Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sketching a Limpkin in Water

More time please!  A thousand images to paint and so little time.  I could go out in nature every day for the rest of my life and never get enough of it.  And then there's the time needed for painting.  I have enough inspiration right now to keep me busy for months.  
I began this sketch by applying liquid resist to save the reeds and edges of the bird while I added a wash of blue.      
The wash ended up lighter than I wanted, reminding me to make a bigger, juicier puddle of paint next time.  On the other hand, smooth water reflects light and light areas are part of what we see when we look out on water.  When the paint dried, I removed the resist.
Below, I added color to the face and bill. 
When I stepped back from the sketch, I didn't like the brown I had mixed, too dark.  So I dried the paint thoroughly and using a scrub brush, lightened the brown areas.  I then changed the paint mix to a lighter shade of brown, a slightly different mixture of Cobalt blue and Burnt Sienna, with a touch of Van Dyke Brown.
At this point, I shifted focus and spent sometime creating the shading around the larger body feathers.  I applied paint first, then softening the edges.  It's one of those details I enjoy.  It was while working on this less stressful area (meaning I've practiced it more), that I noticed the shadow.  I had completely lost the slender shadow of the head and neck.  Checking to be sure the paint was completely dry before starting, I scrubbed out the right side of the shadow (above).  
Above you see my two most used scrubbers.  The one on the left is about 3/8 in wide and soft, for light scrubbing in larger areas.  The one on the right is made of stiff bristles and works well for tight areas.  The word scrub is a misnomer, really, because the idea is not to scrub the paper, but to lift off the paint.  You want to preserve the paper's surface as much as possible while removing pigment.  The operative word is "lift".  Apply clean water with the scrubber, brush a few strokes with a lifting motion, then blot with tissue or paper towel.  The brush stroke loosens the paint; the blotting lifts it off the paper.    
I added detail to the reeds, corrected the body shadow shape (see top image), and added detail to the rest of the feathers.  To finish, I brightened white areas on the plumage by adding some white gouache.

9 x 12 watercolor on Arches 140# paper.

To see another sketch of this bird visit Sketching A Limpkin
For photo images of this bird and the story of its specialist lifestyle visit The Delightful Limpkin and Delightful Limpkin II at Vickie Henderson Art.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Florida Scrub Jay and the Illusive Nature of Confidence

Sometimes I wonder where my confidence goes.  It's as though it has a mind of its own.  One minute its around to help me move forward, in the next it has vanished and can't be found. Instead I hear a doubting voice.
Natalie Goldberg, author and writing teacher, calls this thinking "monkey mind", a mindless chatter with endless ways of thwarting our efforts.  For me, it is likely to show up when I'm trying something new, when I'm tired, feeling pressured, or when I set out to do something that I haven't practiced for a while.
Fear is the culprit, of course.  And the dialog goes something like, "whatever possessed you to think you could do this?"   It's a critical voice, a fearful voice, and it ultimately warns, don't take this risk, stay in safe territory.  It's also the anxiety that builds while you're still in the void, while you're facing the blank paper.   The inspiration to create requires that you step outside your comfort zone, that you put yourself out there and move forward despite uncertainty.
Confidence requires action.  When I begin a painting, I have some idea of what I want to see happen, but it is not until I start the journey that I can see the path more clearly.  Each decision forms the basis for the next, until the painting begins to reveal itself.  Sometime during the process, anxiety fades, time disappears and I notice that I'm smiling.  
It's one of the delights of watercolor, a medium that is fresh, alive, full of movement and surprises.  I have some control, some idea of what to do, but I won't know the whole of it until the painting is finished.  A bit like life, isn't it?  And despite the anxiety generated, mystery is key to the dance.  When the music starts, when the watercolor moves, you soon forget those nagging doubts and just dance.
As I worked on this painting, I had some concern that my values were going to be too similar throughout and that I might not be able to remedy this.  So I turned my focus to my subject, painting in the detail so I could see the relative lights and darks more clearly.  Two things happened.  Foremost, I fell in love with the bird again and that gave my confidence a boost.  Secondly, once the color values in the bird were established, the foliage values began to fall into place.      

9 x 12" Watercolor on 140# Arches cold press paper

Links:
To see more about the delightful personality of this bird, visit:  Florida Scrub Jays--A Specialist Species
And for more about values, visit Inauguration Chickadee

Ocean Trail at Rancho Palos Verdes Preserve, California--2015

Ocean Trail at Rancho Palos Verdes Preserve, California--2015

Joshua Tree National Forest, California, with son Chad and daughter Thuan--2015

Joshua Tree National Forest, California, with son Chad and daughter Thuan--2015
Photo credit: Thuan Tram

Bird banding with Mark Armstrong at Seven Islands State Birding Park - 2014

Bird banding with Mark Armstrong at Seven Islands State Birding Park - 2014
Photo courtesy of Jody Stone

Birds Close-up

Birds Close-up
Photo courtesy of Karen Wilkenson

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill, Manitoba

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill, Manitoba
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Expeditions

A dog sled experience with Blue Sky Expeditions, Churchill, MB--2014

A dog sled experience with Blue Sky Expeditions, Churchill, MB--2014
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Expeditions

Churchill, Manitoba--2014

Churchill, Manitoba--2014
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky

2014 Hummingbird Festival

2014 Hummingbird Festival
Photo courtesy of Jody Stone

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane art banners and son, John--2014

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane art banners and son, John--2014

Muir Woods on the Dipsea Trail at Stinson Beach, California--2014

Muir Woods on the Dipsea Trail at Stinson Beach, California--2014
Photo courtesy of Wendy Pitts Reeves

Checking out the gulls at Stinson Beach--2014

Checking out the gulls at Stinson Beach--2014
Photo courtesy of Wendy Pitts Reeves

Discovery Hike in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska--2012

Discovery Hike in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska--2012
Photo courtesy of Ruth Carter
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