Tag Archives: painting

Female downy woodpecker

Winter Inspiration

Winter can be full of surprises. This year I decided to walk a single stretch of Cottonwood Creek several times a week. I took my camera along, birding and observing. We’ve had more snow than usual, but the birds don’t care. They ignore me as I trudge along in my boots under the bare branches.

My favorite discovery has been a pair of downy woodpeckers that I saw spiraling up the narrow trunks of stunted trees. I’ve gone back many times to find the female, listening for her brief chirp or light tap-tap as she hunts insects under the bark. She has so much personality, I wanted to capture it. Working from photos, I first composed and painted the pair together, then decided to draw them separately. I read that downy woodpeckers are more solitary in winter. Here’s my study in oil. This was a big help in preparing the more finished graphite painting above.

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The creek hosts a nice range of bird species. Right now, it runs under a mantel of ice, emerging in matted vegetation at the edges. I caught this cat keeping a close eye on some mallards near the foot bridge.

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Song sparrows, goldfinches, juncos, house finches, and chickadees all flit among the shadowed branches. This area also contains a number of dead trees that are perfect habitat for flickers.

Northern Flicker

As the weather warms and the trees leaf out, it will be harder to spot the birds. But I’ll keep looking. I wouldn’t want to miss spring migration and mating season, and all the lovely surprises that are sure to inspire new paintings.

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Cottonwood Creek, looking west.

Chicken on the beach

Summer Crush

I fell in love this summer – with chickens.

Chickens

It started with chickens appearing all over my sketchbooks. Sometimes they lived in a chicken coop or met in the park to play chess. They looked like pirates, sea captains and school bus drivers. One, intensely interested in exoplanets, clucked his way onto a rocket ship.

Sketchbook illustration

I had a vision of large paintings of plucky chickens exploring the universe. The vision blossomed into a fantasy – a whole gallery of paintings, and maybe a children’s picture book! This was getting serious.

Studio mess

Half-completed projects tumble out of a box in my studio like the souvenirs of failed love affairs. Contour drawings, value studies, reference photos, receipts for supplies I’ve never used. What if the chickens ended up here, too – sandwiched between faded photographs of bantams and red jungle fowl? But love blossomed – and demanded a trip to the art supply store.

I bought Golden Open acrylics and experimented on canvas, watercolor paper treated with clear gesso, and Strathmore 500 illustration board.

Sketch

Here’s a watercolor sketch treated with gesso.

Acrylic sketch

Over-painted with acrylic. It’s definitely time for painting lessons.

Illustration board was better – easy to use and forgiving. But when a friend introduced me to watercolor canvas panels, I fell in love again.

Painting

This surface seems perfect for transparent layers of acrylic washes, which will produce beautiful botanical–

–wait–what happened to the chickens?

My summer crush is turning into a smoldering affair with acrylic paint.

And if it all goes wrong? If acrylic paint breaks my heart?

Pencils

The cat is keeping my colored pencils warm.