What a fun bird to sketch--a long-legged, long billed Limpkin.
I was introduced to this bird in January in Brevard County, Florida, at the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands, also known as, Viera Wetlands. My first view of this species was from way across the wetlands. I couldn't believe my good fortune when on my second visit to the wetlands, we happened upon this handsome individual foraging near the road.
I wish everybody would take the time to sketch what they love in nature. There are few things more intimate than studying a bird (or insert any subject), its feather arrangement, color, its eyes, beak, all the many special attributes that make it suited for the habitat it lives in, as well as, the food it eats. And all of this comes together to give you a deeper understanding of how it all fits together to equal its personality and habits.
I found the spade-shaped white tips on the Limpkin's feathers captivating and beautiful. There are several possibilities for creating these white tips in watercolor--saving the white paper, using masking fluid to resist the paint around it, using the opaque watercolor known as gouache, or a combination of these. Given that half of this page spread was blue drawing paper, I opted for white gouache.
The first thing I had to wrap my mind around, was the shape of this bird's head. I went over the pencil sketch several times to position the angle of the head and jaw as it moves into the throat. I think because of the ruffled feathers, I was initially seeing a more rounded shape and this is a bird with a slender head and neck
The eye, of course, holds the expression. While many artists leave the eye for last, I prefer to put it in early. It gives the bird life and makes it easier for me to see its personality take shape as I paint. Of course, you run the risk of messing it up, too. I lost the lower dark edge and had to repair it. Since the sketch has given me the look I want, when I create a painting I may consider adding the eye after all the facial feathers are in place.
If you haven't tried sketching a bird, you should give it a try. Never mind, that you think you can't draw. This is a sketch. The idea is to get to know the bird. And when you've studied a face like this Limpkin for a while, you can't help but love what you're sketching.
To see photos of this Limpkin foraging and preening, visit The Delightful Limpkin and Delightful Limpkin II at Vickie Henderson Art. To learn more about the Viera Wetlands in Brevard Co. Florida, click here.