Monday, February 28, 2011

...messing around with color.

I've been working with a lot of detail and realism lately, so I checked out of that for a couple of days and went with color and feeling...

Painting 124, "Bird in Deep Night" is simple and primitive...just night colors and a sweet sleeping bird. I didn't use standard shadows...made the bird flat so he's not too real.
(Oil Pastel, 9x12 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper)

Painting 123, "Happy June Cherries" follows the same theme...color and feeling...simple and primitive. Again, no real shading...I wanted the bird flat with energy (can you tell I had just devoured TWO chocolate "fundraiser" bars? Happy February Chocolate was coursing through my veins...).
(Oil Pastel, 9x12 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper)

Painting 122, "Golden-crowned Kinglet in Autumn" is a bright and watery watercolor, but I controlled the second wash in the background by limiting the palette to red and yellow with a heavy pigment load. This painting started as a realistic painting, but I was dead tired and the paintbrush had a life of it's own...going heavy handed after the first detailed pass and then just pouring on color (I don't know why I chose red and yellow...thinking back, it might have been my brain's attempt to grab some energy to try to wake up!)
(Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper)

Painting 121, "Golden-crowned Kinglet in Monochrome" color. I did this in minutes with two watercolor pencils and a water brush--no under sketch, using just a bit of negative space to define his belly with a cast shadow. I was at Matty's tennis clinic and was drawing in my sketchbook when this simple little Golden-crowned Kinglet popped to mind. I'm so glad I'm not afraid to paint and sketch in public anymore--thanks to the challenge!!
(Watercolor Pencil, 5x7 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper)

Painting 120, "Four Turquoise Hummingbirds" 
...a super fun test painting! Rick gave me a bunch of Daniel Smith Iridescent and Duochrome watercolor paints, and I wanted to see if they really were iridescent. Guess what...they are!! You can't see it in the scan, but the painting fairly glows in the light with every color reflective. I did heighten the reds in the flowers with a bit of regular watercolor, but the iridescent paint underneath still shines through.
(Iridescent Watercolor, 9x12 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper)

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.

Friday, February 25, 2011

There are no words for this one...

...because I laugh every time I look at it.

Mr. Wide Jaws is funny enough, but it’s the contemptuous look on his sibling that really cracks me up. I always imagine “Nice, Junior…” running through her head, followed by "you're so immature."

A young Tricolored Heron sticking out his tongue with jaws open wide!

(Photo from June 13, 2010--Pinckney Island NWR, Hilton Head, SC)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Golden-crowned Kinglets in the snow...

I saw this little Golden-crowned Kinglet along the Little Miami River on January 30. It was cold that day, and snow lay thick across the woods. Winter birds were scattered in pockets along the trail, and their calls traveled easily on the sharp, frigid winds slicing down the hillsides. I was nearing the end of my walk and could see the Kings Powder Factory up ahead when the soft peeps and seets of one of my favorite birds caught my ears. It only took a few seconds for this female to come into view.

Painting 119. Golden-crowned Kinglet in the Snow
Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

I love this's not telling because you can't see her little golden crown, but it's there. She and several other Golden-crowned Kinglets foraged up and down a bank of dead honeysuckle branches located just yards off the trail. She moved so fast, and by then my fingers were so cold I couldn't get clear photos, but that's okay...a fuzzy photo can make a lovely painting.

Painting 118. Golden-crowned Kinglet Looking Up
Watercolor, 8x15 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

I really just wanted a wisp of a painting for this Golden-crowned fuss...just sweetness and winter.

The pencil sketch and study for painting 119.
I drew it on Feb 4 while waiting for Matty in my car.

The pencil sketch and study for painting 118.
These were both quick studies and I completed them in about 10 minutes.

p.s. I wanted to thank everyone for all the wonderful birthday wishes! I've never had that many in my LIFE! I finished off the day painting these happy little birds...a perfect end to a perfect day!

Your eyes are like cherries...

