Bird Words

Letterforms and birds are subjects that frequently turn up in my journals. At first, I simply matched bold words with their subjects, but more recently, I’ve tried to get birds to perch on letters. It’s not always easy to do. You’ve got to know a bit about the anatomy of bird feet, and find the right placement to support the bird and balance the page. Here’s a fun one that I did today— the lovely winter wren.

 

Here are a few sketches and paintings that give a sense of my progression with this over the years.

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Tips and Techniques– Don’t shy away from learning to draw birds’ feet. You know you’re guilty if you are prone to hide this part of a bird’s anatomy behind leaves and branches. A simple Google search for “bird feet anatomy” will turn up lots of good diagrams and drawings for you to study and practice. If you have an opportunity to look at bird skins or mounted birds at a nature center or museum, take the time to sketch  feet. It’s a sure way to improve your bird art.

Workshop and a Sketch

I have a workshop coming up hosted by the Vermont Watercolor Society that I am now able to open to the public! There are only a few spots left, so please e-mail me if you are interested in signing up.

Watercolor Journaling
Vermont Watercolor Society, Westside Hub Class
Saturday, December 8, 2018
10am-4pm

Pawlet Public Library, 141 School St, Pawlet, VT 05761
Learn to keep your own artist journal to capture your creative journey and improve your skills as an artist. We’ll share subject ideas, test drive materials, and consider compositions for combining artwork and text to create engaging pages. You’ll also learn practical techniques for drawing and painting the subjects you encounter. This is a fun, stress-free workshop where there will be plenty of time to learn and practice.
Fee: $65 Materials list provided upon registration.
Space is limited. Please e-mail me to register: jeanmackay.art@gmail.com.
Note: We will take a break for lunch and it will be potluck, so please bring something to share. A refrigerator is available.

And now the sketch…
I was wondering whether I might use similar loose sketching techniques for small round birds that I used last week when sketching small round bulbs. Wrens are certainly much more precise than daffodil bulbs, but there’s promise here worth pursuing further.

 

Winter Wren

Small in stature, but with an exuberant song that makes up for it, the winter wren is more frequently heard than seen. The song always surprises me— warbled and sweet, it goes on and on, ringing through deep, moist northern forests in Maine where I hear it each summer*.
I went to the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven for a reference for the winter wren. On display in its ornithology collection are five species of North American wrens. None is very large, but the winter wren is astoundingly tiny— only about 3-4 inches (8 cm). I much prefer drawing and painting from specimens than photographs, as there is much finer detail to see in the feather pattern and color. I also watched a couple of videos of winter wrens and looked at different images of the bird, so that I had more than a single reference for the final piece.Winter Wren_Journal
I did the studies in my Stillman & Birn Beta watercolor journal; the final painting is on Arches 300lb cold pressed paper, which is a superior quality paper that allows you to build up many layers of paint. I took a couple of photos of the painting in progress to give you a sense of how the bird took shape:

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*ARTS AND BIRDING, 2016, Registration Open!
Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine
You can hear the beautiful song of the winter wren, along with the calls of puffins, terns, gulls, and the gentle lapping of waves on rocky shore during Arts and Birding, 2016. I’m heading up a 5-day session for artists and photographers July 10-15, 2016. Get details on my Workshop page or on the Hog Island website.