Summer at Baccaro


I like drawing birds, and have done for years. I also enjoy the colour of the wharf scenes, but I really haven’t got a feel for landscapes, so I have to rather force myself to have a go. There is always a bird that I could be drawing!

A couple of weeks ago we took a trip down the next peninsula along from us, namely Baccaro, with our friends from the UK. It was a glorious late June day, the sky was blue and the sea even bluer (not always the case with the Atlantic Ocean, even in summer!). At the end of the peninsula stands one of the lighthouses that give the name to the road along the south shore of Nova Scotia, the “Lighthouse Route”. It was surrounded by wild flowers, including a clump of blue iris, and I duly took photos, thinking that this might make a scene worth painting…

In my imagination I decided on a close up of the irises, with the lighthouse in the background. I also decided to lose the foghorn, which is mounted on a concrete platform to the left of the lighthouse in the above photo. I don’t think that the authorities are really thinking about the aesthetics when they put these things up!. There is a small monument, I think to those lost at sea, to the right of the lighthouse, which I decided to keep in place.

I used a lot of pencils on this picture. For fun I kept a list of all the pencils used, and I took from both the Caran d’Ache Supracolors and the Derwent Watercolours for this picture, along with a single Staedler Karat-the black, which remains my favourite pencil for outlining since it keeps a nice sharp point. I am down to the stub with this one, using a pencil holder to keep it going! Pencils used were:

Caran d’Ache: Beige, Light Beige, Ash Grey, Brownish Beige, Cocoa, Cream, Aubergine, Purple Violet, Violet, Mauve, Granite Rose, Salmon Pink, Flame Red, Vermillion, Raspberry Pink, Carmine, Blue Jeans, Bluish Pale, Royal Blue, Periwinkle Blue,  Sky Blue, Naples Yellow, Pale Yellow, Yellow, Canary Yellow, Steel Grey, Slate Grey, Grey, Dark Grey, Mouse Grey, Light Grey, Charcoal Grey, Moss Green, Grass Green, Spring Green, Olive Brown, Olive Black, Brown Ochre, Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Bronze, Silver, Gold.

Derwent Watercolour: Turquoise Blue, Prussian Blue, Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Sky Blue, Indigo, Delft Blue, Blue Violet Lake, Light Violet, Bronze, Cedar Green, Grass Green, Sap Green, May Green, Water Green, Olive Green, Jade Green, Brown Ochre, Raw Sienna, Sepia, French Grey, Silver Grey, Geranium Lake, Deep Vermillion.

a total of 68 pencils! It was nice to use some of the brighter colours that don’t typically turn up in the plumage pictures.  I did enjoy working on the flowers, they lend themselves to detail drawing, but I’m still not feeling the love for landscapes in general. Still, it’s always nice to try something new.

baccaro light rs watermark

‘Summer View at Baccaro’, 8 x 10 inch (approx.), watercolour pencil on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper.




Low Tide

I’ve been a bit nervous of landscapes; I’ve been unsure that I could make a good go of it since they don’t generally lend themselves to the detail that I like. I decided that I really have to get more practice in, so I’ve determined to alternate the bird pictures with landscapes or wharves. A few days ago we took an evening tour around Cape Sable Island and ended up at the car park at the end of Fish Plant Road, at The Hawk, looking out across the flats at the Cape Light. The tide was low so there were rocks and sandbanks visible, so I took a few photos using my 35x optical zoom bridge camera (that lighthouse is quite a way away!). One in particular, attracted me to try and make a picture.

cape light 2 rs watermark

I liked the lines of colour crossing the view, where the water had retreated, and the yellowy grass around the lighthouse.  Part-way through I had a bit of a panic that the foreground was a bit empty so decided to add some birds, Brant geese in fact, to give the eye a focal point. I had taken a few Brant pictures on the same tour and was able to choose a nice grouping.

brant at daniels head 3 watermark

Not the best photo, (the birds were a long way away, too),  but there was sufficient detail to provide a reference for these small images. The Hawk is an important migration stop-off for Brant, and there are thousands around in the Spring, though maybe not quite where I put this grouping (artistic licence, eh?). I was reasonably happy with the final picture, and I feel that I have learned a few new ways to work with the pencils.

low tide the hawk rs watermark

‘Low Tide’, Brant geese at The Hawk, 8 x 10 inch Caran d’Ache Supracolor watercolour pencils on Canson XL 140 lb cold press watercolour paper.

Landscape Fun…

I had never really tried to do a landscape, although it was always in the plan. I get easily distracted by another good bird to draw! However, I was determined to have a go. A watercolour landscape might not be best suited to my very detailed style, though, so I decided to have a go at something with a lot of detail. The answer was this picture I took earlier this month, of the lighthouse at Cape Forchu, near Yarmouth, with its very dramatic and detailed rocks.



I thought it would be fun to document the process. I do like a detailed drawing to work on. This probably stems from my original pen and ink drawing, so my first step was to get the drawing, in 2B graphite pencil, onto my lightweight watercolour paper.


It was quite a job!. After that I switched to the watercolour pencils to start to work in the sky. I do like watercolour pencils and find them fun to work with. The colour stays where it is put, but it is easy to blend into other colours using a minimum of water on the brush. The paper doesn’t ever get too wet and excess colour or water can be blotted off using paper towel. I have quite a collection, but they all have their own characteristics. It is relatively easy to find the right colour, with such a choice!

pencils-2 pencils-1 at-work at-work-2 brushes-rs

The Faber-Castell sets in the first picture are unusual in that they can only be used by drawing on the paper and then wetting it. The Derwent Inktense and Marco Renoir pencils in the second and third picture can be used in the same manner, but also a wet brush can be applied to the tip of the pencil to lift colour, or the pencil end can be dipped in water, allowing additional effects. The Faber-Castell pencils allow a finer tip for detail work. The Derwents are very intense colour, that looks like ink when dried. I generally use a mixture of these pencils, depending on the subject matter, but the Derwents don’t get used much in the bird studies. the last picture shows my main brushes…a no.4 watercolour brush for large areas, like sky. a wider bristle brush for water areas and a very tiny, 10/0 watercolour brush for the details…I generally use this one the most, which is probably why these pictures take several days to complete.


The sky and lighthouse are filled in.


Then I worked on the rockpool and the areas of grass, all yellowed due to having been under snow.


Starting work on the rocks. I decided to try for the feel of the picture, without trying to get the colours exactly right (it isn’t a bird, so I can get away with that!). using the Derwents meant that the colours are bright and pop off the page.


More rocks, working round to the front of the picture. There were more greens and blues in the rocks at the front.


The final picture. I enjoyed the challenge and it has inspired me to try more landscapes. If only there were more hours in the day!