Saturday, 22 December 2012

which way with Waxwings?

The unsolved question- whether to concentrate on the dumpy repeated forms in a flock of Waxwings, or take one and concentrate on the burst of colour and activity.

This one started as a thoughtful study of tone and form, but it didn't work without the flash of colour to tie it all up- so out with the juice gun and some festive lettering to finish off.  

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


Still having a bit of a struggle..I had grand plans for a deeply-coloured and ultra-wet pic of three Lapwings on the high tide last weekend, but it went all insipid on me thus:

So in retaliation I grabbed a marker pen and laid them out on the yellow card from my trusty pack of file dividers, with few dabs of Tippex.  Better, but not there yet.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

in front

This one's all about the overlap between the beast of a Great Black-backed Gull and the Redshank- I reversed along the harbour wall until I had the gull's beak just intersecting the Redshank's leg, like a little bit of crossed sword heraldry and (with colour) that should be the focus of the image.

One more on a recycled file divider:  I guess you can buy pre-coloured paper or card that will take paint properly, but I haven't found it yet. 

Saturday, 3 November 2012

back to the wall

It's been a struggle painting-wise over the last few weeks. I've been determined to grab the moment when the low evening light at Mistley just laid a BT Godwit's shadow across a Pintail's chest down at Mistley Walls.  But the first over-engineered shot at it just started to look oily and overdone.

So I took the big stick stick to it:  garden hose and brush, but even with the muddy paint blasted off it, still just looked a bit dead.

Nothing for it but to try another tack, so this morning I took another run at it and here's the result, watercoloured onto a some blue card (a file divider filched from the office stationery cupboard).   Definitely better..

Pintail and Black-tailed Godwits, Mistley

over the wall

Not a birding trip as such, but a jaunt to Berlin to hang and to wander included a really fine bird moment: 250 Bean Geese heading southwest over the painted remnant of the Wall.  Loud enough and low enough for passing tourists on a "Trabant safari" to stop point and stare.

Also I managed to engineer a diversion into Linum, Brandenburg on the way into town from the airport, where a marvellous throng of Cranes came into roost at the appointed time.  Might have been 20,000?  30,000?  Here's a poor digigrab of a tiny part of the mighty host-  0 out of 10 for photoquality, but you get an idea of the shifting shapes of the flocks.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

off the walls

The wonders of modern technology!

Down at Mistley Walls there's a van serving coffee with a choice of six types of coffee bean, and with scope and digicam you can see and capture the red-over-red flag on a Greenshank's leg at a far-off distance of...778 metres according to Google earth.

flagged Greenshank

With a whole flock of Avocets way off in the distance.

Birding life wasn't always like this round these parts!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

going going gone

Well finally it does look as as if the Hobbies are finally on their way.  All three juveniles still camped out in their favourite two oaks mid-week, but only two yesterday and one today.   But the last one still seems to be doing nicely- skimming low over the sugarbeet field to pluck Willow Emerald Damselflies out of the riverside hedge.  Tense moment when a presumed migrant juvenile Peregrine drifted in from the north:  here's a digiscope of the young Hobby looking up and keeping an eye.

Time to head south!

Meantimes one last Hobby painting for the season- hopefully some sense of lazy late September, with the ash beginning to turn to autumn

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

branching out

The young Hobbies are racing ahead in the fine weather:  whizzing about, chasing butterflies and generally enjoying these early autumn days.

I wouldn't claim to any serious digiscoping skills, but its startling to see how much detail you can capture these days from 300 metres + .  Google maps tells me it is 365 metres from my watchpoint to the base of their tree, but that little pencil-thin eyebrow still carries all the way, so long as there's no heat haze.

A distinct improvement in viewing conditions today as they've set up camp in a stag-topped oak close to the footpath.  It's certainly a different digiscoping proposition!

But enough of digipics- it's time for a painting of the gang of 3:  here's a working-out of bird 1 preening and hopefully birds 2 and 3 to follow.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Hobbies Hobbies Hobbies

It's been that wonderful week when Hobbies fledge and all is chaos around a selected hedgerow oak. Here's my local male, who has the happy habit of sitting up on a dead branch and catching the low morning sun as I motor past on the way to work first thing.  So it would be rude not to stop and wish him good morning.  Happy days!

I saw the female whip in a couple of evenings ago, pass a dragonfly to a juvenile who dropped it, at which she flipped into a loop, caught and re-presented it with silky ease;  just perfect.  Here's a long distance digivid. of some action, just for atmosphere:   Hobby vid.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

stepping out

I'm slightly trapped for technique at the moment- not sure whether to stick with wet and splooshy painting, with the light shining through from the unpainted canvas or paper, or press on with something more like an oil-painting method and paint in the lights with thick and creamy colour.

