So far this year I've been kept busy with a number of pieces of work on a variety of subjects. Covid-19 and lockdown has caused difficulties and challenges across the UK. Despite this and not being able to visit the wild places I draw on for inspiration this period has allowed me to concentrate on some more challenging pieces of work I may have struggled to find the time to work on. Here is a summary: 

June 2020
We do not have any hares in our local fields; despite them having fairly broad requirements to exist it is the intensive silage production that hares can not tolerate. In our area, it is agriculturally less productive, higher ground, which is therefore less intensively farmed, where we can still see hares. I wanted to paint a hare in greenery rather than my more usual winter setting. Green is a colour that artists quite often find difficult; perhaps it is the many shades of green, at least the forty mentioned in a certain song, that makes it a difficult colour? Dandelions are a great addition to our native flora and added more interest to the composition in this painting.

May 2020
I usually like to create paintings that are relevant to the current season but with lockdown in Wales being behind England in relaxing it's strict conditions, this has been less possible than usual. The hare painting I have called 'Lockdown in the bracken', and with all the talk of the importance of nature during these testing times I really hope that people will remember that 'nature is not just for lockdown'! To quote David Henry Thoreau way back from the 1800's, 'In wildness is the preservation of the world'.

Gannets are superb birds, our largest breeding seabird. Known for their ability to dive, sometimes from a considerable height, folding their long wings right back behind them as they enter the water. We are fortunate in West Wales to have the island of Grassholm about 7 miles off the coast, this is a breeding site hosting about 60,000 pairs of gannets. Viewed from a distance the island looks white with the numbers of birds clustered together over it's rocky surface; however in my painting I have shown just one bird, watching the sea below for the chance to dive and catch a fish which will be swallowed whole while the bird swims on the surface.
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April 2020
Short-eared owls are birds of open country. They quarter the ground with ease due to their low wing loading (their body weight is low in proportion to the area of their wings). They are regularly seen flying in daylight which can make them susceptible to attack from other birds of prey. However once again their low wing loading means that they can gain height quickly, this I have witnessed when I saw one attacked by a goshawk.
Over the years I have taken in injured birds and was once brought an injured short-eared owl. The owl recovered and I chose an area to release it not far from where it had originally been found; the weather over night was very wet and I went back the following day to check that it had survived the night. The owl was still in more or less the same place as I had left it but absolutely soaking wet with feathers sticking out like the spines on a hedgehog. I think that for once it was pleased to see me! The painting shows a short-eared owl among molinia grasses, a very typical habitat for the species.
This is a 24x36 inch canvas I have just finished; as such it is the largest painting of puffins I have ever done. The location of the painting is Mad Bay on Skokholm island off the Pembrokeshire coast. Mad Bay is appropriately named as the sea is quite often a raging cauldron of crashing waves. I have tried in the composition to give each puffin a relevance to the group and its closest companions in that grouping. Puffins are such endearing birds and very sociable, not that they don't have squabbles with each other! I guess that humans are similar in this respect which makes this period of isolation such a challenging time for us all. Still, I am consoled by the fact that Spring is here and the natural world is doing exactly what it always does.
March 2020
'Mist clearing', is a 24x36 inch canvas I finished recently. The subject is red deer in the Western Highlands of Scotland during the rutting season. In these mountainous regions the mist can clear quickly and the sun break through, on this particular occasion we had been assured by a friend who lived in the region that this would be the case despite the poor visibility earlier in the day. We were not disappointed, and as is so often the way, when the ground and vegetation is wet the colours are so much more intense.
February 2020
I have still to see a roe deer in Wales, so Scotland remains my preferred location for seeing these attractive small deer. Roebucks grow their antlers in Winter, the antlers are initially covered in a velvety skin which will be shed to reveal the new antlers, at this stage the roe deer also lacks the red brown coat of the Summer months.
Barn owls are one of those species of birds that evoke many feelings. An owl that is virtually white on the underside and pale golden brown on it's dorsal surfaces is bound to look stunning. Add to this its secretive nature and usually nocturnal habits and you could also use the words ghostly and mysterious in the description. I had seen barn owls near my home in suburban Dublin where I grew up, but it was when I was at Art College travelling to a student party in a isolated house that I was struck by how stunning they are - an owl appeared out of the darkness, illuminated by the car headlights. It flew along beside the car before veering off into the darkness.
My painting is based on last Winter when I watched both barn owls and short-eared owls hunting over an area of saltmarsh. Interestingly this Winter the short-eared owls are present in the same area, but not the barn owls; I wonder why?
January 2020
I have painted several oils of manx shearwaters and this one (a 20x30 inch canvas) was finished yesterday. Shearwaters at present are in the Southern Hemisphere off the coast of south America, they will be 'feeding up' in preparation for their 5,000 mile return journey to British waters and the Welsh islands where they breed. They are pelagic birds which means their lives are spent on the open oceans except when they come to land to breed.
Shearwaters do exactly what their name suggests, that is, they skim the surface of the water as they fly. They alternate this action with rising higher in the air only to repeat the the initial shearing of the water. I have tried to show this movement in the small group of 5 shearwaters I have painted, titled 'Manx shearwaters over the seventh wave'.