Nest Obsessed

I’m not sure what it is that draws me so strongly to bird nests. But over and over, I am fascinated by their beauty, structure, and variety. And the fact that birds make them with their beaks is nothing short of remarkable. I can’t imagine making something so fine – other than on paper.

Tips and Techniques– I was able to borrow an educator’s loan kit of nests from the Pember Museum of Natural History to make this page. It contained such a treasure trove that I called two artist friends to join me for a nest sketch party. Ask your local nature center or museum if they have a nest collection that you might work with. You may need to draw on location, but it’s worth working from the real thing, rather than a photo. But beware: you just may become nest obsessed, too.

41 Comments on “Nest Obsessed

  1. Jaw dropping gorgeous, Jean! I’m as obsessed with studying your nest details as you are with drawing them. This is a wonderful collection, and you’ve included the eggs of each species too (did the nests you borrowed come with the eggs?). How fun to host a nest sketching party for your friends too. Did you paint before inking, or the other way around? Thanks so much for sharing. Your post is a feast for the eyes and imagination!

    • Hi Barb- As usual, I drew in ink and then painted. I also put in a lot of the values in ink. This allowed me to keep the painting simpler. I am still preferring a pen to a paint brush post wrist break. Only the eggs of the yellow-green vireo were there (I drew this one in the museum), so I looked up the rest. I’ve been thinking about doing an out of sketchbook piece nest, using the same nests, but done with less ink. Thanks for your enthusiasm.

  2. How I love this! Nests fascinate me too and you have captured them so beautifully. I am lucky to have a nature journaling group of women and I am going to see if they want to share nests together. Thank you Jean! So inspiring!

  3. wonderful nests! Have you ever watched a robin go to a muddy place, get her breast muddy, and then go smear the mud into the nest lining. I was amazed —- or the flurry of multiple cliff swallows when they have found a good mud source — or thrown little white feathers in the air for barn swallows to catch and take to their nests.

    • You’re had some terrific sightings Elva. I haven’t seen these. But it’s a wonder where tree swallows get the feathers to line their nests or how orioles weave such a fine hanging pouch.

      • For a few years I kept a little container of feathers under my car seat (collected from our local duck pond) and, come spring, I’d throw them in the air where barn swallows were busy nest building. They don’t grab every one, but I get a thrill for each one they do grab.

  4. Oh Jean!
    I just have to stare at these !!!!
    You continue to inspire me !!!
    I am wondering what ink pen you are using… I’m sure this is a redundant question.
    Thank you ! thank you!
    You rock my creative world!!!!!
    Hugs from southern Oregon!

    • Kate- I used a Micron 02 and 005 black pen for these. The ink is permanent and archival so you can paint over it no problem. I like the smaller sizes to get the precision and delicacy of the nest strands. Thanks for your enthusiasm!

  5. This is so beautifully done, composed and painted… I was just asking a friend why I haven’t done a page like this… or tried to!! Maybe you need to teach a class — composing a spread of nests and eggs and such! 😀

    • HI Marleny- The composition works just like any other collection page. Pick a place to start and keep building. This one was a little tricky because I had some odd sized gaps. The eggs and text helped to complete the composition.

  6. These are amazing! How do you know where to start? Just think- the birds instinctually make these.

    • Hi Kelly– I started this in the museum with the yellow-green vireo nest. Starting near the top or in a corner leaves lots of space on the page to keep building around.

  7. I love these! I agree with you about the beauty of nests. My daughter and I are watching a squirrel find nest material and we’re putting out our cats fur after brushing, too. Thank you for your inspiration!

    • That’s generous of you to assist the squirrel. Ours don’t seem to need any help other than to help themselves to the bird seed. But I often see fur woven into bird nests– good insulation and downy soft.

  8. Absolutely lovely, Jean. What a treat to sit on a snowy day and study how you did each nest and the eggs. I enjoy the image of you and two friends gathered to paint nests. I have a weekly painting buddy who was excited to come over one day to paint a dead Red-bellied Woodpecker. We essentially made a study of its specialized anatomy before holding a burial in the back yard. May your wrist continue to heal. Judy

    • Thanks Judy– I am always alone when it comes to sketching dead birds. I don’t get takers for that. But studying the anatomy is so valuable– you really learn a lot. I appreciate your healing wishes, too. Some days are better than others (today, not one of the better ones), but things are all moving in the right direction. Best, Jean

      • Those are beautiful nests. We have so many birds and I look trying to find nests but not much luck. I find them looking for nesting material. I found the Juncos looking in our door matt for the dog hair that was stuck in it so we started to put the dog hair from the vacuum in a little box on the porch. They hauled it all off. The ravens haul off the sticks from the Redwood trees but I have yet to find the nest. I think the trees are so tall that they are hard to see where they go!

  9. I am transfixed by such details – your nests are stunning. Thanks for capturing so many different styles.
    Reminding us to always look up when out in nature.

    • Thanks Cindy. This was a treasure trove of nests. There aren’t many intact ones left outside now after a winter of snow and wind. But soon we’ll get a fresh crop. Looking forward to seeing you soon. — J

  10. And make it fine on paper, you do! There’s a video going around the internet that my partner saw on Facebook of two eagles cooperatively moving a large stick one of them found from one side of their nest to the other. I bet you’d love it. Oh, to see a hummingbird nest, I long for that! I seem to remember you have found at least one.

  11. Glad you told us where you got the nests, my first thought was “oh I love these” the style etc, BUT “I never see nests like these!” I love sketching birds and nests, don’t know why I don’t do more, thanks.

  12. Jean,
    I thought I was eccentric, I have been nest obsessed before I was a teen and I am over sixty now. My nature journals are full of nest sketches, drawings, paintings … from life, collections, photos etc. You just made me feel a little more normal!

      • Jean,
        I am drawn to pendulous nests. Here in New Mexico’s Rocky Mountains I love the Bushtit nest, a tiny bird with a foot long hanging nest always hidden in a thicket of foliage and the Warbling Vireo nest, a suspended cup… and yours?

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