A Tiny Blackhawk Flyby–and upcoming events

Four months have past since my last post–YIKES!!!  You don’t want to know gory details of why.  Mostly because I don’t remember all the details, life’s been so busy–all is well though.

Here’s a painting I’ve been working on.  It’s not quite finished, but I wanted to share and even take a vote.  I am experimenting with a new format for my bird watcher series.  Paintings without the mannequin.  I wrote a poem to go with this painting and was considering writing it on the painting in the big white spot.  However, now I’m questioning that wisdom–when it’s finished I think it may look nice blank.  Here’s the poem I wrote, called A Tiny Blackhawk Flyby.

A Tiny Blackhawk Flyby–work in progress

A tiny Blackhawk does a flyby.

Its target—delicate flower heads dangling above.

Possibly he’s pursuing that pesky gnat—I hope he is.

With a whir he’s gone. Where? I look around.

A chirp, then a flash—I see him—perched and preening atop a branch.

He seems so small, fragile, in fact—his life measured in fractions of seconds, ounces, and inches.

As if to puncture this notion in my head—he dives at the speed of sound.

Then, again he hovers above—moving from flower to flower–drinking in each fragrant moment—gathering a memory bouquet.

When the time is right, he’ll visit each memory again.

Lingering—drinking it in—I’ll visit this memory again.the end

Close up of male Anna’s Hummingbird


It’s Plein Air season!  This year I will be getting in some good practice.

June 24-26–This weekend is Plein Air & More at Cannon Beach, sponsored by the Cannon Beach Gallery group.  I will be painting some of the time in front of my gallery, Northwest by Northwest, other times out in one of the other designated areas, both Friday and Saturday.  I am still not sure what Sunday will hold–I may not be there.  Here is  link to all that is happening this weekend at Cannon Beach if you are interested–cbgallerygroup.com.

July 9&10–Up to 120 artists will have plein air pieces on display at the Chehalem Cultural Center ballroom in Newberg, OR–yours truly will be one of them.  From today through July 6 we will be participating in The Oregon Lavender Paint Out.  Free aroma therapy whilst painting on select farms–what more could an artist want?  A link to all things lavender–WVLavenderFestival.org.

October–Solo show at Boomerang in Vancouver, WA.  Up all month, opening reception October 7–during First Friday Art Walk.

November–Open Studio Tours–more info on that as it comes out

Other misc. projects this summer–finish painting and installing the mural on Andersen Dairy–oh and meet my new granddaughter in August!!!

I’ll post some painting results from the weekend next week–have a lovely rest of the week!

A New Adventure

Before I even had a chance to write my goals for this year–including all the steps to reach them–a goal was met, which dictates all the remaining goals for the year, PAINT!

Here’s what happened–a gallery owner and her husband saw my work in a publication (American Art Collector).  Her husband said, “Watch this artist”.  She contacted me via email and said, “We love your work”, we met at the gallery on Tuesday, January 5, and the rest is history.  I now have my first major gallery representation at Northwest By Northwest Gallery in Cannon Beach, OR.

I feel honored to be represented by NW by NW Gallery, hosts of some very prestigious artists.

The cool thing about this is, “Gallery representation in Cannon Beach, OR” was the first thing I was going to write in my goals for the year.  I feel so blessed to be able to check that off my list and move on to the next thing on my list–PAINT–which is exactly what I need to do to reach the goals that Joyce, the gallery owner, and I have set.  My focus will be on producing more pieces to add to the bird-watcher series, which means, it’s time to start blogging about the adventures of Orin T. the bird-watcher–something I’m sure you are looking forward to.

Yesterday, I began cleaning an area in my studio for the still-life where the Great Blue Heron will “live.”  This is the fourth painting in the series, the creative juices are flowing–it’s wonderful to feel excited about this series again and to have a place where it can be seen by so many.

Heron props
Heron props–soon to be arranged.  Orin T. is feeling overwhelmed by the project.

I Received A Gift From My True Love Today

…On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, four calling Fox Sparrows, A flock of tiny Kinglets, two Northern Flickers and a hummingbird in our pear tree…

Like everyone else this time of year, I have a lot going on.  The last few days have been a culmination of all that has been brewing in our lives for the last few months.  Today was the day to see how everything would REALLY work out!  I don’t want to bore you with the gory details but to be honest, we’ve been walking by faith–literally.  I had been having a chat with God about how all these things would play out today and as if to say, “I am taking care of you,” a flock of little chattering birds landed at my feet and in the surrounding bushes along the trail.  I was expecting little gray Bushtits–I see them often and I just love watching them flit and float from limb to limb.  But these were even more special–they were tiny Kinglets.