...which for must of us would not be a complement, but for our beautiful Tricolored Heron, it fits perfectly! It also fits perfectly with today because it's George Washington's birthday...and we all know about George and his cherry tree!

A beautiful Tricolored Heron stalks the waters at Ibis Pond on Pinckney Island NWR in Hilton Head, SC.

With all the juvenile Tricolored Heron photos I've posted, you know there have to be a few adults around! This adult was across the mote fishing in the shallows. I was sitting up on the hill watching him. The heat was intense that bright and wonderful. The humidity was outrageous be in the heat and humidity now! (These photos are from June 15, 2010.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Hoodies...

Painting 117, Hooded Warbler After the Storm
Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

Painting 117, Hooded Warbler After the Storm, grew out of Painting 116 (below) and Painting 115 (the previous post). In 116 I was trying to figure out the bird's posture. Since I didn't have a reference photo I knew I had to create another practice piece to test out what was in my head. After I finished the practice oil pastel and went back to study it, I could see I needed to make a few changes before I started the watercolor. I changed the position of the bill and the wing, enlarged his eye (Hooded Warblers have the largest eyes of all the Wood Warblers), flattened out his head a bit, tightened up the angle down his back a little...then changed the position of his bib and filled out his chest too, but I liked the rest of the pose so I stuck pretty closely with the position of the tail and legs. I'm glad I did the oil pastel as a practice because it was fun and let me see what worked and what didn't. I used the same watercolor techniques in painting 117 as I did in painting 115 (the 7x10 practice watercolor of the Hooded Warbler). I'm glad I did that practice painting too because I learned so much from it. I used a lot more wet on wet with the leaves in this painting, and I like these leaves better than those in 115. Painting the Hooded Warblers of Shawnee State Park has been a huge learning process!

Painting 116, Hooded Warblers...Thank Goodness They Sing Loudly
Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

Before I started painting 117, I played around with this one. I chose oil pastels because you can scribble, scribble, and scribble some more. They are freeing and fun...and super messy, which can also be fun. I wanted some green energy floating around in my head before I started the more complicated watercolor, and this painting did the trick. All of the practice paintings and pencil sketches really help...

...does this guy look familiar to you? I did a similar painting for the challenge last year (Painting 84, Hooded Warbler in the Deep Woods, Come Out and Sing so I can Find You!). Painting 116 will work as a companion piece to that painting. When I looked at that painting, I could see I gave him a bill that was too long, so that helped me draw these birds with shorter bills...everything is an evolution...

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Hooded Warblers of Shawnee...and How to use Latex Art Masking Fluid

Back in July Matty and I volunteered for a week at Shawnee State Park (posts are here) where we worked with the naturalist, Jenny (she has her own blog here) in the nature center. The last morning we were there, Jenny, Matty and I decided to do a little birding. I'm so glad we did because we spent an amazing morning watching and photographing Hooded Warblers. It had just rained and the sky was very dark, which made it all the darker under the leafy canopy of the deep woods. When these little warblers came into view, they seemed to glow electric against the shaded wet leaves.

Painting 115 - The Hooded Warblers of Shawnee with Maple Leaves
Watercolor, 7x10 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

I created this painting from a memory. I lost the photo card that held all the photos from our morning of birding (so sad--I still don't like to think about that), so I had no reference photos of a Hooded Warbler to work from. I kept trying to figure out how I could recreate the wet, dark feel of the woods and the electric yellow of the warbler when a stylized image of the bird surrounded by maple leaves popped in my head. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it, totally mix things up, I thought I'd try using latex masking fluid to protect the leaves so I could really create a lush, dark background. All these years, I've never used latex masking fluid. I didn't even know what it was until a year or so ago...then it sort of scared me. It seemed weird to paint something on the paper and then pull it off, and I worried it would compromise the integrity of the paper's tooth, etc., so I always avoided it. (Craziness...I know.) So I went to the art store and bought a bottle of Windsor and Newton's "Art Masking Fluid" and a bottle of Grumbacher's "Miskit" (Liquid Frisket) and some cheap brushes so I could experiment. I had already drawn a bird and leaves on a 12x16 sheet of watercolor paper, but I thought I'd practice on something smaller, so I created this painting on a 7x10 sheet.

