Friday, February 29, 2008

Flying Hiccup

I once thought it should be described as a "ping pong ball with wings." But today as I tried to do some quick sketches of it from the kitchen as it flitted around our Swiss Stone Pine and the suet on the clothes line pole I realized that "ppbww" was not quite right. The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, which has been hanging around our backyard for much of the last three weeks, is just too active to have a name that doesn't include some sense of its hyperactivity. As I tried to sketch it I realized it was like a "flying hiccup."

Though its body can seem to have the perfect roundness of a ping pong ball it's just too active to be accurately portrayed as something as stable as a perfect sphere. Instead it looks like it has incurable hiccups. Every time I put pen to paper it hiccupped again. I include some of my attempts to portray him between hiccups.

When it comes to the impression that birds make on humans Pete Dunne seems to have some of the richest interpretations, especially in "Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion." So now that I've committed myself to "flying hiccup" let's see what Pete has to say.

He refers to it as a "tiny, compact, hyperactive, and undistinguished bird..." Hmm. I guess he doesn't like it -- undistinguished! Oh well, not as much color in his description as I'd hoped for. Nonetheless he does note its hyperactivity.

As I've mentioned elsewhere I'm sure this blog will show an underlying bias against doing artwork based on photos rather than from life, even in my own work. I think my experience with the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet shows why. Though I've taken some photos of this kinglet and could use them as the basis of a drawing or watercolor he would be perfectly still in the photo and most likely in the art. His hyperactivity is lost once the camera snaps its momentary glimpse. In drawing from life however there is much more of an attempt to capture the hyperactivity. The drawings here don't do a very good job of that but I think they at least explain why I find it to be the preferred method.

Since I do most of my paintings based on photos all I can say by way of excuse is that I hope I'm familiar enough with the birds in the photos I've taken that some memory of what they are like when experienced live still comes through in my artwork.

The initial posts in this log were edited copies of an old web site where I kept some art and birding notes. This begins the first of the live posts.

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