them in a tree with berries on bare branches all set against a wintery blue sky. I did a few "trial" watercolour sketches to try out the colours. Waxwings have the most wonderful variety of warm and cooler greys, with a ginger flush around the face and of course the vivid splashes of vermillion and bright yellow against black on the wings. With the addition of crests they really are quite the exotics.

The page of sketches

The try outs for colour washes - a bit of a challenge to keep them soft and not to get them muddy. I think I got better as I went from left to right. The birds that I had been watching were feeding in rowan trees with brilliant scarlet berries, I felt that they would dominate the painting too much and so I substituted them with some fabulous, slightly lilacy pink rowan berries that I was given by someone in one of my art groups when we were doing a class on painting autumn berries way back in October. I wanted to plant them and hope next year to have some seedlings.The colour was so fantastic it has remained imprinted on my brain - I knew that it would come in useful somewhere. I am not ready to begin on the painting yet. I need to get my head around the colours and then pick the postures and composition that I like.

I completed my large gannet painting and it was delivered in time for Christmas.I thought that you might like a bit of summer brought into your lives in the depths of winter, so I dug out some gannet drawings from my Troup Head sketchbook in June - sunshine on white birds, a taste of the summertime coast. Look at those fabulous shapes and as for those feet - surreal!

We have quite a number of magpies around our area at the moent and, as usual, when I watch them, my mind is working overtime, jiggling the shapes around, seeing potential paintings, trying work out how to mix all of the lovely iridescent purples, greens and blues of the feathers, as well, of course, as the enjoying the sheer and pure pleasure of just watching them.

The "in flight" sketches of the cavorting magpies resulted in putting some shapes together for future paintings. An unexpected and rare visitor to the bird feeders - a male blackcap, only around for a couple of days, but great to see with his soft colouring and mole-black cap.

While I was rummaging through the sketchbook, I thought you might like to see a few more excerpts - a drawing from Norfolk of a stone curlew (winner of the knobbly knees contest), a male goosander on the coast and a very quick, rough drawing, done with a felt tip pen of a rather smug looking seal in classic half moon pose - how can they manage to look so comfortable lying on a rough stone?

 

October 2013

Firstly, many thanks to all of you out there who came and supported me at my various events over the last few months. Here are a few photos from some of them.

As part of NEOS (North East Open Studios), I spent a weekend at Country Frames Gallery painting and talking to visitors. At this event I launched a new print alongside the original. This was a triptych that was inspired by watching and sketching oystercatchers flying around the coast of Mull in June. On the NEOS weekend, so many people showed an interest in buying the page of watercolour field sketches from the day on Mull, that I have now produced a very small limited run of prints of it. I do not like selling pages out of my sketchbooks as they are my resource material and looking back through them inspires me and also brings back the experience of the day when I painted them.

Painting and chatting - two of my favourite things!

The oystercatcher triptych in acrylic - very bold and striking and all about pattern and shape, just as it was on the day, with the birds flying around against a perfect blue sky.

The sketchbook page that created so much interest! See the "Limited Edition Prints" page for more information.

In October, I also tutored a workshop "All About Colour", for UDAS (Upper Deeside Art Society) in Aboyne. I love these two day workshops, as I have enough time to really get my teeth into the subject. Fifteen members attended and we had a wonderful weekend exploring all the different aspects of colour and its use in artwork. Ther were a few "lightbulb" moments of understanding, where I heard comments like "that's why my greens weren't working" or now I know what to do to keep my colours fresh". I was delighted with the work that they put in and at the end of Sunday, there wasn't a single "muddy" painting in sight - brilliant! A good time was had by all!

Happy artists!

Jane in full flow! and a slightly more serious moment of tuition.

I have also been having fun doing some tutoring at Tarland Art Group - we always have a good time and the home bakes with tea mid-morning are delicious! Of course, my three regular weekly art classes at Touched by Scotland, Oyne are still going strong - and I have to say thanks to Jane, Robin and all the staff there for making me so welcome. It is a lovely place to be!

I've completed my new acrylic kingfisher painting and the smaller one featuring two otters - see the "Originals" page for sizes, prices etc.

Thought that the next one should feature magpies. I have been watching them flying around in the autumn sunshine and the metallic oily colours of magenta petrol green and peacock blue are really beautiful. I did a quick sketch while it was in my mind and I will let you see it when I get time to scan it in.

We took a couple of weeks off in September and visited Norfolk and Suffolk. We struck it so lucky with a fortnight of beautiful sunshine and high temperatures (a bit too high at times - a day of walking in the open flat land of Lakenheath Fen, with no shade, in 31 degrees, felt like walking across the desert. However, the wildlife was more than worth the discomfort. At one point I had an osprey, a marsh harrier and a hobby all in the view through the binoculars at the same time. I was treated to a wonderful close up display of an osprey plunging twice for a fish in one of the pools and I have never seen so many butterflies and dragonflies all in one place. My husband is always amazed that I talk to everyone I meet. Well, I felt totally justified when a conversation led to someone telling me where to go on Lackford Lake for the best chance of a kingfisher. Several hours later, I left the hide having spent an exhilirating time watching a kingfisher fishing in a pond. Every time I see this bird, I am dazzled by its beauty and striking, almost luminous colours - I could watch them all day long and never tire of looking at them.

Attempts (not very successful) at capturing these high speed creatures with the camera

A bit easier - just draw them!

When in the hide, further discussions and chat led to me being told where to go to see "up to fifty" stone curlews. Now, this is a bird that we do not have in Scotland and I was delighted at the thought of seeing one, never mind fifty, but thought that it could not be that easy. However, I followed directions to the letter and there, exactly where they said they would be were these gloriously odd looking birds.

While there I also spent a great morning with a falconer, flying five different owls. This young white faced scops owl was my absolute favourite - I could have put it in my pocket and taken it home! A barrred owl, barn owls and eagle owl took up the rest of my morning. They were all in excellent condition and flew over a large area.

Some attempts at photographing diving ducks swimming underwater - I had to keep waiting until they got into a patch of sunlight. They were so fast and they were also stirring up a lot of sediment, so it was not any easy task. I loved the way that the ripples on the surface distorted the shapes, creating lovely abstracts.

