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!”

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

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggidy, Jig

What a fun trip to Orcas Island.  Kara is going to report on the trip further in her quarterly newsletter she is working on, but I wanted to tell you about a highlight of my trip.  As a new bird watcher I’m always excited to see birds that aren’t usually found where I live.  On Sunday morning, just as we were getting packed to leave, I noticed a Golden Eagle flying over the pasture below.  During breakfast Kara talked to the owner of the B&B about it.  Susan, the owner, was concerned that they’d lost a sheep.  She quickly ran to the window to look out but of course the sheep were nowhere in sight.

Then she proceeded to tell us a story that happened last summer.  They lost their favorite ewe.  Sadly, she’d tipped over on her back and could not get righted in time and suffocated.  Instead of burying her, Bill, Susan’s husband, laid it on the woodpile, which made for quite a show.  First the Bald Eagles came, then the Golden’s, then the Ravens and Vultures and crows.  It was picked apart in a few short hours.  As gruesome as that sounds, what a blessing it is to have scavenger birds that help keep the smell of decay down.  Not only do they provide a service, they are given life by the death of another.

The story was intriguing and prophetic to a degree.  We finished breakfast–I should say Kara did–packed the remainder of our belongings and headed out to catch the ferry for the first leg of our long drive home.  Coming around a bend about 1/4 mile from the B&B we saw the rustling of wings on the ground, big wings, all desperate to escape the oncoming car.  When the feathers had settled there was one brave bird left–the Golden Eagle I’d spotted earlier in the morning.  Undisturbed by us he meandered into the ditch for breakfast.

Golden Eagle watching over its breakfast.
Golden Eagle watching over its breakfast.

The remaining birds swirled around above us, eventually landing in a tree to the right.  There was a pair of Bald Eagles.  I didn’t get a real clear shot because I had to take it through my windshield, but here you can see one of them in the tree while a vulture flies by.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Here are two of the hungry vultures that landed for a brief time–ultimately I believe there were five of them.  Having nothing to occupy their beaks they grew restless and took off until after I left.  Again, taken through my front windshield so not real clear.

Vultures, impatient for breakfast.
Vultures, patiently waiting for breakfast.

We were able to sit there for about five minutes watching and listening.  While the Golden Eagle was busying itself eating furry chunks of venison, the Bald Eagles were sitting up in the tree throwing their heads back and chirping loudly with their beaks wide open.  The vultures continued to ride the wind currents above us as the crows cawed from a distance.  The scavenging birds weren’t going to go hungry that morning, at least on this section of the island.

Gulping breakfast down, fir and all.
Gulping breakfast down, fir and all.

What a way to start the day, a feast for our senses as well.  Certainly not your every day sighting.

We made it onto the ferry and as promised, I got my picture taken, twice.  The first is me, sitting on a life-preserver and the second picture I look to be hula dancing, and so I was, with the islands as my background.  It was a little chilly out but before we went inside and the ferry departed, Kara was able to take a shot of the local dock birds.  The lowly seagull, another scavenger bird.  They are enjoying relaxing still–maybe they’d already had their breakfast of scraps.

Feeling safe on a life preserver.
Feeling safe on a life-preserver.
Hoola dancing--
Hula dancing–
Seagulls chillin' out.
Seagulls chillin’ out.

Landing in Anacordes we saw the last of the sea birds for the day.  After that is was just drive, drive, drive–oh, we also stopped at a gallery where Kara is going to begin displaying art, but there I go, telling her story.

Cormorants just sitting around.
Cormorants that have found their niches.

We arrived home early evening, unpacked the car and went outside to visit with our family members we’d missed while gone.  After resting up and catching up with things yesterday, I’m finally getting around to writing this blog.  I can’t wait for the next bird adventure.  Who knows, maybe it will be tomorrow.  We are heading to Silver Falls, OR to meet up with fellow artists and hopefully, I’ll get to see a bird or two, or three . . . and possibly get some good pictures as well.  Have a wonderful evening.  Don’t forget to watch for birds!