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Colour palettes form an obvious and critical part of an artist’s approach to their art. The selection of a basic range should to be well reasoned and developed over time to suit the works that are planned. An artists attitude and choice of subject matter or even kind of works may change over time and so can a palette.

The photograph above is of my basic range of colours set out on a palette manufactured by Michael Wilcox. Find out more about this magnificent palette here:

I have used this palette for over 30 years and worn one out in that time about 4-5 years ago- so they are a great investment. The heavy duty melamine cleans really well which for me is critical as I am a little OCD and could not tolerate messy or stained mixing in the paint wells: I want colour reliability and consistency without any unwanted form of contamination. I don’t use the layout of colour wells as suggested by Wilcox as I like to do things my way. The up-side of individuality is that you do use what becomes your own unique and recognisable palette.

I use about twenty-two basic colours whether I am painting a bird, landscape or human portrait. In cleaning the palette for this Blog, I have left four wells empty: there is a need now and then to add a unique colour or two to a painting and that’s when these wells do get used. Starting from the bottom and going anti-clockwise my basic palette comprises:

Cobalt Blue (W&N)

Ultramarine Blue (W&N) Indispensible.

Permanent Mauve (Windsor and Newton) The subtle lining in just about every cloud on a sunny day.

Permanent Crimson (W&N)

Scarlet (W&N)

Warm Sepia (Art Spectrum) – mix with Ultramarine Blue for “false black”

Burnt Umber (Graham)

Burnt Sienna Hue (Art Spectrum) Does amazing things when mixed with Permanent Mauve and Ultramarine Blue and drops of clean water on Arches Hot Pressed paper.

Raw Siena (W&N)

Yellow Ochre (W&N) Nice as a glazing colour

Cadmium Orange (W&N)

Cadmium Yellow (W&N)

Cadmium Lemon & Cadmium Lemon Pale (W&N)

Chromium Dioxide (DaVinci or W&N) perfect mix with appropriate blues and turquoises for Australian leaves.

Permanent Sap Green (W&N, Da Vinci, Grumbacher) I hunted around for a long time to find just which brands I liked.

Olive Green (W&N, Smith, and others are mostly OK)

Australian Dark Leaf Green (Art Spectrum) Magnificent for watery washes as it provides a granular finish when clean drops of water are added as wsell as some other colours Very suitable for finishing mosses and other plants of the deep dark places under an old stump- if you get my drift.

Turquoise (W&N)

Turquoise Light (W&N) these two colours may be a surprise but these colours often occur in Australian Parrots.

Cerulean Blue (Daniel Smith or W&N)- Take care when painting a plain blue sky as you can encounter a fast drying paint if not careful which leads to a streaky image which can be off putting.

Titanium White (only W&N) Critically important for nature work. Seldom used as a straight “colour” but more to give a colour some density or opacity. A common use is when I finish the feather vein and the barbs using different base colours. The reason I avoid using it straight is because you can end up with an unwanted contrasting textural tone with other colours- not a good look.

Lamp Black (only W&N) A most versatile “colour” that I have always relied on to deliver true black when I need it. The wing of Black Cockatoos are multi-layered- Ulramarine Blue; some Purple, Warm Sepia all individually mixed with Lamp Black to varying degrees- then detail finishing with the addition of Titanium White to suit each predominant colour.

Other colours that I encounter include: Indigo; Thalo Blue; Luminescent colours from Daniel Smith (excellent and you can mix other colours as per normal to shift the colour a bit) Rose Pink; Cobalt Blue Deep and whatever crops up from time to time. Lightfastness is the most significant issue with watercolour paints and those I use are determined under strict testing to be colour fast.

I hope this helps you in choosing your own range of colours.

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Almost ten weeks have passed since the 2021 Open Studios event came to an end. Since then I have completed commissions and a few new paintings for the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association.

For about two years we have been providing our greeting cards and Open Giclee Prints to the Association with STEADY interest growing for our products. The Association recently acquired the lease and management interest in the Eagles Heritage. Out of this new venture has come a need to establish a new visitor centre with Local products available to visitors. The link to the full Press Release is here:

Throughout each of the last several years I have produced a list of paintings that I would like to complete over the coming months. While I never stick to the planning I benefit from it by reminding myself of the attractive subjects that I can have a go at. This is very handy when you have those days of uncertainty and don’t know what to do with yourself- it often happens after completing a larger or more complex painting. And late last year I added a few Owls to the list while not knowing that a couple of months later I would be asked to produce some pictures of our local owls and other birds of prey.

The portrait of the Wedge-tailed Eagle is based totally upon the WT Eagle that is kept at Eagles Heritage.

The Masked Owl was a difficult subject. I had put off painting a Barn or Masked Owl because of the complex markings on their wings. And I had only Internet images to use for reference and these varied so much that I was a bit lost as to what was most suitable form or morph I should use. In the end we have what we have: a masked Owl looking out over it’s domain in the evening light, and this renders some colours a little darker that if the bird were placed in bright daylight.

The final New painting for the Eagle’s Heritage shop products is actually a drawing completed using Faber-Castell Pitt Oil pencils. The Lesser Sooty Owl is another bird with very complex markings that are very hard to “read” and transpose to a sheet of paper. This drawing developed as I went along and it finished with an eerie look in a dark forest.

All three of these pictures will be available through the Eagles heritage Shop once the renovations are completed. Or you can order through our website here:

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Australian Birds in natural settings- the essence of Australian Bird Art

Splendid View of the Ridge Churchill Scan

Australian birds can be found in the bush, on waterways, in urban areas and around rural properties. Some birds are more recognizable for their urban predominance rather than occurring in their historically natural environment. Silver Gulls and in recent years in Western Australia- the noisy vandalising Corellas.

When it comes to creating a composition to feature a native bird, I weigh-up the various options which might best represent the natural habitat of that species of bird. Black Cockatoos dwell in Wandoo forest as do Galahs and many other parrots. And because I love the old gnarled Wandoo trees then I automatically merge the birds onto the Wandoo branches. Scarlet Robins, Western Rosellas, Willie Wagtails and 28 Parrots can be frequently found in the edges of the forest bordering along pasture land and even feeding in the pastureland. It seems to me that old fence posts are just so natural a place to find these species of birds; it seems OK therefore to place these birds on old mossy posts.

As a bird watcher I am happy to see birds in natural and semi-natural habitats. And when considering a new painting design I fail to accept that placing a bird  on a stick or on a shadow to make a quick simplistic illustration and present it as a serious painting is for me. I want more from the effort.

The challenge of creating a composition that incorporates a natural habitat for a bird to be found in (in real life) is what makes a painting worthwhile and authentic. People who view my work and acquire paintings frequently state that the authentically natural habitat or setting is what they appreciate about my paintings. That is where or when I get enormous satisfaction.

My aim is to produce work that clearly falls within the description or classification of what can be called Australian Bird Art.