October already and my squirelling instincts are taking over! It has been a great year for wild fruit and also for garden fruit and I cannot resist. Just look at these little gems. Who could walk past these gloriously coloured crab apples? I certainly couldn't, and have picked buckets of them from "Crab Apple Bob's" garden. On the same day, I visited an elder tree that had my name on it. The bright, red wine coloured stalks were hanging heavy with the sheer volume of tiny dark berries, each one a tiny package of claret juice, and walking past the banks of rosehip bushes, before I knew it I was picking them too.. Back at home, the kitchen was a-bubble with boiling jelly pans and dripping muslin bags as the distilled juices of the summer became gleaming jars of clear red jelly. The flavour is intense and absolutely delicious on warm toast!

 

July 2013

Well, here we are in July, more than halfway through the year and I am finally getting around to updating the website. Over the next few months, I will be developing a new website which will link from the opening page of this one. That way, this website will still be available for browsing, but there will be a new, more up to date one, which should hopefully be more organised and will have extra features such as short videos and a page specifically for photographs. Anyway, for now, I will continue to update this one. I have already added some updates to the Originals page - more to follow.

Pesky domestic matters overtook my life for a few months during the first half of the year, as we decided to put our house on the market and move, now that our family are independent and settled. This involved a lot of painting (walls not artwork!) and a huge amount of sorting out of clutter (mainly mine I have to admit - I am a "collector"). However, house on the market now, I am getting back to painting of a different kind.

With the house and garden looking like this, I think I have changed my mind about moving!!

A request for some sketches of godwits and lapwings resulted in the artwork below. The client had seen a page of puffin sketches that I had done whilst on the Isle of Lunga on the west coast. She wished the sketches to look like they had been taken straight out of the sketchbook. Funnily enough, that took quite a bit of work, but I loved re-visiting all of my photos and sketchbooks from both Scotland and Iceland, where there were godwits all over the place and they were very trusting. I am pleased with the final artwork and plan to do another page of sketches of terns as I came across loads of lovely sketches of them in lfight among my Iceland sketchbooks. They create such elegant shapes in the air - "swallows of the sea" - very appropriate!

Lapwings - The sketches on the left were the first attempt at a composition, but the client preferred to replace some of the individual sketches with other postures. In the right hand completed sketches, you can see the changes that were made.

 

Godwits - The completed sketches.

The client who bought these sketches also bought the very large heron sketches (see originals page) and she has kindly allowed me to show you this photo of them "in situ" - don't they look well?

Herons in their new home.

A few new paintings are underway and should be completed soon. I am really getting back into the swing of these - I just love doing them, it is so engrossing and the paintings take on a life of their own, suggesting to me what I should do next (or in some cases what I shouldn't do - quick application of white to remedy that!).

"In Flight Catering", the first block in just to bring out the shapes of the flying puffins and the completed painting. Based on observation of the puffins coming and going with beakfuls of small fish and sandeels on Lunga. With the sunlight on them, their white bellies gleamed and their bright orange feet spread out as they put on their airbrakes. Lovely birds all round and who couldn't love a creature whose offspring are called "pufflings"?

Due to many requests, as the previous one sold as it was on its way to be framed and hung at the Knock Gallery on Deeside, I have begun another painting of koingfishers, this time with different poses although I have retained two images where you can see the back of one and where you can see the underside of the other, because both are equally beautiful, the one as lightning blue as the other is vibrant orange.

Also by popular demand, I have printed a limited edition run of "The Fishermen" (one of my first "wildlife expressionism" paintings of an otter and gannets) in a smaller size. Many people liked it, but commented that it was too big for their space. Your wish is my command - see the Limited Editions Page for prices and sizes.

With otters on my mind (and when are they not!) I decided to produce a small original of two otters called "Motion of the Ocean". Above you can see the first three stage of the painting. This should be complete and on the Originals page in a week or so.

I have resurrected a half finished painting of bee-eaters, based on some sketches and encounters with them in Majorca a few years ago. I have been working on it to try and reach completion, hopefully in the next week.

Mediterranean blue skies, palm fronds and flying jewels!

Mull Trip

As usual we had our 12 days on the Isle of Mull at the beginning of June. After a very cold, wet and windy spring which left all of the plants and trees in Scotland about five weeks behind in their development, we did not hold out much hope for the weather. However, just to prove us wrong, we had 12 days of wall-to-wall sunshine and blue skies. There was only one morning where it rained and the clouds gathered for a while, but this just made for a lovely sunrise and a glorious sunset.

Our one rainy morning (this was about 5am) and sunset.

When on Mull, I always rise very early about 4.30am - the best time of the day with peace and quiet, time to just walk and sit and think with no-one else around and of course it is a great time of the day for wildlife. Most mornings along the shoreline, I was accompanied by squadrons of oystercatchers, flying past at speed in loose formation, their loud, machine-gun calls shattering the still of the air. One morning I specifiaclly sat down to draw their wonderful shapes as the did their circuits. Ity is not easy, as there are so many other things to distract me, but below you can see a couple of pages out of my sketcvhbook.

Sketches done with an ink pen and an ornage coloured pencil - very quick, loose images, just to try and capture the movement, the relationship fo their shapes to one another and the pattern of black, white and gob-smacking orange.

On this page, I used indigo, cadmium orange and pthalo blue watercolour to try and show the lovely bright morning light and subtle blue grey shadows of the birds against an endless blue dome of sky. I was particularly taken with the shadows of the open beaks falling on the undersides of their wings - magic!

I was immediately strcuk by an idea as I watched them. I could see a painting of them as a triptych. Three panels with the birds flying across them, each panel with a different grouping of three or four birds, but the flow of movement continuing between the three. With this in mind, and before it got lost in the vast, but unclassified mess that is my memory, I quickly and roughly sketched some ideas down as a reminder. When I returned home, I couldn't decide what size to make them. My creative side was screaming " big, huge even" but my sensible side was saying "manageable" so I got my husband to cut me three acrylic boards that are big and three of a more usual size. I think that I will probably end up painting both sizes. My brain, once it gets a thought in there, swirls it around like a wine taster, looking at all the elements, and so I then started thinking that it might work well as a watercolour too. with a more delicate touch, so now that it three I have to paint! I knwo that I will not get bored though as there are so many great shapes and combinations. Watch this space!

VERY rough ideas for the triptych - needs some work, but lots of potential methinks.

One great advantage of the very delayed spring was that for once we caught the blubells on Mull at their peak. Normally, when we go they are just "going over" but this time huge, fragrant seas of them covered the floor of every wood and roadside verge and well up onto the open ground on the hills. I could not resist - a blubell wood in full glory is one of my favourite places to be. In the warm, still air the scent was so rich and powerful that you felt that you could cup it in your hands. After a while, it actaully makes me feel a bit heady, but in a nice way.Needless to say, I took lots of photographs - a few are below.

