Friday, March 30, 2018

Woodpecker, owl, and crow

Here is my next installment of bird pictures! 

This red bellied woodpecker was quite the challenge. Specially getting the white dots on his back. I had to wipe them off and restart several times. In the end I think he came out nice (from a picture by Petra Glorie).
My co-worker Rosie sent me a wonderful picture of a great horned owl. It had flown into her pheasant pen. After catching it she took the picture, and then set it free. She said it was big, but not even full grown yet. How those eyes look at you! I can't help to keep staring back!

I've been working on a finch that just did not want to get out of its ugly stage. In that case it is just better to let it sit for a day and come back to it. So I started a new one. This crow was like it just flowed right out of my brush and came to life! It felt good have one just flow and I'm happy with it (from a picture by Andre Jacobs).

Quick sketches

We spent last weekend in the Adirondacks. It was mostly a family visit, but one of these days I would like to go there and just paint! There is a beautiful scene around every corner. I did bring my sketchbook though. I usually don't like to show my sketches, or scribbles rather, but wanted to show that it does not have to be perfect. Just quick impressions of what you see make for a great trip souvenir, and just might help later when doing a larger painting or getting out of an artist block. I use a pen, just so the sketches can be quick without the urge to erase. These scribbles I did over a half hour (from a warm car!), and I added some splashes of watercolor later when I got home and everything was still fresh in my head.
Get out there and sketch!!

Thursday, March 29, 2018


The show will be up an extra week, so if you would like to see it, stop by the Trumansburg Library!

Friday, March 16, 2018

A parrot and a kingfisher

While the snow was falling steadily and everything outside turned white I felt the need for something colorful, so I painted this parrot. As I was going through my unorganized mess of digital pictures, I found one I took at the Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls years ago. 

I had to look up this bird's name. This is a Rainbow Lorikeet, and is native to Australia. In the picture he was hanging on the cage bars, but I gave him a nicer perch.

This next bird is from a picture by Dutch photographer Andre Jacobs. It is a Common Kingfisher, who lives in Eurasia and Northern Africa. My parents sometimes would see one near their pond looking for its next meal. Always beautiful to see, and at least he could only take the small fish.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A heron, a stork, and a cardinal

These little birds are taking a lot more time than expected. It is very different from the cloud paintings from last year. A cloud can be any shape, but a bird needs to be fairly accurate. So that means adding details with small brushes. I feel like I'm doing a lot of nit-picking. It probably is also because I'm working from pictures where you tend to try to add every little detail. With most of these painting I've started on one day, and finished the next day. 

This heron is from a picture I made while in Florida, but it really could be anywhere. It could be the one fishing in my parent's pond. Even a net over the pond was not much of a deterrent to keep him from taking the fish!

I made the picture of the stork while visiting a flower park in the Netherlands. Storks were almost extinct in the Netherlands, but thanks to preservation efforts they have now made a comeback. They nest on chimneys and structures people put up, and fly back to Africa for the winter. I found a webcam of a stork nest in the Netherlands. Fun to peek at!

In the picture the stork was standing in the grass; I put him on a nest.

This little Mrs Cardinal is from Petra Glorie's picture. I did not change much from the picture in this one. It just seemed the perfect composition the way she is looking at you.
Male cardinals are such a bright speck of color, specially when you see them in the snow, but the ladies are pretty too. That's what this one is saying... "hey, look at me." Or maybe it's "what are you looking at?" She has attitude.
I enjoyed watching a cardinal couple nest in the tree in front of our house last year. Their nest did not look all that well build. They raised two babies in it. I had never before seen how the adults exchange food: the male came flying to the nest, gave the food to the female and she then fed the babies. Fun to see and learning something about their habits!

Friday, March 2, 2018

The beginning of 50 paintings!

Here we go again! I will be painting 50 small paintings for the Summer Mosaic Show at Cedar Arts in Corning. I picked up the 50 panels and sealed them (twice), and gessoed them (three times). That took a while, but it is also a good activity to just zone out and think about what I will be painting on them.