How to use Latex Art Masking Fluid and Miskit (Liquid Friskit)
It's so easy to use masking fluid that I can't believe I was ever afraid of it! So in case there are any other Frisket-timid painters out there, here's what I learned:

Step 1. Paint the masking fluid on the areas you want protected.
Start with a completely dry sheet of watercolor paper, and use an old or cheap paintbrush to apply the liquid. I had bought a pack of cheap paintbrushes just for the task, so I was okay there.

...since I was experimenting, I used both masking fluids at the same time to test which one was better. The orange masking fluid on the bird and the bottom leaves is Grumbacher's "Miskit" and the pale yellow masking fluid on the upper leaves is Windsor and Newton's "Art Masking Fluid."

Step 2. Immediately wash the the masking fluid off the brush with soap and water.
I'm glad I used an inexpensive brush because even though I was careful, a little of the masking fluid remained gummed up in the bristles. I read that you can dip the brush into soapy water before applying the masking fluid to the brush to protect the bristles, but it's so easy to use a cheapy brush...and it's guaranteed!

Step 3. Make sure the masking fluid is completely dry, and then...paint...paint...paint!
I have to admit it was easy painting this background because I didn't have to be careful when working around all the was fast and fun!

...for the first wash I laid in Neutral Tint and Burnt Sienna...and let it dry.

...the next wash was Sap Green and Ultramarine Blue.

Step 4. Remove the latex masking.
Rub a kneaded eraser over the masking to pull it away from the paper. You can remove all of it with an eraser, or you can gently pull on it once you get it started and peel it off. I had luck peeling some of it off, but most I had to remove with an eraser, probably because I left the masking fluid on a little long. I had to run out and didn't get back to the painting for about 10 hours. It was easy enough to remove, but I bet it could have been easier if I hadn't waited so long. The instructions say you have up to 24-48 hours, but next time, I'm going to remove it as soon as the watercolor dries. Also...the instructions say to keep the paper with the latex masking on it away from extreme heat and cold (don't let it sit in the sun).

...if you're curious...both the Art Masking Fluid and the Miskit performed exactly the same. They both were easy to apply, and one did not come up easier than the other. It might have been a little easier to see the Miskit because it was orange, but other than that, they were interchangeable. (...and the paper was not compromised at all. It held up to the water and pigment just fine...)

...the painting with the latex masking removed. It really works...and is soooo simple to use!

After I painted the rest of the painting I went back and lifted some of the pigment from the background. It just seemed too dark and drew away from the bird. I simply applied water and blotted with a tissue. This painting is part of the 100 Painting Challenge. If you want to make art a regular part of your life...join up!

P.S. SPRING is in my yard!! The Red-winged Blackbirds flew in on a warm breeze last night. Thank goodness! (In 2009 they arrived a week is here.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The baby Tricolored Heron with the pale bill...

This little Tricolored Heron had two nest mates. Of the three he was the only one with a completely yellow/pale bill (actually, he was the only Tricolored Heron on the island with a completely yellow/pale bill). At first I thought he might be the youngest of the brood, and his bill was still pale because of that, but I looked it up in The Birds of North America Online and found that by day 11 the upper mandible is dark gray. It also says that by day 24 the head, neck and body are covered with reddish feathers, so it looks as if our little guy is at least 24 days old. I guess our little Tricolored Heron is just a bit different...sort of like Rudolf (but I'm not going to call him that!). Are there any experts out there that know about pale bills on Tricolored Herons?

A young Tricolored Heron with a pale bill.