I can almost smell them again - lovely lime greens in the dappled light too. The whole flora of the island was truly spectacular this visit - just look at the iris on the shore here.

The island shores were also full of wader chicks, which have to be among the lovliest of young birds with their floffy specked bodies atop ridiculously long legs and huge feet. Through the binoculars I watched newly hatched oystercatchers stumbling among the boulders on the shore, accompanied by distinctly anxious parents watching over them as they tumbled down in between the rocks and triped over. Once, when walking, we disturbed a curlew acting very suspiciously, then I spotted the reason why - her two young chicks were close by in the long grass - this shot was taken as one climbed up onto a knoll momentarily before trotting off to disappear into the grass again. I moved on quickly to avoid disturbing them or drawing attention to them.

Watched over by mum.

I did not do any actual painting while on Mull, preferring to sketch and just to watch the wildlife, but I drew out and started to paint a couple of small acrylic landscapes before getting distracted buy a passing otter, that I hadn't even seen coming. Paints abandoned, in full otter-spotter mode, I never did get to complete them as, by the time I returned all the colours and shadows had changed. I intend to complete them at home from memory.

A sea view and Duart Castle.

I cannot believe that I have got this far down a Mull trip without mentioning otters (well apart from saying that they distracted me). They are of course one of the prime resons that I go to Mull and they are totally addictive - one of those rare creatures that is as fluid and elegant on land as it is underwater. My early morning walks found me both a large dog otter on its own and a female with two well-grown cubs, one of which seemed to often be further away from its mother and sibling and a bit closer to independence.

One morning, I watched the dog otter (coming home unaturally late from his nightly revellry) approach a holt. By this time, there were quite a few people and dogs around and not all of them were quiet. This seemed to unsettle him and he floated about just offshore for a while, slowly, almost imperceiptibly drifting closer towards the holt among the large rocks. I have to say that he was doing a great impersonation a a floating log! I looked around at the other people. Not one it seems had spotted him. Iwas close down on the shore away from the path and tucked up against a rock and I am sure that some of them didn't even see me. About 30 feet away from shore the otter suddenly dived and, doing that typical otter thing, totally vanished. I did not see him come to shore where he normally did at the base of the rocks - I suspect that, due to his apprehension he swam underwater up the burn a bit then worked his way back down through the gaps behind the rocks to his resting place.

Over the years, many friends have asked me for advice on otter watching particularly on Mull. The photograph below may help them understand why sometimes they are unsuccessful in their quest.

Why otters are hard to spot!

Back home, garden entertainment has been provided by a male great spotted woodpecker and his three young whom I christened "the peckerettes - sounds like a Motown backing group doesn't it?). They were just outside the studio window and were terrible time wasters, but highly amusing to watch.Below is a sketch that I did (in biro) of the male feeding one of the offspring.

 

Late winter saw us with a lot of snow and spring was cold, wet, windy and franky a bit depressing. There is always fun to be had in snow though and my son and little boy, knowing how much I love snow, phoned me up one day to ask "Would I like to come out and play?" We spent a happy, fun-filled five hours building an igloo, a snowman and a variety of other snowy creatures.

Who is the biggest kid and who has the rosiest cheeks? I got in so I must be able to get out!!

The deep snow also brought a roe deer female and her two young bucks from last year into our garden every night, where they proceeded to eat the ivy growing on the wall and up some trees. They totally stripped the leaves as far up as they could reach. They were fabulous to watch from the windows, but I was a bit less enamoured when I went out one morning to discover that they had started on my miniature rhododendrons and lovely azaleas. They also gave my rockery a haircut down to the snow level, but that is no bad thing. Luckily, the snow disappeared soon after and they stopped visiting Milloy's takeaway.

Caught in the act!

 

December 2012

Firstly, Happy Christmas to all of my friends, colleages and clients! I also hope that 2013 will be all that you wish for.

My first New Year resolution will be to keep the website updated more regularly! Having been re-watching Attenborough's Kingdom of Plants which was filmed at Kew Gardens in London, another of my resolutions is to visit it during the beginning of the year. Hopefully the new year will see progress with the new book illustration project that I am involved in

I have had some great workshops during 2012 and already have a few booked for 2013. At the beginning of January, watch out for a list of some themed painting days which I am organising for the beginning of the year.

Drawing skills workshop for Upper Deeside Art Society which took place in Aboyne during the summer.

During December I have completed a couple of paintings - firstly, a loose, watercolour portrait of a, frankly shocked-looking, guinea fowl, based on a drawing I did in November. As requested by the client, I attached a real guinea fowl feather and also stamped it with my own wax seal, which was given to me by a very close friend. It belonged to her mother who had the same initials as me - aren't some people wonderfully generous?

"Shock", the completed guinea fowl portrait.

Second one completed was another of my "wildlife expressionism" paintings for a lady who has almost as many of my paintings as some galleries. This was a nightime scene and we incorporated the view of the hill that she can see from her house into the centre of the painting plus her favourite animals, a fox, badger and barn owl, plus if you look carefully you will see a suggestion of a little pipistrelle bat too. You know how I like to hide some extras in my paintings!

The block in and the completed painting "Night Shift".

July - November 2012

Huge apologies to those of you who regularly read this diary. Life has got in the way over the summer and I have been so busy that it now needs a massive update. It will happen in stages over the next few weeks, so bear with me as I do it a little at a time!

EXHIBITION NEWS You can see my work at both Country Frames Gallery, Leslie, Touched by Scotland, Oyne between now and Christmas and Formartines now has a selection of my work in their restaurant and shop.

NEW CARDS! I have five new cards available (see below). Four are based on acrylic paintings completed in the last year and the fifth is a photograph of a young pine marten taken in some woodland fairly close to where I live - isn't that just the most adorable face?

"Snowy Midnight Hares" (spot the third hare!) and "Here be Dragons" (spot the six tadpoles!)

"Playing Tag" (dolphins) and "Bright Eyes" (young pine marten)

"Pursuit by Moonlight" (spot the barn owl!)

Also see the Limited Edition Prints page for my new prints.

I also started a new commission for a scene featuring some creatures of the night - an owl, badger and fox, and the client was so taken with the foxes painting above that she wants to incorporate a version of the dog fox in her painting. The other animals are based on some simplified shapes taken from drawings in my sketchbook. The rough compositional sketch is below, as are the drawings of the individual creatures. I am working hard to complete it before Christmas.

