Monday, March 21, 2011

Wishing Upon Bluebirds

I awoke to Eastern bluebirds singing before first light this morning. Wonderful sound. You can't hear them without smiling.
I think they have an established nesting territory across the street.  But they come into both the front and back yard to visit berries, drink water, check out my nest box, and chatter and sing!  I love it.

Later I happened to look out the window and saw the nesting phoebes chasing away a male bluebird.  He landed on a limb that is the male phoebe's preferred perch while he guards the female's nest building activity.  I hate that.   I do wish we could all get along so the bluebirds could settle into the nest box that is near by.
Eastern phoebe female, above, holding nesting material as she pauses before rising to the gazebo shelf where she is building her nest for the second year in a row.  

I'm still wishing.

More about bluebirds can be found in these blog posts at Vickie Henderson Art:  Bluebirds and Wild Turkey and the Gentle Eastern Bluebird.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Brother's Plant--Part III

This sketchbook spread started out as a field sketch practice, an attempt to sketch a subject that will be still, unlike the birds I enjoy painting.  It gave me much more.
In addition to the memories that unfolded, it pulled me deeper into this prolific and hardy plant, its beauty, shape, shadows and color.  I still wonder how it manages to withstand the cold winter.  I learned that this has something to do with its ability to store water and a unique metabolic process that happens when the temperature drops.  But in my brief research, I didn't learn enough to explain it to anyone.

I am often drawn to the visual detail of a subject, so much so, that it is sometimes hard for me to shift my focus out, allowing the loose sketch work its magic.  I love this aspect of art, especially in watercolor.  It is a challenge for me to hold on to this awareness as I paint.
When I added detail to the left group of flowers, I wasn't happy with the result.  It pulled my eye away from what I found to be the most captivating part of the sketch, the top and right group of flowers that spilled over the side.  The overall effect was "too busy".
So for this occasion, I pulled out my soft scrub brush and "erased" the added detail.  I liked this area much better flowing loose with just a hint of shadow and shape.
Above you see the area after it's been scrubbed.  And below, the same area with replacement color added.  I couldn't recapture the freshness of what was there before, but I did restore some subtlety.  
The final sketch gives me a lot of information for future reference.  Below you see the original sketch created on the patio on the left, the final sketch on the right.  See what you think.
Links and resources:
Wiki on Hen and Chicks

For more information about using a scrub brush visit:  Sketching a Limpkin.  For more about negative space visit:  Search for a Swainson's Warbler.  The first post on this sketchbook spread is:  My Brother's Plant

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Brother's Plant--Part II

My unfinished sketch of the pot of hen-and-chicks is moving forward in interrupted increments, as in, whatever time I can grab before and after office hours.  
I discover as I paint, what kind of mood I'm in.  Sometimes I'm satisfied with a very loose and undefined result, other times I want to see more detail.  Most often I like a combination.  In this case, I was drawn to the rosette shapes of the flowers and the spilling over, the cascading of the rosettes as they multiply.  So I printed a black and white copy of one of my photographs and sketched some rosettes in pencil on the sketch page to get a better feel for their layered petals.
Next, I wanted to reclaim some of the rim of my pot from the too-wet wash that spilled over the edge, as well as, the edge of the lower opening of the pot.  Above you see the small size scrub I used.  For more about this scrub brush and the process of scrubbing see the link at the end of the post.  Below you see the result of lifting out some of the paint with the use of my scrub brush, water, and a tissue for blotting.
I created some loosely defined rosettes in the top of the pot with negative painting, that is, painting the space around the petal rather than the petal itself.  This is fun.  I believe negative painting and softening edges are two of my favorite approaches to painting.
Below, you see the page spread as it looks today--still unfinished, but becoming more of what I want to see on the page.      
For more about using a scrub brush visit:  Sketching a Limpkin.  For more about negative space visit:  Search for a Swainson's Warbler.  The first post on this sketchbook spread is:  My Brother's Plant

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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