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.

24 Comments on “Return to Snow

  1. I love this. It’s incredible how much we can see with just a shape.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. Love this – just what we are experiencing here in N. Michigan and you captured it beautifully.

  6. 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.

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