Sketch for the night-time painting

Some of the simplified drawings that were possibles for the composition

 

EXCITING NEWS!

I am in negotiations for a new book illustration project. It is a really interesting, large and ambitious one and although I cannot tell you very much about it at the moment as it is under wraps, suffice to say that it is right up my street and I cannot wait to get going on it. A lot of work is involved and it will probably be mid 2014 before it is complete. Watch this space!!

April - June 2012

April just flew past in a blur of work and soon it was May and I was off for a couple of weeks sailing off Turkey.

Turkey was a lovely country, with very friendly, helpful people and although I did not see many birds, the insect and marine life was fascinating. The seawater was beautifully clear (and lovely and warm for swimming) and so I could see down into quite a depth of water when we were anchored. The shallows supported masses of fish of different sizes, shapes and colours from tiny little milky white fry with two vertical black stripes, through those a few inches long, orange in colour with a maroon blue ridge along the top of their bodies, to, in the deeper parts, predator like barracudas, sea bass and bream and huge groupers. The shoals of smaller fish would suddenly erupt from the water all at once, leaping out in quicksilver flashes, desperately trying to escape a predator.

Guess what I spent a lot of time doing? Swim at dawn - magic!

Terrapins in the streams running into the sea, hauled out onto rocks and banks, baking themselves in the hot sun, yellow and green striped necks stretched upwards and eyes constantly watching for the slightest hint of danger, whereupon they would dive back into the water with a loud plop. Well out at sea, we came across their much bigger relative, the loggerhead turtle, swimming gently along near the surface. Everything they do seems to be in slow motion - even when he raised his head out of the water to have a good look at us as we sailed past, he did so slowly and steadily. His head was a mosaic of patterns of dark brown on yellow, set with dark sad eyes and an amazing beak-like mouth. These turtles have the most amazing patterns and colours, their shells sporting white barnacles, are full of oranges, golds, browns and greens and they are HUGE! We also saw one in a marina, swimming effortlessly and languidly between the boats.

Also out at sea, we had two brief encounters with what I think was a pilot whale, which lolled on the surface, waving a slim black fin at us for a moment or two before diving down again.

On shore, insect life was amazing and prolific. The ground was alive with everything scuttling, skittering, leaping and flying. I watched with interest bees with copper-kettle, shiny, abdomens and stainless steel bodies, visiting the flowers of the herbs. Incidentally, the honey bees here along the coast produce the most amazing tasting honey from the pine trees. Everywhere you walked in the dry dusty countryside, grasshoppers by the hundreds spring away from your footfall, some of them strongly patterned, with red back legs and measuring an inch and a half. Swallowtail butterflies flitted among the flowers but most interestingly, on several occasions we passed one of these lovely butterflies far out at sea, as it was blown past like a scrap of butter muslin, the sun shining through the sections of its lemon wings divided by black lines, making them almost luminous, like sunshine through stained glass.

I had my usual fabulous week in Mull at the end of May. This year short eared owls and hen harriers dominated and I had a fantastic spine tingling encounter with a pod of bottlenose dolphins. I am hoping to add some links to video that I took - keep an eye out for this coming up in the dairy. More to be added on the Mull trip and the video links later on in the week. TTFN

 

March 2012

Just a quick update to March's diary.

EXHIBITION NEWS - At the opening of Country Frames' Spring Exhibition on the Tuesday 1 May, I will setting up my easel and working on a painting from 2pm - 8pm and will be happy to discuss my work with visitors to the exhibition. I will be launching my latest limited edition prints and originals and will also have a selection of other work on show.

EXHIBITIONS - "Drawing Inspiration from Nature" - Some of my work will be featured at this exhibition at Shropshire Wildlife Trust's Headquarters at Shrewsbury from 26 April. The launch of my latest limited edition prints and the first viewing of my new originals will take place at Country Frames gallery - dates and further details will be announced as soon as they are finalised. I will also be taking part in ArtAboyne's exhibition at the Victory Hall, Aboyne from 13 July - 7 August. Further details will follow shortly

I have now finished the dolphins painting "School's Out!". I am quite pleased with the result - I hope that I have caught that sense of power through the water.

This is a large painting, so I decided to paint a small dolphin painting too - they just lend themselves so well to this style of painting. For sizes, go to the "Originals" page.

I have been watching hares this month - five in one field and two in the adjoining field. They create such great shapes as the gallop around and leap about and so I could not resist using them in another painting. Using a bit of artistic licence, I have changed the time of day to a night-time scene. Below is an image of the painting in its early stages, alongside the completed painting.

It has been brought to my attention that some of the images on the website may not open on iPad, but they all open on normal PCs or Macs - don't ask me to explain why, as it's totally beyond me!

I seem to have spent March at full tilt (nothing new there then). Firstly, thank you to everyone who has been kind enough to send good wishes for my son during and after his recent operation. After well over a year, this should hopefully be the last hurdle and he will be able to concentrate on his recovery and getting his life back.

The large, loose, heron sketches that I had been so looking forward to doing are now completed and I enjoyed them every bit as much as I thought that I would. Working on such a big scale again was exciting and not a little daunting as they were executed in pastel - notorious for being messy (a bit like myself!). The client who commissioned them is delighted with them - judge for yourself - the results are below.

Before we arrived at the sketches, we tried one using white and two greys with a small amount of colour, which was the original plan, before we did a slight sideways step into just black pastel on a tinted paper. This heron sketch will now be available for purchase (see originals page and below).

This month I also finished the acrylic painting of two courting foxes, "Pursuit by Moonlight" (spot the barn owl flying over the top of the moonlit hill!) and another puffin painting. Puffins are proving to be my most popular of subjects, rightly so - in underwater scenes, they fit incredibly well into my "wildlife expressionism" style.

The commission, above, for dolphins has presented its own unique set of challenges. Firstly, the subjects themselves are not as colourful as some of my previous ones and I really wanted to convey the character of the creatures - they are fast, solid muscle and powerful through the water, but they also are very sociable, so I decided to depict a family group of a species that has some lemon on their flanks, and hopefully have managed to convey the feeling of speed - it should be completed shortly.

We have been lucky enough up here in this small corner of Scotland to have had some incredible weather in March - we even managed to break all records for temperature. It has been like summer and it just makes me feel like jumping up and down - spring is sprung and I have an excess of energy. I spent some of it on a visit to Loch of Strathbeg, a local RSPB reserve. I had the place almost to myself and spent a fabulous day watching and listening to to the whooper swans which were already doing a lot of early season flirting, flocks of lapwings, and a female hen harrier quartering the reedbeds and giving three mallard ducks a bit of a fright. Twice I watched it turn rapidly on one wingtip and plunge down into the reeds to spend some time there before rising again, obviously having caught something.

