This is a small commercial break in your life to let you know I still exist–I’m sure this will make your day! 😉

Actually, if you are not friends with me on Facebook, you may not know that I’ve put my career in art as I’ve known it on hold for a while–thus, no posts.

Three Egretful Poses–finalists in The Artist Magazine 33rd Annual Art Competition–Animal/Wildlife category (Available through me)

I am gearing up to get back into the studio soon, it helps to have a show coming up in October.  As exciting as that is, I especially wanted to share with my friends that yet again, I’ve been honored to be chosen as a finalist in The Artist Magazine’s annual competition.  In fact–three out of three paintings were finalists!  Out of over 5,900 entries, I am feeling very blessed.

You’ve seen them all on this blog, but here they are again–the plein air painting that is featured is just a bonus for you.  That was from the plein air event in Cannon Beach back in June.

Fishing with Audubon's Great Blue Heron resized
Goin’ Fishin’ With Audubon’s Great Blue Heron–Finalist in The Artist Magazine 33rd Annual Art Competition–Animal/Wildlife category (available at NW by NW Gallery, Cannon Beach, OR)
Dreaming Dogs copy for TAM
Dreamin’ Dogs–Finalist in The Artist Magazine 33rd Annual Art Competition–Animal/Wildlife category

Until next time–now back to your regularly schedule program.  Stay cool!

A Soft, Blue, Mighty Hunter

I have been having so much fun in my studio lately!  I’ve decided that if I keep up this pace I will proclaim 2016 “The Year of Production”.  Barring any major situations this year, I foresee that it will be.

I know I introduced you to Impending Doom and thought you’d like to see the cause of “doom” at this point, Mr. (or Mrs–I’m not sure) Blue Heron.  I am ALMOST done–I say that because I’m not yet happy with the value contrast in the feathers on the upper part of its body.  I rarely glaze any parts of my paintings but in this case, I believe I’ll have to let it dry and go in with a little glaze.  Of course, you will have an opportunity to see the final product.

Blue Heron almost done
Almost done!  (This is obviously at an angle)

I have discovered that one of the best ways for me to really “see” what changes need to be made in my paintings, is to take a photo of it.  For some reason, it becomes fresh to me.  As I look at this photo of my painting I discover things like a dot, floating below the chin of the bird, that has to be removed.  I also notice that there is a thin whitish line that intersects with the top of his head, part of the cloud, that needs to be softened or removed.  I make mental notes of those things and if there are lots of things that need changed, I make actual, physical notes.  I’m pretty sure I’ll remember those.

Brush and BH
Almost done!

As you can see here, there is very little contrast in the feathers, which means, there is no depth (If you squint your eyes the surface looks flat).  I tried to add a darker value but because the paint was wet it just wanted to blend in and get messy.  Titanium white is mixed in with these colors and white always takes longer to dry, so I’ll have to wait until at least Saturday to be able to come back in and fix it.

BH eye closeup




You can possibly see a little better what I was talking about regarding the dot in the yellow area and the white line in the clouds, intersecting the birds head.

The remainder of the painting is coming along well and will be featured in my next blog.  Besides working on this piece I prepped four canvases for painting and completed this smaller painting called Reigning Kinglets.  It’s a 24X30″ painting on gallery wrap canvas.  While walking my dog up on the trails at Lewisville Park I “saw” this painting in my head.  I’d taken the drippy branches reference picture a couple of years ago and had saved it thinking they needed to be painted.  As I walked along, past a flock of Kinglets flitting and floating along the trail with me and in the branches of the trees, I thought, “That would be cool to use those branches, dripping with rain, add Kinglets and name it Reigning Kinglets.”  Here it is–Until next time–happy birding!


Impending Doom

I thought it was time to give you an update on how Orin T. and I are doing.  Currently, Orin T. is a little pale and just sitting around on his fishing bucket, watching me paint.  The good news, he’s pretty quiet and I’m making good progress.

transfer for painting
Orin T., sitting on his fishing bucket, watching from afar.

After much deliberation in my head (I always have too many ideas) and on a scratchpad (that’s where all the ideas get weeded out in reality), I FINALLY decided on the layout and mood for the 4th painting in The Bird Watcher Series.  The concept I had for this painting years ago when I first sketched it out was a picnic scene with all the creatures that Great Blue Herons eat, hiding amongst the props and in the grass.  Picnics are typically something one looks forward to, but not if you are a little guest and could possibly come to your demise when the much larger, carnivorous guest, surreptitiously arrives at the picnic.  So, rather than making the painting full of light and happy I decided to portray the scene with a sense of foreboding that would accompany a little creature who, unsuspectingly, might look up for the last time, only to come eye to eye with a Great Blue Heron.

Nothing that moves and breaths on land or in water and can be swallowed whole, is safe, when it comes to these lanky, lightning quick, prehistoric looking birds–that is why I’ve decided to call this painting “Impending Doom”.

Impending Doom 1st day
Setting the mood of “doom” starts with dark clouds rolling in and a full-size Great Blue Heron hovering in the foreground.

I’m having a blast with this painting so far–I may change my mind when I have to paint all the grass, but all in all, I think there is potential for “Impending Doom” being my favorite in The Bird Watcher series so far.  (It may be because of the GIANT bird I get to paint.)

3rd day of progress
I always like the way a painting looks in progress.

It will be a while before I post the final piece.  There is obviously a lot of work to do on a 36″x80″ painting, but I also want to have an element of surprise when completed.  When done, the painting will make its way to Cannon Beach and be available for sale at Northwest by Northwest Gallery.


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.

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”

A Squawking Rookery

What beautiful weather we are enjoying here in the Northwest!  I am a little confused about the time of year it is right now–this is typically one of the coldest parts of the winter–and I think maybe the birds are confused as well.  Every time I’m out walking or hiking I’m hearing birds making mating calls.  This last Sunday, again in preparation for the next painting in The Bird-Watcher series, (subject matter–Great Blue Herons) we headed to ‘the bottoms’ in Woodland, WA, to see if the Great Blue Herons were nesting.  I was not disappointed!Continue reading “A Squawking Rookery”