Return to Snow
The blackbirds returned two weeks ago– a huge flock of red-winged blackbirds and grackles. They hang out in nearby fields and wetlands, and every few days turn up squawking in the tall trees surrounding our yard, then scatter in a great mass of beating wings. But today, amidst a foot of new snow, they stay. Hunkered down at our feeders, they clean us out twice over. And what could be better: The birds or knowing that, despite the snow, we’re on the other side of winter?
Tips & Techniques: Since these birds were never still for more than a few seconds, I decided to skip the pencil and go direct to watercolor, using a size 5 DaVinci travel brush. If you have a feeder, give it a try: it’s a good way to work quickly, focusing on the general shape of birds in different postures without getting caught up with details.
I love this. It’s incredible how much we can see with just a shape.
Yes– and good reason that most bird id starts with size and shape
These are wonderful! And great tip too 🙂
Thanks Meera! I’ve been wanting to capture this flock since they returned. Glad today presented such a prime opportunity.
Absolutely love the painting and your narrative, Jean. It is an interesting time of year … weather can spin on a dime. Spring will arrive in its own time. Thanks for your inspiration.
Yes. It’s a grand battle of the seasons. I’m glad we had a few warmer days this week…now back to a white out.
This is beautiful! And your end result of all the “poses” has turned out to be a wonderful composition altogether… though I bet you were working so fast that you hardly had time to plan that too? What is the shape of a No. 5 travel brush and how big is the page you show here? I think it’s genius!!! what you caught so perfectly here! Thanks for sharing the inspiration! ❤️
Thanks– the #5 is a round brush and the page is 8.5×11 in a Stillman & Birn beta journal. Although I think about composition along the way, you are right– this is more random than planned, except that I wanted to keep the flying birds to a diagonal band. I appreciate your feedback!
sorry for my poor English…your work is marvelous. great mastery an a great soul. What kind of paper do you work on? My problem is speed, I can not sum the forms and I look with immense interest what you do. Many thanks! Margot
Thanks Margot- I’m working in a Stillman & Birn “beta” sketchbook with 180 gsm watercolor paper. There is a balance between speed and precision. I know a lot of sketchers that really value speed– my tendency is toward precision so I have to force myself to work quickly– this was a good exercise for that!
A story to be told here…lovely and happy.
Thanks– The snow day gave me the chance I needed to see them up close and paint.
Love this – just what we are experiencing here in N. Michigan and you captured it beautifully.
We’ll both be in the swings from winter to mud season for awhile!
Another inspirational piece, Jean.
This is so cool! I love the graphic look to this… and totally envious of your lettering skills! 😉
Thanks Charlie! This was the best part about getting a foot of snow.
They say red-winged blackbirds are true harbingers of spring. I saw one today. I think those birds are right.
I agree Lisa, even though another foot of snow is falling here today! Many people talk about robins signalling spring but, unlike red-winged blackbirds, robins stay around all winter, gathering in flocks that mainly stay in the woods. When the blackbirds appear, they are truly returning from their more southerly wintering grounds.
Exactly. I didn’t realize that about robins until a few years ago. Although in my neck of the woods, I never see robins until spring.