Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tree Sparrow

We're off to Scotland this morning to welcome in 2009, hopefully I'll get some sketching done and have some new photographs to share.
I'm taking my laptop and mobile internet connection so I might post before 2009, then again I might not. If not I wish you all a Happy New Year .

I'll leave you with a Tree Sparrow I photographed on Saturday at Mere Sands Wood.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rough Collie in Pastel

Another of my Commissions, Bonnie the Rough Collie in pastel.

This was another one I enjoyed because the owner supplied me with some really nice photographs to choose from.
I picked this one which to me had so much life.
The picture was 16 x 20 on colourfix.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Jack Russell in Coloured Pencil and a Treecreeper

Now that Christmas Day is over I can share some of my commission work.
This Jack Russell was a pleasure to draw she had such a sweet little face. Plus I took the photographs which made it easier as I'd seen her personality.
The owner asked that I use French Grey coloured pencil with colour for the eyes, the same technique I've used for cats.
It's on Arches hot press watercolour paper.
My bird of the day is this Treecreeper which was attracted to the fat we've rubbed in the bark of one of the Silver Birches.

It's not the sharpest of photographs but I was so excited my hands were shaking. This is not a common visitor to our garden.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays and a Chaffinch

I bought a Canon lens off eBay and I'm delighted with it. It's a Canon 4oo 5.6 L, really lightweight and easy to use.
Even though the light was awful I managed to take a few reasonable shots today, this is one of the better ones, a Chaffinch.
We're spending the New Year in Scotland so fingers crossed for good light and plenty of birds of prey.

For all who celebrate Christmas I hope you have a very Merry one, for all who don't I wish you Happy Holidays.

I'll be back with some artwork later in the week.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Photoshop Tip

At last the Christmas Commissions are finished, the last one is being collected tomorrow. I'm now looking forward to getting my entries for a couple of competitions ready.
Today's photograph is a stunning Asian cat.

I thought I'd share a photoshop tip for sharpening an image without altering colour.

Open image

Create a new background layer

In the layer palette select luminosity (the colour and saturation in the lower layer will be retained)

In the filter menu select unsharp mask and adjust the sliders until you like the result

Flatten image,

I have found this works better than applying unsharp mask direct to the image.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More on Taking your own Photographs

Todays bird is a Shelduck chick, taken back in June, the same one that I've started painting in a different pose.
I thought it would be useful to let you in on a few of my tricks for taking photographs of garden birds.

I place feeders in locations surrounded by vegetation that the bird can perch on, as my aim is to avoid photographing on the feeder whenever possible. I want natural looking shots to use as reference material for future paintings. I do however try to ensure that they are never placed where cats can sneak up on the birds.

Once I've placed the feeder I try not to move it as the birds seem happier to visit familiar objects. I also keep them filled as I've found birds continue to visit as long as food is available.

I rub cheese and fat into the tree trunks as I've found this attracts Woodpeckers, and keeps them reasonably still while they peck at it.

I always provide water, Blackbirds in particular love to splash about in it.

If I had to give one tip to increase the chance of successfully photographing garden birds, it would be learn about their behaviour.

I've found that most species tend to have fairly predictable visiting patterns.
Long Tailed Tits tend to visit early and late afternoon, passing through quickly, they never stay longer than a few minutes.
The Woodpecker visits early afternoon and spends several minutes on one particular tree.
The Jay and Sparrowhawk visit early morning, the Jay tends to be on the ground but is very shy and hard to photograph. If the Sparrowhawk has caught a bird you can approach quite close while it's feeding, otherwise it just shoots through the garden.
The Blue, Great and Coal Tits are about all day often taking a seed or nut and perching on a branch to eat it.
So on and so on.

Oh and one other thing, you need an endless amount of patience and good humour when several Collies decide to tell you all about the one you're trying to sneak up on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another Bird

Still no artwork but I am continuing to print out my photographs on a daily basis.
Another bird from my garden, this time a Blue Tit.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Standing Room Only

I went to visit the RSPB Reserve at Leighton Moss today, visiting Heysham and Hess Bank to look at the waders on the way.
I'm going to call this one "Standing Room Only".
Yesterday I printed a photograph of a Shelduck chick which I have started to paint in acrylic.
10 x 8 on Arches, started laying in a base coat of indigo with a touch of sepia.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Starling Photograph

I photographed this Starling in my garden, I couldn't resist the beautiful colours in the plumage.
Not the most exciting of this mornings birds but the most eye catching.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Squirrel Photograph

Today's photograph is a Squirrel that I took in Yellowstone National Park in August.
I hope to be back to sharing my artwork by the end of the week.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Least Chipmunk Photograph

Todays photograph is a Least Chipmunk (if anyone thinks it is a different species please let me know as I am not 100% certain) that I photographed in South Dakota in the Summer. I'm torn between painting a miniature of him or doing a larger work with a background.

I'm almost finished with my Christmas Commissions and am longing to paint something for me.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Creating a Photographic Record

I've been thinking about a daily project for 2009. I am realistic enough to know that attempting a daily drawing or painting is not going to happen.

I have also been thinking about how little my photographs actually get looked at because they are files stored on a hard drive.

So each day until the end of 2009 I am going to try to print one of my photographs. I'm just going to do a small version, probably around 4 x6, each one will be a subject I intend to paint.

I've bought some blank 8 x 5 cards and I will stick the photograph to the card. I will then record details about the photograph and which folder it is stored in on my hard drive. The back of the card will be used for thumbnail's, tiny sketches etc. Once the card is full I will laminate it to help preserve the information.

As often as possible I will use a photograph taken on that day, so for today it is a Robin on the garden fence.

I will then be able to share my photographs with people who don't have access to a computer.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pintail Photograph

I'm still working at my Commissions which I can't show until after Christmas. I've aslo been struggling getting to and from work in the icy conditions. The roads have been sheets of ice because the snow froze during Tuesday.
However the rain has returned so hopefully it will wash away the snow, fingers crossed it doesn't freeze.

I'll post another of my Martin Mere photographs, this time a Pintail with a great reflection. I can't wait to get started on my bird studies.
I've also purchased two new Derwent Onyx pencils.
This is what Derwent says about them:-
Derwent ONYX - Darker than a 9B Our new Derwent Onyx pencil is made from smooth dark graphite and allows you to instantly create dense rich jet-black tones, even darker than a Graphic 9B. Its 4mm wide core has a non-crumbly texture which means it will sharpen and hold a fine point for longer making it ideal for hatching. And, it will smudge allowing you to blend it with your finger tip or a Tortillon.
I haven't had a go with them yet but will do over the next couple of days.