A buzzard doing a low level, close flypast - they may be a common species, but who couldn't love a bird with such beautiful markings. By contrast, the distant female hen harrier hunting over the reedbeds - I did see her better with the telescope - and look at the gorgeous colour of those reeds!

The light was clear and beautiful and I spent the whole day there - bliss!

The little stoat (still in partial ermine) that seems to frequent the drainpipe outside the visitor centre even put in an appearance, bounding across the grass towards me before disappearing down a rabbit hole to reappear a few moments later, then zip across the grass into the bottom of the drainpipe.I tried to take his photo, but could not keep him in focus as he was running straight towards me - the picture below is out of focus, but I love the way he is caught mid-bound, so to speak.

The next few months are going to be busy, but I have promised myself that after the last two years of stress and anxiety, I will make plenty of time for trips, treats and "Jane's Away Days" as my husband calls my breaks off on my own. Our boat goes back in the water at the beginning of April after having her pre-season work done - that's the first step towards a summer of sailing. Bring it on! Watch out for a report and sketches from my up and coming sailing trip to Turkey and, when I can organise the date, a trip to London to visit the Wetlands Centre.

Once again, I have been privileged enough to be asked, this summer, to tutor a painting day in the gardens of Birkhall, the Scottish residence of The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. I am looking forward to this tremendously as it is a beautiful and inspiring place.

February 2012

February has been a busy month, with my regular weekly Wednesday and Thursday classes, tutoring for Tarland Art Group and painting like a madwoman to keep ahead of the game.With talks, workshops and more classes in March, things don't look like slowing down any time soon, but I do love it.

I have quite a volume of work to get through in the next few months; originals to complete for the exhibitions; commissions to be finished and a few things that I want to do just for my own satisfaction - and I am still hoping to get away for a break!

The foxes in "Pursuit by Moonlight" are progressing and should soon be completed. We hear a lot of foxes screaming in the late winter nights and I sometimes see courting pairs trotting together across fields and along the edges of the woods, if I have been out watching owls or badgers. On bright, moonlight nights it is lovely to see them and I wanted to capture that feeling of having an insight into a very personal moment in their lives, sleek, russet forms slipping in and out of patches of moonlight, which illuminates the frosty skeletons of the hogweed.

"Pursuit by Moonlight" - nearing completion - and blocking in the dolphins

The long puffin painting is completed too and, for the same client, I have now begun another painting of the same size, but featuring dolphins (see above).

Puffins completed!

Excitingly, I am just about to begin the large heron sketches. I am really looking forward to it, although looking at the large, blank, sheet of paper is the most difficult part - once I get going there will be no holding me back.

Due to requests from galleries and various clients, I have produced some small, traditional, pencil drawings and watercolours and am working on some small acrylics.

I have entitled this small pencil drawing of a young eagle owl "Disbelief", as that is just what its expression seems to convey. The image is only about 6 inches square, as is the head portrait of a wigeon. These ducks have the most wonderfully coloured heads, a rich russet with a gleaming golden forehead - definitely one of my favourite ducks. I wanted the portrait to show off the head so have just suggested the delicate pencilling on its back and the subtle tones of its chest.

February has gifted us with some glorious sunsets and dawns. Both of the above photographs were taken over one weekend in the middle of this month. Winter can have its compensations.

I cannot keep up with the demand for acrylics of puffins. They are an iconic species that seem to strike a chord with people and they are a great subject for painting -their colours and shapes fit perfectly into an underwater scene.This is the latest one blocked in.

January 2012

Happy New Year to you all!

I am just back from the most wonderful break at Melfort Pier and Harbour on the shores of Loch Melfort. I could not have picked a better few days. It was bright and sunny and one day was even warm enough to sit with the french windows open - just look at that view! The water was millpond calm and I had a beautiful walk one morning on the meandering paths along the lochside, spending quite a time with the seals close to the shore. They are so curious - they just cannot help themselves, coming closer and closer to where I stood on the shore, watching me with large limpid eyes, until their bottle went and they submerged in a sudden splash to re-appear a bit further away again and repeat their drifting towards me. They were fishing in the shallow waters and every so often a fish would suddenly leap out of the water in an attempt to escape the pusuing seal. It was so quiet and still, it was an incredibly tranquil and relaxing walk.

Who would believe that this is Scotland in the middle of January in Scotland?

What a spot - glorious - and sunset from the veranda

I have come back totally inspired, relaxed and invigorated.

While there, I was lucky enough to watch three species of deer - red, roe and sika and the photograph below was taken on the shores of Loch Sween. You can see the heavy frost in the shade behind it. The colours all worked beautifully together - the lilac, purple, and warmer colours werepresent in both landscape and animal.

Work has been progressing too and just before Christmas I completed my dragonflies painting and it was sold before it was complete. The lovely thing is knowing that the person who bought it, really "gets" it and feels exactly the same way when they look at it as I did when I painted it. It evokes in her the same memories of lying face down on the edge of a pond on a sunny day, nose just about touching the water, fascinated by the colours, movements, shapes and waterlife down there. Come to think of it, I still love doing that!

I was unsure as to how I was going to tackle the wings of the dragonflies - it would have been so easy to overwork them and so overwhelm the whole painting. I wanted to retain the delicacy and fragility as well as the luminescence so decided that "less is more". I built up the wing edges using thick acrylic mixed with pearlescent medium to give a shimmer, then added a pale wash of very dilute colour and pearlescent medium. Because you never look into a pond without seeing something moving, and because I love adding other creatures that share the main subject's habitat, I have added six tadpoles among the water lily stems and leaves!

The completed dragonflies with the "understated" wings!

I have been commissioned to produce a couple of very large, loose sketches of herons for a client who lives alongside a river in England. I am really looking forward to creating them - herons are fabulous birds and I will be using two shades of grey and white pastel on a tinted paper with a touch of strong orange yellow in the eyes, beak and legs. Herons being basically an untidy looking bird, they lend themselves very nicely to lively sketching. I can't wait to get started but before I can be let loose on them, I sent the client some rough sketches to decide on the postures we will use (see below). I think that she has made a good choice, picking images 1 & 3, although I will "turn" one of them so that they are facing in opposite directions. It will be really intersting to work on a bigger scale and so freely again - I know that I will thoroughly enjoy it!

