Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gold Daffodils in Pink...

Painting 133. Gold Daffodils in Pink
(Oil Pastel, 9x12 Sennelier Oil Pastel Paper)

Gold Daffodils in Pink was another experiment. I wanted to see how dark and rich I could take the color using the Sennelier oil pastels, and I wanted a blurry lushness I could get lost in, so I slathered the pigment on in waves and used a smudge stick to blend and blur. These daffodils are from my front yard today! I's grey and cold and snowing, but these brave souls pushed through. They were working their hardest to brighten things up in the Great Grey Expanse, but their happy little faces seemed faded outside. I knew if I got them inside their gold color would glow and fill the room with spring, and I could do something fun with them using the Sennelier oil pastels...

Painting 132. Red Tulips in Blue
(Oil Pastel, 9x12 Sennelier Oil Pastel Paper)

Last year for the 100 Painting Challenge, I worked exclusively with birds, but this year I'm adding flowers and insects into the mix. Red Tulips in Blue is my first floral still life. I brought these flowers home from Whole Foods yesterday in an attempt to "buy" a little spring since Mama Nature wasn't handing it out for free. I really enjoyed using the Sennelier oil pastels. It felt so good to see those vibrant colors coming to life on the paper!

These paintings are 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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Balancing Act

I saw this gangly juvenile Tricolored Heron last June on (of course) Pinckney Island NWR in Hilton Head, SC. He was moving cautiously down a branch that had fallen in the water, flapping his wings to balance and never once letting his gaze move from the tiny fish swimming below.

Painting 131, Balancing Act - A Juvenile Tricolored Heron Learns to Fish
(Oil Pastel, 12x16 Sennelier Oil Pastel Paper)

I bought Sennelier oil pastels today with birthday money my parents gave me. I'm in love. They are so luscious it's like painting with lipstick...or creamy butter (yum). They glide across the paper leaving pure pigment behind and blend easily with a smudge stick.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"The Little Beach Sanderling"

BY the beach border, where the breeze
Comes freighted from the briny seas,
By sandy bar and weedy rock,
I frequent meet thy roving flock;
Now hovering o'er the bending sedge,
Now gather'd at the ocean edge;
Probing the sands for shrimps and shells,
Or worms marine in hidden cells,
A restless and inconstant band,
Forever flitting o'er the sand.
--Isaac McClellan ("The Little Beach Sanderling")

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oh Sweet Canada...

Our little White-throated Sparrows have started singing their spring "Oh Sweet Canada...Canada...Canada..." love song, so even though we had snow last night and the temps are still very cold, I know spring isn't too far away. I always look forward to hearing the White-throated Sparrow's song. Their beautiful, musical whistles light up the air around them with cheer and make me happy. Soon they will be flying north to their breeding grounds, and we won't see them again until reds, yellows and oranges fill the trees, and we have to pull on sweaters and gloves...

Painting 130. White-throated Sparrow in (Anticipated) Spring
(Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140lb Paper)

This painting was an experiment. I wanted to create a textured background by pressing fern fronds coated in paint into the paper. It was fast, MESSY and fun. Don't try to identify the flowers, they are totally made up. I just wanted a color to help bring out the yellow eye patch on the White-throated Sparrow (and pretend it's really spring around here).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A bird lover's dream room...

...continued from the Captiva Island post.
When we arrived at the condo, the first thing I did was go to the porch to check out the view. I couldn't believe it when I looked out at this:

These aren't the best photos because the porch was screened in, but it gives you an idea of what I got to watch while I ate my breakfast! The screen was not removable, so I shot through it...and there was no way to climb on the roof...I looked.

Mama and Papa Osprey worked tirelessly to feed their little chick!

...we were lucky to have the osprey nest next right outside our room. I loved listening to them whenever we were in the room. They make a lot of was awesome!

Friday, March 25, 2011

...back from Florida

Rick, Matty and I returned yesterday from beautiful, wonderful, colorful, sunny, sunny, SUNNY and WARM Florida after having lazed five days away on Captiva Island near Ft. Myers. The birds were incredible...fearless as ever. I also visited the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island four times...which wasn't all. I want to go!!! I love Florida and its magnificent birds...and all the color that hangs in the air.

Florida Great Blue Herons are different from our Cincy Blues (which I have right now since I had to leave the sunny greens and blues of Captiva to return to the predictable grays of Cincinnati--oh well, so ist das Leben)! these odd angles with unique views of their incredible eyes.

...sunshine and cloudless skies...bathing suits and bare feet...greens, blues and yellows and oranges...

...and deep purple shadows... was wonderful to see Florida colors again.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Painting 129. Chiggy's Wearing of the Green!
(Watercolor, 7x10 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper)

Chiggy decided Wearing of the Green was in order. He usually has to get in on some form of holiday action! Hope everyone has a wonderful day.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Watery White-throated Sparrow

This is the same White-throated Sparrow that showed up in painting 127, but here he's flown to a sparser tree (instead of the tangle of branches), and he is perched high above me...looking down. It was an interesting sight because he was still puffed up for maximum heat insulation and could barely see over his fluffy chest and belly feathers. Snow had not accumulated on these unprotected branches, and the clouds were getting darker. Although I painted the branches tight, I decided to make the bird and sky watery and loose.

Painting 128. White-throated Sparrow in Winter
(Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper)

I painted the background with a single wash alternating between Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna (Daniel Smith watercolors). Working quickly, I used a watery brush with a heavy pigment load, going back and doting in pure color here and there to get the rolling cloud movement. If I had not masked out the bird and branches, it would have been much harder to achieve this result because I would have had to slow down and cut around the bird and branches. (I had already started to paint the branches before I thought about a scan to show the masked-out bird! :-)

Pencil sketch of the White-throated Sparrow
I didn't need much detail for this sketch because I knew I was going to make the bird watery and impressionistic.

