Tuesday, March 8, 2011

White-throated Sparrow in a tangle of snowy branches...at dusk...

I saw this White-throated Sparrow back in January. I was at Pine Hill Lakes, a local park, "snowbirding" while Matty and his friend were snowboarding. This fellow was tucked so deeply into the branches it was impossible to photograph him, but I studied him for three or four minutes as he sat puffed up against the cold, knowing I'd turn him into a painting. It wasn't quite as dark as I painted it here, but the sun was starting to sink, and evening was falling hard--the cold biting bitterly and leaving my fingers practically numb.

Painting 127 - White-throated Sparrow in a Tangle of Snowy Branches at Dusk
Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

To create the background, I masked out the branches and bird, and used a heavily pigmented wash sprinkled liberally with salt. I wanted the dark blue to convey cold and impending nightfall. As the wash dried, the salt crystals sucked up some of the pigment leaving a mottled design. I used many layers to create the dark, dark branches, trying to add to the feel of dusk. This painting tested my patience! I kept wanting to "just finish the branches already," but I would force myself to walk away and let the layer dry. The branches were vital to the design, so I couldn't hurry them along.

Pencil Sketch and Study of the White-throated Sparrow. If you look in the top-left corner, you can see I worked out the design back on February 14. This little White-throated Sparrow bounced around in my head for a long time.

I used this blurry ref photo to help me sketch out the painting, but I used my memories to create the "feel." I knew I wouldn't be able to get a good photo of him that afternoon, so I took extra time to study him. I wanted to remember how I felt when I saw him so my memories could drive the painting.

(I'm trying to decide if I want to add snowflakes to the painting...I would spatter them on to look like a gentle snowfall. It wasn't snowing when I watched this guy, but a few snowflakes might be in order!)

This painting is part of the 100 Painting Challenge. If you want to make art a regular part of your life...join up! This is my second year of the challenge. I'm working on 500 paintings in five years.

30 comments:

Lois Evensen said...

I just love watching what you are doing. You have such a delightful talent to be able to paint these pretty little birds. Very, very nice. Thank you for sharing your paintings with us.

Hugs,
Lois

Elaine said...

The painting looks quite lovely! I like it as it is, but then you mentioned adding snowflakes, and as I looked at the painting I couldn't help but think snow should be falling. I think it would really finish it off nicely.

Roy said...

I am amazed how you achieved that background Kelly.

forestal said...

wonderful - love how you showed the process :)

dan

Kelly said...

Lois...thank you. Birds are so varied and interesting they just beg to be painted! I wish I had time to get everything down that's in my head...

Elaine...thanks! You know...I'm really feeling the snow spatter too. There's always the chance I'll ruin it, but that's okay...it it turns out well, it could look really cool.

Roy...thank you! Although salting is a mess, it couldn't be easier, and you never know what the result will be. Just put a nice wash down...sprinkle table salt over the top, and let it dry, dry, dry... When it's dry, hours later or even overnight, take a scraping tool or old credit card (I use a "Pampered Chef" scraper).

Dan...thank you! The process is pretty easy, so I thought I'd let everyone know in case they've never tried it. I always wanted to use salt, but never did. Don't know why I waited so long!

Wanda..... said...

Lovely, Kelly... really enjoy reading of the process.

ShySongbird said...

Really lovely Kelly, you are so clever! I loved the Black-bellied Plover on the last post too :)

Well done with the beautiful Golden-crowned Kinglet photos on the earlier post, our very similar Goldcrest is so difficult to photograph, it just never stops still!

patti c said...

kelly, i love your style!! This is a wonderful painting! bravo!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

What a lovely painting, and I enjoyed hearing about the process of making it. I love the rich, mottled blue of the background and the dark trees. I've used salt a couple of times myself but never with as nice a look--guess practice is in order! I think a few snowflakes would be a pretty addition, but it's certainly wonderful the way it is.

Roy said...

A great painting, Kelly. And I don't think you need to add snowflakes; you've already achieved a chilly feel to this painting without them.

Carol Mattingly said...

I love this painting. I may have to buy some pencils and do some sketching. Every time I visit your blog and there's a new painting it keeps nudging to give it a try. I call that inspiration. Carol

Montanagirl said...

I like this a lot. And I agree, the snowflakes falling would be a great touch to this painting. So beautiful, Kelly!

grammie g said...

Hi Kelly...OOOh, so darn cute this little guy!!! I like that you show the sketch and photo so interesting the process "great stuff"

Kelly said...

...thanks, Wanda!

Songbird...thanks! Birds make it so easy because they ooze inspiration!

Thanks, Patti!!!

Kathy...I've only been using salt for about a year. I like what happens--you never know what will turn up. I read you can use outside rock salt too instead of table salt. I need to give that a try (but I bet you don't even have that down in Florida!!).