Little Kinglet
See what I mean, they are adorable.  Photo credit looks like KC Ayers (I pulled this off the internet). 

I was surprised by their boldness and bravery even with my dog.  They hopped around on the ground only 4-5 feet from us, flipping leaves and eating bugs–off in the distance I heard a beautiful song being sung and I looked up to see a Fox Sparrow sitting upright on a limb, head tilted back, beak wide open, singing at the top of its lungs while three of his friends foraged in the underbrush below him.  Soon a couple of little Winter Wrens joined in the chorus with their short little chips (I think they were contributing as the “rhythm” section).  When I got home our backyard was full of bird activity.  A mixed flock of thrushes–American Robins and Varied Thrushes, Yellow-Crowned Sparrows, Starlings, a pair of Northern Flickers, a hummingbird (that sits in our pear tree–really!), and of course the ever present Junco’s and Chickadee’s.  It was a great day for bird watching today.

Back to my walk–While standing under the dripping trees, dark storm clouds brewing above–getting ready to let loose with another torrent–I was reminded that I need to become more like a little bird.  Sing in the storm, live in and for the little things of the moment, don’t worry about what will be (worry never changed the future it just ruined the present), turn the leaf in front of me, and don’t forget to share my life with friends, family AND strangers.  We’re better together, especially when we are lifting each other up and you never know when you may lift someone up.  It might be someone you see in the coffee shop, like the gal I met this afternoon who is new to the area and having a stressful day–we talked, then exchanged phone numbers–who knows where this meeting will go.  Everyone we meet is dealing with SOMETHING.  Be kind, send up a prayer and be the cheerful little Kinglet in another persons day–that is our calling and what makes life worth living.

Little fluff hummer
This is the little hummer that hangs out in our pear tree–here he is last winter in our dogwood tree.  I call this painting “Fluff Ball Hummer” for lack of having a better imagination.  This is another example of a bird who lives in the moment–this happens to be a cold moment with a thawed out feeder hanging a few feet away.  18×14″ oil on gallery wrap canvas. Available, contact me.

As for the way things turned out today–it’s obvious that God (my True Love) had it in control, not us!  The things I stressed over for this morning were provided for and even went beyond my expectations and the future looks hopeful with new beginnings.  I’m working on being a better “bird”.  Until next time–when feeling stressed, remember the birds and sing a song ;-).  I’ll start one for you–Count your blessings name them one by one . . .

I Is For Indigo Bunting and Q Is For Quail

I love Quails so I couldn’t pass up painting one–however, I did not think it through, they are not easy to paint quick.  Too much stuff going on on them.  However, I think I did pretty well minimizing all the “stuff” while still making them look pretty convincing–which is a big deal for me–minimizing that is.

Q is for California Quail
Q is for California Quail

When I lived in AZ many years ago, I loved visiting the valley during their nesting season.  After everyone would hatch, numerous little fluff ball babies would come leaping out of their prickly cactus nests (I didn’t like it when a Roadrunner would visit during their great exodus.).  Then, like a ribbon teasing a kitten, little legs moving so quickly they couldn’t be seen, they would run along behind their parents.

Quails eat mainly seeds, flowers and leaves but will also eat insects.  They require what is called protozoans to digest their food.  The little babies acquire the protozoans by pecking at adult feces–yum!  At times a clutch can have up to 28 eggs which usually means another female too lazy to build a nest and sit on the eggs has “dumped” eggs in another nest, leaving the other parent to raise their young.  The oldest recorded quail was 6 years 11 months old.  A couple more little facts before moving on to the bunting, their topknot is actually 6 feathers that overlap each other and for those music lovers, the male and female California Quail call antiphonally, meaning that they alternate calls, fitting them into a tightly orchestrated pattern.

I is for Indigo Bunting
I is for Indigo Bunting

I is for Indigo Bunting–another difficult blue to come up with–especially yesterday and today.  Maybe if I’d had a cerulean blue it would have been less frustrating. (In our area we have Lazuli Buntings)  The male of course gets to sport the beautiful blue during the breeding season and turns brown for the winter.  The female wears brown feathers year-round.

These migratory, smallish, songbirds live in the South and from the Midwest down to Florida.  They often migrate at night using the stars to navigate.  They live in brushy, woodland and farmland areas, eat what sparrows eat and often raise two broods of 1-4 babies.