The theme I chose is birds. I have not painted many birds before, but thought this would be a nice subject to do. Birds don't sit still very long, so I will have to use photographs. I have dug through my own collection of pictures, and I have asked a couple of other people for permission to use their photos. I usually try not to use pictures for my paintings, so this will be different. In using the bird pictures I plan on giving them my own twist in the painting, and not copy anything literally.

I figured that if I paint 4 per week it will take 3 months to finish. That's a bit too long for me, so I'll try to do as many as I can while the weather is still cold and we're indoors a lot. In the past two weeks I've done six, but I'm a little late to start blogging about them. This blog post is a bit long. From now on I'll try to keep up with the blog as I finish each piece.

This one was the first one to get finished. I used a picture of Dutch photographer Andre Jacobs. In Dutch this bird is called a "roodborstje," translated as a red breast. I had to look up what these are called in English. It turns out it is a European Robin. I never knew! They are much smaller than their American cousins, and look more like a little chickadee than a robin, except for the orange chest. 
I found painting this little guy a challenge: how do make brown look interesting? At first I was trying to copy all the feather nuances, then in the end I just "fluffed" him up by taking a hard brush to blur the lines. 

The next one finished was the swan, which I actually started before the robin. I did a thin layer of paint for the beak and pasted thick white paint down for the swan's neck. I let that thicken up over a few days, and then I worked the color in. When everything was dry I glazed a bit more paint over it. The picture used was also from Andre Jacobs; I turned the swan the other direction and zoomed in.

 Next, more robins from pictures I made years ago. We have a couple of big evergreens in front of our house. On one hand I would like to see them gone for the mess they make, but on the other hand the birds love these trees and I love watching the birds visit there. Every year a bird nests in them, and that year it was robins. I peeked in their nest every day to follow the progress of the family. It reminded me of my childhood, when one of my favorite things to do was climb trees looking for bird nests. One year I kept a record of a nesting bird, observing and writing down daily what they were doing.
I have painted these robin babies before. In the picture mommy bird sits next to them, but I left her out of this one. There is actually a 4th bird behind the three birds. Amazing how they still fit in the nest. They look very hungy! I did multiple glazes on parts of the picture. I like how that makes makes the oranges glow.

I have about 10 birdhouses hanging around the yard, and it is so much fun to see the birds checking them out. After they decide on where to raise their family I get to watch them fly back and forth, first with twigs, later with food for the babies. The picture for the next painting was a lucky shot. I just have a point and click camera, and happened to click at the right time. I wanted to show movement in this painting, and found this very tricky. I went back to tweak it several times.

The reference photo; without zooming in it is hard to see the bird;
The bluebirds are from photos by Dutch photographer Petra Glorie. Her website and photos I used can be found here. 
Eastern bluebirds are New York's state bird, but I hardly ever see them in our yard. They must not like it here. I once saw several up the street where a neighbor had nesting boxes in a field, so there are some in the area.
For this painting I combined two of Petra's pictures. I liked how the birds were sitting together in the picture, but I wanted to show more than just the male's back, so I used the other picture of the male that shows more of a profile. This one was another big challenge and took the longest yet! By the way, I think it was very thoughtful of Petra to hang the nesting box right above a branch. It is like having a front porch for them.
Today is a snow storm, so while being indoors for most of the day and nowhere to go I thought I might as well do another painting. This is from a picture I made in my hometown which is next to a river. It could have been anywhere of course, since these ducks are everywhere. It's just fun to think that this is a Dutch little ducky. The water was what gave me a hard time. I never did ripples like this, and it was a bit of trial and error to get it right. I think it came out ok. Maybe I have to tone that yellow down a bit, only rubber ducks are that bright, but I kind of like it so I might leave it alone.


While painting I was thinking about how a little thing like this can make such waves...
This is the reference picture I used, so you see it was pretty loosely interpreted.

Thank you for reading!