Small Miracles

This painting is a gift: a symbol of new life and the cradle that embraces its fragile loveliness. I painted it for my cousin to give to her daughter, who has two daughters of her own. One was born this summer, nearly four months early. Yet by the grace of many small miracles and the amazing skill of neonatal care, she recently went home, beautiful and healthy. Two blue eggs, so much to be grateful for.

Tips and Techniques– I loved doing the shadows in this piece and, in fact, they are critical to getting any nest to look dimensional. The cast shadows are cobalt blue and Winsor violet with plenty of water, painted in one go with loose brushstrokes. It’s worth practicing shadows, as it will help you to learn how much water you need and will build your confidence in making marks without fuss.

25 Comments on “Small Miracles

  1. This is absolutely exquisite – I would love to hatch out in that nest! And thank you for the tips on shadows, very useful. Yours create depth without being ”dull”, which I am trying to master!

  2. Another stunning nest, Jean! Your cousin and her daughter must be thrilled with it. I love that you used the shadow color inside the nest as well as outside. It added so much liveliness. ~Susan

  3. Wow, that is seriously premature. Congratulations to the whole family for getting through it, and to the medical staff for working miracles. Your painting is perfect. While my son’s partner was pregnant with twins this summer, a doe brought her two fawns through our yard – it’s rare to see two. And in the forest one day, I stumbled upon an even rare sight, a Nighthwak’s nest. It was just a cozy spot on the ground in the moss, with two tiny nestlings huddled close together. The mother was fierce and I backed away quickly. My son’s twins were a month premature and are also home now, keeping their parents busy. We may wonder about bringing life into this crazy world but that is the great hope, isn’t it? That these tiny people will grow into a better world.

    • You are right, Linda. This baby was shockingly premature and there were many long days and nights for the family– and more ahead, I’m sure. I’m glad your grandchildren are home, too! Having children has always been a hopeful act. Let’s take heart in that.

  4. I know this thanksgiving season will hold even more to be grateful to God for in your family, Jean. How marvelous the miracle of new life, especially when you witness first hand the fragility of it. I am happy for your family.
    Do you mind if I ask a couple of technique questions?
    First, do you start with a pencil sketch, and then paint, and then draw with ink on top of that?
    Secondly, do you have a favorite brand of watercolor paint and paper?

    • Hi Rosann– I use pencil at the start to outline the eggs, the basic shape of the nest, and a few of the key strands. Then I drew the entire thing in ink (quite a lot of detail), followed by the watercolor. I did this on Arches 140lb hot press paper, because it’s smooth enough to draw on. I like Fabriano and Fluid 100 as well. A lot depends on the piece and how much ink work I am doing. My watercolors are mostly QoR from Golden, with some Winsor and Newton and Daniel Smith. Almost all of my paints are highly transparent. QoR paints are made in New York State, where I live, so I appreciate having a local option — and the colors are great. Thanks for checking in!

  5. I adore this painting, as will your cousin, and her daughter, and her daughters. The first thing I noticed, after the whole, was the shadows, and good to read you reinforce them in your tips. You say paint them in loose strokes in one go, but I presume you do them after the detailed nest is completed, so they would still be quite fiddly I expect. Or do you do the shadows first, after maybe doing a full pencil sketch? Thank you Jean. Absolutely amazing work, as always.

    • Hi Jo– You are right, I did the shadows are last. It still takes a bit of finesse to get them around the strands of grass. I don’t pencil them in first, as I don’t want any line, however faint, to outline them.

  6. I’m just so impressed, I can’t find words! You are a master at drawing/ painting these nests. Love them. I look at these paintings and I’m so intimidated to even try. Much ink work with detail. Wow! 👍

    • Thanks Linda– I figure the bird has already done the hard part. The ink work is the fun and provides a very useful guide for picking out what’s going on in the nest. If you get a chance, do try a nest. You don’t have to draw every strand…just enjoy the process.

  7. What an amazing gift, and story Jean! Your cousin’s daughter will treasure it! I’m full-on in love with your bird nests, and your post is very timely inspiration since I’ve been challenged with a complicated cactus wren nest! Did you have a reference for this painting? Such beautiful detail, and shadows! My nemesis. Thanks so much for sharing. Enjoy the holiday season.

    • Hi Barb- Yes, I had a good reference for this…I’ve never done a nest without one to look at. I’ll have to look up the nest of the cactus wren. I thought they were cavity nesters. My only advice is to take your time. Walk away, come back, work some more. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so breaks can be very helpful. Good luck!

      • Excellent advice! Thanks Jean! And yes, cactus wrens are cavity nesters. I’ve been eagerly watching the recent activity around a particular nest. And of course it’s well beyond breeding season. I spotted the bird collecting nest materials and taking them inside the cavity. Maybe he’s creating a warm winter home. I’m trying to learn more. What’s complicating my nest drawing is the structure is supported by the equally complex arms of a cholla cactus! Oh boy!

  8. What a lovely backstory to this sweet nest! I love gifting my artwork that fits a story or celebrates a milestone in some way. How I’d love to see you sketch a nest in person one day!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: