Tuesday, November 30, 2010

“The Great Penguin Rescue” Giveaway

The Great Penguin Rescue: 40,000 Penguins, a Devastating Oil Spill, and the Inspiring Story of the World's Largest Animal Rescue
by Dyan deNapoli
Free Press
320 pages

I just finished reading “The Great Penguin Rescue” by Dyan deNapoli, and thanks to Free Press, I have three copies to give away! Yeah!! For the next seven days, anyone who leaves a comment on my blog will automatically be entered in the giveaway. The more comments you leave…the more chances you have to win. At the end of seven days, I will print out all the comments for the week and put them in a bowl…and draw three out. If you’re not into commenting, send me an email. I will put all email entries in the bowl as well.

About the book (psstt…you’ll love it!)
"The Great Penguin Rescue" is an account of the world’s largest (and most successful) animal rescue ever. It takes place in South Africa after a tanker named the Treasure went down, spilling 1,300 tons of oil into the ocean and contaminating the habitat of nearly 40,000 African penguins (which is 41% of the world’s population of African penguins). Forty-one percent!!! Almost half the world’s population of this incredible bird was at risk and likely to die if a rescue wasn’t made…and quick. DeNapoli’s book chronicles the entire rescue operation giving a first-hand view of what happened. The book is a fast read because it’s hard to put down—you want to keep reading to learn every detail of the rescue. I was amazed at the effort involved in running a rescue operation…and of the sacrifices the volunteers made for the penguins. In a matter of days, people from all over the world massed to save these birds, most of whom were lay volunteers who needed to be trained. In addition to the comprehensive recounting of what it takes to put together and run a rescue effort, deNapoli weaves in inspiring stories of penguins she has worked with through the years, passing on a deeper (and more intimate) understanding of the species and probably a greater appreciation of them as well. At the end of three months when the massive rescue operation finally came to a close, 95% of all the penguins rescued were saved thanks to the work of over 12,500 people. 20,000 penguins had been rescued, washed, force-fed and finally rehabilitated, while another 20,000 had been captured and moved to a safer location. In all, 40,000 penguins, or almost half the world’s population, had been saved…

I took a lot of notes while I read this book, looking for perfect excerpts to help impart the meaning of the book, but I ended up with 7 pages of “meaningful” quotes. Basically, everything was meaningful! I settled with these four:
It was winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and the darkness of the South African morning surrounded us as we made our way to the rescue center. Our group was quiet during the twenty-five minute ride, each person lost in their own thoughts about the task we were about to face. Although collectively we had more than one hundred years of experience working with the penguins, none of us had dealt with a situation of this magnitude. The truth was that no one ever had. In the history of organized wildlife rescue, there had never been this many penguins—or any other kind of animal—oiled and recovered alive at once before. In fact, this penguin rescue would soon prove to be twice as large as any that had been attempted in the past. And it would double again in size before it was over (deNapoli 7).
On the day that Salt River opened, the Red Cross was there to take care of the people working the rescue effort. Their station was set up just inside the main entrance, on the right-hand side. This was where snacks and drinks were distributed to the volunteers, and where their injuries were treated. When they first arrived, Red Cross staff and volunteers probably had no idea they would spend the next few months of their lives stitching up deep wounds from vicious penguin bites, bandaging fingers shredded from force-feeding the birds, and giving tetanus shots to scores of injured volunteers. The more severe wounds ranged from fingers that had been slashed by razor-sharp beaks while feeding penguins to facial injuries inflicted by frightened birds. Most of these cuts and gashes could be treated simply by disinfecting and bandaging them; still, I imagine these Red Cross workers were quite surprised by the amount of suture material they went through during the course of the Treasure rescue. Penguins may look cute and cuddly but they are actually quite ornery, and most people are unaware of how powerfully they can bite. Their beaks can split human flesh like a steak knife slicing through butter. And because of their fierce jaw strength, these lacerations can be quite severe and surprisingly painful (deNapoli 96).
South Africa’s only penguins had long been struggling to survive and now they were in serious trouble; this oil spill could very well be the event that doomed them to an early extinction. Our goal in coming to Cape Town was to try to save these seabirds, not only as individual animals but as a species (deNapoli 117).
The average number of penguins being washed each day at that point was 550; but on this evening, the penguin washers pushed themselves harder so they could get through the remaining oiled birds. They were so close to completing their long task that they didn’t want to stop, not when the end was so tantalizingly near. That Saturday, they washed 693 penguins. It was the second largest number of birds to be washed in a single day during the Treasure rescue effort. Incredibly, it had taken just twenty-nine days to clean all the oiled penguins at Salt River (deNapoli 220).
Dyan deNapoli was formerly a Senior Penguin Aquarist at Boston’s New England Aquarium. She has spent the last fifteen years working with penguins and teaching more than 250,000 people about them. You can learn more about deNapoli by going to her website (www.thepenguinlady.com) or reading her blog, “The Penguin Lady.” The author is donating a portion of her proceeds from this book to penguin rescue, research, and conservation organizations, as well as to the Gulf oil spill relief efforts.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Snowy Egrets...and the Oxbow Fundraiser

