Saturday, June 27, 2009

House Sparrows (and Echinacea) in Watercolor Pencil

House sparrows?! Who cares! Who wants to draw/paint/look at House Sparrows? Well this is easy to understand. In our backyard they outnumber other more interesting birds by about 10 to 1. Yes they are common. But they're still interesting birds and can make for good subjects. I believe it was a number of watercolor studies by Chloe Talbot-Kelly in 'Drawing Birds' by John Busby that convinced me you could make some very good drawings/paintings using them as subjects.

I've chosen them today because: 1) I vowed I'd finally do some work from life this summer when bad weather could no longer be an excuse; and 2) they were the only avian subjects that would sit still. A Ruby-Throated Hummingbird made a 5 second appearance but you can't draw much in that short time.

The accompanying sketches are nothing special, though I'm satisfied with them. But I'm so much happier with watercolor pencils now that I'm using a better quality paper, and now that I'm being more patient and not going back into the painting while it is still wet. The new Moleskin watercolor sketchpad is a great help. It seems a bit expensive but for me it's been worth it. What a pleasure to not worry about the quality of the paper, not worry about buckling.

As I've said many times before, so many that you might think 'he doth protest too much', I do believe that you get better art when working from life. There is a connection to the subject matter that is just missing when working from photos. But I've done very little work from life recently in spite of all my claims of its superiority.

So I hope that this will be the start of a real effort on my part to work more from life. I'm sure I'll continue to work from photos, maybe as soon as this afternoon or tomorrow. But I also want to spend more time working from life. I'm sure all of my work will improve in quality as I do so.

One last thought. You might wonder, well why doesn't he show more detail in the birds? Simple, they were too far away to see any detail except with binoculars or scope. So for today the challenge was to do sketches of them knowing that I wouldn't be able to include much detail. My answer was to include more of their surroundings. I've never really painted the sky before and haven't had much luck, or patience, with foliage. But I had no choice today. The birds were so far away as to be very small. That meant taking on skies and foliage.

It was such a nice day, low 80s with a breeze, that I found myself back outside later in the afternoon, after posting this. The Echinacea Pallida continued to call out to be painted, especially with the nearby sunflower and the Bronze Fennel behind. So here is version number two(I tried this for the first time last weekend).

It still leaves something to be desired. The details of the Echinacea are lost. The fennel is just so airy that it's hard to render in paint. And I'm still overwhelmed by all the foliage of the sunflower and the Echinacea. Still it's enough of a challenge, and the results good enough, that I'm sure I'll keep trying to do a good painting of this subject.

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