Here's a bustard from the Hungary trip, looked promising when mapped out in wet, but hasn't quite turned out as richly as I had hoped in the final version.  Still a marvellous beast though, as stately and monumental as the church behind.
Great Bustard, Kiskunsag

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Redfoot continues

So I've finally managed to crack-on and get the Redfoot done

The bird has turned out as I had in mind, but not too sure about the background- should be a nice dappled, hazy poplar in the wind, but looks a little like someone is running lettuce through a blender.

PS:  a quick edit to show show one more shot introducing some haze into the central area.  Time to leave it alone and move on!
Red-footed Falcon, Kiskunsag

Thursday, 21 June 2012


Here's some work in progress- a Red-footed Falcon from a long weekend in Kiskunsag, Hungary at the end of May.  As usual I'm racked with guilt for doing too much birding and not enough sketching on my annual jaunt to E Europe, but I did sit down with this fellah for half a day and work out on the spot what I wanted to paint when I got home- first and second images.  Then the third image is the beginnings of a working-out on canvas, now I am back.

His chosen clump of poplars held a brood of fledged Hooded Crows top left, two pairs of Redfoots middle and some young Kestrels still in the nest bottom right, plus the wind was blowing.  So full of movement and noise: lots of billowing leaves to be added.

Red-footed Falcon, Kiskunsag;  work in progress

Saturday, 9 June 2012

out of the Woods

It looks like spring is finally done, so here's a shot at capturing the Wood Sandpiper highlight and moving on to pastures new (big rolling ones in Hungary- for another post).

I'm currently painting with a thinned acrylic underneath layer, then with tricky decisions about how far to add thicker paint on top and how far to leave the initial underpainting well alone: hopefully tis one hasn't been wrecked in the final stages. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

patch perfect

Well the coupla meadows I adopted as my patch for this spring have got completely out of hand.  Monster floods have temporarily transformed them into something that would not look out of place in NE Poland.

Early signs were good with a bunch of Greenshank and other spp. organising themselves in a "T" -shape around a Med Gull

Then last week they were so far underwater a Black-necked Grebe was cruising about and giving me the three-fingered salute as I dropped in after work (so only an artist's impression available, painted very rapidly when I got home)
Black-necked Grebe, Suffolk

and now the water has drained off and we are overrun by gorgeous feeding, preening calling Wood Sandpipers:  10 on a little drying flash yesterday, which must be some kind of record

Add caption
Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank, Suffolk
and none of this to mention the also-rans: Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier, Hobbies, Turtle Dove singing away

what a splendid week

Thursday, 10 May 2012


I had an inkling this Bearded Tit project would go wrong, so took a photo of it at the half-way stage.  This was supposed to be the underpainting.... Since then a coat of creamy paint has gone on top and it just looked horrid, so I've binned the final version and kept this working version as a reminder- you can never stop a painting too soon!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

the silver fox

These digital sculptings may not be the real thing from an artistic perspective- but definitely fun to do.  Here's a fox designed on computer using sculptris, then transmitted down the wires as a digital object to a 3D printer sculpteo , in this case to be rendered in silver.  They work their magic by rendering it in plastic to a few micro mm. below the intended size, then adding a layer of silver on top:  then finished beast despatched by post.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


Two shots at getting this drake Garganey memorialised before new spring excitements wing their way in (I'm hoping Dotterel next, to continue the whitestripes theme). I played around with some angles on this one with head turned, but actually most of the time I was watching him, he was bang side-on: so I decided to paint him that way and not try to be clever.

Some very intriguing images as he fed his way through the reeds- filed away for another day.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

enough with the Smews

windy day- Smew at Abberton
Into April and I have just about got the winter's Smew out of my system. The male-in-the-middle got more and more prominent as I trowelled on the paint, which was not quite the plan as per the rough draft in an earlier post. But I've decided to go with the flow and so here he is.

Gallery of Smew images here: edkeeble's smugmug (Smew)

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Smew redux

I haven't quite got Smew fully out of my system this winter and already spring is jangling away and hard to ignore.  So one more shot at trying to capture the sleek bustle and fizz of Smew when they wake-up and slide into the margins to hunt.

It's early days on this one.  I still can't bring myself to slow-down and neatly draw in the birds when I start, so this time I thought I would allow myself a first uncontrolled thwack at the background, then crayon in the birds to ses what was happening.  Next step is to get some richer paint on, but that will have to wait until later in the week.  

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Great Grey Shrike on the hunt

Not much of a winter in these parts, but some very wintry moments.  Here's the most local Great Grey Shrike on a murderous pursuit through an old oak hedge- done with marker pen and tippex on a bit of A4 from the wastepaper basket

then glued onto a board and some dabs of paint on top
job done in 15 minutes

more Great grey Shrike images here: ed keeble's smugmug