Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Studies Before the Painting--Purple Martins

Introduce me to a new bird that nests high above my head, whose primary behavior is feeding in flight, and ask me to paint this bird, and I've been handed a challenge. Purple Martins.
Fun birds!  Below you see my initial scribbles as I watched the birds fly and perch during the nesting phase in April with the help of a friend's binoculars.  I took lots of photos on that first visit, but capturing an image with useful information was a real challenge with these birds.  Their nesting gourds are high over your head, anywhere from 10-20 feet and their flight patterns are high speed bursts--all part of getting to know the bird.  
Purple martins are very busy birds, social and highly vocal, with lots of interaction among pairs as they nest in close proximity.  In fact, all the activity looks like chaos initially, like they can't make up their minds where home is or who is their mate.   And that is part of what is going on as they return to their breeding areas, the selection of mates and nesting sites within the colony.  Watching all that confusion (largely mine) just made me want to get a book about purple martins and research them on the web to help me understand everything I was seeing.  This is the real joy of painting nature, getting to know the species, being out with the birds, watching, listening, learning about their habits and behavior.
Purple martins are aerial insectivores, the largest member of the swallow family in North America, and spend their non-breeding season in Brazil.  East of the Rocky Mountains, martins are totally dependent on human-supplied nesting cavities, the familiar multi-compartment houses and rows of gourd-shaped nest boxes positioned high on a pole.  It was my good fortune to meet a purple martin landlord in my area and visit his colony of martins on a number of occasions during the nesting season to photograph, sketch and enjoy them while observing.  I even resorted to climbing onto the roof of my vehicle to get a better look at their activities!
And somehow, all of this will become a painting, several paintings--my opportunity to re-enjoy all that I love about these birds with watercolor and paper.  

Great information about purple martins can be found at the Purple Martin Conservation Association website.

3 comments:

  1. As Larry Byrd once said when people kept saying how lucky he was on the basketball court--"I have found out that the more I practice the luckier I get". The same thing applies to you as in "the more I research I do the better my paintings get". Don't ever stop please.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Gerald! For the great quote and the compliment.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've seen the destination, I am fascinated with the journey!

    ReplyDelete

Welcome! I am glad to hear your comments, questions and feedback! Vickie

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