...thanks, Roy!! It's always hard to decide. I guess at least I have a scanned version of it without. I'm going to sit on it for a few days and come back to it.

Carol...Oh my gosh....get out the pencils and start sketching....then go for the paints. It's so much fun...(and helps get you through the end of winter!!).

Mona...thank you! I'll wait a few days...I can see it both ways...

thanks, grammie....I like to show the progress because it might inspire someone else to start painting. Sketching out ideas and the painting before I start really helps my watercolors. When I do an acrylic there's no sketching on paper or on the canvas....just brush to the paint. It's a totally different feel.

freebird said...

Beautiful as is but I can see how you might want to have fun with the "falling snow. Put something clear over it and spatter that for a trial run. Or print out a copy of the picture and splatter it. Then you'll have a better idea of whether you want to do it or not for real. (I'm sure you know this but sometimes I forget the things I've learned when I am anxious about a pic)

Laure Ferlita said...

Bravo, Kelly! Wonderful image. I think the fact that you've made this your own by focusing on your memory comes through loud and clear.

Janice K said...

I REALLY like that one. It is interesting to learn all the things you do to make a picture come to life. I admire your talent.

Warren Baker said...

Hey Kelly, can you paint us a nice spring painting please, fed up with winter now :-)
Have fun!!

Kah-Wai Lin said...

Nice drawing! I would love to follow up your blog:)

Kah Wai
http://kwbirding.blogspot.com/

Shelley said...

Such a sweet painting - you made the white-throated sparrow beautiful!

Margaret said...

This is stunning and you captured the evenings chill and bird so well! I need to start finding time to draw and paint again... and I will have to come back to your blog for these "how to" instructions as I really like you work.

Tammie Lee said...

amazing 500 paintings in 5 years!

this is wonderful and the branches are so real and the snow is perfect and the bird magically appears out of you imagination. Just fantastic! I love that you shared the sketch with us.

may i ask, how did you mask the branches from the salt background wash?

Kerri said...

Another awesome one Kelly!!

George said...

Your painting is beautiful, and I enjoyed learning how you go about creating something so beautiful.
Thank you for the birthday wishes. I hope your husband had a birthday as special as mine.

dAwN said...

another Beauty!

DeanO said...

lovely paining...I love how you share how you prepare for a painting. I always enjoyed watercolors and you have a great power with the medium.

taio said...

superb

Caroline said...

I've enjoyed catching up on your last few posts, Kelly. This watercolour is really lovely - I like the way you approached the background - salt is so useful! Re the snowflakes - I think I'd leave it where it is, but can see the temptation.... !! Hope you will post the finished painting if you do decide to go for it!

Carole Meisenhelter said...

just found your blog and this is my first glimpse of your projects at this point. Your artwork is just beautiful to look into. You must get much joy from creating like you do; look forward to seeing more of it now.

Kelly said...

Timaree...great idea! I might try that. Right now I'm working on another branch/white-throated sparrow painting, so maybe I'll add the snowflakes to it. Thank you!

Thanks, Laure!!! It did make a difference. I think I'm going to start taking my sketch book with me (photograph and sketch...and write....to remember more).

Thank you, Janice!!! :-)

Warren...hahaha! You made me laugh. Well...we woke to another covering of snow this morning. Can you believe that?

Kah Wai...thank you! I checked out your blog. You have some wonderful images there!

Shelley...thank you!! With that dab of yellow on their faces they make it easy!!

Margaret....thank you!! You do need to paint more. I love what you posted recently. You have a beautiful style and loads of talent.

Hi Tammie...thank you! Yes.....actually....go back to the post and go to the second paragraph. Click on "masked out the branches." That link will lead you to how I used the masking fluid. It really works and helps to develop really cool backgrounds.

Thanks, Kerri!!! :-)

George....thank you! Rick had a fab birthday. We went out tonight to Bravos, so his celebration just continued!! Hope you and Betsy had fun on your birthday.

Thank you Miss Dawn!!! :-)

Dean...thank you! I've been learning more and more about watercolor. I've found doing the semi-detailed pencil drawing really helps with the watercolor. It lets you study the composition and work out problems. Watercolor is so unforgiving, so you can't "fix" it as you go...

taio...thank you!!

Caroline....thank you! I'm having a lot of fun using salt and learning its effects. Now I'm leaning towards leaving it alone....I'm still not sure. If I add snowflakes, I will post the final version.

Hi Carole....thank you for visiting! Yes, ma'am....painting and photographing birds is a passion--everyone who knows me knows I love birds. I'm so glad I've made the commitment to get art back into my life full time. The challenge has helped with that. Thanks!