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.

M Is For Mr. Mallard

Today’s quick paint project.  I took the picture of this cute little guy sitting on a log next to his mate this past winter.  They were just waking up for the morning and he kept stretching and preening as she swam away.  I knew I wanted to paint him when I saw him.

Tomorrow I plan to start including Orin (The Bird-Watcher) in my post.  He will give some fun facts about each of the birds I’m painting.  By the way, these quick little paintings will be for sale at the Clark County Open Studio Tour, November 14 & 15.  I will paint a bird for each letter of the alphabet (the X is a surprise installation).

Enjoy Mr. Mallard.

Morning stretch
Morning stretch

Catching Up–Quick Paintings of Birds

Who knew that it’d be so hard to make time to do a quick paint project.  Yesterday turned into a no paint day but I did get the rest of my show hung at Lava Java and a couple of neglected friends visited.  You might say, I had a much-needed break.

Today, I did touch ups on my Eurasian Dove.  Here is the final result–

E_Eurasian Dove
E is for Eurasian Dove

Today I completed another painting and started a third.  As you can see, these are quick and thick with paint.  It’s taking a little bit for me to get real comfortable working like this with birds but I think I kinda like the results.  Here is my process.

Rough sketch--5 min.
Rough sketch–5 min.  I’m just trying to get a feel for values and proportions.  My ‘drawing’ stage.
A quick block in of color--another 10 minutes or so
A quick block in of color–another 10 minutes or so

So far each of these paintings have been done on 5″x7″ 1/4″ mdf boards painted with 2 coats of gesso.  For my ‘rough sketch’ I am using raw umber with a touch of ultramarine blue and cadmium red light mixed thin to tone the board.  Then I go in with thinner and carve in my bird.

The second step is to apply color.  I blocked that in next, without too much detail.  Again, I’m establishing my values and hue.  I don’t have a picture of the next step but you can basically see it in the final painting.  After blocking in my colors the paint is usually too thick and wet to work with so as it sets up I paint the background color around the bird.  This too is a little like carving because I take this opportunity to correct any proportions that may be off.  I decided to use bright backgrounds on these paintings just for fun.

We have a lot of Killdeer living in the soccer field behind our house.  Often you can hear them calling in the middle of the night.  I took a picture of this particular bird a couple of years ago.   I thought it was cute all fluffed up and shaking its feathers out.

I haven’t decided yet if Mr or Mrs Killdeer is finished.  I’m kinda liking the looseness of this painting–tomorrow will tell.  I’m not exactly sure how long this took, there were a few interruptions.  I would guess about 1 1/2 hours–maybe less.  I’m hoping to get to where I can do one of these in an hour or less.

K is for Killdeer
K is for Killdeer

The next painting in this series is a Cormorant.  I took the picture of this bird in Anacortes, WA this past spring.  I will probably do a full-blown painting of it, along with some of its buddies, but for the sake of this series I’m keeping it simple, loose and bright.  I’ll finish it tomorrow.  My challenge on this one is the size of the panel–it wanted to get too big so I had to really carve it out once I got the color blocked in.  I think the proportions are pretty good now.  The paint should be pretty set up in the morning–can’t wait to finish it.

The beginning of my Cormorant.
The beginning of my Cormorant.

Upcoming Events

My calendar has been so full lately I’ve not had a chance to update you all on what’s coming up–I will keep this short and sweet so it doesn’t get confusing and so I can check my blog post off my list and head to bed.  In anticipation of all the work ahead this is how I feel and probably how I look–

frazzled blue
Which way do I go, which way do I go?

Upcoming Events For Kara Krieger-McGhee Art

  • October 2–30   Show hanging at Lava Java, 2 S 56th Pl, Unit 102, Ridgefield, WA
  • October 3          Art Collaborative project for Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge Anniversary and Grand Opening of the newly remodeled Carty Unit unveiled–10-11 a.m. I believe.
  • October 3          Plein air painting at the wildlife refuge, Carty Unit–1-4 p.m.
  • October 4          Beginning a month long painting challenge–a small bird portrait a day–trying different techniques, posting daily.  Also, I will be spending the month painting and preparing for Clark County Open Studio Tour.
  • October 11        Opening of the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society Best of America ShowLook! Flying Jewels!, Is honored to be a part of that show.
  • November 6      Artist Reception for 3rd Annual Clark County Open Studio Tour, 5-9 p.m., North Bank Artist Gallery
  • Nov. 14, 15        Studio will be open for CC Open Studio Tour–my new studio address is 711 NE 1st St, #105, Battle Ground, WA.
  • December 4       Battle Ground First Friday–studio open
  • December 5       Special studio event–this will be a surprise and more announced in the future

That should do it for now.  I’m really excited about starting those small, daily portraits.  I think they will be fun to share and I’m looking for feedback on what people like or don’t like.  Until next time–good night!

Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge Art–progress

For those of you who may be interested in how the collaborative project is going, here’s what I’ve got done so far.  My phone is not cooperating real well with the light so it’s hard to really depict my piece well, but you can see I’m pretty much done with my smaller piece and now working on the background.  You can see where our pieces will be laying over the top of the big tree.  I plan to be done by Friday with everything.  I can’t wait to see what Bud and Beth have done.  This will be the last peek of the project until it is complete–there has to be some element of surprise, right?

A little more touch up tomorrow--the paint is too wet right now.  But almost done.
A little more touch up tomorrow–the paint is too wet right now. But almost done.
Start of the big oak and the location where my painting will go.
Start of the big oak and the location where my painting will go.  It will be a little more to the right but I didn’t want it to fall off the easel  😉

A Worthy Project For The Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

The name of my blog is kinda a dead giveaway–I love birds and love painting birds.  Much of the reason I love birds is due to my youth.  One place we would frequent was the wildlife refuges in Ridgefield, WA, in particular the Carty Unit–which is an all walking refuge.  Back in the day we’d just run across the railroad tracks to get there, then they built a bridge over the tracks (much safer but VERY steep and slick in the winter), recently, for the 50 year anniversary of its conception, they have made even more improvements.  Back to my youth–many happy hours were spent climbing the huge oak trees, running through the tall grass and playing hide and seek, checking out birds nests, ant hills, and eating blackberries–playing!  As I got older I took my children down there to enjoy it.  Now my children are taking their children.  Refuges are an important part of keeping the balance between wild-life and human-life.  They are truly a place of refuge for us all.Continue reading “A Worthy Project For The Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge”

My Heart Skipped A Beat–I Feel So Honored!

Yesterday my heart skipped a beat when I opened my email and saw the subject matter “Best of America 2015 Jury Result”.  I thought to myself as I read the first paragraph–“Another rejection letter where they pump you up with the ‘exceptionally difficult decision’ they had to make . . .”  This is what it said–Continue reading “My Heart Skipped A Beat–I Feel So Honored!”

Keeping History Alive With Paint

In 2008 I started a project and I’m STILL not finished!  In my defense, it’s a BIG project, there’s fundraising and a committee involved.  Here’s the story–

I’ll start by saying, this blog really isn’t about past work and what I used to do for a living.  However, since this project has had me preoccupied lately I thought you might be interested.  In 2008, just as I was entering the art world via murals and faux finishing, I was asked by Old Town Battle Ground Association to present 2-3 concepts for a mural to cover a 25′ x 100′ section of Andersen Dairy, which in its entirety takes up almost one whole city block.  The subject matter was to depict the history of Battle Ground from its inception, how it got its name, its industries through the years, as well as significant events or places that are unique to this small town. To complicate it even more, since this is Main Street we’re talking about, the sidewalks had to remain available for foot traffic at all times and I needed to design it so it could be done in three phases.  I’ll tell you more about the process I used as the blog progresses.

The theme Scrapbook In Time was chosen. The idea was to depict a scrapbook being made with the pile of pictures getting caught up in the wind and blowing across the building.  The pictures get larger as they become more current and progress through the decades from sepia tones to full color.

It wasn’t long before I began to get unnerved by the enormity of the undertaking, especially when I started the research. There were so many decisions before I could even start painting.  The mural committee, made up of myself and 4, or was it 5 others, decided the most important themes we would cover by decade, then I would search for appropriate pictures, bring them back and the committee would decide what made the final cut.  While I searched through micro-fish at the library, went through piles of images from different sources and devoured the book Battle Ground and Around, a fascinating book written by local historian and GFWC member, Louise Tucker, the rest of the committee began advertising the project and raising funds.

We were fortunate to raise the funds for the first phase of the project–before the economy took a dive–and I was able to begin painting.  Here are a few photos of the first phase.

