In the Brambles

I discovered this American redstart nest back in May. The birds laid four chestnut speckled eggs and by July they were gone. Now, with leaves falling and foliage dying back, I returned to the nest for another view. Still protected by thorns and a tangle of leaves, and a bit weather worn, the nest remains a thing of beauty: perfectly woven with bark and pine needles and threaded with strips of birch and spider webs. What better treasure could there be in the brambles?


Tips and Techniques: In the spirit of Inktober, I sketched this nest directly in ink using a dip pen and Calli jet black India waterproof ink. I added a lot of detail to the drawing before adding watercolor. To create a fully saturated variety of gold, green, and russet leaves, I painted four or five (or more) transparent layers of color, going from light to dark and finally to shadow tones. The moral of the story is not to stop too soon. You don’t want to overwork it, but if your layers are transparent, you can really build up rich and subtle color.

31 Comments on “In the Brambles

  1. In addition to your insects……your paintings of nests are my favorite. This one, again, is breathtakingly stunning. I have a printed version of one of your painted nests, the one with the Albert Einstein quote, above my desk here at work at the nature center…..Thank you…..

    • Hi Laurel– I always liked that Einstein quote paired with the nest. I have several others in the queue, but not sure when I’ll get to them. Hope all is well on your side of the Hudson!

  2. I notice you left a great deal of white in the pen drawing. Would you have added more detail in pen if you had not planned to use watercolor?

    • Probably. But I may have switched to an even finer nib for the nest, which I wanted to keep light. Generally, I would have done even less drawing, but I wanted to develop the darks in pen with this and use watercolor for the lights and mid-tones.

  3. I obviously don’t have painting skills or knowledge, but is this why this piece looks different from your others? I like it. It seems less watercoloury (I also appear not to have the proper jargon either).

  4. This is stunning! Thanks for sharing it and for telling the process. Much as I love the bird you have as your blog header, I think you’ve grown as an artist since painting that bird. You might want to think of cycling in some of your other work.

    • Thanks Peggy! I am growing and evolving as an artist, so I appreciate your comment on the header. It’s hard to select a header because it’s such a narrow, horizontal space. But one of these days, I’ll hit on something new.

  5. Thank you for showing the ink drawing before the painting, Jean — I always love seeing the process! Another lovely drawing…

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