...as I'm writing this post, big, white, fluffy snowflakes are falling to the ground--perfect for a "Snowy" Egret post! It's about 1:15 a.m now....quiet and still...and so pretty.

I wish I could say I photographed these beautiful Snowy Egrets in Cincinnati, but I didn't (I photographed them at the Pinckney Island NWR in Hilton Head back in June)....but, I could have if I were at the Oxbow on May 18 and August 14 of this year because Snowy Egrets were there too. I know...Snowy Egrets in Cincinnati? They are pretty rare around here, but we can still find them every now and then at the Oxbow. I just wanted to remind everyone about the Oxbow fundraiser going on today at the Mason Wild Bird Center. Door prizes...free goodie bags to the first 100 customers...yummy holiday snacks...a raffle with over $1000.00 of prizes (like a Charlie Harper lithograph....really nice binoculars....and much more including prints of several of my bird paintings). You can also buy packs of my art notecards and prints of my bird paintings with 100% of the cost going to the Oxbow. The owners, Mary and Mike, are going to match dollar for dollar all funds raised. Wow!

I'm a Snowy Egret, and I don't hang out much in Cincinnati, but when I do...you can find me at the Oxbow!

The Oxbow is an important fall and spring migratory staging area. Resting and refueling at the Oxbow wetlands helps thousands of birds make it to their southern wintering grounds in the autumn and their northern nesting areas in the spring.

We are so lucky a group of concerned citizens got together in the early 80s and pooled their money to save the wetlands. Because of them, this important migratory staging area remains...and our birds are safe for a little longer.

Help keep my habitat safe! Stop by the Mason Wild Bird Center today for their four-year anniversary celebration and the Oxbow fundraiser!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Painting #85, A Happy Wild Turkey on Thanksgiving Day...
Oil pastel
12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 Lb Paper

(Same painting...just showing the part the scanner cut off.)

My scanner can only handle a 9x12 sheet of paper. I guess I either have to upgrade the scanner or start photographing these larger paintings. (I only have 15 paintings to go for the challenge!) Wild Turkeys are really funky birds to draw--crazy feathers...crazy colors...crazy patterns...a crazy form...and a floppy, speckled wing. It was fun...

Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fundraiser for the Oxbow!

The Wild Bird Center of Mason is hosting a fundraiser for the Oxbow!
If you're a birder in the Cincinnati area, drop by the Mason Wild Bird Center the day after Thanksgiving to help raise money for the Oxbow (open 7:30 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.)--and celebrate the four-year anniversary of the store's opening! The first 100 customers will receive a free goody bag, and one of the items in it will be an art notecard from me of "Red in the Snow!" A few prints of my paintings will also be for sale along with packs of 10 note cards--all with 100% of the cost going to the Oxbow. A few prints will be given away as door prizes too (among other really cool door prizes). There will also be a raffle with over $1000.00 in prizes! The owners of the store, Mary and Patrick, are going to match dollar for dollar all funds raised during the open house, so head over and help preserve the Oxbow!

