In the case of this sketch, it was the search for the right colors to bring out this beautiful bird's subtleness on paper.
The Swainson's Warbler is a shy and secretive bird that hangs out in the shadows of thick stands of rhododendrons. That is one of the reasons this bird has the reputation of being seldom seen even when its song is heard. Its neutral colors simply disappear into the shadows.
It is always a challenge for me to go small in a sketch, so instead of focusing on the detail I love, I used this opportunity to play with color and values so that the negative space would make the neutrals in the bird stand out.
So I warmed the background by adding WN New Gamboge to ultramarine and added some burnt sienna in spots. Next, I smoothed and shaped the bird's head using my scrub brush and more paint, added some shadows, and painted a light glaze of ultramarine over the wing and back to subdue the brightness of the burnt sienna.
All of this playing around made me smile about this bird once again. I thought he was wonderful when I saw him the first time. Creating the sketch just made me want to paint him even more!
Watercolor on 90# cold press sketchbook paper. Colors used: WN Ultramarine, WN Burnt Sienna, DVP Cad Yellow Light, WN New Gamboge, Van Dyke Brown.