There is a point when I am midway through a painting that I have to hold my breath and hope I don’t wreck it. That’s especially true when I’ve invested in a careful drawing as a base for the watercolor. So I’m especially pleased to come out the other side of this piece with a beautiful ending. (See last week’s post for the beginning.)
When I am drawing a bird’s nest, I am always mindful that the birds who built it have given me a beautiful beginning. The woven strips of bark, grass, pine needles, twigs and finer nesting materials lend themselves to lovely lines. I love rebuilding the nest on paper, strand by strand, picking out patterns and adding darks until the bird’s creation takes shape again in ink. I plan to add watercolor to this, but I thought I’d share it now to give you a sense of this beginning stage.
Wings, skulls, feathers, skeletons, legs, specimens, live birds, bird paintings. I’ve got birds on the brain! To prepare for several upcoming workshops I am teaching on drawing birds, I’ve been brushing up on bird anatomy and biology, drawing skulls and bones, and watching and painting birds. Best of all, I made a trip to the New York Historical Society to see Audubon’s Aviary, John James Audubon’s original watercolors for the print edition of The Birds of America (1827–38), engraved by Robert Havell Jr. Though I’ve seen reproductions of Audubon’s engravings many times, I was thoroughly… Read More
Nest & Eggs
Yes, this is a completely unseasonal piece given the temperature outside (36F), the snow and barren branches, and the fact that the wood thrush that made this nest is far gone to Central America for the winter. Still, it’s good to remind myself in the year’s darkest days that we are riding on a fantastic, revolving planet– which, after a little more travel around the sun, will bring us to spring once more.
Coming Full Circle
1969. Forty-five years ago, an enthusiastic young birder named Scott Stoner found and kept watch over a red-winged blackbird nest in a field near his home. When eggs and parent birds disappeared one mid-June day, he took it. Scott mounted the nest to a piece of cardboard, signed his name, dated it, and put it on display in a nature museum in his basement. He was 12 years old. Three weeks ago, I found Scott’s nest. It was still mounted to that piece of now-yellowed cardboard, tucked away in a long-forgotten cabinet… Read More
“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure…” I love finding bird nests – in spring and summer when birds are actively nesting, in fall and winter when once-hidden nests appear, and in nature centers and museums, where nests are as likely to be on display as they are hidden in cabinets or backroom storage. I recently borrowed several nests from a local nature center to use for a demonstration I was invited to give at the Bethlehem Art Association (Delmar, NY). This is the painting that resulted, but I thought… Read More
Under the Eaves
At my sister’s 1830s rambling country farmhouse last weekend, I found several nests of robins and phoebes tucked under the eaves of porches and overhangs. I walked under this one numerous times before noticing its messy threads spilling from the beams above the front porch doorway! I sketched very quickly in ink, which lent itself to the loose tangle of grasses, but didn’t work as well for figuring out the perspective of the multi-angled beams, roof, and siding. The paint and text helped pull it together — but in the end, the… Read More
I recently made a 5×7” accordion fold journal with high quality watercolor paper (Arches, 140lb, CP) and started it off with continuing studies of nests and eggs. Wow—what a difference paper makes! I loved the subtle effects that can be achieved with this paper, especially for nest materials and delicate egg markings (the white puffin egg was too delicate to scan well; click on it for a larger view). The downside, unfortunately, is that it’s hard for me to imagine doing a quick journal sketch or scrawling notes on a page – the… Read More
“Traveler, there is no path; paths are made by walking.” – Antonio Machado This page kicks off a new journal and seems right for a first post. The red-winged blackbird nest was a great find at a local nature center. I started by studying the nest to figure out how it’s put together, where the lightest strands cross in front, and what materials went into making it. Then I did a really loose drawing in ink using Micron 02 and 005 pens. After that, I started to weave more detailed strands in ink… Read More