A "Red in the Snow" notecard will be one of the items in the free goody bags Mary will be handing out
to the first 100 customers at the Holiday Open House and anniversary celebration.

About the Oxbow
The Oxbow is a broad floodplain where the Great Miami River empties into the Ohio near Lawrenceburg, Indiana, seventeen miles downstream from Cincinnati. It is named for a small prehistoric horseshoe, or oxbow-shaped lake, formed when flood waters cut a new course for the Great Miami River. The Oxbow is a heavily used staging area where migrating birds refuel and rebuild their energies. The area is essential to their success on long flights between distant northern breeding grounds and southern wintering areas. The Oxbow is the most important wetland area in the mid-section of the Ohio Valley, drawing the tri-state area's largest concentrations of ducks and herons. Click here or vsit www.oxbowinc.org to read more about the Oxbow.

You can help!
Oxbow, Inc. is a nonprofit organization working to protect the Oxbow from industrial development and to preserve its floodplain so it can continue to be used as a staging area for the seasonal migrations of waterfowl. You can help preserve the Oxbow by becoming a member of Oxbow, Inc. Click here for an Oxbow membership and support form.

Details of the Holiday Open House Celebration and Oxbow Fundraiser
Friday, November 26 – 7:30am – 9:00pm
Raffle to Benefit Oxbow, $1 per ticket or $5 for 6
Over $1000 in raffle prizes! WBC to match all funds raised!
Goodie Bags to 1st 100 Customers
Holiday Snacks and Great Door Prizes
Roll the Dice for Savings up to 48% off!
Receive a $10 Birdie Buck Check with a $50 WBC gift certificate purchase

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hooded Warbler in the deep woods...

Birding at Shawnee State Park in Southeastern Ohio
One morning in July when Matty and I were volunteering at Shawnee State Park, Jenny Richards, the park naturalist, met us at the lodge to go birding. We headed off on the Lampblack Nature Trail (which picks up at the lodge) to see what we could find. At only ten minutes into the hike, we heard the loud whistles of a Hooded Warbler drifting through the shadows and branches of the trees surrounding us. For the next 20 minutes we watched, listened to, stalked, and drooled over this gorgeous little bird. I don't get to see Hooded Warblers too often in Cincy, but only two hours away...in the expansive forests of Shawnee, Hooded Warblers put on quite a show on a regular basis!

Painting #84, Hooded Warbler in the deep woods, come out and sing so I can find you!
Oil Pastel
9x12 Arches Cold Pressed 140 Lb Paper

I can't remember how many of them we saw, but I think five or six were about. The birds were very curious and one came in close for the camera, but somehow I lost the memory card with the photos of him (and a lot of other amazing birds too)! I knew the only way I was going to get a post up on him was to create him from my memory, so last night I tried. Once again, the 100 Painting Challenge gave me the boost to get the job done. These little summertime warblers are so beautiful. I can never get enough of them.

Beak Bit
Look at the Hooded Warbler's huge black eye! The Hooded Warbler has the largest eye of all the woodland warblers. Since Hooded Warblers live in the dark shadows of mature forests, it is an adaptation to help them see better in the reduced light.

If you have time, drop over to Jenny's new blog for Shawnee State Park, Naturally Speaking. Right now she has a nifty photo of a Marbled Orbweaver--dressed in seasonal pumpkin orange, no less...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More Red-breasted Nuthatch paintings...

