Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hummingbird and Downy Woodpecker on Nectar Feeder

If you love nature and you love to recreate what you see and experience in watercolor, there couldn't be anything more fun than diving back into a subject and watching it come to life in a painting.  When it comes to birds, that could also mean tripling and quadrupling your fun!
It has been fun on top of fun to hear and witness this male Downy woodpecker visiting my nectar feeders intended for tiny hummingbirds.  But top it off with interactions between the two species and smiles just keep coming.

Painting this sketch had the same effect.  I smiled a lot.  And when you're smiling there is no worry about outcome.  You're just loving your subject and loving the opportunity to give it center stage.  And there's a number of ways to create that stage, among them, painting light against dark, soft against hard, and color that leads the eye through the painting.  I often approach these elements intuitively
I chose my background colors in this sketch first, focusing on the greens of the trees and the light in the spaces in the unfocused background.  A principle I learned from my long-time watercolor mentor and instructor, Ann K Lindsay--the fewer colors you use, the more unified your painting.   I've found this to be excellent advise that stuck with me and greatly simplifies decisions!
In this sketch my primary colors are DVP Cobalt Blue , WN Quinacridone Gold for my yellow, and DVP Permanent Rose for my red.  (Note: brands with the same color name vary in actual color.  WN stands for Winsor & Newton brand paint, DVP for Da Vinci).  The rest of my colors consisted of two neutrals and sap green, all used to alter the shades of the above three primaries:  DVP Sap Green, to add a little warmth to green made with the gold and blue; WN Van Dyke Brown, used with cobalt to make black; WN Burnt Sienna used with rose to warm it.  I also use burnt sienna with blue to make grays, adding a touch of the other colors on the palette as needed.  
As I'm working on the light washes, I'm making a map of sorts.  I'm aware that my hummer and the water in the feeder will both be the same colors as the background.  This means I have to draw the viewers eye to my subject with the placement of values, that is, the positioning of darks and lights.  At this point (above), I also add color to the nectar container which reflects the background, and to the water in the feeder as a reference for these values.  The water and the feeder represent my lightest lights.

The hummer is next, creating wings that have a fairy-like movement of 40 to 80 beats per second.









To soften edges on the hummer's wing, I laid down paint strokes, rinsed my brush, blotting excess water from the brush with a sponge or paper towel, then brushed along the edge of the paint.  The paint edge is softened by the  moisture from the brush.  The amount of water you leave in the brush controls how far the pigment will spread from the original line.  

One way to suggest hummer wing movement is illustrated below--a combination of disconnected shapes, blurs, a mix of hard and softened lines.
Below is the almost finished sketch, created in one of my favorite sketchbooks made by Aquabee, on 11 x 14 paper.  What made me realize it wasn't quite finished was a glimpse at an LCD image on my camera that highlighted the widely separated gold areas.    
The yellow in this sketch is like an accessory with a special function.  It either helps move the eye through the painting or it distracts, especially since there is no yellow in my two stars.  So, I added yellow to areas where 'my eye wanted to see yellow', moving left to right from one side of the painting to the other, dabs of yellow glaze leading through the two birds.

You may already know how this dictate-from-the-eyes feels.  It's a sensation that is visually uncomfortable, that is, it bothers until the correction is made.  And when it's right, you know it--your eyes are happy again.  See what you think by comparing the finished sketch below to the one above.
In bird-watching, the intuitive ability to identify a bird by its shape and movement is referred to as 'jizz'.  It's a wholistic and instant recognition.  It's learned.  Painting works the same way.  Besides helping you learn the skills of manipulating water and pigment on paper, practice develops jizz, your eye's intuitive ability to know what your painting needs in order to please you.  

To see more of my hummingbird sketches visit Ruby-throated hummingbirds and my Art Cards and Prints Page.  Scroll down to the Hummingbird Collection.

Other links you may find helpful:  
Ann K Lindsay's website
A source and more details about Aquabee Sketch books

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Curious Wood Stork

Below you see a Wood Stork I sketched nine years ago.  In fact, this was both the first time I attempted to record my travel experience in a sketchbook and my first sightings of Wood Storks.  I had to get out my field guide to be certain of the species.  I also didn't have my digital camera back then for reference images, so the sketch was created from my field guide and my memory, giving it a whimsical quality.  
Sketchbooks are tons of fun, both creating them and looking back on them.  They reflect the mood of the moment as much as the subject.  Below is another Wood Stork sketch created this year.  In this encounter, I had the fun surprise of seeing this bird standing close-up, near the road.  When you are observing from a car, birds and animals are often undisturbed and may stay around allowing amazing looks.
My impression of this endangered bird--a bird draped in chiffon-like plumage topped off with a head full of wrinkles and scales.  What a combination.  When I looked at my photo images later, all I could think about was the fun I would have sketching him!  And while I was sketching all those scales and wrinkles on his head, I wondered more and more what this characteristic was all about.
To create this sketch, I experimented with masking fluid to save the feathery edges of the plumage and used a disposable skewer to make the lines.  This avoids soaping a brush to prevent the bristles from sticking together and also solves some of the challenge of making fine lines.  But even with a sharp tipped skewer, the fineness of the line takes some practice.  After dipping the stick in the fluid, droplets form on the tip.  What worked for me was to place the drop of fluid in a large area and drag a finer line of liquid to the edge of the feather.
Since rubbery masking fluids deteriorate with exposure to air and lose their effectiveness over time, I've poured some into an old film canister, to lessen exposure to the original bottle, and labeled it with the type of mask and date.  Have you ever picked up a bottle of mask and wondered how old it is?  At least on this bottle, there was no date anywhere.  Masks are said to have an effective life of approximately one year after they're opened.

This sketch also reinforced the practice of walking away from the table for a while, sometimes overnight, to discover what fresh eyes will see.  In this case I noticed that the placement of the eye didn't look right.  A closer look and I realized the problem was the height of the crown. 

A light scrub and a new crown line and the problem was solved.









To see photo images of this bird and read more about why his head is scaled instead of feathered, visit my Wood Stork post at Vickie Henderson Art.
And to see the rest of the sketch pages made along with the top image in my first travel sketchbook, visit Our Amazing Wetlands.

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
Related Posts with Thumbnails