Off subject here–I am only 4 away from completing the alphabet.  It looks like I’ll have them ready for the Clark County Open Studio Tour November 14 & 15.  Here is a link if you are interested in knowing about it, http://ccopenstudios.org  If you are in the area, come by and see them as well as other works I’ve been doing.  Although this has been a fun project I’m ready to move on to some not so quick paintings–something with more detail–my comfort zone.

G Is For Great Blue Heron and V Is For Virginia Rail

Each of the paintings I finished today have interesting stories and both of the reference pictures were taken at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge.  Since G comes before V and I started the Great Blue Heron first, I’ll start with it.

G is For Great Blue Heron
Strutting Great Blue Heron

To date, this has been the most challenging due to the many layers of feathers and fluff and stuff on this strutting heron.  I’m not sure why I can’t just paint a predictably smoothed out bird, walking through a field with his neck stretched out in a profile position.

When I found this guy he was tiptoeing along a log, submerged in duckweed, his legs were covered in mud from his trek to the log.  For some reason, even though I was pretty close, he just kept walking along the log toward me, feathers fluffed.

This is the second Great Blue Heron I’ve ever painted–the first was last month for the Ridgefield Wildlife refuge.  The next one I paint will be in the 4th painting for my Bird Watcher series–my winter project.  Over the past couple of years I’ve been watching them a lot.  I posted about the rookery in Woodland a few months back–I’m still fascinated that these long, gangly, prehistoric looking birds can fly through the treetops with long branches in their beaks and not get hung up somehow–and yet they do.  Then, they go from their high-rise commune of hundreds of birds to living a solitary life, separate from friends, save for an occasional egret or two.  Although, after witnessing the squawking of the rookery, I do understand the need for quiet.  When my children were young and squawking, it was rare that I would even turn the radio on in the car when I was alone.  It was my time to “reset.”  Possibly they can only put up with that sort of noise for so long and only once a year.

Interestingly, it takes upwards of 105-120 days before the young are ready to live on their own.  27 days to incubate, 55-80 days to fly and begin to forage on their own–returning to their nest to be fed each evening–and continuing on with that routine for about 3 more weeks.  Compared to many other bird species, raising their young requires a lot of time and attention.  A Great Blue Heron can grow to be anywhere from 38″ to 54″ with a wingspan of 66″ to 79″ and weight approximately 5.5 pounds.

V Is For Virginia Rail
Playing Peek a boo.

Now for my next subject–V is for Virginia Rail.  I chose Virginia Rail for a couple of reasons, I had a photo of one and I’m trying to use all my own reference material for this project and two, they are reclusive and not commonly seen but commonly around, so I thought I’d show you one.

These pudgy birds with the little head are, what should I say, odd-looking.  The first time I ever saw one was a fluke.  My husband and I had decided to walk the mile long path down at the refuge.  My camera was new so I never expected to get any good shots of anything, but one has to practice, right?  Anyway, all of a sudden there was what I call a “Yellowstone” moment.  Everyone on the trail was all bunched up in one spot, peering into the swampy area beside the trail, pointing here, then there, exclaiming, “I hear it, it must be there!”  So we asked, “What are you looking for?”  Several people exclaimed in excitement, “A Virginia Rail!”  Of course the fact that he’d come all the way from Virginia impressed us (Admittedly, smart remarks from the new “bird watchers” were shared between us), but we had no bird book with us and no way of knowing what this illusive bird looked like.  So we walked up to a guy with the biggest camera lens (it was HUGE)–he looked like he’d had a little birding experience–and asked him what we were looking for.  Pulling out his cellphone he Googled it and showed us a picture.  At that, we thanked him and parted ways.  The crowd had mainly dispersed, giving up on finding the little critter.  We decided to stroll back to the spot of interest, stood there for a few seconds when my husband calmly says, “Is that it?”  Sure enough, there he stood, maybe 15 feet away.  Poking his head out of the grass and moving forward.  I crouched down, focused and took a few shots, hoping for something.  Then of course, we walked over to the man with the huge lens and pointed him in the right direction.  I have no idea if he was able to find him but for us, it was “beginners luck.” Most importantly, my photos were sharply focused and very usable.  The problem was, who would want a painting of a Virginia Rail?  Since these paintings are meant to be quick and unrefined I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to put this little fella in the limelight.  BTW, we saw another V Rail last week on our bird watching trip up North.