Painting 82, Red-breasted Nuthatch with confetti-warm feathers...
Pencil drawing, watercolor, oil pastel
9x12 Arches Rough 140 Lb Paper

This little Red-breasted Nuthatch started its life as a pencil drawing. Later that evening when I got home, he morphed into a watered-down watercolor where he sat all night being bored and looking boring. I couldn't take it, so last night I pulled out a new pack of oil pastels that I picked up from Michaels last weekend and an old pack...from 1978 (I couldn't believe they still worked!) and started experimenting. I haven't used oil pastels since high school, so I didn't know what would happen. As I added in layer after layer, I loved the feel. I used a smudge stick and my fingers to blend. At the end, I shaved bits of the pastel over the painting and then smashed the bits in with a downward movement of my finger for a heavier pigment release. He sort of looks like he's among falling confetti (some sort of birdie party, I guess).

Painting 83, Vigilant nuthatch, always ready to work.
Pencil drawing, watercolor, oil pastel, soft pastel
9x12 Arches Rough 140 Lb Paper

The process on this painting was similar to Painting 82, but I deviated on the background, bringing in a square-shaped soft pastel to scrape some of the oil pastel away and then leave its powdery residue behind to be smeared over the rest of the painting. I love experimenting with these different styles. It's so much fun to make up things as you go!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Yank, yank...

Painting #81, White-breasted Nuthatch along the Little Miami...Yank, Yank.
Pencil drawing with watercolor overylay
9x12 Arches Rough 140 Lb Paper

This painting started out as a pencil sketch. I drew him in the car, then filled him in with watercolor later that evening at home. If you look closely, you can see the following pencil sketch hiding beneath the color...

Pencil Sketch of a White-breasted Nuthatch
9x12 Arches Rough 140 Lb Paper

The 100 Painting Challenge is making me a faster painter. I need less time to draw and less time to paint...more animation seems to be creeping into the drawings as well. I like this guy much better than painting 76, which is also of a White-breasted Nuthatch. There's more life and expression in this fellow's face. How many times has a White-breasted Nuthatch given you this look?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paintings of a Red-breasted Nuthatch...for the challenge

Sunday morning I went birding at Winton Woods (a Hamilton County park in Cincinnati, OH) with the Cincinnati Audubon Society. This was my first time to bird with the Audubon Society. Normally I go on the Cincinnati Birding Club trips, but Winton Woods is only 30 minutes from my house...and the walk started at 9:00 a.m. (yeah!). I also wanted to go because I had heard Red-breasted Nuthatches could be found regularly at the pine stand there, and I wanted to find out where it was. We started the morning at the Settling Pond on McKelvey Rd. where we saw lots of lovely ducks including Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwalls, Wood Ducks (a lot of them!), Coots, Black Ducks, Bonaparte Gulls (a small flock flew in flashing white against the dark grey sky....beautiful and exciting...), Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Ducks, Mallards, and Northern Shovelers. A Great Blue Heron was also there fishing among the ducks, and we watched him catch a fish, taking his time to finally swallow it down. A Belted Kingfisher could be heard in the distance, and just as we were leaving, a Swamp Sparrow and couple of Song Sparrows popped into view. The Swamp Sparrow was especially beautiful...so dark against the light tans of the cattail stalks. For a complete list of birds we found on the trip, check out the Cincinnati Bird Sightings log, here. (Did I mention it was cold? The day before I was in shorts, but Sunday morning was cold!!!)

After watching the ducks, we headed over to the pine stand on the Parcours Fitness Trail and soon enough the little Red-breasted Nuthatches made an appearance. At one point I had three in sight, but could hear others--probably at least a half dozen were following us through the pines (others in the group had 6 in sight at the same time, so there could have been even more). Their nasally calls were soothing and soft and floated in the cold air around us. Such happy little birds, they were so busy darting from branch to branch...following the branch to the end of the pine needles...never stopping for a rest. They inspired me so much I whipped out three acrylic paintings that evening when I was home (paintings 77-79 in the 100 Painting Challenge), and followed them on Monday with a watercolor (painting 80).