When I first found him in the camera's lens I did a double-take. None of the other Tricolored Herons of similar size had yellow/pale bills. He was beautiful and I kept coming back to him (and I took many more photos of him than the other two because he was so interesting).

His bill was a bit smaller than the other two herons' bills, and he might be a touch smaller too, but mostly all three were close to the same size.

"Pale Bill" and his two nestlings with dark gray bills.

I still have several fun photos from Pinckney Island in Hilton Head, SC to post from our trip last June, so I'll keep popping them in now and then. These were photographed on 6/13/2010, and it was very warm!! (Click here for all of the 2010 Pinckney Island posts.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Black-bellied Plover on Longboat Key

Painting 114 - Black-bellied Plover on Longboat Key
Watercolor, 12x16

This is the same Black-bellied Plover that was in painting 111, "Black-bellied Plover Digging in the Sand." I was a little more true to color with this plover, though. He was fun to paint...I loved his sweet eye and all the shadows on his fat belly. I'm working on another in this series. It's of the same bird, but he's walking towards us with a head-on view. Hope to have it finished in a few days...

(I gave Rick painting 111 yesterday for Valentine's Day. He was surprised and happy, and it's already in his office at work! Yeah! Rick loves the ocean and ocean birds as much as I do.)

Graphite pencil sketch and study of the Black-bellied Plover in painting 114--the second in the plover series.

...I think I need to get a bigger sketch book. I couldn't fit his tail on the page in this sketch! I sketched this bird over a couple of days while waiting to pick Matty up. I'm finding I look forward to waits now because I always have my sketch book with me. It's so relaxing to be in the car and just sketch (no tasks...just sketching and relaxing). I'm going to miss it when Matty starts to drive!

p.s. On a side note...this morning when I was putting some seed out for the birds, a little male House Finch was serenading the world with "robust vigor" (I know it's hokey, but that's the only way I can describe it!). The song was so beautiful. It's the first I've heard it this year and my goodness it made me stop...and listen...and listen some more. So gorgeous and happy. I CAN'T wait for all of the spring bird song headed our way...and spring flowers too...and summer flowers, and veggies from the garden... For now I'll be content with the little male House Finch's song of spring.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Tug Chiggy, tug!

...ahhh...thanks, Chiggy! Nothing says love like a rose-petal heart from a chickadee...

Have a happy St. Valentine's Day all you beautiful bird lovers!

...these are paintings 112 and 113 in the 100 Paintings Challenge. The idea came to me while I was taking Laure Ferlita's mini eClass: Valentine Cards. Our assignment was painting roses, and after I finished my class roses, "Chiggy Tugging on a Rose Petal" popped into my head. I love the simplicity of the first little chickadee. I hope you all have a wonderful St. Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Joe "Hollywood" Cooper

This juvenile Cooper's Hawk is so pretty he must be a bird actor... me........Dejection! me.......Regal like an Eagle! me.......Anticipation!

...okay,'ve shown me enough...I'll move on.

(I don't know why these hawks never want me to stick around and always end up giving me the stink eye!)

I found this juvenile Cooper's Hawk sitting on our deck. Walking up on him and seeing him so close took me by surprise, and I sort of did that jumpy second-look move, which unfortunately frightened him off, but he didn't go far. He perched in the Ash Tree about 20 feet away and surveyed the offerings for a while--enough time for me to get the camera and snap off a few shots before he grew bored with the clicking and took to the wing...with a flourish, of course!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Study of a Black-bellied Plover

I loved watching this Black-bellied Plover probe the sand looking for food. More often than not he would spot something and run to pick it up, but sometimes he would dig into the sand to find something to eat. I saw this guy on Longboat Key in Florida last March. He was foraging with a small flock of Willets. He was mostly on his own, but he would move with the flock, so he seemed to be a part of it. Since it was March, he was still in his non-breeding plumage. You can tell I've warmed his colors up a bit in this painting too (just like I did with the Sedge Wren). He's really a bit blander...a lighter brown/gray. (For the post with the reference photo I used, click here.) This was a fun bird to paint. I enjoyed stylizing the feathers on his back and adding in the sand.