I am so taken with the idea, that I have already decided that when I have completed the commission, I am going to draw 4,5 or 6 too, just for my own satisfaction - not quite so big perhaps, but you never know,. I might enjoy it so much that I will not be able to resist another large format sketch.

The compositional/postural ideas for the large heron sketches

 

A pair of new small acrylics featuring the same puffin.

I have just agreed to exhibit at an exhibition at Shropshire Wildlife Trust's Headquarters in Shrewsbury at their gallery. The exhibition will feature several wildlife artists with varying styles and subjects highlighting how the natural world influences artists, and opens on 26 April. If you live in that area, it looks like it is shaping up to be a really interesting display of artwork.

My regular art classes at Touched by Scotland, Oyne restart on January 18 & 19. Please note that for the winter, the Wednesday class time will be changed to 4.30 - 7.30pm. The Thursday classes remain at the usual times - morning class 9.30am - 12.30pm and afternoon class 1pm - 3pm. Watch out for a series of one day workshops featuring a variety of subjects/techniques/mediums during January - March.

I have decided that after the upsets of last year, I must make the most of every opportunity that comes along, and if they don't come, then make my own. I have so many plans for paintings in my head that I really must get some of them down on canvas or paper this year. My usual week in Mull is on the cards, two weeks sailing in Turkey later on in the year and I am hoping to get a few "Jane's away days" as my husband calls them, spending some time painting and wildlife watching. Hopefully, I will manage a trip to London for a few days in the next month or so too if I can arrange it.

October 2011

I'm back! It may have seemed that I had disappeared off the face of the planet, but I've been here all the time. Sadly, after a summer of moving my frail mother into sheltered housing, she passed away at the beginning of September. I have been so busy between looking after my son in the wake of his accident in the early part of the year, tending to my Mum and then all the inevitable sorting out that came after her passing, I have had little time to keep this diary up to date. Hopefully now I have got back to updating this, I will be able to do so regularly again.

Art classes will restart on Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th October at Touched by Scotland.

September 2011

We bought a beautiful sailing boat at the beginning of this season and based it in the west coast of Scotland. We have had some great fun with it when we have had the chance this summer. As well as the pleasure of sailing, the trips also opened up a whole new perspective on wildlife. We had encounters with minke whales, dolphins, seals and porpoises, some stunning views of fishing gannets, and a wealth of other sea birds. My ambition was to come across a basking shark, but it was the old story of "they were here yesterday", or "you should have been here last week" - never mind there's always next year!

A life on the ocean wave!

Approaching Ardnamurchan Point

We often passed the Waverley - the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world - on its summer cruises around the Kyles of Bute. Here, we sailed by on the West Kyle and it swelled my heart to see that it was crammed to the gunnels with people. This is how I remember it from my childhood trips - full of families enjoying the simple pleasure of just being out on the water on a summer's day. This photo could just as easily have been taken forty years ago.

A step back in time and a boatload of memories!

Gannet alongside the boat - isn't that just the most beautiful bird - look at that gorgeous peach blush on its head. A designer's dream.

Near where the boat is berthed there is a fabulous walk along the edge of the sea loch. The rocky, sloping shoreline is covered by a stunted forest, and I had a stroll through it one evening. Ancient oaks and birches, beaten into dwarfness by weather and exposure,  grow among huge slabs of rock fallen from the face above. The trees are distorted and twisted and grow on and around these huge obstacles, trunks embracing huge boulders, curved around the strange angles, roots hold fast to them or split them wide open. The textures and patterns on the rocks themselves are fascinating -  twisted layers and distorted strata, weather worn holes. The fact that the trees and rocks have such similar textures and colours, they are in such a tangle and everything is covered with a thick, luxuriant coating of spongy, rich green moss, lichens, ferns and small plants, softening the hard edges and merging everything together, makes it difficult to decide where tree ends and rock begins. It creates a Grimm’s fairytale environment, where your imagination can run riot. Among the damp green, dragons lie in wait, elves crouch and long arms and mossy, dripping fingers reach out to you. It is a very surreal landscape, but truly fascinating and I had it all to myself.

A whole miniature "garden" growing along the branch of one of the old oak trees

Just the most magical place!

I also found myself lying flat out on the pontoons  of the marina (intentionally I may add) peering down into the depths. I was playing with my latest "toy", a present from my husband - an underwater camera on a pole with its own LCD lights. The live images are then displayed on a screen inside the lid of the case that the camera comes in. It is a whole new world down there. The supports for the pontoon as well as the ropes and chains that are permanently under the water are festooned with growth, like mini reefs, supporting an astounding  wealth of plants and animals; dead man’s fingers, strange and hairy looking; sea squirts which are nothing more than fat transparent  tubes; plumose anemones with their incredibly delicate fan of hair like plumes emerging from a crusty brown stalk; seaweeds with frills and flounces that could grace a flamenco dancer's dress in fiery russet, bright emerald green, orange and rich claret red; mussels at various stages of growth from tiny fingernail size to nearly fully grown, the vivid orange flesh within peeping out; tiny miniature jellyfish. All this jungly growth is a perfect nursery for newly hatched or small fish and huge shoals of the tiniest, almost transparent but gleaming like quicksilver when the sun caught their movement, are everywhere. Small, slim fish about three or four inches long that looked just like straightened out seahorses with a long snout and protruding eyes (which may have been fifteen-spined sticklebacks I think, but I will check) hid among the seaweeds. The more I looked, the more I saw. The most obvious are the huge mullet, thick set with big silver scales on their sides, that come in with the tide, no doubt to feed among the silt and perhaps they spawn there too, as I saw some other small fish a couple of inches long that looked very like mullet fry.

At some time in the future I would really like to incorporate all of these wonderful exotic colours, textures and shapes into a painting.

I have made some progress with some of my paintings. The fox painting has had its first colours floated in - I am hoping to give it the feeling of a moonlight night and the "follow my leader" tracking of the female by the male- hence the intended title "Pursuit by Moonlight".I am also working on a commission for another long painting of three puffins. Below is the progress of that too.

jpeg jpeg

Recycling at its best now! Having rescued a broken, old and unusual frame from a saleroom, because I could see the potential in it, I then set about deciding what to do with it.. Once cleaned up a bit, to me it cried out "coastal", conjuring up old bleached driftwood and wave worn flotsam., so I proceeded to adapt it to take a series of five small paintings of of individual puffins in various flight postures. I hoped to keep them all similar in style and all brought together by my recycled frame. I love the beachcombed look of the frame set against the fresh, bright and clear colours of the paintings. If I had my dream cottage by the coast I wouldn't sell this, but hang it on the wall! I feel really very attached to it - it just resonates with me.