The first phase consisted of the roll-up door, the scrapbook and the loose scrapbook page and the two pictures connected to it, as well as the man doors at both ends of the building.  This shows just the one to the right of the roll-up door.  I "opened" them to reveal what would have been there at one point in the history of the building.
The first phase consisted of the roll-up door, the scrapbook, the loose scrapbook page and the two pictures connected to it, as well as the man doors at both ends of the building.  I “opened” the man doors to reveal what would have been there at one point in the history of the building.
The no longer used, corrugated roll-up door.  I painted it to look like it was partially up and you could see the cheese being made.  I painted this on site, yes, faces are a pain on corrugated surfaces.
A close-up of the out-of-commission, corrugated, roll-up door was painted on site. It appears to be partially up so you can peek inside and see the cheese being made.   If you’re wondering, yes, faces are a pain on corrugated surfaces, in fact, downright impossible (for me). But the lines turned out well don’t you think?  🙂 Thanks to 1/4″ masking tape.
Battle Ground received its name because of the battle that never happened between these two men, Captain Strong and Chief Umtuch.
Battle Ground received its name because of the battle that never happened between these two men, Captain Strong and Chief Umtuch.
A close-up of the scrapbook page.
A closeup of the scrapbook page.  This is the corner of Main and Parkway–I live less than a mile from where these horses and men once stood.
Another close-up.  The size of this scrapbook is 10'x20'.
Another closeup. The size of this scrapbook is 10’x20′.  This was the first thing I installed.  I’d never been in a biljack before (lift), so the night before installing this I could barely sleep.  By the end I thought, “That was fun, what was I afraid of?”

As you could see from the closeups, the mural appears to be painted directly on the surface, especially since you can see all the ridges from the cinder block wall.  Actually, these were all painted off-site and installed like wallpaper.  I discovered the process just as I was planning the mural and it opened the doors of possibility for design.  I had gone to a Cascade Artisan Guild meeting in Portland.  The late Larry Kangas, an amazing and prolific muralist from Portland, was presenting a method he’d learned from a California muralist (I don’t remember who it was or I’d give him a shout out).  The materials used are, heavy weight pellon or interfacing for those seamstresses out there and liquid matte medium (LMM).  The LMM is used to seal the otherwise porous pellon.  Check out the process below:

The top of the barn where I painted the mural.  To the right you will see "frames."  The pellon is stapled to those frames and liberally painted on.  The frames are 12' high so I had to use my little giant to reach.  I could do two 5' wide by 12' long pieces at a time.  Once I did one side I had to flip it over and do the other.
This is the top of the barn where I painted the mural. To the right you will see “frames” with pellon stapled to it.  The pellon came in a big 5′ roll.  The frames were 12′ high, so I could do two 5’x12′ sections at a time.  I’d climb onto my Little Giant ladder, liberally paint the liquid matte medium on with a large chip brush, let dry, remove, flip and do it again on the other side.  Once both sides were done the pellon had been transformed into a transparent “wallpaper” which I’d then staple directly to my painting surface/wall, do a base coat with off-white paint and proceed from there.
Here you can see the roll of pellon to the far left and the logging truck picture under construction.  In order to save time and keep the proportions correct, I used my trusty, retro, overhead projector to transfer the image.  Tracing the image with chalk allowed me to "edit" any lines I needed, especially if the projector warped things too much.  Then I'd use the enlarged  copy of the picture in hand as my reference to paint from.
Here you can see the roll of pellon to the far left and the logging truck picture under construction. In order to save time and keep the proportions correct, I used my trusty, retro, overhead projector to transfer the image. Tracing the image with chalk allowed me to “edit” any lines I needed, especially if the projector warped things too much. Then I’d use the enlarged copy of the picture in hand as my reference to paint from. (You can see a reference picture taped to the top of the painting and one to the right of the painting on the wall)  My 6′ step-ladder is not in the picture but it’s obvious I stood on a ladder most of the time while painting these.
Here you can see my ladder set up next to the "newspaper" as I was reproducing it.  The newspaper is another story of its own--I had to paint it two times--which ended up to be good but in the process I lost sleep, melted down into a puddle of tears in the middle of the night, and pretty much wanted to call it quits!  The problem, the "ink" ran.
Here you can see my ladder set up next to the “newspaper” as I was reproducing it. (My first attempt)  The newspaper is another story of its own–I had to paint it two times–which ended up to be good but in the process I lost sleep, melted down into a puddle of tears in the middle of the night, and pretty much wanted to call it quits! The problem, the “ink” ran.