Painting 111 - Black-bellied Plover Digging in the Sand
Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

Sketch of a Black-bellied Plover
I sketched him while sitting in the car waiting for Matty to get out of school (as usual). It was a quick sketch to help me get a handle on his shape. I didn't go into much detail.

p.s. This is the first bird in the 100 Paintings Challenge that Rick has flipped for. He wants a print for his office! Cool...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"A small, 5 inch, mouse-like bird..." starts the description of the sweet little Brown Creeper in my "Teach -Me About Birds Flash Cards, in full color (by Renwal Products, Inc.)." I remember the words "mouse-like bird" from the first time I read them in 1968, the year my mom and dad gave me the flash cards, but I wouldn't see the bird on a tree for years to come...not until I was an adult and learned how to narrow in on it by listening to its soft, seeping call.

I always hear Brown Creepers before I see them...and I always get happy when I hear them because they are just so darn cute!

It really is a mouse-like bird the way it creeps and crawls as it spirals up the tree looking under bark for insects to eat.

This is one of four Brown Creepers I found the Sunday before last along the Little Miami River. I was almost at the end of my walk and very close to the Kings Powder Factory when I heard that tiny, tiny call and soon four came into view.

...what are you doing in this batch of photos nuthatch? Trying to act like a Brown Creeper? You're supposed to go down the tree while the creepers go up!

...the description on the flash cards for the Brown Creeper really should have read, "a small, 5 inch, BARK-like bird," because that's what it is--a moving piece of bark that's hard to see!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Study of a Sedge Wren in the High Meadow

Painting 110 - Sedge Wren in the High Meadow
Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

You can't help but be held captive when watching this little bird. He sings and dives and then flies for a short burst...then dives again, then sings again just to let you know he's there, all the while making sure he stays well hidden among the tall grasses and stalks of meadow flowers! The first time I saw this fellow I definitely was riding a birding high. My adrenalin shot up so fast (I'm sure you know that birdie feeling!), and I was so excited. We are on the eastern-most range of this bird, which means we don't get to see him very often. If you look on our Cincinnati Bird List he's a "EEEE," which of course means he's hard to find; and "may not be present at all at this time in some years, but has occurred often enough to form a pattern." I was lucky enough to find him twice. Once on August 2, 2009 (post is here) and again on August 7, 2009. I got a few photos from both visits, but they were not great, so I decided to bring him to life with watercolor. During this summer and early fall I watched and listened for him every time I was in the High Meadow at VOA Park, but he never returned, which is predictable because that's his nomadic little modus operandi...

p.s. While painting this little guy I warmed the colors in his plumage up just a bit because he holds a warm spot in my heart (and that's how I see him in my mind's eye). He's a little more faded in reality (you can see that in the photos I posted here).

Friday, February 4, 2011

Painting a juvenile Tricolored "Hair Nation" Heron

Painting 109 - Tricolored Heron in Profile; the Beat Goes On...
Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

I knew when I saw this juvenile Tricolored Heron through my camera lens he would someday end up in a painting. The image of his profile and incredible tufts of downy feathers bubbled around in my brain for a long time. At first I saw him as a crazy acrylic...something with lots of energy to match that crazy "head of hair," but slowly it morphed into a detailed watercolor. The downy stray baby feathers on the top of his head were so airy and breezy and soft. I could see them in my mind's eye floating with the gentle puffs of sea air on that very hot day, and watercolor seemed the only way to capture that feel. This was the first baby heron I saw on Pinckney Island this summer (the post is here), so he was special. There were lots of other juveniles with cool hairdos, but this guy stood out. You can just tell he's a Rock 'n' Roller!

