I love finding bird nests – in spring and summer when birds are actively nesting, in fall and winter when once-hidden nests appear, and in nature centers and museums, where nests are as likely to be on display as they are hidden in cabinets or backroom storage.
I recently borrowed several nests from a local nature center to use for a demonstration I was invited to give at the Bethlehem Art Association (Delmar, NY). This is the painting that resulted, but I thought I’d also share my progression from early stages to completion so you can see how I built the nest on paper.
Stage 1: I very loosely sketched the nest with a Micron 02 black pen and then added a wash of yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and cobalt blue. My aim at this stage was to get some structure on the page and begin to establish some color and a sense of where lights and darks would be. It’s important to know where lighter strands will cross in front of dark ones, so they can be left light as darker shades are added.
Stage 2: I’ve added more detail to the nest, weaving more grasses and twigs in both pen (Micron 005) and watercolor. I’ve darkened the inner cup and the outer right side to build dimension and left the left side of the nest very loosely defined.
Stage 3: More detail, more darks, a bit of spatter, and a strand of grass coming out at the lower right to bring a piece of nesting materials into the space where I’ll incorporate text.
Stage 4: Though I don’t always add a shadow, I especially liked the way this one echoed the loose strands of grass. I wrote the text first on tracing paper to figure out the spacing and line breaks, and then penned them directly on the page.
Einstein’s words seemed especially fitting for this piece. There are several other magnificent structures in a box by my desk—you may be seeing more of them in the coming weeks.