Painting #80, Red-breasted Nuthatch at Winton Woods
9x12 Arches Rough 140 Lb Paper, Watercolor

I used a very light pencil sketch on this painting so the water colors could be vibrant and not weighed down by graphite showing through. I took my time with the water color, so it doesn't show the activity, speed and agility of these little birds as they zip through the branches. Although, when I look at it, he does have a wily look in his eyes and appears ready to spring over to the next branch, which no doubt holds another spider to eat.

With the acrylics I tried to capture the movement of the little imps, plus convey autumn's last hurrah. The cold and overcast morning was a shocker. We had been enjoying Indian summer and had grown used to the warmer temps. The cold made the trees seem barer and reminded us what November should really feel like. Starting without a drawing underneath, I quickly painted in the birds, adding in a dark background to relay the gloom of the morning (and the end of autumn)--flashes of autumn color give a nod to the season at it tries to hold on, but we know winter is on the way...

Painting #79, A Red-breasted Nuthatch flits from branch to branch...
9x12 Acrylic Paper, Acrylic

Painting #78, ...never resting
9x12 Acrylic Paper, Acrylic

Painting #77, ...always looking for another spider to eat.
9x12 Acrylic Paper, Acrylic

If you want to read more about these little birds, head over to BirdingBlogs.com for an article Kenn Kaufmann recently posted.

One more cool thing...two other Cincinnati Nature bloggers were there:

Mike of Everybody Funny was our trip leader. I think his phishing is what brought the Red-breasted Nuthatches out. They were very curious at the sound and came in closer to see what we were all about. Mike is very creative, and his blog focuses on visual poetry, nature, and humor. It's a lot of fun, and his work often makes me think in ways I don't normally think...and that's always good!

...and Kathi of KatDoc's World was there too. I started reading KatDoc's blog a few months ago when she posted on a warble (the larval form of of botfly) living under the skin of a kitten (if you want to get grossed out, click here). Since Matty wants to be a vet, I thought I'd check it out. Kathi is a vet and potter and writes about her vet practice and other interesting things. I had never met Kathi before, but when I saw her, I immediately recognized her from her blog..."You're KatDoc!" was the first thing out of my mouth. Kathi let me borrow her Ohio Ornithological Society hat because it was so cold and I didn't have one. Thanks, Kathi!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Great Egrets in flight...

Birding Hilton Head Island, SC and Pinckney Island at the Ibis Pond Rookery
The slow graceful winging of a Great Egret overhead is one of the most beautiful sights any birder can hope for.
In this photo the sun lights the feathers from above and renders them translucent, also revealing the skeletal wing structure of these gorgeous birds (which cools me out to no end...).

With nearly five feet of wingspan to play with, a Great Egret can create a bit of drama at every take off. He seems to be thinking, "I am gorgeous. I am beautiful. Angels weep with longing as they covet the wonder of my wings..."
(Great Egrets apparently do not suffer from low self esteem.)

...coming in for a landing.

...bright white feathers contrast sharply with the deep greens of the pond as the Great Egret eyes an ideal location to land and forage for his next meal.

Silently skimming across the water...

For bird photography from around the world, check out...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

White-breasted Nuthatch and Golden-crowned Kinglet...for the challenge.

Painting #76, White-breasted Nuthatch along the Little Miami River
9x12 Arches Rough 140 Lb Paper, Watercolor

I drew this white-breasted Nuthatch in the car as I waited for Matty at school. I finished up the drawing and added the watercolor at his tennis clinic. I used to read while I waited, but now that I'm not afraid to paint and draw in public, I'm using the time to meet the 100 painting challenge. (My booklist, however, has come to a screeching halt!)

Painting 75, Golden-crowned Kinglet along the Little Miami River
7x10 Arches Cold Pressed 140 Lb Paper, Watercolor

I also drew and painted this little female Golden-crowned Kinglet in the car as I waited for Matty at school, but I only gave myself 15 minutes to do it. I wanted to see if I could capture a fair representation quickly. It's okay, but not my favorite. I'd like to redo this one and spend more time on her. I wonder what she would look like in acrylic...

