I came upon this bird at Percy Johnson County Park on Washington Island, WI. She is a female Red-winged Blackbird who seemed to come out of nowhere to say hello. It's probably more the case that we both surprised each other, as the park is a little off the beaten path and doesn't get much foot traffic. The park has a wetland feeling to it, where Lake Michigan eases up the sandy shoreline amid reed grass and other vegetation. When this bird landed on the reed, her weight caused it to slowly fall until her left foot grasped another reed, helping to hold her position steady.
I'm pleased to announce that my painting of Ivy, a Snowy Egret from Sanibel Island, FL, won 1st Place at the Wolf River Art League's Mid-Winter Art Show in New London, WI, this past weekend on Valentine's Day. It's nice to know others love Ivy, too.
This is a Yellow-rumped Warbler who makes his home in western Minnesota at Glendalough State Park. It is not my intention to paint birds as accurately as possible, as if staged in a photographer's studio with perfect lighting. I'll leave those duties to the editors of ornithology reference books. In art, I find nature to be a lot more fun with so much more to offer. For example, this little guy's head feathers are reflecting the blue tones from a most beautiful May sky.
At the end of September and early October, I witnessed around three bird fallouts at my home in Duluth, MN. A fallout is a large migration of birds caused by strong northerly winds. They are unmistakable in their capacity to amaze and dazzle simply by producing extraordinarily large numbers of birds. Unfortunately, the birds are often weak and hungry, sometimes leading to their demise. Many are susceptible to being hit by cars, just as they were in the great warbler carnage on Highway 61 along Minnesota’s North Shore during early October's fallout.
At my home, my yard was filled with American Robins and Northern Flickers foraging for food. A few days later, another fallout occurred. It was during this second fallout when I met this beautiful, female Northern Flicker resting on a Norway Pine in my yard. If you’re unfamiliar with Flickers, don’t be confused by this painting. She's clinging to the tree trunk on her left while looking over her shoulder. This painting depicts that pose. In other words, the spots show where her belly is.
Crows seem to be one of those birds that evoke strong emotions in humans. I am no exception, but my feelings have changed over the years since I was a kid. Besides a recent, strange encounter with a lone crow, two things have influenced me greatly about the lives of crows: a PBS documentary titled "A Murder of Crows" and the book In the Company of Crows and Ravens. Scientists have conducted some fascinating research on these birds, and both of these are excellent resources should you wish to learn more about them. My strange meeting with a crow is described in the following paragraphs.
Every now and then, there’s a ripple in the general state of things that makes me question the structure of our place in this world. This past summer, an American Crow visited me while I was weeding around my blueberry plants in my enclosed garden. Crow approached from afar and walked a decent distance across my yard, cawing every seven seconds, or so. Alone and getting closer, it occurred to me that this was going to be no ordinary encounter.
Crow stopped about ten feet from me and continued cawing opposite the chicken-wire fence that stood between us. I couldn’t help but think Crow wanted me to understand its language. I said hello and offered a few blueberries, but Crow declined. We chatted for a few minutes, which in my opinion, was an extremely long time. This crow definitely had something to say. Finally, it moseyed on towards the woods. Occasionally, Crow looked back at me, usually after I said some words of which I don’t remember anymore.
Out of sight and still walking, I heard Crow encounter a pair of American Robins along its journey, seemingly unappreciative. And for the next ten minutes, I audibly tracked Crow’s path simply by listening to the other creatures in the forest react to its approach.I’m aware of how extremely intelligent American Crows are, and do wonder if we’ll meet again one day, or if perhaps, we are already old friends. I could've thought nothing of it, but it's not in my nature to do so.
This is my oil painting of a White-throated Sparrow. Since moving to Minnesota, I've found these birds to be one of the the loudest birds in my neighborhood during the spring and summer, and with one of the prettiest calls. It's easy to mimic their call, and if you know how to whistle, I have no doubt you'd be whistling back to them almost involuntarily should you hear them in your presence. They're also beautiful, shy, and busy little birds, so if you happen to see them, you've got keen eyes.
Lots of paint, heavy brushstrokes, and vibrant colors give this mourning dove the look I was going for. With anything, if one studies a subject long enough, its true colors will show through time after time.
Here are three recently finished miniatures in oil: Lemon Drop, Barley, and Ruby. Respectively, they are a yellow warbler (oh, spring has sprung when you see these beautiful birds in your trees), a barn owl from the Schlitz Audubon Nature Preserve, and a ruby-crowned kinglet.
Just a bit outside of my comfort zone, I wanted a very limited color palette for Meringue. In actuality, I drew from seven different tubes of paint, but still achieved the look I was going for. If you've ever observed a soaking wet bird in the rain, Meringue is a gentle view of that bird, having fluffed her feathers as best as she could, yet still only able to form stiff peaks.
A part of me just can't stay away from painting miniatures. This little sanderling was having a lot of fun on the beach. Well, that's what I'd like to think anyway. Their little legs are some of the fastest moving legs on a bird you'll ever see. Fun!
This painting is composed of several layers to add depth, especially in the bird's feathers. Purple turned out to be a nice surprise at the feet, so I went with it to add interest. Although I'm not particular fond of painting on canvas versus a smoother surface, I am very happy with Ivy.
Ink drawing on Strathmore cream paper - 8-1/2 x 6"
This is a fish crow that cried outloud, not shy in any way, wanting a morsel to gobble from any human passerby. I had nothing. I've mentioned several times how nature talks to us, and those that choose to listen may have to block their ears every now and then.
Benny is a downy woodpecker foraging on reeds at the Lewis Nine Springs E-Way in Madison, WI. My visit last spring started with a few raindrops that gave way to warm sunshine and abundant bird activity. When I was close to finishing this work, I toned down the oranges, added color to the reeds while increasing contrast, and gave detail to Benny in many layers.