Last year at this time I was only working on painting 17, so I'm 11 paintings ahead--yeah! If I have any free time, I'm up in the art room painting, and of course, if I'm waiting in the car or at on of Matty's practices, I'm sketching or painting. All the extra sketching time is really helping. I'm so glad I'm not afraid to paint and sketch in public any more.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Curious Fawn

On Tuesday afternoon I went to the Little Miami Trail to photograph a rusted railroad Position Signal Matty, Rick and I had found on Sunday (more about that in a future post). The artifact was located at the bottom of a steep incline leading to the lowland forest. When I got to the bottom, a family of white-tailed deer was foraging about 50 feet away. Two adult females and two fawns looked up at me. They didn't seem to mind and went back to eating...except for one fawn. She was the most curious little thing! Every time she heard the click of the camera's shutter she came closer to me...her ears would prick up and she would prance! After a while I walked away, going further into the lowlands to see if my movement would scare her away. I didn't think it was good for her to be so friendly toward me; however, it didn't scare her away. Instead, she followed me like it was a game. She'd trot away a few feet and then get low and sneak back to me...all the time coming closer and closer. Eventually I started talking to her, telling her I didn't think she should come any closer because her mama might not like it! At her closest she was probably about two feet from me being able to reach out and pet her. Fun...but not good (and probably not safe either), so I turned the other direction and walked away through noisy leaves. That caused the mama to trot off, and the other female and fawns followed. The nosey little fawn, however, looked back. If three barking Springer Spaniels had not come racing down the trail with their owners, I think she would have come back to me, but the spaniels were relentless with their alarm, so the deer took off in the other direction and were gone in a flash of white tails.

The curious fawn--a young White-tailed Deer wanted to play! I completely fell in love with her...and she with me it seemed!

She's looking back at her mama here...checking in!

Maybe she was so friendly because I was down in the lowlands--her territory. In 21 years living near the Little Miami Trail, I had never ventured down to that spot (and I'd never seen anyone else there either). Up on the trail, when the deer cross through, they are never that brave. Hopefully our little fawn looses her trusting nature because someone might be shooting her with something besides a camera one of these days...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

White-throated Sparrow in a tangle of snowy 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.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Black-bellied Plover Head-on...

This is the same Black-bellied Plover that showed up in Painting 114 and Painting 111. I remember whispering as I took the ref photo for this guy, "come on...just a little closer...keep your head up...keep walking...a little closer..." and he did, giving me a wonderful head-on photo. I photographed him in March of 2010 on Longboat Key, Florida. It was so windy that week I spent a lot of my time stretched out in the sand trying to keep warm, which helped me get wonderful angles on these fellows...

Painting 126 - Black-bellied Plover Walking Towards Me
Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

I sketched this guy a few weeks ago in February while waiting for Matty in the car--of course! (Yikes...Matty took his first spin in the car today--in the parking lot at work. Once he gets his license and I don't have to pick him up from school and take him to tennis/hockey, etc., it's going to put a big dent in my sketching time! :-)

Pencil sketch and study of the Black-bellied Plover for painting 126.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sometimes they actually sit still...

...and sit right above you too! Late Sunday afternoon while walking along the Little Miami River, this Golden-crowned Kinglet dropped in for a visit. I eased down the side of the hill a bit and then sat in the middle of a honeysuckle thicket to watch her. She was perched in one spot...looking around and peeping...sitting totally still! And then she flew right above me and peeped some more. She continued with her peeping from 03:12:47 p.m. to 03:14:47 p.m.--two minutes of a stationary kinglet!

A female Golden-crowned Kinglet sizes me up from an overhead perch--you can just barely see her golden crown.

Look at that little open bill as she sings in mid-peep! It seems the skin at the base of her lower mandible is translucent because the little orange patch under her bill is not feathers. It's the light shining through the skin (or really thin part of the hard bill maybe?) where the bill is attached.

...a close-up of the translucent skin/bill where her bill attaches to her body (just kind of cool--I've never seen that before because I've never been that close to a kinglet!).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

American Black Vultures

I always love seeing vultures. They are so big and commanding, and they have such interesting faces too. In Cincinnati I see a lot more Turkey Vultures than Black Vultures (we are at the northern-most reaches of the Black Vulture's range), but I do get to see them every now and then. A year or so ago I saw 37 of them at Caesar's Creek Lake mixed into a flock of the larger red-faced Turkey Vultures. What a spectacular sight! The big black birds had congregated on the other side of a small lagoon casting an ominous gloom across the waters. Totally enthralled, Matty and I sat down to watch. Several of the vultures (both Black and Turkey) walked the shoreline picking through decaying fish, while the rest perched darkly in dead trees at the water's edge. Unfortunately they were too far away for decent photos, so I was very happy when I stumbled across this big guy sitting in a pine tree on Pinckney Island NWR, South Carolina. He was alone and eyed me in a bored manner...only moving once to shift his position.

These are not the best photos, but you can see a glimpse of the Black Vulture's cool featherless head.

This is the first time I'd ever seen a Black Vulture up close. I was surprised at how much smaller the Black Vulture seemed compared to a Turkey Vulture.

I was hoping to find Wood Storks perched up in these trees, because the summer before I found about 10 of them in the area. If I had not been looking for the Wood Storks I would not have seen this guy. He was that still and quiet. I watched all week, but no Wood Storks showed up. At least this Black Vulture did!

...ahhhh...there it is--that classic vulture silhouette!