Spitting out quantity rather than quality is a little hard on the ego, but I'm getting used to it, and it's part of what I love about the challenge. Painting in volume frees you from making every painting a masterpiece. That's the way I used to paint...everything had a purpose, everything was real. The 100 Painting Challenge is practice, and it opens the mind (it really does...) and makes each painting fun.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Black-crowned Night Heron photos...

Birding Hilton Head Island, SC and Pinckney Island at the Ibis Pond Rookery
...more photos of the Black-crowned Night Herons. I can never get enough of these twilight-loving, stocky little waders! I love their "hunched-over" posture and amazing red eyes.

...this is the same bird from the previous post. He flew over my head after leaving the juvenile and landed in the pine trees behind me. He sat there quietly for a long time. I took 67 photos of this guy sitting in this exact posture (Why? I do that a lot. We are so lucky we live with digital.) He can totally do "statue." He was so close I didn't even have to creep up on him.

...same bird, similar stance, just not cropped as much.

...after the previous bird continued to be a statue, I decided to look back at the island. This bird caught my eye. I don't remember seeing the babies through the lens (but I forget a lot). It was a total surprise when I zoomed in on the photo and saw the two babies peeping out.

...back to the original juvenile. While the papa (or mama) sat in the pine behind me, this juvenile was still hoping for more food.

...the juvenile wing markings are beautiful. Also...if you look closely you can see the sun shining through the gular pouch.

...hard to believe amber color in his eye will slowly change to the bright red, and the brown and white will eventually become black, grey and white. The browns and ambers really help camouflage him when he's in the shadows.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Carolina Wren in three different styles...for the challenge

Painting #72, Carolina Wren in Carmel
9x12 Acrylic Paper, Acrylic

I love the rich, carmel tones in this painting, and it's total luck that they are there because I almost tossed this painting (and if you look layer by layer, underneath you'll find two other completed paintings). The first time it had a bright green summer background and the bird was realistic, but with all the browns and golds outside the bright green didn't feel right, so I scraped most of it off and painted it again, this time making the bird more impressionistic and bringing in darker greens, but I wasn't keen on it either and thought about tossing it, but an idea popped into my head, so I scraped the painting again and rubbed what was left on the canvas paper smooth. A blurred image of a bird barely visible in a sea of green remained. I then used autumn colors and painted by feel, adding in all the darks and caramels with just a few paint strokes. If you look closely, you can see the deep greens showing through here and there. The bird went from a realistic rendering to one with almost no detail at all.

Painting #73, Carolina Wren in Leather
9x12 Acrylic Paper, Acrylic

I can't remember what lies under this painting, but there's a lot of it...whatever it is. The first time I painted this little Carolina Wren, it was realistic. It was a perfectly good finished painting. It was night, and Matty was working on his homework in the kitchen, and I was across from him painting. I started with a paintbrush dipped in Burnt Umber and created the bird with a sketchy outline...then added in more and more detail. We both liked the painting, so I set it aside to dry. The next morning all the paints were still out on the island, and I thought it needed "a little something." So while Matty ate his breakfast, I started squeezing out paint....and smearing it in with a palette knife. That poor little bird had five or six lives with the palette knife as I slowly figured out how to use it. It's super fun, and I'll definitely use one again. By the time this little fellow emerged, I was late for work and had paint on my cheek...and neck...and hairline...and didn't know it until my friend gave me the crazy eye trying to figure out "what is that on your cheek?" In life, this painting looks like it's been carved from leather. The scan doesn't really show that, though.