About the bird–I know nothing other than they are very private, secretive birds, however, they are quite common.  They live along shores poking the ground, eating grubs, insects, small fish and such.  The rest I’ll Google–not much on Google.  Here’s what I found.  Apparently they are permanent, year round residents in our area, they lay 5-13 eggs in a nest built on a platform of old cattail, both parents care for the young which are able to fly in less than a month.  They have a harsh kuk, kuk, kuk voice which is usually heard at night.

Personally, I think they have a beautiful bill and legs to match.  Their colors are fascinating but their body seems so out of proportion.  But hey, some of us humans have heads too small for our bodies as well–or maybe it’s the other way around–who knows.  Variety is the spice of life.  🙂  Have a good evening.

A is for Anna’s Hummingbird

We are very fortunate to live in a part of the world where hummingbirds live.  Although we do not have nearly as many dramatic species as there are in the tropics, we have one who lives year-round–the Anna’s.  This morning as I was wiping the sleepiness from my eyes, stretching my muscles and contemplating the possibility of going to the gym, a little Junco caught my attention.  The little guy was doing us a favor and just munching away on the one dandelion in our yard that had gone to seed.  It looked so cute plucking the seeds and eating them I thought, “Get the camera.”  As I was picking up my camera in the family room a Towhee caught my attention hopping around on the spire of our bird house feeder.  Just as I was focusing in on the Towhee I saw a flash of green and was again distracted–this time by a lovely female Anna’s.  For the life of me I can’t think of the name of the flower I have outside my window, but the hummers love them.  She was going to each individual flower, periodically sitting on a small stem to lick nectar, but mostly hovering.  Her tiny green feathers shimmering she eventually flew up to the nearly leafless tree near our house and delicately landed.  Tummy full, she began to preen.  Continue reading “A is for Anna’s Hummingbird”

Y is for Yellow Rumped Warbler

This last summer as I was walking through the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge (first section by the blind–for those of you who know the refuge), I kept seeing little flashes of yellow flitting all about me in the tree tops.  It was difficult in the light and with all the leaves to discern what was causing all the commotion so I began to do what I do best, point my camera and shoot.  This may seem like an odd way to identify a bird but it has worked numerous times for me and until I get a good pair of binoculars or a scope it will probably remain the best way.

Y is for Yellow Rumped Warbler_painted Oct 15 and 16Since I have not taken the opportunity to walk through that area much due to laziness–I enjoy my car ride–I did not really know what birds lived in that particular area–which means Warblers were a new discovery for this somewhat inexperienced bird watcher.  The same day that I saw this little beauty I saw several other varieties of warblers (Yes, I.D.’d through my camera lens), Varied Trushes and Spotted Towhee’s, a Brown Creeper, a beautiful Robin (the Robin I already painted), and the cutest of all was the White Faced Nuthatch.  I did get a picture of him but since I already did a Wren he is being saved for a later date to paint.

My timer is going off, which means I must finish washing brushes and head off to an art show where some friends are showing art.  I have an Anna’s Hummingbird blocked in for tomorrow–one of our residence at our house.  He stays all winter.

Have a lovely evening–till tomorrow–

What I Discovered About Myself Today–And Two New Paintings

Today my husband and I got up at 0’darkhundred, jumped in the car at 5:40 a.m. and headed North to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, about an hour and a half from our home, to join a group of people for their weekly 8 a.m. bird walk.  We have talked about going up there for years and finally bit the bullet.  I discovered this–I’m a real bird-watcher!!

I know that sounds odd to write on a blog called The Bird Watcher, but it’s true.  Oddly, I’m the kind of person who usually doubts something about myself until I’ve had affirmation or permission to be that person.  For example–in 1995 I took an intro to drawing class–free credits, I was working for the University.  I discovered I knew how to draw.  I remember when the teacher was showing us how to look for shapes and masses and compare distance, values, etc. and all the sudden I thought to myself–“I already do that!”  That’s when I learned to trust myself drawing and that I knew what I was doing naturally.  Almost everything I do in life has been a process of giving myself permission to be or do what comes naturally.  Today was no different.  Somehow I’ve thought I didn’t really know what I was doing when it came to bird watching.  As an adult I’ve never been with a group bird watching.  I tend to like to do those things alone, so somehow I figured I wasn’t a real bird watcher–but I am ALWAYS watching birds.

B is for Belted Kingfisher--in progress.
B is for Belted Kingfisher–in progress.