June 2011

Despite everything else going on,I still managed my usual week in Mull at the end of May, although the weather was a bit wild to say the least - storms and torrential rain. Great views of sea eagles and although wet, time for a quick sketch of one swooping down to snatch a fish and a rapid photo in between the showers - just look at that plumage!

Now to one of my obsessions - otters! One particular female otter had been fishing just offshore and I had been following her along the shoreline, careful not to move when she was on the surface, staying downwind and below the skyline. She must have found a good source of food, as almost every dive was successful. Each time she surfaced with a small fish and grasping it in her paws, munched away at it while floating on the surface. At one point another otter joined her briefly – it must have been one of her well-grown cubs as it was not big enough to be a dog otter and she tolerated it diving alongside her for a while. It was probably a youngster in the first stages of independence. She executed about 14 dives bringing up small stuff, before surfacing with something huge. She was struggling to even hold it and I knew she would immediately set a course for the shore. This is where years of experience watching otters comes into play. I had a quick look around in the direction she was setting off and took an educated guess as to where she was heading – a small spit of seaweed covered rock jutting out. While she was preoccupied struggling with her large catch, which seemed to keep pulling her head underwater, I carefully got myself into a spot where I would be able to observe her unseen. I was delighted when my guess was proved correct and she approached the low rock.

Did I hear a sniff?

She really had a bit of trouble hauling herself out of the water with the huge struggling fish, which I could then see was a dogfish. It thrashed around while she tried to subdue it. I presumed that she had killed it as it seemed to go still, but what followed was not what I expected. I thought she would then tuck into what was a banquet for an otter, but she left it where it lay and started rolling around on the seaweed and shuffling around in circles. She was preparing to have a snooze. Sure enough she started to settle, yawning and showing off her impressive set of sharp teeth, then curling up neatly. At this point I had advanced a little on my hands and knees and was now lying flat on my stomach in the wet seaweed, behind a ridge of rock. It was a lovely moment to be so close to such a relaxed, wild animal. She dozed in the sun, but was still alert, her head jerking up at the slightest noise carried to her; an oystercatcher calling; a dog barking in the distance; a shout from a passing boat, and an involuntary sniff from me, but interestingly the noise from the passing ferry did not disturb her.

Otter yawn! and the sun briefly appearing to bring out all the lovely colours

Through the binoculars, I could see every hair on her body, her long whiskers, the tight, neat little ears and her fur rising and falling with her breathing – what a moment! Then the realization dawned that I would have to stay where I was until she awoke as, if I moved I might disturb her, so I settled to my damp and slippy spot, prepared for a wait. Lying there with the sun shining, the smell of the sea and the sight of the nearby sleeping otter, I was incredibly content. I just hoped that no one would come along and see me there and think that I was a washed up body! It was six o’clock in the morning, so luckily no-one did, although it was the sound of a dog barking a bit too close for comfort that roused the otter and it slipped silently into the water and did that otter trick of totally vanishing. I rose stiff and damp and scanned around looking for it, but no sign. I walked over to where she had been sleeping and there lay the dogfish, untouched. I had wondered if she would eat it after she awoke, but her premature awakening may have put paid to that. It may have been that her eyes were greedier than her belly and after the 14 or so small fish, she was full, but still could not resist such a large catch. What a lovely start to the week. Half an hour later the wind got up again and it poured all day and I was so glad that I had taken advantage of the couple of good hours.

I have been producing some smaller acrylic paintings and seeking inspiration, I decided one morning to visit Troup Head on the Moray coast, as I knew that the seabirds would be congregating on the cliffs for courting and nest building and I was keen to spend some time watching them, as I find seabird colonies fascinating. I was particularly keen to observe the gannets, one of my favourite sea species. The numbers were not at their peak but there was still plenty of activity. A seabird colony is like a huge city and after the initial apparent confusion, patterns start to emerge and you get a feel for what is going on with individuals and pairs and also for the whole dynamic of the colony, and to observe interaction within and between species.

Time for a bit more detail observing the head of one of the sitting birds - the intricacies of the beak and eyes is stunning - executed with a few coloured pencils that I had put in my pocket for just such a use

For an instance of interaction, some female gannets, experienced, with a few breeding seasons under their belt were sitting on already quite substantial nests and were building on their previous years’ nest - a heap of seaweed, mud, grasses and other plant material, liberally splattered with guano (that’s droppings to you and me!). The male of the pair would periodically fly in with a beakful of nesting material, but it would not go straight to its awaiting partner, but instead do a flypast, performing a few circuits to show off his nest gathering skills, coming tantalisingly close to the female to make absolutely sure that she had seen it before eventually landing. Both help with the building but it is mainly males that collect the material. The flying circuits behaviour was going on all over the cliff face, with birds that weren’t carrying nest materials doing the same thing but hovering for a second or so in front of the site head turned to inspect it. Some birds were obviously first timers, squashed onto smaller ledges and less desirable sites and with no visible nests as yet.

Other breeding behaviours were taking place too; “beak fencing”, to bond pairs together; neck nibbling; pecking arguments between neighbours; “sky pointing” with their neck and beak stretched straight up in the air – a signal that they are about to take flight; squadrons of gannets flying in low from out at sea, before fanning out and peeling off close to the cliff edge to fly to individual sites. I love the shake that they give themselves as they fly off the nest, as though a shiver had just run through their whole body from tail to head.

The air was a mass of white flying cross shapes, which looked strikingly beautiful against either the flawless blue sky or the rich royal blue sea. The air was also full of deafening calls, the volume of which is so much a part of the seabird experience. An individual call is stuttering, growly, croaking, but the combined calls of thousands of these birds creates a cacophony that assails you as soon as you reach the cliff edge. It is only when you step back a distance form the edge and all is quiet do you realise just how noisy it is!

Of course there are many other birds sharing this seabird city with the gannets. Tucked under overhangs in spaces too small for the gannets were pairs of razorbills, a beautiful sooty black with perfect white lining on their faces, sitting quietly and companionably side by side, such a contrast in looks and behaviour to their large, exuberant neighbours. On the narrow ledges that sloped and stepped diagonally up the cliff perched guillemots, like rows of toy soldiers, more dark chocolate than the razorbills’ black and more elegant with their fine beaks. Kittiwakes, the prettiest the gull family, sat on impossibly small ledges. It is hard to imagine how any egg and then chick could remain safe on such a small, precarious area.

