High in the Treetops

A flash of orange streaks across the yard. A fleeting glimpse, combined with a clear whistled song from high in the cottonwoods means only one thing: an oriole is here. The males sing to establish and defend their breeding territory and I can only hope that this will be it. Maybe his mate is already weaving a pendulous nest up there, hidden by foliage. Wouldn’t that be a treat?

Tips and Techniques– Sometimes drawings come effortlessly. Many times they don’t. And sometimes it’s best to start over. Such was the case with this piece. I struggled for more than an hour to get the proportions and posture right on my first go at an oriole this week. I was in deep, but it just wasn’t working. Frustrated, I decided to walk away. The next evening, I started on a fresh drawing, and this time the bird took shape quickly. As hard as it is to abandon a drawing or painting, sometimes it’s the best thing you can do. If at first you don’t succeed….

Registration is open for “Bird, Nest, Eggs” through Winslow Art Center; Thursdays, June 8 & 22 focused on Baltimore Orioles; and Thursdays July 20 & 27 focused on the Eastern Phoebe. Details on the workshop page and at WAC.

14 Comments on “High in the Treetops

  1. Thank you again for a wonderful workshop in Kinderhook. You are a great teacher and very encouraging!!

    • I enjoyed reconnecting with you Lynda. So glad you came. I hope your wonderful clematis painting is hanging in a place of prominence soon! Keep sketching!

  2. Beautiful, Jean! I can hear his song, in my mind, just by looking at your painting of this handsome bird. The oriole is obviously the focus, but how and when did you add the soft leaves in the background? Your stalled beginnings really paid off by taking an obviously well needed break. It is hard to abandon any piece when it’s not working, but if I can manage to do so, they become keepers and self teaching exercises.
    Please let us know if you find any close-by nesting orioles. A treat for sure!

    • Thanks Alison. Wise advice…I wish it came with less angst, but it’s good to know we all struggle and that it is part of our growth and part of the process.

  3. Your decision to pause and begin again really paid off. He’s beautiful. We’ve only seen one oriole during the 22 years we’ve lived in our current house. He took a break at our feeder for no more than a few moments before he continued on his way. We were lucky to catch site of him. Yes, a real treat! I can’t wait to learn how to paint him and the oriole nest in as part of your next class!

    • Hi Susan- Once in 22 years is not great odds. I’m the same on the black-billed cuckoo, which I had a close and memorable encounter with about 20 years ago. I’m so glad you signed up for the next class. It’s always a pleasure.

  4. Jean, thank you for sharing your drawing struggles. Sometimes I forget that I’m not the only one who struggles. I finished my bluebird yesterday and realized that the posture line is off. I will redraw it. And, I wonder, if while we’re sleeping, our creative side of the brain takes over. The next morning everything is crystal clear, problem solved.

    • Could be, Peggy. Or it could be that each drawing we struggle with gets us closer to the one that works. Or maybe both. Sometimes, it’s the new mindset that helps the most. Once I get into a critical frame of mind, it’s hard for me to draw or paint well. Good luck with your bluebird– I look forward to seeing it!

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