Sunday, December 21, 2014

Spruce Grouse Sketch

The nickname for Spruce Grouse is "fool's hen".  These ground-foraging birds are described as behaving as if they are tame.  The irony is Spruce Grouse inhabit northern coniferous forests in such remote areas that research on the species only spans about 30 years.   
On my recent trip to Manitoba to see Polar Bears in Churchill, I went birding with friends at Riding Mountain National Park and enjoyed a great experience watching a flock of grouse foraging.   We spotted six of them, a group of males and females.
Of course, they immediately scattered when we stopped, some running into the woods, others flying into spruce limbs.  The species' ability to remain still for long periods and the excellent camouflage quality of its plumage combine to help it avoid predators.
When a Spruce Grouse remains still, it is very hard to see, disappearing almost completely into the shadows of the environment.  As we stood still photographing the birds at close range, one by one they rejoined each other again as a flock and began foraging all around us.  The forest floor felt like a soft sponge under my feet, cushioned by peat moss and pine needles.  I felt as though I was walking with a group of tamed chickens as they pulled rose hips and berries off stems.  
This sketch included a lot of exploration and I immediately wished I had used watercolor paper.
The sketch is created on Canson 9 x 12 all media paper which is fairly strong but it won't take the changes that Arches cold press watercolor paper will tolerate.  The blue on the bird is ultramarine darkened with burnt sienna and sepia, although it looks more blue here than the actual sketch. Creating this sketch gave me practice in creating the suggestion of feathers, as well as, a review of mixing greens.  
I started out using ultramarine with arylide and the resulting greens were not cool or bright enough.  I like to use the same blues throughout, but I switched to phtalo blue with arylide to create the green and this combination was more to my liking and more closely resembled the colors of the flora on the forest floor.
I added a wash of diluted ultramarine blue as a layer over part of the background to help unify the yellows and greens with the blue in the main subject.  It also helped the sketch look less cluttered.
One of the many benefits of practice--if you've forgotten it, here's where you remember.  If you didn't know it, here's a safe place to discover it!

Wishing you a Happy Holiday season and hoping you will find some relaxing moments for sketching and painting!

To see more images of Spruce Grouse and read more about the journey that took me to see them, visit my blog posts on my journey to Churchill to see Polar Bears at Vickie Henderson Art.

7 comments:

  1. Pretty. I like the colors you used and appreciate the explanation of your process. The subtlety of the background is beautiful yet lets your subject shine. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, cah. Glad to have your feedback. I think the blue wash I added at the end helped the background recede.

      Delete
  2. What a wonderful experience to be able to observe these beautiful birds up close! I'd never heard of a Spruce Grouse, so I really enjoyed this post and your beautiful painting.

    Merry Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan,
      Welcome, and thank you. It was a very special experience--such a privilege. They are beautiful birds.

      Delete
  3. Lovely work. I never know if these get posted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lee. Welcome and thank you. Yes, comments get posted, though sometimes I'm a bit slow. Happy to see you here.

      Delete

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

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