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!


Max said...


Welcome to the Nature Blog World. I am a UM Wildlife Biology grad and I occasionally paint a bird or two, so I will keep an eye on your work!


Ken Januski said...

Nice painting Sid,

I think you're right, and I'm sure you have much more experience than I do at this, it's not often you get such a scene just presented to you. On the other hand with more experience I think you may see great opportunities where earlier you would have missed them.

I'm curious about how your background in forestry affects your painting. Do you think it helps or hinders? I assume it's helpful but sometimes too much knowledge can actually prevent a person from seeing things simply, getting lost in the trees for the forest more or less. That certainly doesn't seem to be the case with the birch though. It looks just right.

Sid Frissell said...

Thanks for your comments guys. Neat to hear from a grad of UM! Keep in touch, Max. What year did you get your degrees?

Ken: You are right. I think more time observing birds makes it easier to draw them from nearly split second views. You develop a sort of basic impression of how each species looks. Then, after a quick view of a bird doing something interesting, you only have to add your new info to your base impression to get a picture of the bird in action. Does that make sense?

Sid Frissell said...

Sorry Ken. I forgot part of your question. My forestry background was primarily as a forest ecologist and in wildlife management. The knowledge about animals and habitats combined with some 60 years of being a birder have added greatly to my ability to recognize unique, interesting situations in nature. My art background (self-taught plus workshops) helps me interpret these situations into paintings. Usually!
But I still frequently struggle with paintings!!

Ken Januski said...


I guess art is like anything else, if there wasn't an occasional struggle it wouldn't be interesting! But it would be nice to see the Struggle Percentage go down a bit:-)

One of the enjoyable parts of being out in nature, especially when birding or making art based on nature, is that ability to bring to bear all those years of experience. It's hard to explain this to people but I think everyone who has experienced it knows exactly what I mean.