At Home

Being at home day after day (after day) is hard. I wear the gravity of our times like added weight. How grateful I am for our only visitors, who sing their way into spring with airy lightness. I leave my sketchbook by the window so I can draw birds at the feeder and take it with me on my post work rambles. So, today, I offer you a few birds from my yard in hopes that, for a brief moment, they might bring you the cheer that they have given me.
(Click to view larger: blue jays, goldfinches, bluebirds, palm warblers)

Tips and Techniques– For me, sketching birds from life feels a bit like entering a spinning jump rope. Even though the birds are moving, you have to jump in at some point and commit a pose to paper. Once I’ve done that, the bird has likely moved. So, I either wait until it strikes a similar pose or use binoculars to see markings in greater detail. Little by little, I add to the bird, paying particular attention to the beak and eye. I find that if you get those right, the rest of the bird, even if unfinished, is more convincing. Once the initial sketch is down, I use photos as reference for additional details. I sketched these with pencil (yes, I erased a lot) and colored pencil, with a bit of watercolor on the jays and bluebirds.

23 thoughts on “At Home

  1. Dear Jean! I’ve been a silent visiter and reader of your blog since a while now and am always so happy when a new blogpost shows up. Today I thought I write a comment. I’ve always loved the birds before my window and in the garden but this year too I am double thankful for them and the distraction they bring me. I love your sketches and illustrations from nature and especially the bird sketches and loved that you describe how you did these sketches. I might try it this way soon too! Thanks for taking the time to write your blog and share some of your beautiful drawings!

    All the best to you and yours from Germany! Stay safe and healthy!


    • Thank you for writing Liisa, you have made my morning! I am glad to be able to share my only visitors with you and I’m glad you are especially enjoying birds during this very difficult spring. It has taken my years of practice to be able to sketch birds live with decent results. But there is much to be gained. I can’t tell you how long and carefully I had to look at the head of the jay to get those markings. Give it a go! Be well– and thanks for being in touch! — Jean

  2. Every day in my journal I make a list of the birds I can see and hear from my small back deck. For those moments I can remember what light feels like. My sketch heart is elusive, but I found my binoculars so maybe……. because your birds are so beautiful…. I do want to try.

  3. Jean, are thinking about offering on-line classes? I’m sure your followers would like, I know I would benefit. janice fleetwood-bean

    • Hi Janice- I have been thinking about it, though I would need to figure out a computer set up that would work. I’ve been thinking of doing mini-workshops with 3-4 people at a time to keep the personal touch that I like in my workshops. We’ll see. I am still working full time, so I don’t have lots of extra time. THanks for your encouragement.

    • Thanks! Those subtleties can make a nice difference. Even after all this time, I still need to refresh myself over and over about where the feathers groups are and what the underlying anatomy is. Those things are so important.

  4. Birds constantly frustrate me. They just won’t hold still for my slow rendering ability. Thanks for the delightful drawings!

    • Hi Janet– Yes, they are frustrating! Now that I have been drawing them for several years, I’m getting better at remembering where basic features and feathers groups are, so I can fill some of that in even when the bird has moved. Keep at it…or use photos and specimens to reduce the frustration.

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