Huge flocks of red-winged blackbirds returned this week on winds from the south. They flew over farm fields in a current of birds, wave after wave crossing the sky. These early migrants are always such a welcome sign, even though we have miles to go before spring arrives. In anticipation of that loveliest season, I painted this American robin’s nest to prepare for my upcoming workshop series, Painting the Colors of Spring. The first session focuses on Earth colors—a nice way of acknowledging “mud season,” while also paying tribute to the bird who brings Earth colors to life like no other harbinger of spring.
Tips and Techniques– I struggled and failed at four paintings in the last week. I tell you this not because I recommend it. Rather, as a reminder that it’s part of the painting process. When you are unsatisfied with your results, avoid the common misery that comes with concluding that you’re a terrible painter. Instead, try to figure out what went wrong—was the drawing off? Did you rush the painting? Was it your color choices? Poor planning or design? Do you need to work on skills to help you tackle the subject you chose? Consider making notes right on the painting that highlight what you need to work on. Then pick up your pencil and get going.
Nothing is a complete failure. It’s an opportunity to learn one more lesson of what not to do again. Advice from the “older “ generation lol
Thanks Rita. It often takes me a good number of those “what not to do agains” before the lesson sinks in. I appreciate the advice from the “older and wiser” generation.
Thank you, Jean, you are always so inspiring!
Thanks Margo– appreciate it!
Wise advice! I try to think of those disappointments as steps in the process that offer me some lessons. Onward! The really good news is that your wrist must be better. On your advice, my husband Tom and I visited the Pember. What a treasure! Thank you.
SO glad to hear you visited the Pember! I went yesterday for my annual visit and loved every minute. My arm was killing me after two hours of standup sketching, so I’ve still got some work to do, but it was worth it. You’ll see some sketches from there soon.
I’ll look forward to seeing them Jean. I live about 40 minutes from Pember so I think I’ll be visiting often.
I just signed up for your spring classes. We’ll be traveling part of the time but I’ll make it work. The themes are lovely to look forward to on these winter days. Thank you for all your wonderful sharings!
Beautiful robin and great advice.
Thanks Laura Kate!
Thank you so much for your transparent encouragement. It is astounding how helpful this is. I adore your work, so knowing that it doesn’t come as instant pudding motivates me to move forward instead of bogging down in discouragement. Bless you.❤
It’s no instant pudding, Heather! And I get discouraged too. It’s normal. So this advice is for me as much as for you and others who may need it. Putting in the “work” of artWORK is what ends up paying off.
It’s so nice to see your emails in my inbox again! I’m glad your wrist is healing and you’re able to get back to more of the things you love. We had a lot of downed limbs in an ice storm recently, and in the cleanup I found a nest (white-eyed vireo? I still need to research), and because of your inspiring paintings, I saved it to paint soon. I imagine it might take several attempts, and I’ll keep your advice in mind. Thank you for sharing all of your lovely work with us.
Sorry about the ice storm and clean up, but excellent discovery of the nest! The vireo nests can be especially lovely. Enjoy painting it.
Priceless advice! This painting is wonderful! The composition is perfect to communicate “anticipation”. Alison
Thanks Alison! My first attempt didn’t work well and I’m glad I started over. Much better.
Thank you! I love this! Both the delicate and hopeful drawing and your thoughts. It is too easy for us to just say we are not good artists, but it is important to accept the challenge of continuing on and, the advice you gave about what to consider and the notes to take is so helpful. You’re a good inspiration and a beautiful artist and thank you for sharing the truth.
Thank you! I love this! Both the delicate and hopeful drawing and your thoughts. It is too easy for us to just say we are not good artists, but it is important to accept the challenge of continuing on and, the advice you gave about what to consider and the notes to take is so helpful. It is inspiring to see your healing process as your wrist recovers and the Robin is is the perfect symbol for the anticipation of New Life.
Hi Denee- Thanks so much for writing. I need the advice as much for myself, too. We’re always learning! I’m working on strength and stamina now, so taking breaks while watercolor layers dry is perfect. I hope I’m near full strength when the robin’s nest.
Thanks Jean that was very timely advise I just messed up a painting yesterday from being to anxious to keep going and didn’t let the paint dry and thus mud! Shall start anew today! Looking forward to our upcoming classes!
Thanks Georgia. Rushing the painting process was what wrecked one of my paintings this week too. I’m looking forward to the classes and to seeing familiar faces on screen. It will be nice to be back on the perch.
I can confirm that, as a beginner, note-taking is very helpful for my motivation. I love the composition of your painting.
Great reminder. So happy to see that you are able to paint and teach again. Thank you!!!
Nice to hear from you Pam. I’m making progress!
I love the angle of view and the trailing grasses. The way some grass blades are inked and others aren’t is lovely and the Robin has that vivid, watchful look that we’ve all seen. Really, really, nice, Jean!
Thanks so much Linda. This was my second try and the mistakes of the first helped the second attempt come together.
What a stunning perspective! I so love your work, Jean. You inspire me always.
Thanks so much! I appreciate hearing that.
Love love this post, Jean, and what a perfectly chosen title, Anticipation. Already blackbirds winging by, and in such large numbers. Your early nesting robin must be watching too. Wonder what’s on her mind. Your bird nests always astound me; I pour over all the details of the nest and shadows. Your wrist injury has not affected your work one iota!
Thanks much Barb. It’s good to be back painting again.
Great advice Jean!
Good for me, too, Jill. Thanks!
Hi Jean, You knocked this one out of the park all because of placement on the page. You put all the interest and detail in 1/4 of the page but then let the grasses and our eyes fall down the rest of the page. It is rustic yet elegant. What an inspiration for trying something different. I love it!
Thanks so much Judy. I love the way you’ve analyzed this composition. I was mindful to keep the details around the bird and let the paint go at the bottom. Glad you like it!
I love this SO much!!!!!
Minot, ND …><||||(•>
Thanks Judy– appreciate it. Hopefully, you’ll be seeing robins around once the snow melts.