Yes, the ink ran when I installed the first newspaper.  Keep in mind, you can read every word on the newspaper, which means, there was a lot of work involved (and to let you in on a secret–I really hate lettering).  To make the work easier I thought I’d use water-soluble ink pens.  Bad decision!  Even after painting a sealer over it 3 times and simulating my own rainstorm “test” in the barn, somehow, it still did not work.  Mercifully, a thunderstorm with wind and huge raindrops rolled in just as I began to install the 10′ long newspaper.  I had to return the lift the next day so I had to get it done.  Just as I finished the installation, which consisted of painting heavy matte medium on the wall and rolling each section of the newspaper on like wallpaper, the first raindrops fell and the first streak of black ink began to roll down the face of the newspaper, threatening to spoil the logging truck painting below.  The heavy matte medium was already setting up so as quickly as I could in a lift, I pulled and yanked and dropped all the mess to the ground, wiping as much of the residue off as possible so it didn’t look horrible until I was able to get the next one done.  I say it worked out well because it needed to be larger so I expanded it by 2′.  Also, the lettering was done with brushes and acrylic paint–running is not an option!

This post is getting long so I’ll post a couple more pictures and call it good.  There is one more painting to add just below the Central Park pictures, as well as a few pieces tucked in here and there to give better clarification to the pictures and to balance out the composition.  Hopefully, funding comes in VERY soon and I can get it completed before Harvest Days this year, which are in mid-July.  This means, funding needs to come in within the next week or two at the latest.  I’ll keep you posted if I get the new installations in.

Here I am, happily installing the newspaper.  Whew, it worked!
Here I am, happily installing the newspaper. Whew, it worked!
This shows the Central Park pictures as well.
This shows the Central Park pictures as well and gives you a sense of how large everything is.
This sign used to be a few blocks away, originally put up in 1971 by GFWC.  It had to be moved and they commissioned me to add it to this wall.  I'm so glad they did because it really ties the whole mural together and tells the history of where Battle Ground got its name.
The latest installation–finished Friday. (The main mural is on the face of this building.)  This sign used to be a few blocks away, originally put up in 1971 by GFWC. It had to be moved and they commissioned me to add it to this wall in the form of a painting. I’m so glad they did because it really ties the whole mural together and tells the history of where Battle Ground got its name.  It is standing in the middle of a trompe l’oeil planter box. (I’m thinking about adding a Gnome.)

The Color White

I’ve slacked off on blog posts and feel so ashamed–not really.  Actually, sometimes I can only “create” so much and then my brain goes dead.  You do not want dead posts ;-).

In order to break the ice with my cyber friends who are not FB fans as well, I thought I’d present to you, The Three Stooges, or Awkward Egret Moments (My FB fans saw these in process).  I haven’t decided their title for sure, I’m leaning toward title #2.  This is a triptych, painted on three separate gallery wrap canvases, 24″x12″x2″.  These are detail photos–close-ups–of the actual paintings.

#1
#1–Scratching an itch–detail of 24″x12″x2″ oil on gallery wrap canvas.
#2--Who Goes There?
#2–Who goes there?–detail of 24″x12″x2″ oil on gallery wrap canvas.
#3--Another itch--detail of 24"x12"x2"  oil on gallery wrap canvas
#3–Another itch–detail of 24″x12″x2″ oil on gallery wrap canvas

The paintings are actually just one bird.  I was out at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge  just as the sun was rising this past winter and saw this beautiful bird.  For some odd reason it didn’t seem at all frightened of me sitting in my car, window rolled down with the heater fan running full-bore.  He or she just sat there, preening, prodding and posing.  I loved the way the light just glowed through it, along with the cool crisp colors.  I did get some beautifully elegant poses but wanted to show the awkward side of the bird as well.  So here you go.  The pictures of the paintings are taken with my cell phone, pretty accurate but not exact–but what is.  I had a blast with these paintings.  White is such an interesting color to paint–it’s one of those colors that looks white, even when it’s blue or orange or purple or, or, or.

Speaking of the color white, here is another example of the colors white takes on.  This still-life is called Reflecting on Garlic (I considered calling it Elephant Garlic but that seemed way too obvious).  Because of the browns and pinks surrounding it, as well as the light source, the whites took on much warmer hues.  This painting depicts one of my late mother-in-laws porcelain figures in action.  Here, he looks like he’s up to no good–his shadow is thinking about taking a bite out of the garlic–thus the name.  Okay, enough for tonight.  My brain has now shut off and it’s time to head to bed.  Good night all!  I think I’ll go “reflect” on the next piece I’m going to start tomorrow.

Reflecting On Garlic--8"x10" study in white
Reflecting On Garlic–8″x10″ study in white