Friday, 29 May 2009

Grizzly Bear Painting Progress

My latest oil of a grizzly bear is still chuntering along. I've been working a little on his belly fur the last few days and for a change of scene will soon be shifting focus for a while on to the salmon. This is a sockeye salmon, depicted before the dramatic and bizarre change of form and colouring which happens at breeding time, and by the look of events unfurling in this painting I don't think this individual will be progressing to the spawning grounds.

I'll keep you updated with this picture as it reaches it's conclusion. It will be available to buy so any interested parties please email me for price etc.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Red Kite over Bodmin Moor

Lovely raptor sighting on Sunday afternoon. We were strolling up Caradon Hill near the moorland village of Minions, with dog on the lead and babs in pushchair when my attention shifted from the massive 600ft Tv transmitter on the top of the hill to a little mid-air skirmish between a bird of prey and a crow. The usual reaction would be "ah...the buzzard and the corvid, nature's most ancient struggle for power(!)" but the longer wings, distinctive forked tail and general demeanour of this raptor unmistakeably spelt Red Kite. Cornwall occasionally witnesses visits from this stunning bird, whose numbers are happily increasing these days, but I hadn't seen one since last year so this was quite a coup for our Sunday leg stretch. Anyway, dismissing the crow with a sudden lunge, the kite soared upwards then passed overhead and receded slowly into the far distance, heading out towards Stowes Hill and Sharptor beyond.

Red Kite (not the actual one, but a lookalike)

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Dartmoor Landscape Oil Paintings

As I've been nattering a bit about Dartmoor lately, I thought I'd include a couple more Dartmoor-inspired oil paintings for viewing. These are pleine air(on the spot) paintings produced a couple of years ago, fairly loose and impressionistic in style. They are both available to buy.

"View from Sheepstor"
Oils on canvas
10 inches x 8 inches


"Siwards Cross"
Oils on canvas
12 inches x 10 inches


Friday, 22 May 2009

Wildflowers Rule

There's a field across the lane from our house which at the moment is a total riot of beautiful wildlflowers. The colours are quite incredible and each time I walk through it I have to pinch myself to make sure they are actually real and not some elaborate landscape art installation. Buttercups cloak most of the field, extreme golden yellow, interspersed among them are speedwell and campion, in various shades of blue, purple and pink with bluebells fringing the edges as well as white spanish bluebells and a mixed strain of the two which manifest themselves as bright pink.

I aim to get some photos uploaded here and am toying with the idea of an impressionistic painting to preserve the scene for posterity (or at least until next spring when appear all over again)

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Dartmoor Painting for Sale

Whilst we are on the subject of Dartmoor, or at least we were several posts ago, here's a gratuitous plug for a small oil painting of said Devonshire moorland that I have for sale at the moment -

"February Frost - River Okement"

Oils on canvas

12inches x 12inches


If you are interested in purchasing this painting you can contact me by email at

I've another larger painting of Dartmoor, complete with newly-returned wild boar in the early fruition stages so watch this blog for details.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Passing Visit

As a post-script to the last post, an unusual visitor has just passed by our front room window - a very large, beautiful, brightly coloured, and noisy, male peacock. He strutted about for a little while outside, ignoring the barks of our dog and striding up and down the path with his long iridescent blue neck bobbing. Finally, having exhausting the avian delights of Middlewood he strolled off down the hill and disappeared from view.

Wildlife Impersonations

Not far from our cottage is a steep country lane leading up onto the moor and the slopes of Kilmar Tor and Hawks Tor. Near the top, the lane passes through Hawks Wood a thick, dark conifer wood full of moss covered boulders and fallen down tree trunks. Deer frequent the woods(plus their ticks), badgers, foxes and other wildlife. The woods also conceal a ruined warfarin mine - but I'll leave that story for another day. Moving swiftly on we (family and me) were standing in a small sunny clearing in the trees near the highest edge of the woods when we were surprised by the unmistakeable ,and very close, call of a cuckoo. Now you often hear these guys up on the moors, but they are a real pain to actually locate with your eyes, but this chap shot through the branches in clear view which was great. Doing my best Dr Doolittle impression (it must have been pretty good because my wife thought it was another cuckoo) I gave a couple of cuckoo-style calls back, but our friend was having none of this and flew off quick. However from some way away, up on the moor, came another call in reply to mine. I gave it a couple more goes, and each time there was an answer from this new mystery cuckoo . Then after a couple more minutes, not wanting to provoke a mass attack from irate male cuckoos I decided to call it a day.

Not a cuckoo

Friday, 8 May 2009

Stones of Dartmoor

Bank holiday weekend dawned with some warm weather and so we decided to pile into the motor and take a quick sojourn over the Devon - Cornwall border to the edge of Dartmoor, about 20 miles to the east of Middlewood. We drove up onto the moorland plateau under beautiful clear blue skies, accompanied by the sound of a tourist coach labouring asthmatically up the road in front of us and, more pleasantly, burbling skylarks above. Despite the sun it was still too cold and windy to take our little daughter(six months old) on a proper hike so we stopped in a layby just off of the B3357 to take a look at the Merrivale Stone Rows.

From what we could see there are three rows - two double jobs and a single. Both the doubles run east to west, but they are not parallel. The first one is fairly close to the road and it contains some 170 stones, including some very small ones. Further south is the longer row containing over 200 stones. Its eastern end is blocked by a large triangular lump of rock. The third row, the single one, is very short, not many stones and leading leading off to the south west.

Heaven alone knows what the rows are for, they are too low to be seen properly from ground level, although you could probably get a nice view from one of the nearby tors. One thing for sure, though, they were not designed for alien spacecraft landing strips, and anyone who tells me otherwise I'm afraid will be wasting their breath. I have read in a factual tome however that they may be aligned with the May rise of Pleiades, a group of stars the Greeks are supposed to have used to predict harvests, but whether that's true or not I don't know.

Nearby is one of the waymarking stones raised in the late 17th century when an act of parliament required towns at the edge of the moor to place markers to help travellers in bad weather. This particular stone is marked with a T for Tavistock/Ashburton.

Here endeth the history lesson....

Stones, stones, stones.........

Friday, 1 May 2009

Twenty Minute Deluge

As the title of this post suggests a sudden, and thankfully short-lived, flash flood hit Middlewood the other day. There we were just having eaten our tea and sat watching The Simpsons when an extremely heavy rain storm kicked off. Nothing too unusual in that, after all this is Cornwall, but within minutes the sound of gushing water had me looking out of the front door to see a dirty brown river flowing past our front gate. All sorts of crud was being washed down the road and the local drains, useless in anything more than an inch of rain were did nothing except sit and watch as the torrent swept straight over the top of their metal grilles. Farther up the hill a waterfall of alarming proportions had appeared out of nowhere and was channeling water down off of the moorland above, which then gathered extra power as it was shot down the road and into the middle of our little hamlet. Frenzied activity ensued as we all rushed out and tried to clear drains with spades, metal poles, brooms. Then almost as suddenly as it had appeared the waters subsided, reduced to a small trickle and then disappeared leaving a pile of stones and rubbish in it's wake. Drama over, we boarded up the front door in case of more water then returned to catch the end of The Simpsons. Nice.