Pencil sketch of a juvenile Tricolored Heron

Now that I'm not afraid to sketch and paint in public, a whole new world has opened for me. I sketched this guy during an hour and half hockey practice...then again the next day during an hour and half tennis clinic--that's three hours of drawing time previously I would have spent reading. During that time I probably erased and redrew him 4 or 5 times. I was aiming for accuracy and wanted to get the angle of the head and bill just right. Drawing and redrawing helps me get familiar with the subject of the watercolor painting, and I found I use the sketches to solve problems I anticipate while painting. When I first started drawing this guy, I had no idea how to render the feathers on top of his head without making them look like brush bristles. Playing with the graphite, erasing, darkening, etc., allowed me to see the subtle shading that was there and helped me learn how to bring dimension to the painting. I only use sketches for detailed acrylic paintings are spur of the moment and fast.

p.s. I did get a new scanner, so it can handle the 12x16 format, but I'm still struggling with an exact scan using the scanning software. The original of this guy is nicer...the baby down is finer and not quite as yellow... Matty just walked in and saw the scan and said, "That's no where near as good as the original..." Well, I'll keep working on it!

This painting is part of the 100 Painting Challenge. I'm doing it for my second year. If you're an artist and want to join, visit the 100 Paintings Challenge Blog.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

...more paintings for the challenge

Painting 108 - Northern Cardinal at Dusk
Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

I saw this male cardinal at our local park. It was very cold and evening was starting to close in. He had puffed his feathers up for warmth and was strikingly beautiful against the dark winter sky. He is the same bird that shows up in painting three (Radioactive Cardinal) and in this post, but I painted him in a much looser style (I also darkened the sky...).

Painting 107 - Chiggy by Starlight
Watercolor, 7x10 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

One evening a week or so ago I stocked the feeders around 9:00 p.m. anticipating a very cold morning with a covering of snow. It was so cold, and I was thinking about the little birds and how they were going to survive the long, cold night ahead. Birds have so many adaptations that help them foil the coldest of colds, but I still wondered if everyone was tucked in tight and ready to wait it out. It was nearly a full moon and the moon's light reflected off the snow in that quiet blue way that only happens deep in winter when the snow is thick on the ground. Stars swept across the sky and the immensity caused me to linger. Beauty is soft at night so it's always good to pause to take it all in, but my fingers were starting to protest so I had to move on, but before I went in "Chiggy by Starlight" popped into my head. I went inside and painted him, going over his white feathers with a fine-tipped white marker, hoping to capture the feel of the moon's glow...and the cold of the night.

Painting 106 - Green Topiary With One Red Bird Above and One Below
Watercolor, 9x12 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

Summer heat was in mind as I painted this fun and quick painting (lots and lots of green to counteract the gray that descends in our area midwinter). It's a strange style for me, and it might be more art therapy than anything. The painting started as a watercolor and morphed into a watery acrylic. Along the way I carved a leaf stamp in an eraser (idea from Laure's blog) and stamped it all over using green acrylic paint. I then ran water over it to spread everything out. It makes me think of art I remember seeing as a child in the Swinging 60s, baby.

Painting 105 - Hummer Light
Watercolor, 6x8 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

"Hummer Light" makes me happy--it's quick and sloppy with a feel of the moment. It's all watercolor--no sketching and probably created in under a minute. I really miss our hummers...they are nothing but watery memories right now...

Painting 104 - Sedgie in the High Meadow
Watercolor, 6x12 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

I almost called this painting "Bad Sedgie" because of the Sedge Wren's annoying habit of diving into the cover of grass instead of sitting out in the open to be photographed. If you look in the bottom-right corner of the painting you can see a tiny Sedge Wren perched where he most often perches--nearly out of sight. I conjured this painting out of a memory from a sunny day in August of 2009 when a Sedge Wren visited VOA Park (he's never been back--post is here). Can you tell I'm missing the sun...and the green...and the flowers? Painting is an easy way to bring it back. Right now I'm working on a more detailed portrait of this little Sedge Wren. It should be finished soon.