Painting #74, Carolina Wren in Watercolor
9x12 Arches Rough Watercolor Paper, Watercolor

I drew and painted this little fellow over a period of three 15- to 20-minute stints sitting in my car as I waited to pick Matty up from school. I'd just crawl over to the passenger seat and pull out the ref photo and watercolor block and start sketching and painting. Water brushes come with their own water supply, so they make it easy. Can you tell I used the same photo ref for this painting and the previous painting #73? Same bird...different feel.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Black-crowned Night Heron feeding a juvenile

Birding Hilton Head Island, SC and Pinckney Island at the Ibis Pond RookeryThe Black-crowned Night Heron has always been a favorite of mine (the night owl thing and all...), so I was especially happy when I saw the adult feeding the juvenile. Last year I saw a few adults, but no nests...and no young, but this year I saw at least eight adults and three juveniles (and this in the middle of the day!). Unlike the Tricolored Herons from the earlier posts, the Black-crowned Night Herons were nesting in the rookery proper across the mote, so viewing wasn't quite as close, but this juvenile had climbed out of its nest and into the open. As I was walking I caught the movement out of the corner of my eye as the baby flapped his wings, begging for food.



Satisfied for three seconds...


Running to the store for more food...

The store is far away...

"I'm soooooo alone..."

"Are you my mother?"

Oh my gosh...this was the coolest thing to witness. Our little Black-crowned Night Heron tried so hard to get the White Ibis to feed him, but the poor ibis had no idea what to do. You could just feel "of all the limbs to land on, I had to pick this one..." was going through his head. Soon enough he flew off, much to the juvenile's protestations! When reviewing the photos later, I laughed out loud when I saw the size of that baby's maw!

p.s. I was just over at the new BirdingBlogs.com, and Dawn featured me as her first Bird Blogger of the Week. Click here to check out the new blog.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Painting #71, Snowy Egret with Plumes Flying

Painting 71, Snowy Egret with Plumes Flying
(Quick watercolor sketch, 9x12, Arches Rough 100% Cotton 140 lb paper)

This is one of those milestone paintings because I sketched it and painted it in public--with a lot of people around. Normally I paint by myself, but I knew I was going to have an hour's wait while my son was at a tennis clinic, so after reading Laure Ferlita's post today on all of her travel watercolor palettes, I decided it was time to haul my paints and paper with me and paint. I am a sloppy sketcher, and when I prepare for a watercolor, I normally tone down my heavy-handed sketching, but I didn't have time for that, so I just let my heavy hand go free. The pencil marks show through the paint, but that's okay. It was dark there, and I couldn't see up close very well because I didn't have my little magnifying glasses (uugh...getting older is murder on the eyes. I can't see anything up close anymore). As a result, this little egret's eyes suffered a bit and look outlined. I was going to fix it when I got home but decided to leave it because each painting in the challenge is a learning experience. I'm going to take my paints with me now when I know I'm going to have a long wait so I'll be able to keep practicing painting on the fly...in front of people!

When I paint with acrylics I don't lay a sketch down at all. I just grab the paintbrush and start painting, but watercolors aren't that forgiving so a sketch is necessary! I might try painting this guy in acrylic and see what happens. I took the photo I used as a reference for this painting when I was in Florida this spring (it's posted here). The Snowy Egret was in his breeding plumage and the wind had whipped those beautiful plumes on his head in the air. He had just caught the little silvery fish, and I was lucky enough to snap the photo just in time.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More bird paintings for the challenge...

Painting #70, Meadowlark Peeking Among Poppies
Acrylic, 6x6 canvas paper

Painting #69, Three Little Birds
Acrylic, 6"x12" canvas paper

Matty helped me name this one. He thought Bob Marley's song, "Three Little Birds" fit it perfectly:
"Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', ("This is my message to you-ou-ou:")"
Boby Marley, Three Little Birds

Paintings 63 - 68, Red-headed Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers
ATCs, mixed--water color, acrylic, and colored pencil

Paintings 57 - 62, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and White-breasted Nuthatches
ATCs, mixed--water color and acrylic

Remember these? Paintings 57 - 68 are all ATCs. I sketched them back in September and painted them shortly after, but I forgot to scan them and put them in the challenge. I kept looking at my total and thinking it was really low...then I remembered the ATCs! D'uh! Now I'm completely caught up and should be able to make the challenge by the end of the year.