spur-winged plover paintings

last week I finished up a series of paintings of the Spur-winged Plover (Vanellus miles) – which is a relatively common bird species where I live in Auckland. Last year I did a small painting of a Spur winged Plover chick, and thought I would add to it by painting an adult and an egg.

All were painted in acrylic using a sort of watercolour wash method:


the adult- with distinctive yellow wattles



the chick



and the egg!

Interestingly this species is one of only 2 NZ native bird species that have no legal protection – it was removed in 2010 after so many public complaints about the species as a nuisance bird (mainly due to crop damage and “interactions” with aircraft).

I am planning on compiling these illustrations- together with some small habitat drawings I also have just finished- into a small poster showing the life stages and common habitats of this species (such as roadsides, airports and sports-fields), and the ways in which this species is threatened by people because of the proximity it lives to us.

If you are interested in reading more about using acrylics, specifically to paint birds, I can recommend Capturing the Essence- Techniques for Bird Artists by William T. Cooper as a wonderful reference guide- you can check out my review here.


BLOG update: If you’re a regular reader you may have noticed a couple of small changes to my site. I have updated the Useful Resources page- it now has more of a visual overview of the books I recommend. If you have a goodreads account, you can add them to your own reading list by clicking on the books image. I have also removed my portfolio page and the link above now directs you straight to my official portfolio site. Also new is the Categories drop-down list in the right side bar (under the about info), so if you are looking for posts on a certain subject hopefully that makes things easier to find! I am hoping to do a full blog re-design at the end of the year so stay tuned for some bigger changes in a few months time.

till next time,



gannet greetings

Hi everyone,

I hope you are enjoying the festive season! Today I thought I would finally get back to posting some other illustration projects I’ve been working on. I mentioned before that I volunteer at a local bird rescue charity. Recently I was asked by them to do an illustration for a ‘Thank you’ greeting card. I came up with a few ideas, but the one I liked the most was of two gannets greeting one another. Gannets (in New Zealand the most common gannet is the Australasian gannet, Morus serrator) engage in a behaviour called bill fencing, which is a sort of greeting display. If you haven’t seen them before they also have a very cool behaviour- a torpedo-like dive- that they do from mid air to catch fish underwater (see a video of that here <– after watching this you’ll see why they need such flippery feet!).I thought the gannet greeting was quite a nice idea for the card.

Here is the final artwork, done in acrylics, with a watercolour wash background (is it really bad to mix the two mediums??- I never have before and was sort of expecting it to be a disaster!) on Fabriano watercolour paper.


and then put together all the design elements in photoshop, including a hand-lettered ‘thank you’:


It was a great project to work on. If anyone is interested I am thinking of doing a tutorial on how I made the vectorised signature at the bottom corner. Its so useful to be able to add your signature digitally after scanning in artwork!

Until next time,


free flight completed+ process

my latest wildlife painting is now completed! p.s the species is a light-mantled sooty albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata), inspired by one that was rescued by the bird rescue centre I volunteer at.


free flight, acrylics on hardboard, 56x70cm

This was my first large acrylic painting on board (I used hardboard, aka masonite and prepped it myself), and also the first painting I have entered into a competition. I used a limited palette of browns and blues (burnt sienna, burnt umber, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, and white) which was quite a fun experiment.

I gave myself the goal of entering this painting into a local art competition, just so I would have a goal to work towards and to give myself a push to try out a large painting. While I wasn’t entirely happy with how the painting turned out, I did manage finish it on time (via a lot of late nights!), and learnt a lot about painting on a larger scale as well as the handling of acrylics on board (a bit different to on paper!).
I also can’t wait to have another go at painting a proper seascape after having spent hours trying to perfect the background ocean in this painting!

Here is a animation I made of some in process photos:


The exhibition of the Trusts Art Awards will be opening this Thursday night at 6pm at Corban Estate Arts Centre. It will be a great show, from what I saw of some of the amazing artworks being delivered when I dropped my albatross painting off! If you are in the area and would like to come along, its open until the 13th October, more details here.

hope you are having a great start to the week!


on the drawing board #1

on-the-drawing-board-button on the drawing board is a new series here on the blog which briefly highlights unfinished work currently on my drawing board plus other random bits and pieces, such as what I’m listening to as I paint (if you’re interested in that sort of thing). Hope you enjoy it!

If you have a blog and would like to link up with your own on the drawing board posts- click here to let me know!


watermarked wing

kereru wing study, acrylics


so relaxing! must listen on repeat…


of summer. its the start of spring here in the southern hemisphere, and today is pouring with rain. fingers crossed for beautiful weather just round the corner!


my new acrylic brush from Daler Rowney. Its a system 3 brush (round, size 12), that I got for $8 NZD at my local emporium.

System 3 Brushes SY67 Filbert Sizes 0,4,6,8 and 10


It was an impulse buy but one that has become indispensable with the acrylic work I have been doing lately, especially as a blender when doing tiny details. Keeping this brush (just damp) on hand to blend out lines helps reduce problems with acrylic drying in the time it takes to dip your brush back in the water pot to clean it!



What is your goal for the week? Mine is to get a small sketchbook that fits in my handbag so I can take it with me to work. Since I’ve started doing more hours at work, I’m trying to find extra ways of getting illustration into my day, and I am going to challenge myself to do at least one sketch per day I am working (on the train or lunch, whatever). It will be one way of keeping my mind focussed and hopefully improving my drawing! Maybe I’ll even post them up here to keep an account of it…

Hope you liked the new series. Tell me- what is on your drawing board this week?

an old favourite

Just some things I’ve been working on lately…

This is the beginnings of a portrait of Sam (the german shephard x) and Tiddles (tabby cat) both pets of our family who have passed on a while ago. The image I am working from is of when Tiddles was a little kitten and had just joined us, and you can see he’s a little scared of Sam!

I have attempted this portrait before (on green coloured card) but was not very happy with the result (I cannot find the picture anywhere- will try to post it when as a comparison when I have finished this one).

So, now I’m trying it again. This time will be the first I have used acrylic paints as a background to a coloured pencil drawing, so will be interesting to see how it works. Heres where I’m up to (still very unfinished!):


This is my first time using a Canson C A grain paper, which as far as I know is not readily available in NZ- I got it on my recent trip to Melbourne. I think my favourite paper is still Fabriano 5 grain…

Then for something a bit different, I have been reading Danny Gregory’s book, ‘An illustrated life’- which is such a great book! I have decided to try and keep a journal of my own (+stick at it!). Here is my first page, which I did after a day of volunteering at a bird rehab centre. Its pretty terrible drawing, but hopefully its just a matter of practice!


On the theme of sketchbooks, here is a lovely video to watch if you have time (which was posted on Laura Wood Illustration). Its about Renata Liwska a childrens book illustrator, and how she got into childrens book illustration. Very inspiring stuff! Makes me want to get a moleskine too!

A Quiet Look – How to become a children’s book illustrator in one (not so easy) step from mike kerr on Vimeo.

Well, thats all I have for now! I hope you have a great weekend!