So today as we headed out to the orchard area of the refuge I was thinking to myself, “This looks like home.”  Then people began exclaiming, “There’s an Anna’s! Look, another!  Up there is a downy woodpecker and the next limb over a flicker–I’ve never had a flicker and a downy in my binoculars at the same time!”. . . I’m thinking to myself (I do a lot of thinking to myself), “I see flickers and nuthatches and spotted towhee’s and robins and juncos, etc. . . all the time together.”  One day I watched a hawk fly through our feeder station, flush the birds and slam against the window with one in its talons.  That’s serious bird watching!

Later on, I was walking along with the gentleman leading the group, taking him to see the Virginia rail he’d missed and talking to him about the great horned owl we’d just seen. I began to bemoan the fact that I can’t seem to ever see owls.  He was saying that he struggled with it as well and that one had to “think like an owl–owls are quiet and usually cuddled up against a trunk”–as he continued to describe his birding technique he said that he sees movement and hears sounds and that’s how he finds the birds–again, the light bulb came on.  I realized he was describing exactly what I do and I discovered–I am indeed a bird watcher.  I do what they do, I love what they love and I know way more then I give myself credit for and what I don’t know I do research and try to find the answer.  I also discovered–I want a spotting scope–a serious one!

Enough about bird watching–I started the Belted Kingfisher yesterday and got it almost finished today.  It’s a little like that crazy Steller’s Jay and giving me some fits.  The bird I painted today, start to finish, is the little Downy Woodpecker.  This little feller has been destroying the trim on the side of our house.  I will go out and scold him, telling him that he is destroying our house and he will just look down at me, hop to the other side and start pecking.  He is so cute I hate to scare him off but I’ve discovered he is not affected by me shooing him away to badly because he’s right back hammering away.  Yesterday I heard it out there and decided that the least I could do is get a picture of him and use him in this series.  So, this was him, in between hammering away I’d talk to him and he’d look around with this cute little innocent face and my heart just skipped a beat.

D is For Down Woodpecker
D is For Downy Woodpecker

C Is For Common Yellowthroat

With the name Common Yellowthroat, you’d think these little songbirds would be a more common sight.  A couple of years ago while observing the rookery of Great Blue Herons while they could still be seen–all the leaves had not yet come out–I heard an odd little buzzing like sound in the tall grass.  Every once in a while I’d hear what sounded like a low warning chirp.  Taking my camera closer I looked and looked but couldn’t see anything.  Eventually I saw a little movement in the grass and blindly pointed my camera in that direction and took a few shots.  I didn’t know what that little masked bird was but it was so fluffed up and cute I could hardly wait to get the bird book out and I.D. it.  This year I found a pair of them not far from our house.  Sadly, a housing development was coming in and they mowed all the grass where they were living.  I hope they were able to get at least one brood raised.

Speaking of their broods–they raise 1-2 per year with 1-6 eggs.  In less then a month the chicks leave the nest.  Eggs are incubated 12 days, and in 12 days they’re ready to leave the nest.  Common Yellowthroats migrate and are found breeding all over the US accept Alaska but winter over in the Southern states and Mexico.  Maybe that’s why we don’t see them much around here.

Today I remembered to take pictures of the process.  They are posted after the finished painting if you care to see them.

And it's done
And it’s done
First phase
First phase
quick blockin
quick blockin

R Is For Robin–American Robin That Is

How can we do a series of birds from A-Z and leave the Robin out?  Being the second most common bird in North America, a part of the Thrush family and State bird of Connecticut, Michigan and Wisconsin–it is obviously a favorite of many.  Lately our backyard has been a popular stopover for migrating birds.  They are actively keeping our worm population down and gorging themselves on fallen apples.

Male American Robin--a different view ;-)
Male American Robin–a different view 😉

As promised, Orin collected some interesting facts about Robins while I painted.

Robins like to be first–they are first to arrive in the Spring, first to build a nest, first to lay eggs and first to get up in the morning to sing and first to get the worm.  (Mind you, this is not exact science so don’t quote me on this.)  Robins are also intelligent enough to know a Cowbird egg from their own eggs and shove them from the nest. Maybe they can see color?

This is something that was interesting, they can live up to 13 years, however, only about 25% of all the birds that fledge actually survive their migration and some have the opinion that every 6 years there is a new population of robins.  You might say, it’s a good thing they lay 2-3 clutches of 3-5 eggs a year.  If you think about it, they’re kinda like the rabbits of the sky–reproducing a lot but with a short lifespan.

Well, enough about robins for now.  Don’t stay up too late, I know it’s Friday night but you don’t want to miss the robin singing in the morning.