Spring Arrivals

Early spring is underrated. The splashy colors of daffodils and tulips are still weeks away, as is the return of more prized migratory birds– warblers, tanagers, orioles. The woods, too, show only the slightest hint of green. And yet, despite temperatures that fluctuate between 20 and 55-degrees, between snow and sunshine, spring unfolds in myriad small ways each day. I keep a list of spring arrivals, marking the date and the species. I like to compare my lists from year to year, to anticipate what’s coming next, and to celebrate each small sign of the changing season. It’s not only the resplendent that deserves our applause.

Tips and Techniques– People often comment here about my page layouts, so I thought I’d use this page to try to shed some light on my process.

Picture yourself, faced with a blank page. Then someone hands you a most splendid scarlet mushroom, unearthed from rotting leaves near the wood pile. It goes on the page. You’ve never seen this mushroom before, so you look it up in a field guide and record information about it. Now the page is begun, but what next?

Several days later, while walking down the road, a flock of grackles sits perched on last year’s stubs of corn in the field. It’s the dried stalks as much as the birds that draw you in. They go on the page. Now you have two seemingly unrelated subjects to contend with. Hmmm.

The next day, it snows, bringing flocks of birds to the feeder. There’s no time to draw them, but you make a list. Two days later, its 50-degrees with wind from the south, a fairly good sign that there will be birds that take advantage of the tailwind and come north. They go on the list. Now the page seems to be saying something about early spring, but it needs something more to pull it together. Red maple! Blooming now, it’s just the thing to carry the color of the scarlet cup across the page, so you go in search of it and add a few blooms.

Finally, you add a title “Early Spring Arrivals” to solidify the theme. But there is still room for one more thing: you need to put yourself on the page. Why did you see these things? Because you are teleworking from home and taking more walks while COVID-19 transforms the world. That seems worth noting. And now the page is complete.

27 Comments on “Spring Arrivals

  1. Thank you for the description of your process. Helpful and Very inspiring.

  2. Lovely page and a fascinating description of how it came to be. Thanks for taking the time to describe and share your process. 😉

  3. Thanks very much Jean!!
    I love your artwork, your journal pages, and the extra you give with explanation. Always a good day when there is a post from you.

  4. Well your thought process turned out beautifully! It takes me days to complete a page sometimes. How long does it usually take you? Not that it’s important. Just wondering.

    • Hi Erica- I often take a week to complete a page. Especially if it’s one like this that grows as the week progresses. Other times, I might take a few hours all at once from start and finish. But that kind of time is rare for me to have. I like an evolving page; I’m not in a hurry. But if I leave it too long, I can lose the thread of it, so I do try to finish within a week of starting.

  5. Brilliant, especially the coup de grace of the COVID 19 note. The page is beautiful – I love the red maple flowers, another sweet Spring sight I don’t see these days. The Mockingbird arriving on a south wind, yes! 🙂 It was really interesting to learn that this page came together so gradually, without a lot of planning, very organically I guess you’d say. That describes my process with posts, particularly a post like the current one that isn’t what I usually do. It’s a piece by piece accretion. I always enjoy coming here, Jean. 🙂

  6. I really enjoyed reading about your unique process in the development of this page, Jean! Your drawings and your writing are always so inspiring and so inviting… Now I have a whole new perspective on how your journal work evolves. Enjoy every individual new arrival~!

    • Yes, generally. Red-winged blackbirds fluctuate a lot, depending on February’s weather. Salamanders vary depending on rain and temperature. Many birds are remarkably consistent– within days year to year.

  7. So so lovely ! And also very interesting – I just did a page over the past few weeks this way 🙂 As a matter of fact, your posts over the years have been an inspiration to me. In the past few weeks, while working on an online course on illustration( that’s why I am late visiting your blog!), I practiced sketching moving birds and horses by adding a line to this and that pose whenever the creature got back to a particular pose – multiple poses going on at the same time! And I decided to do a page the same way and made notes on my encounters with osprey on scratch paper before tackling it. May be this is a breakthrough for me? !

    • Sounds great! I’m so glad to hear. I’ve been sketching live birds this week and it is a real challenge. I’m glad you’ve had a breakthrough. I do think the more you practice the better and more comfortable you get. There are so many details! But I love looking and learning.

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