Monday, November 24, 2008

Painting Distractions

I sometimes think that a bird artist, maybe all nature artists, should have their studios in windowless closets or basements!  I'll tell you why.  My studio sits on a hillside and has windows on the west, north, and east sides.  Big windows.  And they look into the tree tops, at the bird feeders, and at the fish pond.  So what does that mean?  Well, there are birds out there almost all of the time and I find it almost impossible to ignore them.  So when I should be working on that latest watercolor painting I find myself checking out a flock of Pygmy Nuthatches moving through the Ponderosa Pines toward the suet feeder.  Or, look out to the west toward the mountains--a soaring Redtail Hawk.  Sometimes, just to be mean, these distracting birds actually land right on the deck railing just a few feet from my drawing table.  How disturbing!  Here's a few examples of recent distractions, all photographed through studio windows.

This is the view to the west toward the Bitterroot Mountains.  

The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is in the valley beyond the trees and this side of the mountains.  I can see ducks on the ponds with my spotting scope.

This Northern Flicker (red-shafted) apparently wanted me to paint another Flicker picture with him as the star.
He seems to be trying to convince me by exhibiting unusual poses.  

"Here's my profile.  Is this pose better?"  Go away and leave me alone and maybe I'll think about starting another flicker painting.

"Hey, what about me?  You made it into "Birds in Art" competition  in 2005 with a painting of us Magpies.  Isn't it time for another?"

O.K. I really had to look at this one.  Townsend's Solitaires don't show up in the yard regularly.

See?  Distractions, distractions.  My days seem to be filled with "mugging" birds trying to get famous (they don't know that my paintings won't make them famous.)   Guess I'll have to paint at night.  I haven't heard any owls here at the house yet.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blog or paint?

Sorry to be away for so long.  I'm finding that I have created a dilemma--should I be painting or should I go and update this blog.  I guess I'll have to work on that issue.  Well, anyway I'm here now.

I have finished the Dusky Grouse painting from the pencil sketch I showed you earlier. This is all transparent watercolor on Arches 300 lb. rough paper--image size 10" x 14".  As I mentioned, this specific scene was observed at the top of Signal Mountain Road in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, this past September.  We first saw the two grouse on the ground foraging.  Later, we rediscovered them, each up in their own Subalpine Fir tree.  The twisted branches and patterned trunks made an interesting background with only slight artistic modification.                                  Reference Photo:  Dusky Grouse. Grand Teton
National Park

So here is the finished painting. 
        "Safe Perch"  Image size:14" x 10" 

This painting represents an unusual set of circumstances for a bird artist.  Painting compositions typically come about in one of two ways.  (1) You decide you want to do a painting of a particular bird because you have a good photo or because you just made sketches of this bird, or you just feel like painting it!  You then either search other reference material for an ecologically appropriate and aesthetically pleasing setting or you go out looking for a good setting in nature.  Or (2) you come across a really interesting setting that you want to paint and you decide what bird would be appropriate for it.  It is less frequent that you come across a bird perched/swimming/flying in just a perfect setting and you have your design right there in front of you!  This Dusky Grouse presented one of these nearly perfect combination (although there was some design adjustment required).

Now I have turned my attention to another photo I have of a Great Blue Heron perched in a tree that is also an almost ready-made design with a few "tweeks."  Didn't I just say this situation was rare??
Two in a row is unusual, though.  Here's the final drawing I'm working from:

                        Final sketch for "On the Alert"  Great Blue Heron

Possibly the sketch is going to be hard for you to see, but, here it is anyway.

By the way, I encourage anyone reading these posts to make comments or ask questions.  I'm open to anything about painting, birds, or natural history.  So let's hear from some of you!