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”
I’m on a roll with birds that have top knots–more technically called a crest. I didn’t mean to be but I felt like doing a bird that does not live in the Northwest yet a favorite to many–my husband is one–the Cardinal, and it just so happens to have a crest as well. While I was working on this bird it dawned on me that bird feet are about the ugliest things I’ve ever seen on a body. Some say that human elbows are bad, but there is no comparison to the homeliness of bird feet–especially on this Cardinal. I must say, the feet weren’t my focus today.
Due to a low battery and my power cord being at my studio I am keeping this blog short. No real info about either of these birds. However, I am much happier with Mr. Steller–letting the paint dry a little gave me the ability to paint the correct blue over the top of the existing paint without blending in and changing the color.
I hope you enjoy these birds as much as I’m enjoying painting them and loosening up with my brushes. Possibly I will go in and do some small touch ups after the paintings have dried but overall I consider them done. I also may change the background color on a couple of them. Some don’t have enough contrast.
Today’s subject has been the most challenging quick paint so far. Finally, stepping away became the best thing to do. It’s been a good lesson of reaching the gamut. My biggest frustration has been finding the right blue to make it pop–a bright blue. So far, ultramarine is too purple, although perfect for some areas in shadow, phthalo is better but still not right. The last blue I could find was cobalt–nope–I think I have a cyan somewhere, that will be my try tomorrow. The paint is now so thick it all blends together anyway. Here’s where I stopped–tomorrow you’ll get to see the finished product and maybe a little something about that skittish bird.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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–
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.
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.
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.
I got started late, then I spent way too much time picking birds from my references to paint this month and not enough time painting. I didn’t get my Eurasian Dove finished but I’m posting it anyway because I promised I would. I’ll finish it tomorrow and post it along with another bird. If anyone has any photo reference that you think would make a good subject for this daily, month long project, feel free to send them my way.