Song for a May Morning

Why does March seem to go on forever while May is so fleeting? Like ferns unfurling, each moment, each day, transforms woods, field, and wetland, ultimately bringing them to fullness. Today, warblers descend on their journey north, oaks and hornbeams and apples are in bloom; morrells push up through the forest floor; but not for long. A week from now, a fleeting moment from now, they too will be transformed. So, Hail bounteous May as John Milton urges in his Song on a May Morning. Celebrate its fleeting sweetness.

Tips and Techniques– Consider different ways to paint your subject. What’s in focus? What do you want to convey? Although I started this page with the Solomon’s seal and ferns, when the black-throated green warbler appeared, I decided to simplify the ferns and make the birds stand out. Painting the negative space around the plants, rather than each plant individually, helped to unify the page, highlight the greenery, and draw attention to the warblers.

Chickadee Update– Two weeks ago I shared my enthusiasm for chickadees excavating a nest cavity in an old fence post. Sadly, they seem to have selected another nest site. It’s not unusual for birds to consider several locations for nesting before selecting one. I’m disappointed that I won’t be sharing eggs, nest, or young with you. But, it’s still early in the nesting season—I’m sure I’ll find others to sketch.

WORKSHOP THIS WEEK! Ink and Watercolor Basics for Sketchers
Friday, May 14, 2-3:30 PST / 5-6:30 EST
Hosted by Winslow Art Center- Technique Takeaway Series
Virtual via Zoom $40 REGISTER
If you struggle with getting satisfying results with watercolor sketching this workshop is for you. We’ll talk about the most common problems and ways to fix them, and practice various approaches to combining ink and watercolor to build your skills and confidence and produce more satisfying results in your sketchbook.

13 Comments on “Song for a May Morning

  1. Really like the negative painted background. I agree, May goes far too quickly, it’s hard to keep up with all that exuberant growth.

  2. I love how you did the painted background. It’s very effective. Did you sketch the fern leaves in the background with pencil after you did the initial background wash? Or did you just wing it? Inquiring minds want to know! 🙂

    • Dear Inquiring Mind- Yes, I painted a layer of background and then sketched more ferns in pencil. Added a second wash, and then another fern and Solomon seal in pencil, and a final wash. The spaces got smaller and more niggling, but the layered effect is worth it. The pencil was light so erased easily. Cheers, Jean

  3. What a beautiful painting, layout, design. The drawing are marvellous. The character of those emerging plants is so well conveyed. Love the poem.
    I am savouring every day of May.

  4. It’s been well past the 25 year mark that I first saw a black throated green warbler. But not just one but at least a dozen foraging in the trees. We were camping with our three daughters in the Upper Peninsula and it was early in the morning. I was alone with no one to share my experience with. But then I saw your post. How beautiful! What a memory it brought back.and the ferns! You captured the spring emergence so nicely.

    • What a nice sighting– That’s one not easily forgotten. I’m not sure yet whether they will stay around or whether they’ll head farther north. I will see them in Maine this summer, regardless. By that time, I’ll more likely hear them than see them. Nice either way.

  5. Beautiful! Regarding your Chickadee Update, we had a similar experience – a couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to discover a pair of Chestnut-backed Chickadees working on excavation of a tree cavity in our local park. I had looked forward to watching their progress over the coming weeks, but on our next visit, they were no longer there. I trust that they found an even better location for their nest.

  6. How lovely. I just found your site again and I’m wondering whether you always use watercolor paper in your journals. I struggle with the paper being too precious…..

    • Hi Susan- I do use watercolor paper in my journals (Stillman & Birn, Zeta or Beta). I want good results with watercolor and won’t get them if I don’t use paper made for watercolor. Consider that you could have far more expensive hobbies. Paper is paper, it’s what you put on it that’s precious.

  7. I am way behind, Jean, sorry, but I wanted to say how much I like this rendition. There’s something about the combination of black and white and color that keeps me looking. Superb!

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