My time there was early in the breeding season and the males were skimming along the cliff edge, heads turned in watch the females sitting on the nest sites. The shapes they created with their huge, dazzlingly white, black-tipped wings and against the churning, deep ultramarine sea below were fantastic and I spent a happy time observing and sketching them totally absorbed by the endlessly changing patterns and activity surrounding me.

Pencil and watercolour sketches

Felt pen and watercolour sketches

The final completed acrylic painting - "Gannets in Flight" inspired by Troup Head in the Spring

I was also extremely lucky to witness a male peregrine catch and then pluck a pigeon at the top of the cliff before flying down the face carrying it and screaming loudly. I knew that I was about to see a food pass. The female flew out from the nest ledge and swooped up under the male, executing a perfect barrell roll in order to take the ready prepared pigeon from him. Perfect timing!

April 2011

What a fantastic spell of weather we have been having – the loveliest spring in quite a few years. On one of the most beautiful mornings I had a walk through the woods and along the river Ury close to where I live.

There is something very magical about a still, warm, sunny morning in spring. This walk I was accompanied by activity and birdsong for the whole of the time that I was out. People often ask me if I get lonely out walking by myself all the time, but I can honestly say I really never feel alone or indeed lonely. All of my senses are working full time to take in the surroundings; faint whiff of fox or delicate scent of blossom; chiff chaffs calling, blackbird singing or buzzard mewing; soft touch of newly emerged larch needles or rough scratch of pathside gorse; taste of sharp sorrel or juicy tight bundles of beech leaves tasting of spring and of course an absolute overabundance of images for the eyes. Lonely or alone – never in a spring like this!

That moment when an orchestral conductor raises his baton and there is a moment of tension and an excited expectation, before the first movement sets off the opening notes of what you know will be a wonderful piece of music, is a real thrill. To me, that sums up last week. The tree buds were all at that moment where the green was just showing and the blackthorn blossoms were each a tight, round bead of carefully folded petals.

A few days of mild, bright weather and they all burst into life in a wild cacophony of leaf and bloom; hawthorn, one of loveliest and freshest of the spring greens, bore little bouquets of crinkled leaves; horse chestnuts opened their sticky brown buds to reveal folded fingers of leaves that expanded daily; blackthorn blossoms unfurled their little white balls of petals like the unfolding of an origami sculpture. Blackthorn flowers, so pristine and starry and such a contrast to the bare, spiny, dark branches are the first herald of a succession of spring and early summer tree blossom. Their delicacy may not have the blowsy look of hawthorn, nor the impact of geans en masse, but it is a welcome sight at this time of year and I love getting up really close to appreciate each individual bloom with its lovely spray of stamens, each tipped with gamboge yellow and to watch the insects that flock to its lovely flowers. I saw a gorgeous small tortoiseshell butterfly sitting in the sunshine, sipping on a flower – what a beautiful picture that made.

The dragonflies painting in acrylic is progressing - nearly there! The layers of stronger colours are now being built on. This is where it gets really interesting, exciting and very engrossing!

And the "Flight of the Heron" is completed!

I have just completed a commission for another puffin acrylic painting. Puffins are such incredibly endearing and striking subjects I am not surprised that they are so popular and I never tire of painting them, or watching them!

Blocked in at the first stage and then the completed painting

March 2011

This update I am afraid is going to be very brief. I didn't want you to think that I'd forgotten all about you. However,we have had a bit of a stressful month or so. My eldest son had a very serious accident at work about five weeks ago causing multiple injuries when a large tree fell on him, crushing his chest and back. To say it has been horrendous is putting it mildly. It will be a long, slow, painful recovery but hopefully, barring any further complications, all will come well.He is staying with us for the time being, so there will be no art classes until further notice. I will keep everyone informed.

December 2010

Where has the last year gone? I seem to say this every year, but Christmas sneaked up on me when I had my back turned.

After one false start where we had to cancel due to the severe weather conditions, the charity evening at Country Frames Gallery went ahead on a Sunday afternoon in December. The event was organised to raise money for and awareness of cancer charity Maggie's Cancer Care Centres- a Maggie's Centre is planned for Aberdeen.Yvonne and Stuart who own the gallery put a huge amount of effort into this charity day, serving mulled wine, mince pies and shortbread on the day to add to the festive atmosphere and generously giving a percentage of the sales on the day to the charity. They also spent a considerable amount of their valuable time setting up an exhibition of my work. A huge thanks to them. Sales of cuddly Hamilton the bear and the book in which he features also helped to boost the coffers.

I was keen to be involved and offered to sit and paint and chat to visitors for the day. We organised a "Pick a Puffin for Charity" raffle to which I donated a framed limited edition print of a puffin, which was generously conrtibuted to, raising a tidy sum. I was delighted to see familiar faces and chat to some new ones about my work. All in all it was a very successful afternoon and thanks to everyone who turned out to support us - despite the weather.

Working on an acrylic painting at the gallery on the charity afternoon with the "Pick a Puffin for Charity" prize in the foreground (photograph courtesy of Press and Journal)

I have had to interrupt this update "mid-flow" so to speak, following a loud thump on the studio window. I looked out to see a male sparrowhawk spreadeagled on the grass. I rescued it before the cat found it. It was badly dazed,but soon recovered. Lovely bird - glad it survived, even although it uses my bird feeding area as a fast food take away.

I have managed to complete the painting of the lekking black grouse at last - some paintings have made very slow progress this year.

Some drawings of emperor tamarins in the walk through rainforest section of London Zoo when I visited this month and a photograph of one youngster - - aren't they just gorgeous?

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Finally, a couple of ideas for future paintings to whet your appetite for 2011.

Sketch for painting of foxes and a couple of ideas for a new kingfisher one.

Watch out for new pages appearing on the website. Proposed pages include a photo library of my own photographs, a page dedicated to art classes, painting days and weekend courses that I am arranging and tutoring throughout the year and updates of some of the existing pages.

Wishing a happy peaceful, healthy and creative New Year to all my friends, clients and to the lovely people I have met through my art and wildlife in 2010.

Hope I'll see you all again in 2011!

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.

marine1marine2

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.

otters1

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 2009 - 2010

To view my diary from 2009 and 2010 please follow the link below:

- My Dairy 2009/2010 -

DIARY 2006/2007

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